Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dolma, the Armenian meal in a vegetable

If there's anything Armenians love to stuff more than their tummies it's vegetables.
Dolma (Photo from ianyan magazine)
Sure, we'll stuff just about any part of a lamb, from stomach to head. We even stuff meat with meat (kuftah!)

But veggies are so easy to make into a colorful and tasty meal. You can even skip the meat if you like and just add a bit of onion and perhaps garlic to spice up the filling.

Just remember that when it comes to stuffability, fatter is better. Walk past those long, skinny cukes that make salads crunchy and lavish your attention on the plump, seedy ones. They're much easier to scoop out, and they hold lots more dolma goodness. 

The Vegetables:

Select an assortment of your favorite fresh vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, cabbage leaves - anything that can be stuffed. Wash them, scoop out their centers, and rinse the insides with lightly salted water. Set aside until ready to stuff.

The Filling:

1 1/2 to 2 lbs ground lamb (American lamb, if you can find it, is the best. Ground beef or even ground turkey can be used.)
3/4 cup to 1 cup rice, uncooked
1/2 of a 6-oz can tomato paste, diluted in 1/2 cup water
salt, pepper, paprika to taste
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3/4 cup chopped parsley
Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, mixing with 
your hands.

The Sauce:
1/3 cup dried sumac berries
dash of salt and sugar
1/2 of a 6-oz can tomato paste
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
3 cups water

1. Place the sumac berries in a tea strainer - or - wrap in cheesecloth and tie closed with twine.
2. Combine the sauce ingredients in a saucepan, and bring to a boil.
Lower the heat.
3. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Discard sumac berries.

To Assemble and Cook:
1. Fill the cavity of each prepped vegetable about 1/2-way with the meat-rice stuffing. Don't fill completely; leave room for rice to expand.
2. Place stuffed vegetables side-by-side in a large pot.
3. Pour sauce over the veggies. Place a small dish on top of the vegetables, then put small pot of water on top of the dish to hold the vegetables down during cooking.
4. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for about 45 minutes, until rice and vegetables are tender.
5. Allow Dolma to rest for 1/2 hour before serving.

To serve:
Dolma is best served with thick, cold plain yogurt, and soft Armenian lavash bread or pita bread.


  1. And I can buy sumac berries -- where in West Palm Beach area???
    -- Jan Norris

  2. OKAY I GIVE UP!!!

    I am so excited to see this site though!
    I used to work in Hollywood. All my staff were Armenian, and for every birthday, the treat was the cake. There was always a spread--And if you could tell me what the name of the mushroom And Yogurt? Side dish dip was I will be so excited!

    BUT THE CAKE!!!!!!!!!!

    In would come a classic double layer sheet cake, just like an American sheet cake--
    But, the filling was this crunchy, honeycomb like molasses crisp wonderful stuff- so in your cake bite there was always a crunch from the filling. I LOVE THIS STUFF!

    So--I am trying to find out what it is called, and if I am able to be gifted with this cake on my bday.... I need to tell my family what it is called and which is the best bakery in Little Armenia to get it?????

    Can anyone help me?
    Cake is crucial-
    The mushroom dip would be an extra bonus!!

    Thank you!


    1. Hi Lori. This is called honey cake. U can find it ready in any armenian bakery ir grocery store. Easiest city to find it in would be Hollywood or Glendale. far as the mushroom dip you are referring to, you can find that in some armenian markets. Can't think of any off the topportunity of my head. But a Russian market called Rasputin, on Ventura Blvd in encino has it. And they make it quite tasty. Hope this helps! Cheers!

    2. Hi Lori. This is called honey cake. U can find it ready in any armenian bakery ir grocery store. Easiest city to find it in would be Hollywood or Glendale. far as the mushroom dip you are referring to, you can find that in some armenian markets. Can't think of any off the topportunity of my head. But a Russian market called Rasputin, on Ventura Blvd in encino has it. And they make it quite tasty. Hope this helps! Cheers!

  3. Lori,
    Mushrooms aren't often used in Armenian recipes. Could the dip you mentioned have been made with eggplant perhaps?
    I'll do some research plus post your recipe requests. Maybe someone out there knows!

  4. Lori,
    I think the dessert you described by taste and crunch (but not by appearance) is Baklava, made with very thin layers of dough, crushed nuts, honey). It's often cut in diamond/diagonal pieces. It should not be difficult to find as you also would see it in Greek bakeries.

    Like Robyn, I'm not familiar with the mushroom/yogurt dish, but I grew up with a common yogurt/cucumber dressing.

    Hope this is on target and not too late for your birthday!


  5. The cake that she's referring to is not baklava it's a white sheet cake called's make with whipped egg whites and nuts

  6. Anonymous,Would you happen to know of a recipe for this cake?

  7. All are TURKISH cuisine !!!!

  8. all AZERBAIJAN and TURKISH meal

  9. Armenian food is delicious.

  10. Really, are you still fighting about what country the recipes belongs to? Get over it. The recipes belong to them all. Why not talk about important topics, like peace and getting along with your neighboring countries. I'm just saying... Love this site, by the way.

  11. Thank you for the recipes! Tonight I stuffed bell peppers, an eggplant, and a few tomatoes. This is going to take me more than a few tries to get the technique right. The sauce boiled down while it was cooking(I had the heat on too high) and I had to add water. I remember my mom baking the dolma in the oven instead of putting it in a pot. Have you tried this?

  12. robin i put fresh parsley, cilantro, dill, basil chopped in the meat mixture and sometimes i may add fresh rosemary of course a little of all fresh herbs . . the aroma of cooking dolma is amazing. i have had neighbors who can smell the aroma come to my door. as for lori, if you go to any armenian grocery store in "little Armenia" (hollywood) or even Glendale and North Hollywood you will find what you are looking for whether it is the cake of mushroom dip/salad. You will find it in the refrigerator section the cake. .sandy

  13. worked with all armenians and never asked them name or receipes your loss armenians love to share food and teach non-armenians about the food and culture omg

  14. try Ara's Pastry corner of Hollywood blvd and Kenmore in Hollywood.

  15. Turks who have been shielded by their rewriting of their own history need to wake up and put on their big boy pants and learn history. Armenia was a country for 7 thousand years in what is now called 'turkey'. Look at all the old biblical maps and you won't see Turkey, you will see Armenia! Armenians are an ancient people with ancient cuisine, art, music etc. Armenia was the very first Christian nation. Mt. Ararat is our holy mountain. The so called Turks were mongol tribesman and barbarians that came down and murdered the Armenian people and then the Ottomans took over from there. They stole not only the land but the food the art the carpets the women who they kept as slaves and then when that was not enough they tried to force them to convert to islam and then murdered millions! History is history and you cannot rewrite it just because it is inconvenient. Find out who really owned your farms, copper mines and everything of wealth in Turkey today and you will find it was Armenian company's stolen by the Turks during the Genocide! This is historical. You cannot claim the cuisine and you cannot change history either. The whole world knows the truth, wake up!

  16. Hello , I'm arab and my favorite middle eastern dish is dolma. And i've tried both armenian and turkish Dolma , even the arabs have it and must say the turkish one tastes the most different and not in a good way it's too sweet ! I hate turkish cuisine , but love armenian dolma and manti , even the turkish manti is bad .. turkish food is so greasy i dont like it at all and ive been to all the best places in istambul ughh.. sorry turkey but dont compare your bad cuisine to armenia's flawless one .

  17. My Father used to make Buttermilk Soup ? does any one know the recipe ?
    it seems it was called "ABOO "

    1. Hello Anon, The Armenian word for soup is 'abour', so perhaps that's the term you're referring to. As for buttermilk soup, my guess is that your father may have substituted that for the more-traditional yogurt (madzoon). You can scroll through our first recipe section for Yogurt Soup (Tanabour).

  18. Robyn, can you explain, please - what the difference between such dolma and Echmiadzin dolma , and , may be you have an authentic recipe?

    1. Here's what I found in regard to Etchmiadzin dolma (and a few other varieties): Etchmiadzin Dolma (Tolma) An explanation by Gayane Mkrtchyan, reporter “Armenian cuisine’s ‘top five tolma chart’ includes grape-leaf tolma, Etchmiadzin tolma (with cabbage and vegetables), Lent tolma, Yerevan tolma (like Etchmiadzin tolma with the addition of quinces), and Mush tolma made of chopped meat and bulgur.” According to Wikipedia,” Etchmiadzin tolma utilizes eggplants, green peppers, tomatoes, apples, and quinces.” As for an authentic recipe, I couldn't find anything specific, but I can post your request and see if anything develops.


  19. AnonymousJuly 11, 2013 at 6:38 AM
    My Father used to make Buttermilk Soup ? does any one know the recipe ?
    it seems it was called "ABOO
    Anonymous my family made a buttermilk soup, what ingredients were in the one your father made?

    1. Perhaps the soup you mean is Madzoon (or Tahn) Abour, meaning "Yogurt Soup"? I'm guessing your father used buttermilk instead of yogurt. Try this recipe:
      Madzoon Abour (Yogurt Soup)
      1 cup gorgod (shelled whole grain wheat - found in most Middle Eastern stores)
      3 cups chicken broth
      1 egg
      1 quart plain yogurt
      1 medium onion, finely chopped
      1 stick (8 Tbsp.) unsalted butter
      2 to 3 Tbsp. dried mint
      1. In a large saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil; add gorgod, and boil for 10 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat, and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
      2. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg, then gently combine egg with the yogurt; set aside.
      3. In a skillet, melt the stick of butter over medium-low heat. Saute the onion until softened, but not browned. Stir in the mint and cook 2 minutes.
      4. After the gorgod has sat for 30 minutes, check to see if the liquid has been absorbed. If so, then add 2 to 3 cups water and bring to a boil again. Remove gorgod from heat; set aside.
      5. Take some of the hot liquid from the gorgod and slowly add it to the yogurt-egg mixture, making sure the yogurt does not curdle.
      6. Carefully add yogurt-egg mixture to gorgod. Stir in the onion-mint mixture to combine.
      7. Return the saucepan to the heat and bring to a simmer just long enough to heat everything through. Do NOT overcook.

  20. This dish is just incredibly tasty and every lover of unusual tastes will be just in awe of him and his smell.

  21. Replies
    1. Use as many peppers that will fit in the pot you intend to use. :)