Iraqi Dolma – stuffed vegetables

Dolma is a family of stuffed vegetable dishes, originating in the former Ottoman Empire and the surrounding regions (Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, the Balkans, the Middle East and some Asian countries). The most-well known type is stuffed vine leaves, but other vegetables suck as zucchinis and aubergines can be stuffed. They can be made either with meat or without.

Meat dolma is usually served warm, while meatless ones are usually served cold. Both are usually served with yoghurt (tzatziki in Greece and Cyprus). The name comes from the Turkish verb dolmak, which means to be stuffed.

Meatless dolma is usually called ‘yalanci’, which means ‘fake’ in Turkish. In Cyprus, stuffed vine leaves are called ‘koupepia’, while stuffed vegetables are called ‘gemista’

Dolma infograph


The recipe below comes from the first cooking class that was given by Suna, a chef in Foul and Hummus Restaurant and that took place in our home in Erbil.

Iraqi Dolma – stuffed vegetables (basic recipe)

serves 8



3 medium size zucchinis

4 small eggplants

2 medium size tomatoes

3 medium size onions

15 vine leaves, canned

3 small bell peppers



1 cup basmati rice, soaked

1/2 cup green parsley, finely chopped (keep the stems)

1 tomato, diced

1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil

1/2 tbsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp cumin

4 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp tomato sauce

lemon juice (1 lemon)



3 tbsp fresh or ground sumac

1/2 l cold water


1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil

4 pieces of Lebanese bread


Preparation: (I think it’s going to be the longest recipe ever)

Rice: rinse it few times and soak in cold water for 30 mins

Eggplants: Cut tops and keep them aside. Scoop out the cores and make small cuts on the outer layer (later on you will rub in some salt and these small cuts help with this)

Zucchini: Long zucchinis must be cut in halves. Afterwards prepare them like eggplants.

Onion: Cut tops and bottoms of onion, whack the outer layer with knife or spoon for easier removal of cores. Push cores out and keep them aside.

Bell pepper: cut tops and keep them aside. Cut out cores.

Sauce: boil sumac in water, drain off seeds and put aside sumac water.



  1. Chop hollowed parts of veggies including eggplants, zucchini, tomato and onion.
  2. Mix them with rice drained in colander, chopped parsley, diced tomato, tomato sauce, garlic and other spices.
  3.  Rub salt in outer layer of eggplant and zucchini.
  4. Lay vine leaves on cutting board and cut stems.  Put a spoonful of the stuffing in the center of the top part of the leaf, fold the sides inwards and then roll the leaf like a cylinder.

P10401695.Lay parsley or chard stems in the bottom of the pot, add 1/4 cup of olive oil. Then fill the bottom with a layer of stuffed vine leaves.

P10401666. Meanwhile, trim the tops and bottoms from onions and peel outer layer. Cut each onion halfway around the side and peel off each whole layer to get about 4 to 5 large layers each. Stuff each layer with 2 tbsp. stuffing and roll up into a football-shaped roll.

7.Stuff eggplants, zucchini, bell pepper and tomatoes. Cover them with the cut off tops and transfer to the pot.

8.Place a plate over your dolma to press veggies to the bottom of the pot.

P10401989.Cover the pot with a lid and cook for 15 minutes.

10.After 15 minutes pour in sumac water, cover and cook for another 30-40 minutes.

P104021011. When your dolma is ready, place pieces of Lebanese bread on the top of the pot (as in the photo). Put wide tray on the top, grab the pot and flip it. Bread will absorb all the remaining water.

I know it seems hard, but you can do it!



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