You will love this classic dolma recipe with cranberries at any time of the year! The classic Turkish "yalanci" dolma is perfect for your Christmas table. This variation uses cranberries or tart cherries in place of lemons for acidity.
Some classics are worth the time you invest in them. Take watching Gone with the Wind, or reading a Dostoevsky novel: both will take a considerable share of your precious time, but both will leave you with more value than their less-demanding counterparts. Making stuffed wine leaves, or sarma, is a similar experience. You start by making the filling, then roll for an hour or two on a sleepy afternoon while sipping on mulled wine, patiently wait for it to cook, then enjoy it with friends and family. That's how I prefer to do it anyway. Sure, you could have cooked some fried rice with a salad on the side, but it just wouldn't be the same.
If it sounds like I am attaching too much value to a humble recipe, that's because I probably am. Growing up, sarma was on our table at least every other week. Both my grandma and mom are professionals at it. When they are rolling together, they can reach 200 smh— that is sarmas per hour. You will quickly realize that their rate is pretty impressive if you give this recipe a try.
What is the Difference Between Sarma and Dolma?
You may have heard of sarma being called by a different name, dolma, which is also correct in Turkish, but with a slight nuance. Dolma translates to "stuffed", whereas sarma means "rolled up". Personally, I call anything larger than the width of my two fingers dolma, and the thinner ones sarma.
When it comes to stuffing vine leaves, my favorite is most certainly sarma. The greens to rice ratio is considerably higher, making it texturally a lot more interesting than dolma for me.
But enough talk. Time to roll up our s'leaves and get to it!
How to Make Dolmas with Fresh Grape Leaves
Making dolmas with fresh grape leaves is the best option. Just put the fresh vine leaves in hot water for 5 minutes before rolling them up with filling.
If you have to preserve the fresh grape leaves before cooking them, then mix 1 tablespoon of rock salt per every 4 cups of water to save them for later.
Even though my family farms grapes in Turkey, unfortunately, I don't have convenient access to any grapevines in the US. So we just order it on Amazon. As I mentioned, jarred vine leaves come in very high salinity water, so you should definitely wash them multiple times to decrease the salt content.
What is in this Dolma Recipe with Cranberries
You will need the following ingredients to make vegetarian dolmas:
For the Filling:
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 onions, grated
- ½ cup sour cherries or cranberries, pitted, finely chopped
- 1 cup rice
- 1 ½ teaspoon dried mint
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
For Wrapping & Cooking:
- 60 fresh vine leaves
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup sour cherries or cranberries, pitted
How to Make this Dolma Recipe with Cranberries (Turkish Visneli Sarma)
- Start by preparing the stuffing. Soak the rice in warm water for at least 5 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a wide saucepan then add the grated onions. Sautee until slightly caramelized.
- Add the rest of the ingredients for the filling, including the hot water, into the saucepan, and cook for another 5 minutes. Let the filling cool.
- While the filling is cooling off, prepare the vine leaves. If using fresh leaves, put them in hot water for 5 minutes to soften. If using preserved leaves, wash them multiple times to decrease their salt content before putting in hot water.
- When the filling is cool enough to handle, you may start assembling. Place each leaf with veins facing up on a level surface, then put a heaping teaspoon of the filling on the bottom half.
- Start by folding from the bottom, then fold each side inwards and roll up tightly into a cigarette shape (not too thick like a cigar). See the rolling guide photos in the recipe for clarification.
- In a wide saucepan, place a few vine leaves at the bottom to line the surface to prevent our dolmas from burning.
- Place all dolmas in the saucepan, seams facing down, then add the extra tart cherries or cranberries, olive oil, and water. Weigh down with a plate and cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, then cook for another 40 minutes.
- Rest for 10 minutes before serving. It can be served warm or cold.
- You may store dolmas in an airtight container for up to five days in the refrigerator. However, they do not freeze very well.
How to Roll Sarma or Dolma:
Follow this visual guide, and remember to roll it tightly:
Optimizing Nutrition for Dolmas
You can easily make the following changes to make this dish healthier and more whole-food-plant-based-friendly:
- Swap white rice for brown, add more water as needed.
- Skip the olive oil. You can sautee the filling with water or broth instead.
- Skip or reduce salt if you are watching your blood pressure.
Dolma Recipe with Cranberries is...
- Scrumptious (!!)
- & perfect for the Christmas table!
Looking for Other Mediterranean or Middle Eastern Recipes?
Try these other recipes for your next feast:
- vegan meatballs: traditional çiğ köfte
- vegan fava bean puree with dill
- turkish rice pilaf with chickpeas: nohutlu pilav
- mediterranean vegetable stew: türlü
- red pepper and walnut spread: acuka
Don’t forget to let me know in the comments if you make this recipe!Print