Dolma, the Armenian meal in a vegetable

If there’s anything Armenians love to stuff more than their tummies, it’s vegetables.

Sure, we’ll stuff just about any part of a lamb, from the stomach to the head. We even stuff meat with meat (kufteh!).

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.

Dolma, the Armenian meal in a vegetable

Vegetables, meat, and rice seasoned to perfection – all in one bite!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Resting time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Servings 4


The Vegetables:

  • Select an assortment of your favorite fresh vegetables: tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, cabbage leaves – anything that can be stuffed. (The amount of vegetables will vary.)

The Filling:

  • 1½-2 lbs. ground lamb (American lamb, if you can find it, is the best. Note: Ground beef, ground turkey, or a combination can be used.)
  • ¾ – 1 cup uncooked, long grain rice
  • ½ 6-oz. can tomato paste (diluted in 1/2 cup water Note: the rest of the tomato paste will be used in the sauce.)
  • salt, pepper, paprika (to taste)
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • ¾ cup chopped parsley

The Sauce:

  • cup dried sumac berries (Sold in Middle Eastern stores. Notes: 1 Tbsp. of ground sumac can be substituted. Sumac provides a lemony taste to recipes.)
  • 1 dash each of salt – and – sugar
  • ½ 6-oz. can tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 3 cups water


Preparing the Vegetables:

  • Wash them, scoop out their centers, and rinse the insides with lightly salted water. Set aside until ready to stuff.

Filling Directions:

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl, mixing with your hands or a wooden spoon until well mixed.

Sauce Directions:

  • Place the sumac berries in a tea strainer – or – wrap in cheesecloth and tie closed with twine. If using ground sumac, it can be sprinkled into the water.
  • Combine the sauce ingredients in a saucepan, stirring to incorporate the tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Discard sumac berries.

To Assemble and Cook:

  • 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. Continue until all vegetables are stuffed. If you have extra meat-rice filling, shape them into walnut-sized balls and add them to the pot to cook with the vegetables.
  • Place stuffed vegetables side-by-side in a large pot.
  • Pour sauce over the vegetables. 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.
  • Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook for about 45 minutes, until rice and vegetables are tender.
  • 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 or pita bread.


If you can’t find sumac, just use lemon juice. Add according to your preferred level of tartness.
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
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  1. Jan Norris May 7, 2009 at 12:17 am

    And I can buy sumac berries — where in West Palm Beach area???
    — Jan Norris

    1. Pafra Catlddge December 21, 2021 at 8:23 pm

      check online, i bought the powder.

  2. Anonymous May 2, 2010 at 4:13 pm


    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. hhh June 14, 2016 at 7:26 am

      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. hhh June 14, 2016 at 7:29 am

      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. Robyn May 2, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    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. Anonymous July 3, 2010 at 6:25 am

    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. Anonymous July 22, 2011 at 11:48 pm

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

  6. Robyn July 23, 2011 at 2:11 am

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

  7. Anonymous August 7, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    All are TURKISH cuisine !!!!

  8. Anonymous August 22, 2011 at 2:25 am

    all AZERBAIJAN and TURKISH meal

  9. Anonymous January 27, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Armenian food is delicious.

  10. Anonymous April 8, 2012 at 1:33 am

    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. KimmyC May 3, 2012 at 2:18 am

    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. Anonymous May 9, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    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. Anonymous May 9, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    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. Anonymous May 11, 2012 at 1:24 am

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

  15. Anonymous April 3, 2013 at 7:07 am

    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!

    1. Carl V. Vartian December 30, 2023 at 7:20 pm

      Sorry but it has been > 10 years since this incredible post. Not sure if it will update or respond to you.

      First generation product of genocide survivors. My wife is of Greek heritage and we frequently “joke” over whose cuisine was first stolen by the Turks.

  16. Unknown June 10, 2013 at 12:04 am

    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. Anonymous July 11, 2013 at 11:38 am

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

    1. Robyn July 11, 2013 at 6:21 pm

      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. Anonymous August 6, 2013 at 3:11 pm

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

    1. Robyn August 8, 2013 at 4:00 pm

      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. Unknown January 12, 2016 at 5:29 am

    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. Robyn Kalajian January 12, 2016 at 2:38 pm

      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. December 12, 2017 at 12:25 pm

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

  21. Unknown September 25, 2018 at 10:30 pm

    How many peppers can you use?

    1. Robyn Kalajian October 26, 2018 at 5:37 pm

      Use as many peppers that will fit in the pot you intend to use. 🙂

  22. Wayne July 13, 2021 at 11:58 pm

    5 stars
    When my grandmother used tomatoes and peppers, she just called it stuffed tomatoes or peppers. But, when she wrapped the meat mixture in cabbage leaves, then she called them Dolmas. Until I saw this site today, I always thought Dolmas was meat wrapped in cabbage or grape leaves.

    1. Robyn Kalajian July 18, 2021 at 1:29 pm

      Hi Wayne, We’re so happy you found us! Here are a couple of technical terms used in Armenian cooking. Dolma is the term used when vegetables (peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, etc.) have had the centers scooped out and then are stuffed – usually with a rice or bulgur/meat filling. ‘Sarma’ refers to filling ingredients that are wrapped in leaves (eg: cabbage, grape leaves).

  23. Armen May 9, 2023 at 12:42 pm

    Hi Robyn, I tried your recipe but added onions based on a recommendation from a friend. Is dolma supposed to have onions as well?Thanks.

    1. Robyn Kalajian May 12, 2023 at 3:25 pm

      Hi Armen, there are countless variations in the making of dolma filling. Incorporate what you prefer: onions, parsley, mint, dill; seasonings of your choice; use of ground beef, lamb or turkey; use rice or bulgur as the grain – the possibilies are endless!


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