Yarpag Dolma - Classic Azerbaijani dolma wrapped in vine leaves

Dolma is the queen of Azerbaijani cuisine and is very popular among the locals. Azerbaijan's special dolma tradition has even been included in the UNESCO cultural heritage list. Dolma, translated from Turkish means “filled” and has several variants. Not to mention, there are 386 variations of Azerbaijani dolma. The preparation of this special dish is a tradition that has been passed on in families from generation to generation. An Azerbaijani festive table cannot be imagined without dolma.

What makes the typical Azerbaijani dolma different than all the other dolma’s ? It is a true art to roll the dolma properly, and everyone has their own trick for doing this. The challenge is that it has to be very small and elegantly wrapped. The perfect dolma should be round and the leaves should not open during cooking. Of course, fresh and natural herbs also play a major role in creating a flawless dolma.

Below a recipe of a traditional Azerbaijani dolma.



  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 40-80 small vine leaves
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic
  • 200-300 grams of Greek yogurt

For the filling:

  •  500 grams of ground beef (in the vegetarian version, meat is replaced by rice).
  • 1 or 2 grated onions (depending on size)
  • 100 gr rinsed white round rice (Turkish pirinc is a good alternative)
  • 100 gr chopped fresh coriander
  • 100 g chopped fresh dill
  • 100gr chopped fresh mint
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper

Let’s start! 

Mix all the ingredients of the filling together (best way is to do it with your hands) and let it rest while you prepare the vine leaves.

If you use fresh leaves, blanch them in boiling water in small batches. This makes them softer and more pliable. Let them dry a bit and cut the stems off. With canned vine leaves, all you need to do is carefully separate the leaves and set them aside so that they can be filled and rolled one by one.

Take a medium pan and put a few leaves in a single layer on the bottom of the pan.

Now you can start wrapping up your dolma. Take a leaf and place the shiny side down on the palm of your hand.

Place a small amount of filling at the stem end of the leaf. Fold the top down over the stuffing, then the sides, and roll up tightly to get a nice square / round bundle about an inch in diameter.

Place the filled leaves seam side down on the bottom of the pan, you will build this up in several layers until you have made 40-80 dolmas.

When you are done, put some butter on it and pour in some water. The water should be about half way. Place a plate on the dolmas to prevent the leaves from opening during cooking, cover the pan and bring to boil.

After it starts boiling, reduce heat to medium and simmer for about an hour and a half.  By then, the filling should be cooked, the leaves will be soft and there should be just a little bit of liquid left in the pan.

Last but not least, serve your dolma with garlic yogurt sauce (squeeze the garlic cloves and mix it in a bowl with yogurt and dip your dolma in it with every bite.

Nuş olsun!

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