Easy Cheezy Vegan Dolmas

I did not like these as a child
I did not like the mint inside
But then I had some with a pal
And now I am a grape leaf gal

Silly, but true. I thought they were gross. I probably got one that was stringy as a child and didn't like the texture. I know for a long time I thought the grape leaves themselves had a flavor I didn't like. Come to find out that flavor was mint, which is easily left out.

So about a year ago, my friend Carson let me share one of his at a Greek restaurant. They were SOOOO good! I knew I had to try making them myself.

I've done one version with brown rice and tofu "feta" which is my favorite. I also did one with half brown rice and half riced cauliflower for the hubby who is a little diabetic. Finally, I did the ultimate shortcut and made a "deconstructed" version, tossing chopped grape leaves into the rice mixture and cooking it all on the skillet. Same great flavor, minimal effort.

These recipes make about 2 dozen dolmas.

If you have all the ingredients on hand (like the yogurt, premade), it should take about an hour total to make the filling, roll the leaves, and steam them. The deconstructed version takes all of ten minutes.


Recipe 1: Brown Rice and Tofu "Feta" Dolmas

Don't let the brown rice fool you into thinking these will be tough or taste mineral-y. If you use Trader Joe's Frozen Brown Rice, you will get tender, sticky rice, perfect for the filling. Otherwise, any short grain rice should hold together when cooked. 

Note: This recipe makes 2 dozen Dolmas. Most of the cooking is done in a skillet. So the steaming part is very quick. Once you get the hang of rolling, you can make 2 dozen in 30 minutes or so. 

If you've never done this before, watch the video to learn how to prep the leaves and roll the dolmas.


  • 1/3 jar (Dry Weight 16 oz.) grape leaves in brine
  • 1 10 oz. packet frozen brown rice. Trader Joe's seems to hold together really well.
  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 T chopped fresh dill
  • 1-2 sprigs chopped parsely
  • 1/2 14 oz. container of marinated firm tofu (see instructions here)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon (or more)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Optional ingredients:
  • 2 T Homemade Soy Yogurt or "Whey" (recipe here)
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp mint.
  • 8 oz frozen chopped spinach or kale or chard
  • Olive Oil
  • Toasted pine nuts
  1. Sauté onion over medium heat till translucent. You can use olive oil or a bit of water for a no-oil version.
  2. Add all the other ingredients except the grape leaves. Cook 5-10 minutes till rice is warmed through and the flavors meld.
  3. Let the mixture cool off the burner.
  4. While it cools, rinse grape leaves and trim stems.
  5. To roll, take about 2 tsp of rice mixture and form it into a torpedo shape. Place it in the center of a leaf and roll while tucking in sides. If you've made burritos, summer rolls, or changed a diaper, you can do this. Watch the video for a demo.
  6. While rolling, meditate on how hard everyone will think you worked to make these. Repeat this mantra: I am a rock star!
  7. Put an inch or so of water in the bottom of your steamer.
  8. Line the bottom of the steamer basket with the grape leaves you accidentally ripped or the ones that were too small to use. Parchment paper works too.
  9. Since everything is cooked, you just need to steam for 10 minutes. If you're using an instant pot, steam for 1-2 minutes and use the slow release technique. Contemplate teaching your beloved the slow release technique too.
  10. Let cool and serve
  11. Optional: Sprinkle with toasted pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil

Recipe 2: With Half Riced Cauliflower

Do everything in Recipe 1, but sub 1/2 the rice with 5 oz of riced cauliflower. You can buy it frozen or grate it yourself. The frozen cooks fast and can get mushy, so add it at the very end of the cooking process. I learned this the hard (well, actually soft) way.

Recipe 3: Deconstructed Dolmas

Perfect when you want the taste but not the effort. You can have this on the table in ten minutes. Do everything in recipe 1 or 2. But instead of rolling into the leaves, take about 8-10 of them and chop them finely. Add them into the sauté pan with the rice mixture. Serve warm or cool.


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