Growing up, my mom would occasionally bring out the family recipe for stuffed cabbage rolls and my younger sister and I would help her roll the cabbage leaves. My sister and I interpreted the responsibility of this task with solemnity and reverence. With diligence and focus, we fell into a silent meditation while rolling up cabbage leaves.
Preparing these paleo dolmas brought me back to that memory. It could seem tedious to roll up grape leave after grape leave by myself, but I found my hands weaving in a meditative dance between the plate, the jar of grape leaves, and the bowl of lamb filling. The repetition stilled my mind and brought me into the moment. Before I knew it, I had rolled nearly 40 leaves by myself.
This recipe reminded me that cooking is more than food preparation. It is a pathway to creativity, meditation, generosity, love and community.
About the Paleo Dolmas ingredients
Ground lamb is the traditional meat for dolmas, but you could substitute lean (not extra lean) ground beef.
Pine nuts, again, are the traditional option but you can substitute a nut which you tolerate. I used macadamia nuts because I had them on hand.
Fresh mint and fresh lemon create add vibrant flavor and cut through the richness of the lamb, nuts, and olive oil. Dried mint or packaged lemon juice would absolutely not do justice in this recipe.
Grape leaves come packed in a jar are now available in almost any well-stocked grocery store.
- 1 Tbs. ghee or coconut oil
- ½ onion, chopped
- ¾ head cauliflower, riced (see note) to make about 4 cups riced cauliflower
- 2 Tbs. chopped fresh mint
- 1 lb. ground lamb
- 3 Tbs. currants
- 3 Tbs. pine nuts (or a nut you tolerate, I used chopped macadamia nuts)
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- 1 lemon
- 1 jar grape leaves
- 2 Tbs. olive oil
- In a saute pan over medium heat, saute the onion in the ghee until translucent, about 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl with your hands, combine the riced cauliflower, cooked onion, mint, lamb, currants, nuts, garlic cloves, and salt. Add the juice of ½ the lemon (2 Tbs. juice). Combine well.
- To roll the dolmas, place a flattened grape leaf vein-side up. Place a packed tablespoon, more or less, of filling at the base of the leaf (see images above). Then, holding the filling in place, fold in the sides of the leaf and roll it up.
- As you make the dolmas, place them seam-side down in a large pot. Pack tightly to create a layer. If you have enough for two layers, make another layer.
- Drizzle the dolmas with the juice of the other half lemon and the olive oil. Add water to the pot to just fully cover the dolmas.
- Find a plate that fits the width of the pot, and place it over the dolmas to weight them down during cooking. If you use a salad place, you may need to double-stack it to provide adequate weight.
- Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Serve dolmas warm or chilled. If storing them in the fridge before serving, place them in a container and spoon over some of the cooking water to keep them moist.
It looks amazing, we do something very similar in Romania. We call them ” sarmale ” . Please search ” sarmale cu vita de vie ” it looks exactly the same.
Everyone is using coconut oil, but through many tests and of course my own GI tract, I just can not use it, and even on my skin I develop a redness. So clarified butter and olive oil are my go to oil, even though they say not to heat up the olive oil, any other suggestions?
Olive oil is the best for theses types of recipes! The Turks, Greeks, and Lebanese will probably agree. ????
Can these be made using cabbage leaves instead of grape leaves? If so, how should they be prepped? Thank you, this looks like a recipe I would like to prepare and enjoy eating! ~ I, too, have improved my health by changing the way I eat. Thank you for all you do to educate us.
They can be steamed or boiled until tender before you roll them. Hope this helps,
I always cut off the stems! Another things I do is make dolmades (what we call them) tender is freeze them in a tray, well covered w/foil. After a good freeze, thaw and then bake them in preheated 350 degree oven. Usually takes about an hour. Yes, bake them. You can rest easier that they won’t burn. Have been doing it this way for a decade, and. Any believe I didn’t do it sooner.
Do you have the nutritional values for these? I’m a diabetic and watch of course my carbs and sugar?
This recipe is low carb with meat, veggies, and cauliflower instead of rice. The currants, i.e. dried fruit, are high sugar, so either make sure they contain no added sugar, decrease the amount, or omit entirely. However, the amount of currants is negligible for the recipe.
I’m willing to bet that everything Lauren posts on this site is great for diabetics. She follows the paleo AIP which is low carb/sugar.
Is there a replacement for currants? Or would you just omit for a diabetic?
Made these tonight. Did not weigh down the plate enough at first, but they seem intact. Will let you know how they turn out tomorrow!
Made these tonight added chopped dates instead of currents. Tasted amazing. I love dolmas haven’t had them in a very long time. Because of the rice the cauliflower is a great subtution.
Is the meat already cooked when you assemble? Or is it raw?
I’m wondering if brown palm rice (palmini brand) can be substituted for the cauliflower rice?