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yaprak sarma covered with lemon

Turkish sarma

  • Author: Amélie
  • Prep Time: 3 hours 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 130 sarmas 1x
  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Stove
  • Cuisine: Turkish


If you love Turkish sarma (vegetarian stuffed grape leaves), covered with a decent amount of lemon juice and olive oil, this is the recipe for you! They’re addictive and well worth the effort. Plus you can make them all year long with grape leaves pickled in brine.


  • 400g short-grain rice (preferably Turkish baldo rice) (2 cups)

  • 2 medium-sized onions, finely sliced

  • 150ml olive oil (⅔ cup)

  • 3 tsp salt

  • 2 tbsp mild red pepper paste / Turkish tatlı* biber salcası (or use tomato paste)

  • 2 medium-sized tomatoes, grated

  • 1 tsp caster sugar

  • Bunch of parsley, leaves only

  • 1 tsp dried mint, heaped

  • 1 tsp black pepper

  • 2 lemons

  • 500g vine leaves in brine, drained (18 oz)

  • Turkish yogurt, to serve (or use Greek yogurt)


First, make the rice stuffing:

turkish tomato rice

  1. Soak the rice. Soak the rice in lots of warm water with 1 tsp of salt for 30 min. Then rinse with cold water and drain thoroughly.


  2. Make the stuffing. Heat ⅔ of the olive oil in a pan over medium heat and cook the sliced onions with 2 tsp of salt until soft but not browned, about 7 min. Stir in the paste, grated tomatoes and sugar. Add the rice and cook for 7 min, stirring from time to time. The rice should have softened but still be crunchy.


  3. Take the rice mixture off the heat. Chop the parsley and add it to the rice, along with the dried mint, black pepper, and juice of 1 lemon. Combine and set the rice stuffing aside to cool down for a bit.

Then, stuff the grape leaves:

stuffed vine leaves

  1. Prepare the grape leaves. Wash the leaves to remove the salt and snip off any stems. Pile the grape leaves on a plate, shiny side facing down (veins side facing up). Put any damaged leaves aside, you’ll use them later on.


  2. Stuff a leaf. Put a leaf on a work surface, shiny side down (veins side facing up). Put a line of stuffing along the longer side of the leaf (near the bottom, where you snipped off the stem). Don’t put too much stuffing or you won’t be able to roll your sarma properly. 1 tsp of stuffing is more than enough for most leaves.


  3. Roll! Starting from the stuffing side, roll the leaf around the stuffing for one full turn. Then fold in the sides and continue rolling into a cigar shape. It might help to sprinkle some water on the leaves to get them to stick and prevent the Turkish sarma from opening after you rolled them. Check out the process photos if you’re unsure about the stuffing/rolling process. Repeat until you are out of grape leaves.

Lastly, cook the vegetarian stuffed grape leaves:

how to cook vine leaves

  1. Place the stuffed grape leaves in the saucepan. Put half of the damaged leaves at the bottom of a saucepan or a stewpot. Arrange the sarma in a tightly packed spiral shape on top of the damaged leaves. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil on the sarma. Cut the lemon in half. Slice half of the lemon and scatter over the sarma. Squeeze over the other half of the lemon. Cover everything with the rest of the damaged leaves.


  2. Cook the Turkish sarma. Place an inverted plate on top, covering as much surface as possible. Put something heavy on top of the plate to make sure the sarma won’t budge. Add just enough boiling water while pushing the plate down to cover the sarma, 500ml (2 cups) should do). Cook over medium heat for 45 min. Taste 1, if the grape leaf isn’t soft enough to your liking, cook for another 10 min and try another one. You might need to add more water if it looks too dry.


  3. Drain. When they are cooked, take off the weight but keep the plate and carefully tilt the pan or pot over a sink to drain the remaining water. Serve warm or cold with a big dollop of Turkish yogurt.


You can keep these Turkish sarma in the fridge for up to 4 days in a plastic container.


  • Serving Size: 33 sarmas
  • Calories: 703

Keywords: grape leaves with rice, rice stuffing, turkish meze, mediterranean finger food