rolled grape leaves: Syrian dolma (yabraq)

Yabraq was something I grew up watching my mum and granny do… as kids, we were never allowed to roll grape leaves with them, but sometimes, if we were behaving extra good, we were allowed to take a leaf and filling and ‘pretend roll it’, meaning it never got into the pot after all – we were just made to believe it was! After many years, the table turned, and I find myself rolling grape leaves for hours as mum goes about doing her own household work… It all started when I insisted some time 2 years ago that I also roll grape leaves with mum.. and she happily (but worryingly) said yes.

That’s the yabraq I do in one sitting…

As I started, the first leaf was ok the second one was good the third one said that I have the hang of it and the the fourth one was amazing. So were all the other 50+ leaves I rolled! We decided that day that it was some sort of a god-given talent if you could roll grape leaves like that… I won’t brag any further.. here’s the recipe below 😉

Serves: 6 (as a main meal)


450 g drained grape leaves (they come in those ~1kg jars full of the preserving liquid)

1 x batch of stuffing

1.5 L water (or enough to immerse the leaves by an inch)

lots of salt (about 3-4tbs – the taste should be apparent)

citric acid (2-3 tbs – taste should also be apparent), OR

juice of 2 lemons (or until taste is apparent)

Dipping sauce (a must!):

3 heaped tbs greek yoghurt

2 cloves garlic

2 tbs tahini

salt to taste



Having made all the mixture, place it to one side.

Start by placing all the grape leaves in a large bowl, and immersing them in warm water (not the water mentioned in the ingredients list above).

Take one leaf and place it before you, shiny side down.

Cut off the stem.

Rolling a “Simple Grape Leaf”

… means there are no open bits that make the stuffing spill out …

Place a small handful of the stuffing at the base of the grape leaf.

Next, fold over the bottom left hand edge of the leaf.

Repeat this for the right bottom edge of the leaf.

Roll the leaf (tightly but carefully away from you) a couple of times to completely encapsulate the mixture.

Fold in the right side of the grape leaf, then the left side.

Continue rolling away from you until the leaf is all rolled up.


Rolling a “Weird Grape Leaf”

… means it’s all opened up around the edges …

Start at the left hand side and fold over the first segment of the leaf over the second.

Do this for the second segment of the leaf (fold it over the top part).

Now fold over the left side of the leaf, similar to how the right side was done.

Now that you’re a total expert at rolling all sorts of grape leaves, one final piece of advice, if there’s a big rip in the middle of the leaf, use another ripped up leaf to cover the rip, then roll it up like its leafy friends 🙂

Repeat this whole entire process until the jar is finished, and your back aches 🙂

Next, prepare normal cotton sewing string and a pair of clean kitchen scissors.

Take similar sized yabraq rolls and hold in your hand until you form a bundle (about 8 in each bundle).

Wrap the bundle 5 – 6 times with the cotton string then snip it off.

Repeat until you’ve finished all the grape leaves.

Place the bundles in a pressure cooker.

Boil the litre or so of water and pour into a large bowl/jug.

Add in the citric acid and salt to taste (the taste should be fairly strong as point out above).

Stir through until all the crystals dissolve.

Pour in the water over the bundles in the pot.

Cover and seal the pressure cooker and place on high heat until the whistle blows.

Turn the heat down to medium-high and cook for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare the dipping sauce by placing the yoghurt, tahini, salt and garlic into a bowl and mixing until combined.

Refrigerate until serving time.

At the 30 minute mark, turn the stove off and leave the pressure cooker until the whistling stops.

Dish up the yabraq by cutting the string off and arranging them on a serving platter.

Definitely pour in little bowls of the broth for dipping, and some broth over the yabraq to stop it from drying out.

Serve with the dipping sauce in one bowl, broth in another, a slice of lemon, and pita bread.


20 thoughts on “rolled grape leaves: Syrian dolma (yabraq)

  1. Chica Andaluza says:

    Gorgeous and you do certainly seem to have the knack for rolling! How long do you think they would take to cook in a regular pot (don´t have a pressure cooker) as I am planning a raid on the vines in the summer 🙂

  2. k.m. says:

    The pictures of how to roll the leaves are great! I look forward to trying these, though as I don’t own a pressure cooker, I guess I will just boil them until the filling is cooked through.

  3. Florence says:

    Hi Fatimah. One of my favourites. I love stuffed vine leaves. TFS. I can only buy them out of a tin already stuffed. Not quite the same taste! I admire your patience.
    Regards Florence x

  4. LinsFood says:

    Glad I came across this! I’ve been trying to find out if there was any point in using vine leaves out of a jar as my Lebanese cousins insist nothing beats the fresh ones! It’s so difficult to get fresh ones here. Well, seeing this, I’m going to make this for Sunday, for my youngest’s birthday party! Thanks!

  5. fati's recipes says:

    Hi everyone.. glad you’ve enjoyed my humble tutorial…
    Chica, cooking grape leaves in a normal pot has a different method.. and takes about an hour for the actual leaf to cook through… and you don’t put in the citric acid until 15 minutes before you remove it from the stove… they say the citric acid will stop the leaves from cooking properly. 🙂
    Probably my biggest 2 tips for anyone wanting to make it are..
    1 – remember your posture.. you can come out with a super sore back/shoulders
    2 – eyeball it. Just estimate how much water you’ll need depending on how many leaves you’ll make. Estimate the spices and all else.. it always turns out better that way. 😀

  6. Good Cooks says:

    Goregous Fati, I just wish I could reach one of your yabraq, very beautiful, I liked the step by step photos too. I never arranged them in bundles though, it’s a good idea.
    Thank so much sis.

  7. Jenny says:

    I wish I had found this recipe the other night while I was fighting with the grape leaves 🙂 I love these things but this cooking is all new to me.

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