dolmaYou may have heard other names for yalanchi – sarma, dolma, stuffed grape leaves. There are two kinds of dolmas: cold with rice and herbs and hot with meat. Yalanchi is the cold one and also happens to be vegan and gluten free!

The first time I made yalanchi wasn’t with my Grandmother. It was for our Mediterranean buffet at culinary school. We used jarred grape leaves for about half of the yalanchi and then my school mate, who happens to be Armenian, took the stuffing home and used fresh leaves for the rest. If you try to make this, use fresh leaves. The jarred are tough and tasteless. It’s really just not worth making with the jarred. You must boil the fresh leaves in very salty, lemony water ahead of time until they are tender, but it is worth the work, in my opinion. Try to get medium sized leaves without holes or tears.

grape leaves (not sure how many – if I had to guess, I’d say 60)

lemon juice for boiling grape leaves

4 cups diced white onions

1 diced green bell pepper (optional)

3/4 c. vegetable oil

1/4 c. olive oil

1 c. white rice (mahatma is good)

1 8oz. can tomato sauce

1 c. water

1/4 c. lemon juice (or to taste) plus 1/4 c. separated

1 1/2 Tbsp. dill weed (dried)

3/4 Tbsp. salt (or to taste)

1/2 Tbsp. black pepper (or to taste)

1 bunch finely chopped parsley


Boil the fresh grape leaves in very salty water with lots of lemon juice until tender. You can find them at Jons if you’re in the Los Angeles, CA area. Drain and set aside to cool.

Put oil, onions and bell pepper in a pot and then turn on medium high heat. Fry until onions are very soft (about 20 minutes). Add rice, tomato sauce and 1 c. water to the onion mixture. Let cook until rice is soft (about 30 minutes). Let mixture cool completely. Then add parsley, dill, salt, pepper, and 1/4 c. lemon juice to the mixture.

You’re ready to roll – literally! Here’s where I wish I had pictures of the process. I don’t, so I”ll try to describe it as simply as possible. Get out another clean pot that’s about the same size as your dinner plates to put the finished yalanchi in. You’ll be cooking them a second time with the plate on top to weigh them down.

Place the grape leaf vein side up on the table (or cutting board). Put a small amount of filling close to the bottom of the leaf. Roll over once, then fold in the sides of the leaf. Roll up completely. Place in the pot. Repeat, layering the yalanchi in the pot in rows and on top of each other. Finish by topping the pot with left over grape leaves, covering the yalanchi completely.

Pour remaining lemon juice over the yalanchi. Put enough water in the pot to just cover them. Place a plate on top to weigh them down. After it reaches a boil, turn down the heat and simmer covered for 30 minutes, checking after 15 minutes to make sure there’s still enough water. Turn off the heat and do not lift the lid until yalanchi is completely cooled.

Place yalanchi on serving plate. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon, if desired.

This is the way my Grandma taught me how to make yalanchi. It’s definitely not the only way or even the “right” way, it’s just her way and I wanted to share it with you. Let me know if you try it!


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8 Responses to “Yalanchi”

  1. Bexx Says:

    I love these!!! they are so yummy!! I love the ones with meat too..

  2. Cinchy Says:

    I don’t think I have ever had this. Looks interesting and Lisa if you cooked I know it is “GREAT” and would love it.

    I like your new blog.

  3. eightfoldrabbit Says:

    Those look great! NOM. Now, I have a dolmades recipe somewhere of the way my Greek ya-ya makes them, and it’s similar but a little different. I love the twists people put on it and the different names and how different cultures in that region have them anyway. It goes to show the interconnectedness of cultures in ways we don’t think about.


  4. Sarma « Lisa Cooks Says:

    […] Sarma By lisapotato Sarma are grape leaves stuffed with lamb, rice and spices. The method for making and cooking them is very similar to yalanchi. […]

  5. Kimberly Curry Says:

    I have cooked Armenian food for 25 years. One of my recipes calls for soomakh, My Armenian is rusty and I have no idea what this is. Do you happen to know, I do not believe it is tomato sauce.

  6. janine Says:

    my grandmother did it similarly, but no tomato sauce. And she added in whatever she felt like (let’s say a little ground nutmeg) — she was an unbelievable chef. Thank you ! 🙂

  7. ingergeimmoli Says:

    Good article, amazing looking weblog, added it to my favorites.

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