September 07, 2010

ETL: Bulgarian style vegan dolmas ( sarmi )

This is a vegan version of one of the most popular Bulgarian dishes. The original dish is cooked with white rice and ground pork, substituted here with brown basmati rice and meatless ground for all fellow vegetarians

This is what you need for ~ 70-80 dolmas:

  • 1 jar of Mediterranean grape leaves, sold at Persian markets like International Food Bazaar
  • 1 lb meatless ground from Trader Joe's (optional )
  • 2 cups brown basmati rice, soaked
  • 1 big onion, chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 5-6 mushrooms, white, baby bella or crimini, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cumini
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • salt to taste, about 1 full tsp
  • 1 tbsp mint
  • 1 tbsp savory (chubritza )
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1/3 tsp hot paper flakes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

How to cook them:

Saute the onions with the garlic in a large pan until the onions start to brown. Add all the spices, and the carrots and saute for 2-3 minutes to allow all the spices to heat up and release their flavors. Stir the veggies with a spoon to prevent burning.
Add the mushrooms and cook for 2-3 minutes, before adding the meatless ground. Cook for 3 more minutes and add the tomatoes and the rice. After 5 minutes turn off the heat and cover the pan with a lid. Let it stay for 30-45 minutes for the rice to absorb all the liquid from the mushrooms and tomatoes.
Meanwhile soak the grape leaves in hot boiling water to make them softer and take out the extra soduim.
Wrap a tablespoon of the mixture with a grape leaf and arrange the dolmas in a big casserole. Add 5-6 cups of water and bake the dolmas in a covered casserole for about an hour at 450F.
Serve the dolmas hot with yogurt and side tomatoes and cucumber salad as a main dish, or cold as an appetizer.


  1. One of the great things about sarmi is that they are traditionally served with meat and without. On Christmas Eve Bulgarians eat only vegetarian food, and this is a staple on that night. So no "meatless meat" is needed at all!

  2. I absolutely agree with you Anonymous :)! Thanks for the comment.
    This recipe is not what the tradition calls for. As a omnivore turned vegan, sometimes I'm tempted to experiment, trying to recreate a recipe's taste with meat, using substitutes. This is how the "meatless meat" got involved.
    Using mushrooms, nuts, and raisins to cook vegetarian sarmi delivers excellent results, as well.