How to Make Fermented Grape Leaves

The great thing about fermenting foods is that it opens you up to a wide array of foods that you probably wouldn’t try otherwise. In this post, Sarah makes something that sounds much unlike food to me, sound appetizing. Read on and discover how to make fermented grape leaves.

Grape leaves, that seems to be a slightly funny thing to ferment, isn’t it? But, fermented, or pickled, grape leaves can be very useful for dolmades, also known as dolmas. These are a traditional dish made with fermented grape leaves stuffed with a variety of fillings. In colder climates, the grape leaves will be smaller and about the right size for an appetizer tray, while in warmer climates the larger grape leaves would be suitable for a dinner-sized portion.

While you can get canned grape leaves, it is much more fun to harvest and prepare your own. This way you can verify that the leaves are from healthy, and non-sprayed or treated plants.

How to Make Fermented Grape Leaves

A Fermented Grape Leaves Recipe


• Enough grape leaves to fill one wide-mouth pint jar, wrapped in themselves.

• 1 1/2 to 2 Tsp. salt.

• Your standard wide-mouth fermenting pint jar, lid, airlock, and weight.

To Ferment:

Hand-pick 24-36 grape leaves. Choose whole leaves, without frost, insect, or sun damage if possible. You want them to be a healthy dark green tone, not yellowed or faded.

Wash the leaves individually to get any dust residue or insects off of them.

Wrap each individual leaf into a moderately tight roll and fasten with a bit of string or twine. Pack, side by side and upright, into a half-pint jar.

Once the jar is filled with wrapped leaves, add 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt and water up to cover the leaves. Remember to inoculate with 1 tablespoon of brine from a successful ferment.

Place your weight and secure your airlock.

The ferment will start within 24 hours and will take 3-5 days to fully ferment—depending on your ambient temperature. Cool temperatures can take up to a week, even for a small jar. The ferment is done when the color of the grape leaves is a dull green, and the bubbles have gone from large to small, to barely bubbly at all.

How to Make Dolmades with Fermented Grape Leaves

Traditional dolmades are filled with a mixture of rice and fresh herbs. Combinations can include rice with parsley and basil, with mint, or for a spicier variation try some slightly hot peppers with sun-dried tomatoes. You can also make meat dolmades if you prefer, lamb with mint is excellent.

While the traditional dolmades can be filled with dry rice, and then cooked. I prefer pre-making my fillings, particularly when working with meat and not just rice.

For a rice-based filling, pre-cook one cup of rice with the spices of your choice. Unroll one leaf, and place shiny side down on your work surface. Place one tablespoon of filling at the stem end of the leaf. Fold each side in and roll up the leaf around the filling, being careful not to split the leaf. Place filled leaf in a flat pan; repeat with other leaves to fill the pan. Drizzle with olive oil and bake in a 350 oven for 10-15 minutes, or until fully heated through and the flavors have had a chance to meld.

For a meat filling, precook the ground meat with the spices of your choice. I like lamb, sautéed with a sprinkle of finely chopped onions, and finely chopped mint. Mix half and half with cooked rice, and fill the dolmades as above.

A delicious, sweet version can be made with cooked rice, finely chopped dates, and toasted and chopped walnuts. Toast the walnuts in a hot frying pan while the rice is cooking and let cool. Add ¼ cup of finely chopped dates per cup of rice, ¼ cup finely chopped toasted walnuts, a sprinkle of cinnamon, and one tablespoon of honey. Fill as described above, and bake until just heated through.



Sarah Dalziel is passionate about DIY skills, knowledge, and self-sufficiency. She was homeschooled K-BSc and enjoys questioning, researching, and writing about hands-on skills and preparedness. Ethnobotany, natural dyes, and self-sufficiency fascinate her. If she isn’t writing about them, you’ll find her dipping yarn into a steaming dye pot, or stirring up a batch of woad pigmented soap. Sarah blogs at, a natural dye and fiber skills blog, and also at, an interdisciplinary skills and writing blog.

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