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  • Sibel Akcekaya

Turkish Vegetarian Dolmas with Bell Peppers

In Turkey we basically fill every vegetable we can find. Dolma comes from the verb doldurmak which means to fill. We do have both meat and vegetarian version and they are both popular. Meat version is usually eaten as main source, vegetarian version which is made by olive oil and rice is usually eaten as meze (appetizer). And vegetarian version is more popular in summer because it is usually eaten cold and that becomes a refreshing food in warm summer months. Vegetarian dolmas are also called yalanci dolma, yalanci means is liar. Liar here used as fake, or false as this version do not contain meat.

Dolma is popular dish for many countries which was invaded by Ottoman Empire. Do dolma is also very popular in countries like in Greece and Armenia. Apparently it is also popular Sicily but all world knows this dish by its Turkish name, dolma.

As you might know we also uses grape leaves and this version called sarma not dolma. Sarma comes from a verb sarmak which means to wrap.

Dolma is the version where we put filling in the vegetable like when we use vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, tomato and onions.

Sarma is the version where we have to wrap filling with the vegetable since the vegetable we use is very flexible and flat like cabbage leaves, kale leaves and grape leaves.

Taste of this dish comes from the combination of filling and the vegetable that the filling is used. So filling can be changed depending on the vegetable is used. Even different homes will use different spices in their dolmas and sarmas.

This version can be used both in bell peppers and grape leaves. For grape leaves I would also add cinnamon. You can actually play with spices and create your favorite version. Here we usually combine sour and sweet

Here I list vegetable to be use approximately because filling might need more or less vegetable depending on the size of your vegetable.

This is a perfect food to make ahead. All olive oil dishes taste better next day after waiting in the refrigerator. It will stay good 3-4 days in the refrigerator. Even longer, just check the taste.


10-15 medium sized bell peppers, all similar sizes


3 tbsp 45 ml olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 tbsp pine nuts

1 tsp dried mint

1 tsp salt

fresh ground black pepper (optional)

1 tsp red pepper flakes(optional)

1 tbsp sugar

1 cup short grain rice

450 ml water


150 ml, 2/3 cup olive oil

150 ml, 2/3 cup water

juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp sugar

salt and ground black pepper


1 small bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 small bunch fresh mint, finely chopped

1 small bunch fresh dill, finely chopped

1 tsp ground allspice


2 lemons, thickly sliced


Cut tops of bell peppers but do not thrash the top, we will use it as caps

Make sure you are using same size pepper.

With a small knife clean inside of the cut peppers. We clean inside to prepare it for filling.

In order to start the filling heat the oil and add the onions and cook onion through well by stirring it constantly. Add garlic and keep cooking. Add pine nuts, dried mint and red pepper flakes if using ..Also add 1 tbsp sugar. Stir and cook for 1 minute.

Add rice and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Add water and make sure water covers the rice. Bring it to boil and reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. The rice does not have to cook all the way through, it should have a bite to it. Add herbs and allspice , mix the rice and wait it to cool.

In a small bowl mix sauce ingredients. Oil, water, lemon juice and 1 tbsp sugar.

Fill the pepper with the filling and place it in a shallow pot. Before adding sauce make sure it is mixed well. Start pouring sauce on top of the peppers and pour rest of it to the pot. Add pepper caps back to the top of the pepper. Cover and cook the peppers around 1 hour until peppers cooked through.

Serve with lemon , serve cold or at room temperature.

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