Venison Stuffed Grape Leaves

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Stuffed grape leaves—dolmas—are one of my favorite Middle Eastern appetizers. A Greek friend taught me how to make them years ago, and I used to make them a few times a year. That was almost 15 years ago! So when my friend asked me to bring an appetizer that would go well with hummus to Thanksgiving dinner, I thought grape leaves. Then I thought, venison meat for the grape leaves! I couldn’t wait until Thanksgiving day to sample them…I was eating them hot out of the pot! Yum. If you like stuffed grape leaves, you’ll love these. They’re easy to make, but give yourself about 3 hours from start to finish.

Venison Stuffed Grape Leaves

Recipe: Venison Stuffed Grape Leaves

Summary: a delicate blend of spices, rice, and venison meat


  • ½ pound ground venison
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp dill
  • 2 1/2 tbs fresh parsley, chopped finely
  • ¾ tsp fennel seed
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • 1 lb long grain white rice, rinsed and drained
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 16 oz jar grape leaves
  • water
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 tbs olive oil


  1. In a large skillet, brown the venison and set aside.
  2. Wipe the skillet clean, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions until just tender.
  3. Add the dill, parsley, fennel seed, coriander, pine nuts, garlic, salt, pepper, rice, and water to the skillet. Cover and simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so that the rice doesn’t burn in the skillet.
    Grape leaves stuffing
  4. Remove from heat, stir in meat, and set aside to cool.
  5. While the stuffing mixture cools, remove the grape leaves from jar, rinse thoroughly and drain.
  6. Separate each leaf, laying it flat on a cutting board and cutting off the stem at the base. Use any torn leave to line the bottom of a large stock pot—you’ll want a nice thick layer of leaves covering the bottom of the pan so that the stuffed leaves don’t burn while cooking.
    grape leaves
  7. Spoon approximately 1 tablespoon of the stuffing onto a leaf near the stem. Form into a sausage shape and  fold the stem over the mixture, then fold the edges toward the middle. Roll the leaf up in a tight small bundle.
    stuffing grape leaves
  8. Line the stuffed grape leaves in a circle around the base of the pot and in the middle. You should have enough leaves to form two to three layers of grape leaves.
    stuffed grape leaves
  9. Once all the leaves are stuffed and in the pot, cover with water and the juice of one lemon. Set a plate on top of the leaves to keep them submerged in the water.
  10. Cook on medium heat for 1 ½ hours.
  11. Remove from stove and transfer grape leaves to a serving dish to cool. Once cooled, drizzle with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and refrigerate. Serve cold.

Quick Notes

These are great with pita and hummus.


You can substitute lamb if you don’t have any venison, or you can make these without meat.

Cooking time (duration): 1.5 hours

Number of servings (yield): 12

Meal type: hors d’oerves

Culinary tradition: Greek

Microformatting by hRecipe.

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