Cabbage Dolma (Dolma’t Chalama)

Cabbage Dolma (Dolma’t Chalama)

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Cabbage Dolma or Cabbage Rolls is one of those recipes that shared by many cultures. This including Assyrians, Arabs, Armenians, Polish, and Greeks. Assyrians call this dish “dolma’t chalama” which means “cabbage dolma.” Unlike many of my recipes, Cabbage Rolls is a more universal dish. Although I could try to claim that we Assyrians were the first to make dolma, I’m not going there. The important thing is that cabbage rolls are appreciated throughout the world.

cabbage rolls in a pot

Vegetarians or Meat-Lovers Cabbage Dolma

Cabbage rolls happen to be my daughter, Nena’s favorite Assyrian dish. Unfortunately, we have a serious problem. Nena prefers her dolma without meat, while I like mine with. However, being the nice mom that I am, I usually disregard my preference and make it how Nena likes it. If you’re like me and prefer dolma with meat, just replace one cup of rice with one pound of finely diced beef or lamb. But please don’t use ground meat; mom would not have approved. Instead, take a little time to dice the meat; it does make a difference.

cabbage being boiled
boiled cabbage leaves

Here’s a video of me and mom making cabbage dolma; Check out how sassy she was!

Saint Patrick’s Day Tradition

This year, I am continuing a tradition that I started five years ago. What tradition you ask? Well, five years ago I came up with the idea of cooking cabbage dolma along with the corned beef for St. Patricks’s Day. You see the guys in the family love corned beef, as do I. Unfortunately, no one really wanted to eat the cabbage. And since Nena doesn’t eat much meat, there was nothing for Nena to eat for our St Patrick’s Day meal. However, making cabbage rolls AND corned beef solved that dilemma. The guys got to have the corned beef, Nena got her cabbage rolls, and I got both. I call that a win-win!

dolma and corned beef
rice herb and spices filling
cabbage dolma
dolama't chalama

You may also enjoy the following posts: Preserved Grape Leaves, Swiss Chard DolmaGreek Dolmathes, Instant Pot Corned Beef, and Corned Beef Spice Pack.

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cabbage dolma

5 from 4 votes
Cabbage Dolma
Prep Time
30 mins
Cook Time
1 hr
Total Time
1 hr 30 mins

Assyrian cabbage rolls (dolma) stuffed with rice and herbs. Vegetarian recipe.

Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: Assyrian, Middle Eastern
Servings: 6 people
Calories: 412 kcal
  • 1 head cabbage large
  • 3 cups jasmine rice
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley chopped
  • 1 bunch cilantro chopped
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 T salt
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 T allspice
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 T paprika
  • 1 tsp citric acid
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 T dill
  • 6 oz tomato paste
  • 21/2 cups water
  • 11/2 T sugar
  • 1 tsp citric acid
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  1. Carve the core out of the cabbage using a sharp knife, or a serrated grapefruit knife. Discard the core.
  2. Add cabbage to a large stockpot, and cover with water. Boil until the leaves begin to soften and start pulling away from the cabbage.
  3. As the leaves change color and become soft and pliable, use tongs to carefully pull away the outer leaves, and place on a platter. Avoid overcooking the leaves which will cause them to fall apart. Continue to strip the leaves away until you’re left with the smaller leaves in the center.
  4. Remove the thick veins from the center of the larger leaves.
  5. Use the thick sections of the leaves to line the bottom of an 8 qt. Dutch oven. This step is necessary so that the dolma does not stick to the bottom of the pot.
  6. Cut the rest of the cabbage leaf into smaller portions, which will be used to roll the mix in.
  7. Filling: Wash rice, then soak in water and set aside. Chop the parsley, and cilantro, and add to a large bowl. Mince onion and garlic, and add to the same bowl. Mix in all the filling spices. Strain the rice and add to the bowl, along with the tomato paste and oil. Mix thoroughly until combined.
  8. Assembly: Place approximately 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of each cabbage leaf and roll up to cover the filling.
  9. There’s no wrong or right way to do this, it just takes practice. Just don’t make them too big.
  10. Place the dolma in the leaf-lined Dutch oven, in straight rows until the bottom is covered.
  11. When you are done with the first layer, sprinkle with a teaspoon of dill.
  12. If you run out of cabbage leaves, you can use onions to use up the remaining filling.
  13. Just peel a medium sized onion, cut the ends, and make a slit half-way through the onion. Boil for approximately 25 minutes. Strip the onion layers and stuff them with the remaining mixture.
  14. Cover the pot, and cook over medium heat for approximately 15 minutes. The dolma will release some of its juices, and will partially steam cook. During this time, you can move on to making the sauce.
  15. Sauce: Mix the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan, until well blended. Bring sauce to a boil over medium heat. Turn off the heat and set aside until needed.
  16. Pour the sauce over the dolma. Once the mixture is boiling, turn heat to the lowest setting, and simmer until the juices are absorbed, and the rice is tender. This can take anywhere from 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
  17. Although you’re going to want to dig in, have patience little grasshopper! You must allow the dolma to cool for a little bit, or it will fall apart when you’re dishing it out.
Nutrition Facts
Amount Per Serving
Calories 412 Calories from Fat 198
% Daily Value*
Fat 22g34%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 1678mg73%
Carbohydrates 51g17%
Fiber 10g42%
Sugar 17g19%
Protein 9g18%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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2 thoughts on “Cabbage Dolma (Dolma’t Chalama)”

  • 5 stars
    I am Armenian American with parents from Iran and I made this with 1 cup yellow lentils 1 cup kidney beans and 1 cup rice. It was so delicious and tasted just how my grandma made it. Thank you for sharing ?

  • Hi Emilia,
    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a review. I would have never thought of adding lentils and kidney beans. Now I want to try that, it sounds amazing. I know Armenian food is very similar to Assyrian food, so I’m not surprised it tasted like your Grandmother’s Dolma. That generation could cook!

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