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Grape Leaves Sarma Recipe

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My mom's Easter sarma.

My mom's Easter sarma.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

2 hours

1 hour 30 min

3 hours 30 min

Yields 20-25 sarme. Serves 4-5 people.

A jar of grape leaves in brine can be purchased at many grocery stores.

A jar of grape leaves in brine can be purchased at many grocery stores.

Grape Leaves Sarma

My mom has been cooking this dish for as long as I can remember, most often on the Orthodox Easter holiday. It is certainly a tradition in our family. Sarma means "wrapped thing" and at least in Serbian cuisine, typically contains meat (ground beef), rice, and spices as the filling. The wrap itself can be sour cabbage or grape leaves. When I was younger, I used to pick the grape leaves off and just eat the filling, but it's truly a crime to do so. Grape leaves can be a tad bitter in taste, and adding plain yogurt to the final product is a great way to balance out the flavor. Sarma is easy enough to make; it just takes time and patience!


  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1.5 lbs ground beef (or ground turkey)
  • 200g brown rice
  • 1 16oz jar grape leaves, drained
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • paprika, to taste
  • 3 tbsp oil
Add the rice.

Add the rice.

When mix is cooked, begin wrapping!

When mix is cooked, begin wrapping!

Voila! Now repeat the process as many times as it takes.

Voila! Now repeat the process as many times as it takes.

Arrange sarma in circular pot. Make sure to fully cover the base of the pot. Sarma can break during the steaming phase, so pack them in tightly!

Arrange sarma in circular pot. Make sure to fully cover the base of the pot. Sarma can break during the steaming phase, so pack them in tightly!


  1. Chop 1 onion and place in a medium sized skillet with oil. Saute for 20 minutes on medium heat or until onions are golden brown. On the side, wash rice in a small bowl. Also on the side, soak grape leaves in a large bowl of boiled water for 30 minutes to soften the texture.
  2. Add ground beef (or turkey) to the skillet, and cook for 5 minutes. Add salt, ground pepper, and paprika to taste.
  3. Add rice to the skillet and mix ingredients for 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Let mix cool for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Cut the stems off of the grape leaves and separate the leaves into two groups: small and large.
  5. Prepare a medium-sized (preferably round) pot for cooking the sarma. Cover the bottom of the pot with 5-6 grape leaves, depending on the size of the pot. Time to start wrapping.
  6. Pick a larger sized grape leaf and spread it flat onto the palm of your hand. Place a smaller one on top. Add one spoonful of the mix into the center of your palm.
  7. Start by folding the left side of the leaf to the middle. Then fold the right side of the leaf above the left side. Roll into one small sarma. Place the sarma at the bottom the pot. Repeat this process until all of the mix is used. Cover the entirety the pot with individual rolls before beginning to stack.
  8. Add water to the pot until the contents are fully submerged. Cover the pot. Boil over medium heat for 1 hour.
  9. Remove the cover and bake in the oven (375 F) for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve.
  10. Add yogurt (I like Fage 0%) as a sauce, or eat plain.


Leptirela from I don't know half the time on March 30, 2015:

Hello it is a 'hubilicous' hub .

I love this version , but my mother still sticks to the 'cabbage' leaf method.

I think its wonderful you have posted this recipe and now you have made me a little peckish heh. I was thinking of posting some recipes of my own but thought better stick to poems.

Voted beautiful awesome etc .

It may also be funny because we share this food as a tradition am sure.

Great stuff.

Jason Menayan from San Francisco on January 15, 2015:

Looks delicious! Great recipe and visual explanation, Marina.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on August 11, 2014:

An interesting hub from you and I like the recipe myself.

swilliams on May 28, 2014:

I'm going to try this recipe great detail! And the pictures are vivid! Voted up!

Consolacion Miravite from Philippines on April 13, 2014:

We have a variation of this recipe, but what we used are taro leaves to wrap the filling. The filling consists of chopped taro leaves, shrimps, pork, onion, garlic, tomatoes, pepper, and chili. It is boiled in coco milk with shrimp paste. It is yummy and nice to eat during the cooler months of December to January. I haven't tried Serbian dish, but it looks delicious!

Mohan Kumar from UK on June 11, 2012:

This is awesome. Is this similar to Dolmades in Greece because I love those little grape leaf parcels full of delicious rice/beef and delicate spices. This recipe hub is superbly put together. the instructions and pictures are amazing. Thanks for this- voted up and across!

Marina (author) from San Francisco, CA on April 29, 2012:

Robin, absolutely. Let's do it!

Robin Edmondson from San Francisco on April 25, 2012:

I don't think I've ever had sarma. Your pictures make it look so good and fairly easy to cook. We might have to have a HubPages cook off for you to bring these into the office!

Marina (author) from San Francisco, CA on April 23, 2012:

Thanks, vespawoolf. Hope you enjoy these!

cardelean, you are correct! :) I love sarma with cabbage too. Though, the sour taste is a turn off to some people, for sure.

Thanks, Simone! And yes, lol, because they are so tiny, it's tempting to swoop a couple in your pocket before they're served.

Appreciate it, moonlake!

moonlake from America on April 21, 2012:

They look very good. I have never had them but they look like something I would like. Great hub..Voted Up.

Simone Haruko Smith from San Francisco on April 21, 2012:

Goodness gracious, this looks delicious! I've never made anything that involved leaves. They add a nice fancy effect, methinks! Awesome photos. If this dish tastes as good as it looks, I imagine some serious defense lines must be set up in front of the serving platter to control pre-meal thieving.

cardelean from Michigan on April 20, 2012:

Ahh Marina, I wondered when I read your name if you were Serbian. My husband is Romanian but his family is from Serbia (Banat). We also celebrated Orthdox Easter this past Sunday and my mother in law made traditional stuffed (wrapped) cabbage. They also call it Sarma so I knew right away what you were talking about. I was actually planning on doing a hub about the stuffed cabbage that she makes since it's a little different than what most Americans think of. Great recipe and we'll have to give it a try!

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on April 20, 2012:

I love stuffed grape leaves and have always wondered how to make them. If I can find the grape leaves I'll give it a try! Thak you!