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Stuffed Peppers and Tomatoes with Ground Meat and Rice – Dolma


Stuffed peppers and tomatoes in ground meat, onion and aromatic rice; domates ve biber dolmasi – delicious and also gluten-free

Some of the food we eat has the ability to transport us to our childhood, have a special link to bond us with those precious memories. These stuffed peppers and tomatoes have such power on me; they are the delicious gateways to take me back home, right to my mother’s as well as my grandmother’s kitchen. Preparing the dolma is quite a grand ritual at home; cousins, sisters, whoever available, gather around a big table; filled with trays of vegetables and stuffing. Some prepare the vegetables, scooping the flesh out, some make the filling, and some do the stuffing. These all happen, of course, with constant flow of Turkish coffee and tea (cay) and catching up! We would then eagerly wait for the dolmas to be cooked; then me and my sister would eat the dolma with a dollop of plain yoghurt on top. We used to call them our “savory ice cream”; I am now trying this trick on my own children 🙂

A dollop of plain or garlicky yoghurt over the dolmas is delicious

A dollop of plain or garlicky yoghurt over the dolmas is delicious

We Turks love stuffing vegetables. The word dolma is used for the vegetables like aubergines, peppers, courgettes, tomatoes that can be stuffed. I like to save the scooped flesh of the tomatoes and use it in the sauce of the dolmas. Stuffed tomatoes are especially a staple of the summer season when tomatoes are abundant and at their peak. For a richer taste, you can also add red pepper paste, biber salcasi or tomato paste to the sauce. This dish is made from wholegrain basmati rice and it is also gluten-free.

I am passionate about our traditional, home cooked all in one pot stews, casseroles, dolmas; not only healthy and delicious, you can make these ahead of time and fantastic for a family meal. In my hometown Antakya, wholesome bulgur is also used instead of rice in the filling for dolma; varieties of stuffed peppers and tomatoes as well as other traditional Turkish stews and casseroles are included in my cookery book, Ozlem’s Turkish Table , Recipes from My Homeland– you can order a signed copy for worldwide delivery at this link, including USA and Canada

Hope you enjoy these dolmas, Afiyet Olsun,


Serves 6-8

Preparation time: 40 minutes                        Cooking time: 45 minutes

3 medium size bell peppers – or 5-6 small bell peppers

4 medium tomatoes

6-8 cloves of garlic, crushed

For the filling:

110gr/4oz/ 1/2 cup ground beef/lamb or ground turkey

115gr/4oz/generous 1/2 cup wholegrain basmati rice, rinsed

2 medium onion, grated

Bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

10ml/1tbsp olive oil

10ml/2 tsp dried mint

10ml / 2 tsp ground black pepper

Salt to taste

For the sauce:

The flesh of the scooped tomatoes, finely chopped

15 ml/1 tbsp. olive oil

15ml/1 tbsp. red pepper paste or tomato paste – optional-


Red pepper flakes to serve – optional-

Bowl of plain (natural yoghurt) or garlicky yoghurt to serve


Filling ingredients for the dolmas; dried mint and parsley add a delicious, refreshing flavour

Filling ingredients for the dolmas; dried mint and parsley add a delicious, refreshing flavour

Put the ground meat in a large bowl and stir in the rest of the filling ingredients. Season and knead, until all blended well. The filling is ready.

Scoop out the seeds of the peppers; save the flesh of the tomatoes

Scoop out the seeds of the peppers; save the caps of the peppers and tomatoes.

Now, let’s prepare the vegetables. Cut the stalk ends of the peppers and save them aside (we will need them to cap the stuffed peppers later). Scoop out the seeds of the peppers.

Save the flesh of the tomatoes to go at the sauce of the dolmas

Save the flesh of the tomatoes to go at the sauce of the dolmas, stuffed peppers and tomatoes.

Slice the tops of the tomatoes and save them aside. Using a spoon, scoop out the tomato flesh, chop them finely and reserve in a bowl. Take care not to pierce through the skin of the tomatoes.

Stuff the tomatoes and peppers with the filling until they are about ¾ full.

Stuff the tomatoes and peppers with the filling until they are about ¾ full.

Take a few spoonfuls of the filling and pack it into the vegetables, until they are about ¾ full. Take care not to overfill to the top, as the rice filling will need some space to expand. Place the stalk ends and tomato tops as lids.

Once cooked, pour a little of the dolmas’ delicious sauce over each stuffed pepper, tomato before serving.

Once cooked, pour a little of the dolmas’ delicious sauce over each stuffed pepper, tomato before serving.

Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in to a heavy pan.  Place the stuffed vegetables upright, packed tightly, in the pan. For the sauce; combine the chopped tomato flesh with 1 tbsp. red pepper paste or tomato paste (if you are using, for a richer taste) and stir in to the pan. Then pour a couple of cups of water around the stuffed vegetables, until it covers just about the half of vegetables. Season with salt and ground black pepper. Stir in the cloves of garlic and cover. Bring the liquid to the boil, then reduce the heat and cook gently for about 45 – 50 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the filling cooked.

Domates ve biber dolmasi; stuffed tomatoes and peppers; delicious & gluten-free

Domates ve biber dolmasi; stuffed tomatoes and peppers; delicious & gluten-free

Once cooked, I like to take their cap off and pour a little of the dolmas’ delicious sauce over each stuffed pepper and tomato before serving and put their cap back on. Serve hot with plain natural or garlic yoghurt by the side. You can also  sprinkle red pepper flakes over the dolmas if you like.

Afiyet Olsun,


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35 Responses to Stuffed Peppers and Tomatoes with Ground Meat and Rice – Dolma

  1. Cuisinedeprovence June 17, 2013 at 8:41 pm #

    Özlem, these peppers and tomatoes look delicious – you make me hungry!

    • Ozlem Warren June 17, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

      They are a favorite for us too, glad you liked them – easy to make too : )

  2. jaz June 17, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    these look wonderful! thanks for the recipe!

    • Ozlem Warren June 17, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

      You are welcome Jaz – from my kitchen to yours : )

  3. April Ozbilgin June 17, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    [Marked as spam by Antispam Bee | Spam reason: Server IP]
    Your dolmas look magnificient as usual! You made my mouth water!

    • Ozlem Warren June 17, 2013 at 9:30 pm #

      Merhaba April, very kind of you – how I wished you were close by and we’d share!: )

  4. Peri's Spice Ladle June 17, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    The sight of family gathering around to stuff the dolmas sounds so wonderfully inviting, it took me back to India where cooking is always such a family experience, it’s like Thanksgiving everyday! Love the flavors of this dolma, Ozlem, and the fact that the brown rice stuffing cooks in the vegetable, absorbing all its goodness:) xxPeri.

    • Ozlem Warren June 18, 2013 at 11:37 am #

      You are right Peri, it is the same feeling at home too, as you say, everyday feels special when it is with friends and family. I did enjoy using wholegrain basmati rice here, it worked well, and all the goodness a bonus. Lovely again the touch of connection with Indian cuisine : ) Ozlem xx

  5. Susan June 18, 2013 at 4:16 am #

    These look just wonderful!

    • Ozlem Warren June 18, 2013 at 11:35 am #

      Thanks Susan, hope it inspires! 🙂

  6. Magi June 18, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    Hi Ozlem,

    I’ve been in Canada visiting family and they are ‘demanding’ Turkish food. I’m so pleased you posted this recipe…let’s hope they enjoy it!

    • Ozlem Warren June 18, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

      Thank you for stopping by Magi; I greatly hope they enjoy these dolmas too! They are a favorite with many folks in Turkey – and us! – they can be made ahead of time and a wonderful food to share. If you have any questions, please let me know, I would be happy to help. My best wishes, Ozlem

  7. BacktoBodrum June 18, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    [Marked as spam by Antispam Bee | Spam reason: Server IP]
    I love the idea of a family cooking together,

    • Ozlem Warren June 19, 2013 at 8:50 am #

      I agree with you, best part of the cooking experience for me is that gathering with friends and family; whatever on the table tastes delicious this way.

  8. Joy (My Traveling Joys) June 19, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    A good reminder for me to make some dolmas here soon! Although, sadly, I didn’t bring any Turkish biber salcasi when I moved. I’ll have to remedy that next month in Istanbul! 🙂

    • Ozlem Warren June 19, 2013 at 3:43 pm #

      Glad it inspired Joy – indeed stock up on biber salcasi – pepper paste when you are in Istanbul – have a great time, I am sure you will! 🙂

  9. Phil in the Kitchen June 19, 2013 at 9:46 pm #

    These look absolutely lovely. Stuffed vegetables are definitely one of my favourite things to eat. In fact, my wife made some recently and they remind her of Mediterranean holidays when she was young. To be honest, they remind me of Brixton, which is where I first ate them. Not very exotic, I know.

    • Ozlem Warren June 20, 2013 at 9:13 am #

      Thanks Phil, these dolmas remind me of the mediterranean a lot too; especially with these ripe juicy tomatoes. I would have loved to taste those stuffed veg you had in Brixton, always curious how folks make their version : )

  10. senior dogs abroad June 21, 2013 at 2:06 am #

    [Marked as spam by Antispam Bee | Spam reason: Server IP]
    Özlem, Although in the past I have been remiss as a dolma maker, your recipe looks so wonderful and the addition of Basmati rice which I love, has sorely tempted me! In the U.S., I always used the whole grain Basmati but here in Turkey, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find it. The white will have to do. Your photos are fabulous.

    I hope this comment arrives. I sent you one earlier but I think it went to the trash.

    • Ozlem Warren June 21, 2013 at 12:38 pm #

      Thank you so much for your comment – apologies that sometimes they end up in spam folder but I do go thru them and it is always a pleasure to find them : ); i am glad the recipe inspired, we did enjoy the wholegrain basmati rice in the dolmas, though if you can’t find it, regular long grain works very well too. As a matter of fact, my mother uses “kirik pirinc” that is broken rice for dolmas, that is sold in supermarkets in Turkey; not only a great value but also cooks better and quicker as the grains are smaller. Do hope you enjoy them : ) My best wishes, cok selamlar, Ozlem

  11. Allison (Spontaneous Tomato) June 28, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    Wow, these look wonderful! I’ve only made stuffed peppers once, and I wasn’t very impressed, but clearly I just needed to find a better recipe. I’ve made tomatoes stuffed with white beans and basil before, which are really nice, but this looks great, too!

    • Ozlem Warren June 29, 2013 at 6:42 pm #

      Thanks Allison, worth having a go at these ones; the dried mint and parsley add a lovely flavor to the basmati rice and ground meat, hope you enjoy it!

  12. Jodi P. Mclean July 2, 2013 at 11:55 pm #

    [Marked as spam by Antispam Bee | Spam reason: CSS Hack]
    Stuffed vegetables, or dolmas as they are known, have the simplest of ingredients- just wholesome vegetables, rice, sometimes ground meat, herbs and spices. In many recipes, such as this Iraqi one, stuffed vegetables are simmered in tomato sauce, a vegetable which the Spaniards introduced to North Africa and the Turks later incorporated into their cuisine. Cooks soon relied heavily on tomatoes which replaced many of the traditional ingredients in Middle Eastern cuisine such as lemon juice, sour grapes (unripe), sumac liquid, vinegar and sour plums. However, there are still areas where “white sauce” is preferred to the ubiquitous tomato such as my grandmother’s Kurdish stuffed grape leaves whereas in Mosul of Northern Iraq, they prepare it red. This recipe is from the food historian and cookbook author Nawal Nasrallah whose book Delights from the Garden of Eden is a wonderful compendium of recipes, culture, history and folklore of Iraq from the ancient times until today.

  13. Rob December 2, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    Hi Ozlem,

    These look great, but before I make them I have one question – do you put any of the water into the peppers when you cook them, or is it just around them and the rice / meat is cooked by the steam?

    • Ozlem Warren December 2, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

      Thank you for stopping by Rob and your interest; the water goes around the stuffed peppers and tomatoes, not directly on them. As you say, once the pan is covered, the stuffed peppers and tomatoes are cooked by the steam. I hope you enjoy them, let me know if I can help further – afiyet olsun !:) Ozlem

  14. Nelofar January 24, 2016 at 11:22 pm #

    Thanks for posting this recipe. I’ve been looking for a Turkish dolma recipe. I spent the first 5 years of my life in Turkey and my Mom used to make these all the time. Can’t wait to make these to honor my Mom’s memory

    • Ozlem Warren January 25, 2016 at 9:53 pm #

      Dear Nelofar, lovely to get your note – food is such a lovely way to remember loved ones, I hope these dolmas would be a special connection with your Mum; it is for me too. My best wishes, Ozlem

  15. Vic October 26, 2016 at 4:27 am #

    Growing up in an Armenian household your recipies are very similar to my mom’s cooking.
    simply delicious. Armenian and all middle eastern food has become very popular with Americans. Bon apetite.

    • Ozlem Warren October 26, 2016 at 3:19 pm #

      Merhaba dear Vic, many thanks for your kind note; I love sharing this culinary heritage and seeing similarities and varieties in our cuisines, wonderful. Armenian cuisine is delightful too, I am sure your mum’s cooking must have been very special. my best wishes, Ozlem

  16. Loren July 25, 2017 at 4:51 pm #

    I found this recipe and made them last night with a little variation…. I didn’t have parsley so I used some herbs + sumac. This recipe was easy, forgiving and absolutely delicious.

    • Ozlem Warren July 31, 2017 at 8:59 pm #

      Merhaba Loren, so glad you enjoyed this Dolma, your variation sounds delicious – i love the tangy taste of sumac – afiyet olsun!

  17. Sherry August 1, 2017 at 3:29 am #

    sounds yummy!

    Is the rice cooked before stuffing?

    • Ozlem Warren August 1, 2017 at 2:34 pm #

      Merhaba Sherry, it really is scrumptious – no the rice is cooked with the filling, so a super easy and tasty dish, hope you enjoy it, Afiyet Olsun! Ozlem


  1. Swiss chard stuffed with ground meat and rice – Kis Sarmasi | Ozlem's Turkish Table - April 1, 2014

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