Are Dolmas Vegan and Cruelty-Free? The Half-Cooked Truth

June 2, 2023

Trying to work out if dolmas are safe for vegans to consume can be a bit tough.

Appetizers often contain many ingredients, and some of them may be animal derived.

To ensure that you’re only consuming food that aligns with your vegan diet and lifestyle, I’ve investigated the ingredients and production processes of dolmas.

Here’s what I found out.

Are Dolmas Vegan?

Yes and no. Dolmas can be both vegan and non-vegan.

Dolma is a general term used to describe any dish made of stuffed grape leaves, or in some cases, stuffed eggplant or zucchini. The word “dolma” comes from the Turkish verb dolma, meaning “to fill” or “to stuff.”

Some of the most popular types of dolmas are made with grape leaf, meat, and rice. These versions are not suitable for vegans because they contain actual meat.

However, there are also many plant-based recipes for dolmas that use only plant-based ingredients, such as fresh grape leaves, pine nuts, parsley, rice filling, and vegetables. These versions of dolmas are vegan.

Dolmas can be both vegan and non-vegan. It all depends on the ingredients used to make them. Vegetarian stuffed grape leaves can easily be filled with only plant-based ingredients, such as a rice filling mixed with tomato paste and finely chopped vegetables, for a vegan dolma.

Are Dolmas Cruelty-Free?

Yes! Dolmas are cruelty-free.

Dolmas are a traditional dish of stuffed vegetables or fresh leaves that originates from the Mediterranean region. They have been around for centuries and are mostly made with plant-based ingredients, so testing on animals is not necessary. They also contain no ingredients tested on animals, such as artificial colors or flavors.

Animal testing is a cruel and outdated practice that causes animals to suffer, and even sometimes to die in captivity as a result of injury. There are many alternative methods and ingredients that brands can use to ensure that their products are safe for human consumption, without harming animals.

What Are Dolmas Made Of?

Here are the ingredients of dolmas:

  • Fresh grape leaves
  • White or brown rice
  • Onion
  • Olive oil
  • Ground meat
  • Lamb and mutton
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • Lemon
  • Fresh dill
  • Parsley
  • Juice
  • Pine nuts
  • Vegetable broth

Let’s break down each ingredient of Dolmas:

Grape leaves

Grape leaves are the leaves of the grape plant. They are usually dark green in color and have a slightly bitter taste. Grape leaves are a common ingredient in many Mediterranean dishes. They can be used fresh or preserved in vinegar or oil. Fresh grape leaves are vegan.


Rice is a type of grain that is often used as a staple food in many cultures. White or brown rice, often basmati rice, which is popular in the region where dolmas originate, is added to a vegetable mixture and rolled in the fresh leaves. Rice is a vegan ingredient.


Onions are a type of vegetable that is often used as a flavoring agent in many dishes. They are usually white, yellow, or red in color and have a slightly sweet taste. Onions are vegan.

Olive oil

Olive oil is a type of vegetable oil that is made from olives. It has a rich, often fruity taste and is a common ingredient in many Mediterranean dishes. Olive oil is vegan.

Ground meat

Ground meat is a type of minced meat. It can be made from any type of animal, but lamb and mutton are the most common types used in Dolmas. Ground meat is not a vegan ingredient.

Lamb and mutton

Lamb and mutton are types of red meat that come from sheep. They have a strong flavor and are often used in traditional dishes. Lamb and mutton are not vegan ingredients.

Black pepper

Black pepper is a type of spice that is made from the dried berries of the pepper plant. It has a sharp and slightly fiery taste. Black pepper is a vegan ingredient.


Salt is a type of mineral that is used to add flavor to food. It is white or gray in color and has a salty taste. Salt is a vegan ingredient.


Lemons are a type of citrus fruit that is used to add flavor to food. They are yellow in color and have a sour taste. Lemons are vegan ingredients.


Dill is a type of herb that is used to add flavor to food. It has a slightly sweet taste. Fresh dill is a vegan ingredient.


Parsley is a type of herb that is used to add flavor to food. It has a slightly bitter taste. Parsley is a vegan ingredient.


Juice is a type of liquid that can be made from fruits, vegetables, or herbs. It has a sweet or sour taste. Lemon juice is commonly used in dolma. Juice is a vegan ingredient.

Pine nuts

Pine nuts are the seeds of the pine tree. They have a slightly sweet and nutty taste. Toasted pine nuts are vegan ingredients.

Vegetable broth

Vegetable broth is a clear liquid used in cooking to bring ingredients together in a simmer and to create sauces. It is made by slowly boiling herbs and vegetables together. Vegetable broth is vegan.

Why Aren’t Dolmas Vegan?

Dolmas can be vegan or non-vegan. It all depends on the ingredients used to make them. However, the traditional dolma contains either meat or seafood as one of its ingredients. If you want to make vegan dolma, simply omit the meat or seafood and use plant-based ingredients instead.

Are Domates Dolmasi (Turkish Stuffed Tomatoes) Vegan?

No. Domates dolmasi or stuffed tomatoes are not vegan. This tomato paste-filled dolma traditionally contains lamb. It is also often made with chicken or beef. However, domates dolmasi can be made vegan by omitting meat, and recipes for such are available on the internet.

Domates dolmasi is not safe for vegan consumption.

Are Enginar Dolmasi (Stuffed Artichokes) Vegan?

No. Enginar dolmasi, or stuffed artichokes, are not vegan. This dolma traditionally contains lamb. If you are a fan of artichokes, though, and want to try a vegan version, the meat can easily be omitted.

Enginar dolmasi is not safe for vegan consumption.

Is Yalanchi Dolma Vegan?

Yes! Yalanchi dolma is vegan. Yalanchi is a Turkish word that means “liar” or “fake,” and in this case references the absence of meat from the dolma. Yalanchi contains only plant-based ingredients. With ingredients like brown rice, lemon zest, and vegetables, your guests won’t miss the meat.

Yalanchi dolma is safe for vegan consumption.

Are Cabbage Rolls Dolma Vegan?

Yes and no. Cabbage rolls dolma can be vegan, but it all depends on the ingredients used. If the recipe calls for ground meat, then it is not vegan. But if the recipe only uses plant-based ingredients, then it is vegan.

Cabbage rolls dolma can be safe for vegan consumption if only plant-based ingredients are used.

Are Yarpaq Dolmasi Vegan?

No. Yarpaq dolmasi is not vegan. This stuffed grape leaves dolma contains lamb and beef. You can, of course, omit the meat to make them vegan, but they are not typically vegan.

Yarpaq dolmasi is not safe for vegan consumption.

Vegan Alternatives to Meat Dolmas

If you’re looking for a plant-based version of this dish, there are recipes online that are made to imitate the taste and texture of traditional dolmas without using any animal products. These are some of them:

There are many vegan dolma recipes that use plant-based ingredients, such as rice filling, fresh herbs, vegetables, and nuts. These recipes are delicious and safe for vegan consumption.

Final Words

So, there you have it! Dolmas can be both vegan and non-vegan. It all depends on the ingredients used to make them. So, if you’re up for some Mediterranean cuisine, try out the vegan dolma recipes I’ve listed above. They are all delicious and easy to follow. And, most importantly, they are vegan!