Dolma – bell peppers stuffed with meat and rice

Recipe of dolma may vary from region to region. It is a common dish in many countries of Mediterranean and Caucasus regions and in Russia, because dolma is very tasty. And this dish is worth every minute spent while cooking. Yes, dolma will take time, but it’s so delicious that I have bought a huge pot with capacity of 10 l. specially for it. I like to cook new recipes all the time but what can I do if dolma is one of my favorite?

I prefer stuffed bell peppers, while there’s a big variety of vegetables and even leaves to stuff: tomatoes, eggplants, courgettes (zucchini), grapes leaves, onion bulbs etc. Bell peppers give unique taste to dolma. If you want to try different vegetables, then make a mix of stuffed vegetables, including bell pepper.

I like when there’s a lot of rice in vegetables, according to my recipe proportion of meat and rice is about 1:1. Usually I buy pork for dolma. For this amount of ingredients you will need a 5 l. casserole.

Ingredients for minced meat:

  • 1,3 kg of pork or beef (or mixed)
  • 150 g of onion
  • 6 tsp of salt (this salt will come from meat to rice, peppers and broth, that’s why so much salt we need)
  • 0,75 tsp of grounded black pepper

The rest of ingredients:

  • ~1,9 kg of bell peppers of all colours. I prefer Moldavian cultivar “Lastochka” that is widely grown in Russia. You may use any cultivar of non-spicy bell pepper. Preferably with medium-sized peppers.
  • ~1 l. of water
  • 1 can of tomato paste (350-400 g). Ingredients of paste should include only tomatoes and salt. Sugar and water are ok. But if there are any additional ingredients, and you can’t find the right paste, you’d rather replace paste+water with tomato juice (~1,5 l). Juice should be added at step #6.
  • 350 g of any rice
Russian rice from Krasnodar region
I prefer Russian rice from Krasnodar region, it’s a little bit sticky and has small almost round grains


It’s hard to calculate the exact amount of bell peppers. If you have excess minced meat & rice – make «hedgehogs» (meatballs with rice) and add them to dolma.

If «hedgehogs» don’t fit casserole – put them to a plastic bag and put to freezer. You can make a «hedgehog»-soup someday. If you have excess stuffed peppers – freeze them too. Don’t try to put too many peppers in casserole – peppers will be sinking giving their juices to broth while cooking, and they may cause you a little flood.

If you have excess bell peppers – you can use them today or tomorrow for a salad or add to other dishes.

The colour of peppers affects the taste – red are sweet, orange – medium sweet. I like to cook 1 casserole with peppers of different taste, that’s why I advise to choose all colours.

Size matters – if you take mini-peppers, you’ll spend more time preparing peppers and stuffing them. Also you will need less meat and rice. If you take huge peppers – they will take less time, but you will need more meat & rice and they are sometimes to huge for 1 portion. That’s why I choose medium size (~11×6 cm).

Small bell peppers
It took a lot of time to prepare asnd to stuff these mini bell peppers

Divide cooking in 2 days not to get tired. You can prepare peppers for stuffing on 1st day and make minced meat+stuff peppers on the next day. Or you can start with minced meat (salt will preserve the meat and it can be left for 12 hours in a fridge, but also salt will preserve pink colour of meat, so don’t think that dolma is undercooked after you boil it for 50 min).


1. Make minced meat for dolma.

2. Put rice in bowl and add 1-1,5 l. of boiling water. Stir rice for a while and cover the bowl. After 5 min. stir rice one more time.

3. Prepare peppers for stuffing.

Bell peppers prepared for stuffing
To get rid of the rest of the seeds – put a pepper upside down and bump it onto your open hand. You may also slightly knock at pepper walls

4. Take rice out of the water. Mix minced meat with rice (do it manually, not to break rice grains).

5. Start stuffing peppers. Put them in a casserole horizontally (lay a pepper on a side). When 1/3 of casserole is full, add tomato paste and continue stuffing peppers.

Stuffed bell peppers, recipe
Time to add tomato paste

6. When your casserole is full, add water, ~0,5 l. The water should be 5 cm below the edge of casserole. But the upper peppers should be at lest 50% covered with water (up to the middle of minced meat, otherwise rice can remain undercooked).

Put the pot on a stove and bring dolma to a boil. Watch broth level – if dolma is about to make flood, put excess broth to a bowl. Later you will add it back. Reduce the heat and simmer peppers, covered, 45-55 min. Remember to watch broth level – add broth or water if needed.

Dolma, stuffed bell peppers recipe

Dolma cools down ~8 hours. After it has cooled down, put it to a fridge. Usually I cook 10 l. of dolma, it can be stored in fridge for a week. After 1 week I would recommend you to bring the rest of dolma to a boil and keep on boiling for 5 min. Then cool the pot down and put it back to the fridge. But I’m not sure if you’ll need this advice – dolma is too tasty to be kept for so long!

I insist that dolma should be served with some broth. Just imagine – you cut a piece of stuffed pepper with a spoon and let it dive for a while in tomato broth. It will never be too dry and have a lack of tomato taste.

If you want to warm up dolma in microwave oven – at first put only 3 peppers in a plate and warm them ~4 min. at 600 W. Then add some broth and warm dolma additional 1,5 min. at 600 W.


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