Iran, Levant – Sogran Dolma (Beef Stuffed Onions)

by Adelina Aida

This dish is very popular in Iran as a healthy and delicious stew. In this dish, we basically have a stew in which beef stuffed onions are cooked and served with sour cream or yogurt. This dish has its roots in Ottoman Empire. This dish came to Iran from Turkey but originally it is originated from Turks. This dish is basically a style of preparing meat, offal, into the leafy vegetable to wrap it around. It is usually wrapped into the cabbage leaves and Grapes leaves. It is also known by another name, SARMA. The concept of this dish is stuffing and wrapping. It is more like meat stuffed into any vegetable like potato, brinjal, onions, etc. This dish is served either in the stew or as a dry meal. It is also the choice of serving temperature. Like either, it is served hot or cold. It mostly depends on the temperature. This is so light and easy-to-digest dish that it is served also as an Appetizer.

The varieties of this dish are come up with different wrapping ingredients, different stuffing ingredients, served in the stew or sauce, hot served or cold. There are many options we can make by adding personal favorite ingredients. Vegetables, fruits, meat, seafood are added. Like there are some popular dishes in which meat stuffed zucchini is very popular.

This dish has also very different variations according to the regional differences. Syrians, Lebanese, Iranians, Iraqis were making stuffed meat and vegetables for centuries. Balkans, Arabs, Turks, Israeli also have traditional dolma dishes.

Alternative names of the dish

  • Dolma
  • Sarma
  • Stuffed vegetables
  • yalancı dolma


Sassanid period has the history of Iranian Culinary and cuisines. There is a large number of dishes that are influenced by different cuisines. During the Middle Persian era, the name of different dishes are translated by Arabic dishes because there had been many dishes that were influenced by Arabs and their cultures.

Khosrow and Ridag were also Middle Persian Literature that pointed out the concept of stew and soups in Irani Cuisine. The customs, traditions, and culture of Irani have been influenced by the life of the Arabs especially Culinary and Cuisines.

Staple Food of Iranian Cuisine

  • Kabab
  • Stew
  • Pollow
  • Dami
  • Ash
  • Soups


There are different regions in which Iranian cuisine is popular and they also have dishes that are influenced by the Iranian cuisine :


South coast of Caspian cuisine has a reflection of the Iranian cuisine. There are some dishes of Caspian cuisine with the impact of Iranian cuisine :

  • Kateh is a dish of Iranian cuisine popular in Caspian cuisine but with some of the variaition in taste but they have same cooking proceudure and almost same taste.
  • Cavier Fish roe are also commonly used in Caspian cuisine as the influenced of Iranian cuisine
  • Kolooche
  • Frittata


Kurdish cuisine of west Iraq in which different dishes are popular like :

  • Ash
  • Pilaf
  • Dande Kabab
  • Khoresh
  • Xoreš-e tare


Turkmen dishes are made especially of rice, meat, and tomato. Golestan in the province in which čekderme is very popular.


There are dishes in which different dishes of Iranian cuisine are popular. Like the following dishes :

  • Joshpara
  • Haggis
  • Aush
  • Kaljoosh
  • Sheharpresh


Dolma is the stuffed vegetable dish. There were many traditional dishes of vegetable stuffing in many Middle Eastern cuisines. There are many traditional cookbooks that have stuffed vegetable dishes as part of many cuisines. Stuffing in the solid vegetables mostly, potato and brinjal are common that is also common even today. But Dolma is actually involved in the wrapping technique. Wrapping is quite different from the stuffing but it’s not wrong to say stuffed cabbage leaves instead of cabbage wraps.

In Medieval Arab Cookbooks, there are dishes in which eggplants are stuffed with meat mixture or also some vegetable mixture.

There is a traditional dish from Ancient Greek Cuisine in which Sweet cheese is stuffed into the Figleaves. And this dish is known as THRION.

During the 19th-century, in the history of Iranian Cuisine, the chef is known by the name, NASER AL DIN SHAH QAJAR, prepared a dish of vegetables and stuffed meat like Cabbage, cucumber, eggplant, Zucchini, and quinces and he stuffed these vegetables with the meat mixture that are cooked already by adding some pepper and salt. This was the time when the stuffed dishes were introduced and became a part of Iranian cuisine.

In Swedish cuisine, Cabbage rolls are the name for cabbage stuffed meat dishes. Where in Iran we called this dish kåldolma

In the list of the intangible cultural heritage of UNESCO, Dolma is included in 2017.



This dish is from the Ancient Ottoman Empire. The meaning of the dish in Turkish means “something stuffed”. The Ottoman names were blended with the Turkish names but it has the same meaning as stuffing.

Originally this dish was originated by the Ottoman Empire and involved in Turkish cuisine.

Other cuisines are as follow

  • Balkans
  • Caucasian
  • Arab
  • Turks
  • Israel
  • Iran
  • Syria
  • Labenese
  • Iraq
  • Persia
  • Azerbaijan



Basuts dolma is the dish in which cabbage is used as the wrapping ingredient for the dish. In Persia, this dish is known as Cabbage rolls. In Persian cuisine, this is stuffed with beans and fruits as a sweet dish or dessert. But if you want to make it a savory dish, different ingredients like red beans, white beans, yellow lentils, wheat, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, and chili are added.

Pasuts tolma is another name for cabbage rolls.

In Armenia, cabbage rolls are served with Rose Hip Syrup.

In Turkish cuisine, Chestnuts and rice is filled in the cabbage leaves to formed rolls.


The original of stuffing vine leaves with meat and vegetable filling is unknown but there are many versions of stuffed vines popular in different cuisines. Leaves from Mulberry trees are usually common in this dish. Stuffing vines leaves are known by different names in different regions like :

  • In Iran, this is known as Dolma.
  • In Greece this dish is known as dolmades
  • Tolma is the name for this dish in Armenia
  • In Syria, this is known as Yebra.

There are some dishes of Stuffed vine leaves :

yalancı dolma

There is a dish in Turkish cuisine, in which vine leaves are stuffed with some vegetables and lentils stuffing without any use of meat. So they this dish as the FAKE DOLMA. Because dolma as use of meat stuffing in the vegetables. The name of the dish is yalancı dolma

Vişneli yalancı dolmas

In this dish, the stuffing of spiced rice in the vine leaves is amazing. Rice filling is spiced by adding cinnamon, mint, pepper, cherry spice, and jamaica pepper. This is a very tasty combination eaten with vine leaves.

In Israeli cuisine, this cuisine is served with Pomegranate and cherry sauce.

In Egypt, Mashy is filled in the vine leaves. Mashy is the mixture of some legumes and vegetables.


şekerli ayva dolması

This dish is very delicious because Quinces are stuffed with lamb meat and rice. This taste is amazing because having the sweetness of fruit with some spices and rice makes it very delicious. In rice, Currant is added as the rice filling, and some spices like cinnamon and coriander is added. Sugar is also added to this dish.

Some ingredients are as follow :

  • Currant syrup
  • Cinnamon
  • Coriander
  • Sugar
  • Quinces

pekmezli ayva dolması

It is also the same dish with some variations like meat and bulgur stuffed quince having the spices like Pekmez.

Pekmez is the Turkish syrup of fruit juices mostly used fruit is Grapes.


There are some spices that are commonly used in Iranian dishes especially stews and soups like :

  • dill
  • Mint
  • Parsley
  • Cilantro
  • Basil
  • Chives
  • Fenugreek
  • Tarragon


  • yogurt sauce flavored with garlic
  • Lemon juice
  • Olive Oil


  1. Lamb mince = 250 grams
  2. Dill weed = 1 tbsp
  3. Onions = 2
  4. Rice = 1 cup
  5. Tomatoes paste = 1 can
  6. Salt = 1 tsp
  7. Pine nuts = 2 tbsp
  8. Currant dried = 6
  9. Allspice = 1 tsp
  10. Oil = 4 tbsp
  11. Lemon juice = 4 tbsp
  12. Onions whole = 10
  13. Beef broth = 2 cups


  1. Take the oil in the cooking pan and heat it up to sauteed onions.
  2. Take the chopped onions in the oil and cook on medium heat to tender it slightly.
  3. Add rice into the onion and simmer it with onions for 5 minutes.
  4. Now add tomatoes paste, currant, pines, allspice, salt and lamb mince in it.
  5. Add 1 galss of water into the onion and rice mixture to cook rice and lamb mince together.
  6. Mince is finely chopped so the rice is cooked with mince in less time.
  7. Now the mixture of mince and rice is ready and this is our stuffing into the onions.
  8. Its time to preheat the steamer and we are ready to stuff the onions.
  9. Onions are of small size need to be stuffed by the mixture prepared of rice and lamb mince.
  10. Each onion is stuffed and then cooked into the steamer for 5 minutes.
  11. On the other side, beef broth is simmer in the cooking pot, add the steamed stuffed onions into the beef broth and cook it for 5 more minutes.
  12. When all the onions are done, and cooked properly into the broth, add lemon juice and serve.
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