Onion Dolmades

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Last year while congregated with some good friends for late-night dining in Thessaloniki, I had the joy to eat these Onion Dolmades at a taverna in Thessaloniki. I’ve been wanting to make these for a few years but I was frankly intimidated by the whole process of peeling the onions and stuffing them. Would the task be long and arduous and would stuffing the onions be a pain in the ass? The short answer is NO and NO and I’ll soon demonstrate to you how easy this recipe is.

These stuffed onions seem to appear in various regions of Greece and with many different names: I’ve read of ‘Kremmido-Dolmades” from Zakynthos, there’s Kremmidia Gemista, Sougania (Mytilini) and Chef and cooking personality Argiro Barbarigou adds that they are called Kelemia in Galaxidi. The regional recipes vary with some being served with a tomato sauce, others with an Avgolemono Sauce and I’m serving them as I had them in Thessaloniki…with a cooling yogurt sauce to offer balance to the onions.

Onions in Greek are called “Kremmidia”, hence the word appearing in the Greek name of this dish. The reference to Dolmades relates these stuffed onions to the more well-known stuffed grape leaves and stuffed cabbage rolls. The filling I’ve used for the Onion Dolmades is based on my family’s master recipe for Stuffed Peppers (with varied recipes being used in Vine Leaves Stuffed with Meat & Rice) and another family fave, Cabbage Rolls with Avgolemono Sauce.

Separating the layers of onions is rather easy: the ends of the onions are ever so slightly sliced off (so your onions don’t come apart) and simply blanching them in boiling salted water until they are soft and open like a clam. Once cooled, the onions need only be snipped at each end to make unraveling each layer, leaving you with natural onion “baskets” – just begging to be filled! Have you have Onion Dolmades before? Where did you have them and what were they called?

Onion Dolmades (Κρεμμυδοντολμάδες)

(serves 4-6 as a main & more as a meze)

approx. 15-16 large, elongated white or red onions

approx. 1lb. or 1/2 kg. of lean ground beef

1/4 cup olive oil

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup Arborio rice

1  cup tomato puree (or your favourite canned or jarred variety)

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint

1 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

enough hot (or low sodium stock) to just cover your onion dolmades (about 2 cups)

1 cup Plain yogurt

reserved vegetable or chicken stock

fresh parsley and dill  + sweet paprika for garnish

Pre-heated 375F oven

  1. Place a large pot of water on your stove-top and bring to a boil. In the meantime, cut the two ends of your onions (just and peel off the outer skins. Now cut into each onion along the length of it right through to the center (about halfway down). When your water comes to a boil, add a good a amount of salt and carefully drop your onions into the boiling water. Simmer for 5-6 minutes or until the onions are soft to the touch and have  opened up like a clam. Remove the onions with a slotted spoon and allow to cool (about 10 minutes).
  2. Carefully remove each layer of onion until you are left with the heart of the onion. Reserve the hearts (centers) in a bowl and continue to unravel your onions. You should now have a plate full of onion shells and a bowl of onion hearts, finely chop the onion hearts.
  3. Place a large skillet on your stove-top and add the olive oil over medium heat and add the chopped onions and garlic and saute while stirring for 5 minutes. Now add the rice and stir in until well coated then add the tomato puree. Simmer while stirring until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Remove from the heat and add your chopped parsley, dill and mint. Allow to cool before adding your ground beef. Mix the ground beef in with a wooden spoon along with the salt and pepper (you may make a meatball and fry it off to test & adjust seasoning).
  4. To fill the onion shells, open them up with one hand and take about a tsp. of the rice & meat mixture place inside. Roll the onion around the filling and place the onion (seem side-down into an oven-safe pot or Dutch oven. Continue to fill all the onions with the meat/rice mixture and arrange the stuffed onions in a circular fashion in your baking vessel.
  5. Pre-heat your oven (375F, middle rack) and drizzle with olive oil and enough hot water (or stock) to just cover your stuffed onions. Season lightly with more salt and pepper. Place the cover on your baking vessel and insert in the oven. Baked covered for about 45 minutes and then uncovered for another 15 minutes. Allow to cool a bit before serving.
  6. In the meantime, mix some plain yogurt with some stock until you’ve reached the consistency you desire. Arrange the Onion Dolmades on a platter or divide into portions and spoon over the yogurt, sprinkle some sweet paprika. Serve with a crisp Pavlou Estate Kappa P11. This white is a “blanc-noir”, made of Riesling and Xinomavro grapes. The skins of the Xinomavro are removed early so that the wine does not become a “red”.

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© 2007-2011 Peter Minakis

© 2011,
Peter Minakis

. All rights reserved.

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33 Comments for “Onion Dolmades”


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Whenever I peruse one of the cookbooks I have here by Aglaia Kremezi, I skim past her recipe for stuffed onions and, well, 7 years later I have yet to make them. Not sure why since they sound really quite good. Your version looks equally delicious.


there are stuffed onions all over the med! love this version with the yogurt at the end, sounds like something that we would make in our neck of the woods. I adore onions.


This is beautiful! Oh my. I can only imagine the flavors that are imparted from these stuffed roasted onions. proof again, that food does not have to be complicated to be wonderful.

Thanks for sharing. I will be bookmarking this one.



Peter with these dolmades you reminded og my giagia from my mom’s side. She was mikrasiatisa from Kappadokia and used to make them. I love them, so many beautiful childhood memories are attached to them.


What a wonderful combination! In Spain we do eat stuffed tomatoes and stuffed peppers but never stuffed onions. Traditional dolmades, made with vine leaves are an impossibility unless one owns a vine. I will definitely be cooking this recipe. Thanks ever so much.
Regards from Wintery Spain,


This is brilliant. I have never thought of using an onion as a wrap, and it would be heavenly! My husband would go nuts! The slide show has me propped ready for take off! I cannot wait to try these. Thank you for the information on the onion prep. I am definitely in here!


I had a similar dish in italy when we were there last year but I cannot remember what they were called… I am guessing some sort of fancy Italian name.. :) I do have to see that yours look better!!


These look great Peter! I love dolmades and used to make them quite often, but only the grape vine leaf ones. I just discovered in the past few years that you can stuff other vegetables and they are still called dolmades! I haven’t gotten around to stuffing anything else yet, but that should change after seeing these! Yum!


I love this idea! I think my husband would like these better than lahanodolmades, too, because he’s not the biggest cabbage fan.


I’ve made stuffed onions before where you just cleaned out the insides of a raw onion, stuffed it and baked it, but I like this idea so much better. Will try this method next time.


There isn’t an onion that’s not my friend, so looking at these fantastic photos has me salivating all over my keyboard. I must make these onions! I came for the pull apart bread and stayed for the onions. Great site.