Grape leaf tolma with yogurt.

Genuine Armenian Meat Tolma – Msov Tpov Tolma

Packed with herb and onion infused juices, this meat tolma is a celebration of love and labor. Enjoy with family and friends this traditional Armenian dish that is ancient yet always novel.

Meat tolma  wrapped in grape leaves served with dollop of yogurt.

Chronicles of Armenian Tolma

What does an Urartian word toyli 𒄑𒌌𒁲 have to do with tolma?

This ancient Urartian word was used for grapes, vine, and leaf; “tolma” is derived from that word. Every historical Armenian province, every town, and every village has a unique tolma recipe, and each household makes it special. A tradition that is passed down from one generation to another which might have started thousands of years ago in the Armenian Highlands.

Vegetarian and meat options of tolma became a staple in every Armenian household and of course all over the Middle East and Mediterranean region.

It’s no surprise that there are more than 100 varieties of tolma.

Tolma is an important part of New Year and Christmas celebrations. The ritual of preparing tolma was a family event when every member, smallest to oldest, was participating. An enormous quantity of minced meat was prepared and hundreds of grape leaves were picked and arranged. Tolma was cooked in huge cooking vessels – spreading the inviting smell all around.

What is special sbout this Meat Tolma Recipe? 

This is a tolma recipe that I grew up with; and even though it might seem overwhelming, it comes together very easily if planned ahead. This is a scaled-down recipe that is more manageable to put together for even one person.

I prearrange all the leaves beforehand and place a dollop of meat filling on each leave. This way I can gauge how much meat per leaf I need because the sizes of the leaves vary.

This tolma recipe is also gluten-free.

Cooked tolma are good for 2-3 days and reheat really well.

Grape leave tolma with chopsticks.

Grocery and Pantry list for Tolma

  • Grape leaves: You can use both fresh and “out of can” leaves. The fresh leaves are sold in the Middle Eastern market during the season (May –July) or if you are lucky enough to own a grapevine, use the young leaves right from the vine. The white grape leaves are usually the best.
  • Meat: The meat should have at least 80 % fat. I like to grind my own meat so I use chuck beef. If you use ground meat and vegetables a lot, it might be very useful to invest in a meat grinder. The KitchenAid mixers have a meat grinder attachment which does a great job and is easy to operate.
  • Rice: short grain rice is the best but any kind of rice will work.
  • Onion: Onion not only gives a distinct flavor but also gives extra moisture and keeps the meat from drying out.
  • Seasoning: Parsley and basil are the heart and soul of the Armenian version of Tolma. Armenian or purple basil is easy to grow in a pot in warm months and also sold in Middle Eastern markets. The amount of salt and pepper depends on your taste. Adjust the salt if using canned grape leaves, which are brined in a salty solution.
Ingredients for meat tolma with grape leaves.

Special Tools to Use:

  • Cooking pan: Use a pot big enough to hold all the ready tolmas.
  • Plate: You will need a plate that is slightly smaller than the pan. It needs to be heat resistant and without chips. The plate is meant to keep the tolmas submerged and tucked together. 

Time Required:

Prep 30-45 minutes

Cooking 30 – 45 minutes

Make Meat Tolma – Step by Step 

Step 1: Grinding the Beef, Onion and Herbs

If you choose to grind the beef yourself, get chuck beef that has some marbling fat.

Cube the beef into manageable pieces. Cut the onion into wedges.

Feed the meat and onion pieces through the grinder, alternating with herbs.

Using Ground Beef

If using ground beef, either finely chop the onions and the herb or process in a food processor for 10-20 pulses until finally minced.

Step 2: Making the Meat Stuffing

In a medium bowl combine the ground beef, onion, and herbs.

Add the rinsed and drained rice, and season with salt and pepper. 

Step 3: Preparing the grape leaves

The brined leaves require a little preparation. 

Cut the excess stems off and give the leaves a good rinse in a hot water to wash off the brine.

Separate the leaves and arrange them in the workstation.

The assembling of tolma looks a little bit challenging at first but after a couple of rolls, you might find it quite easy. Keep in mind not to roll it too tight, since rice expands and it might burst out. 

Prepare the working station for the assembly process. Have the cooking pan, grape leaves and the meat filling ready. I use a clear plastic tablecloth for my assembly area.

Meat mixture on a grape leaves.

Place the grape leaves (shiny face down) on a large flat surface. 

Put a spoonful of meat filling on top of each leave, just under the stem cavity, and form into an oblong cylindrical shape across the leaf. The amount of the filling should be about the size of your thumb depending of the leaf size.

Start folding: Bring the leaf base over the filling and tuck it in. 

Then fold the sides and keep rolling into cigar shape little logs. They should not be too tight or too loose but rather firm.  

Line a few grape leaves on the bottom of the pan (use the imperfect leaves). 

Arranged the ready tolmas in the pan on top of the leaves. 

Sprinkle a little bit of salt on top of each layer.

Place a flat plate on top of the last layer and add enough hot water to cover plate.

Let the water come to a boil and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 30-40 minutes.

How to Serve Tolma?

Grape leaf Meat Tolma is traditionally served with garlic yogurt dip. Add the minced or pressed garlic to yogurt.

As an option plain yogurt or sour cream.

One other fun way of serving tolma is with chopsticks.

Tolma with grape leaves.

 Storage Instructions and Freezing Suggestion 

You can make the filling a day before. 

Tolma can be made and cooked 1-day prior, and reheats wells. You will need the liquid to steam and warm up the tolma rolls.

Tolma will keep in the refrigerator for a week or freeze for up to 3 month.

Tips and Wisdom 

  • Grind the onions and herbs with the beef, if using a home grinder.
  • Wash the canned grape leaves to rinse off the brine. Arrange the grape leave on a clean surface shiny side down. Try using leaves that are the same size.
  • It helps to have uniformed tolmas. If the leaf blade margins (edges) are too big, just bring the two parts towards each other to create more leaf surface.
  • Placing additional leaves on the bottom of the pot will prevent tolma from sticking if water evaporates too quickly.
  • Placing a plate on top of tolma weights down the tolma to ensure they are not shifting or moving.

More  Recipes From Cafe Osharak

We invite you to share your experience with this recipe by leaving a comment! Your feedback is incredibly valuable to us, and we genuinely appreciate hearing from our readers.

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Genuine Armenian Meat Tolma – Msov Tpov Tolma

Packed with herb and onion infused juices, this meat tolma wrapped in grape leaves always calls for celebration.
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Grape leaf tolma with yogurt.
Prep Time:45 minutes
Cook Time:45 minutes
Course
Main Course
Cuisine
Armenian

Ingredients

  • 500 g meat ground
  • 500 g grape leaves
  • 25 g rice
  • 100 g onion minced
  • 20 stems Basil/parsley handfull
  • 1 teaspoon salt kosher
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Instructions

  • Cube the meat and season it with the salt, pepper and paprika.
  • Grind the meat, onion, parsley and basil.
  • Add the rice and combine thoroughly with your hands.
  • If using pre-ground meat, finely chop the onions, parsley and basil and combine all the ingredients together in a large bowl.
  • Cover and store in the refrigerator if not using immediately.
  • Meanwhile prepare the grape leaves.
  • Cut the excess stems off and give the leaves a good rinse in a hot water to wash off the brine.
  • Prepare the working station for the assembly process. Have the cooking pan, grape leaves and meat filling ready.
  • Place a couple of grape leaves (shiny face down) on a large flat surface.
  • Put a spoonful of meat filling on top of each leaf, just under the stem cavity, and form into an oblong cylindrical shape across the leaf. The amount of the filling should be about the size of your thumb depending on the leaf size.
  • Start folding: Bring the leaf base over the filling and tuck it in.
  • Then fold the sides.
  • Keep rolling into cigar shape little logs. They should not be too tight or too loose but rather firm.
  • Line a few grape leaves on the bottom of the pan (use the imperfect leaves).
  • Arrange the ready tolmas in the pan on top of the leaves.
  • Sprinkle a little bit of salt on top of each layer.
  • Place a flat plate on top of the last layer and add enough hot water to cover the plate.
  • Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and cook for 45-50 minutes.

Notes

  • Grind the onions and herbs with the beef, if using a home grinder.
  • Wash the canned grape leaves to rinse off the brine. Arrange the grape leave on a clean surface shiny side down. Try using leaves that are the same size.
  • It helps to have uniformed tolmas. If the leaf blade margins (edges) are too big, just bring the two parts towards each other to create more leaf surface.
  • Placing additional leaves on the bottom of the pot will prevent tolma from sticking if water evaporates too quickly.
  • Placing a plate on top of tolma weights down the tolma to ensure they are not shifting or moving.

Nutrition

Calories: 293kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 34g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 80mg | Sodium: 749mg | Potassium: 858mg | Fiber: 14g | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 34442IU | Vitamin C: 18mg | Calcium: 467mg | Iron: 4mg
Servings: 4
Calories: 293kcal
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