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Updated: Jul 9, 2021

​Sarmale is a traditional Romanian dish and one my personal favorites. In Romania it is made for Christmas, New Years, weddings and any kind of celebrations. I love helping Ana or Bunica (my mother-in-law) make these try to talk them into making a double or triple batch. We've made them for the Girl Scout World Thinking Day, and for events at school and work. It's kind of time consuming but not really very difficult and oh so very tasty.

2 lbs Ground meat (beef and/or pork)

3 Small onions

2 tbsp Oil

1 Can of tomato paste (6 oz)

3/4 cups Rice

1 Egg

Grape Leaves

Seasoning (to taste):




  1. Start by finely chopping the onions. In a pan add a small amount of oil and then add onions stirring continually until tender and translucent.

  2. Add the can of tomato paste. Stir and if it is too thick you can add 1-2 tbs water.

  3. Then add rice and stir for another another 2 minutes.

  4. In a larger bowl add the meat, salt, pepper and all the seasonings. Mix well.

  5. Combine the onions, rice and tomato paste with the meat. Mix well.

  6. Add 1 egg and mix well.

  7. Rinse the grape leaves in a large bowl with hot water to remove some of the brine otherwise the final product might be really salty.

  8. Taking one leaf at a time, spoon meat into the center and roll it tightly.

  9. Stack the sarmale in the pot you will use for cooking. You should add them close to each other. When all of them are in the pot add warm water just until barely covered. If you add too much water, they will come out soggy.

  10. If available use an Instant Pot cooking on high for 45 minutes. If you double the batch increase to one hour.

    1. If you don't have an instant pot then you can use the stove. Bring it to a boil and then turn the heat on low. Cook it for about 2-3 hours. Every 30 minutes check to make sure that there is still enough water. If not add more water, just enough to cover the sarmale.

  11. Serve them with sour cream

The ingredient list various a little from region to region and family to family so feel free to experiment to your taste!


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