These humble lamb-stuffed peppers are a classic Turkish meal. The subtle herbs are refreshing and pair wonderfully with the meat. Use of tahini or cashew cream in the mint topping keeps this Whole 30 approved without skimping on any flavor!
My first bite into dolma was sitting in a small unexpecting restaurant nestled into the back side of a strip mall in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It was the first of many dining experiences on a whirlwind tour of the city, which boasts some of the best cuisines in the country. Ayse’s Turkish Cafe is a small restaurant that would be easily overlooked with farm to fork and fine dining, breweries, and high-end dining offered on every street corner in this college town. With all of the options available, settling down at Ayse’s as our first stop, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
After our quick work on the appetizers, our lunch orders started to trickle out in a parade for a dozen writers and influencers. I was excited to try slivers of everyone’s meals as each dish was presented before us. Each meal looked homemade and humble, smelling fragrant and promising to be far more delicious than expected. Lastly, my dolma arrived.
What is dolma?
The traditional Turkish dolma was a delicate herb spiced mix of lamb and rice with a spoon worthy red sauce. I suddenly didn’t want to share and although I knew a large dinner was awaiting us later, I proceeded to eat every last bite.
The lamb was cooked perfectly, without any of that gamey flavor people often complain about. The herbs melodically danced along my tongue, each one distinct and yet in harmony with the others. And the smooth mint sauce on top was perfectly balanced, not too heavy on cream or richness to pair with the pepper and stuffing. Instantly, I was hooked. The unique flavors playing against and working together like a perfect
The unique flavors playing against and working together like a perfect symphony reminding me of the subtle balance that reminds me of Thai recipes. Even returning home, the flavors of the dolma played on in my memory and I set out to do some research of my own.
To make this whole 30 compliant I swapped a few ingredients but made sure the signature dolma flavors were still on point. There is no need for rice, though if you aren’t working whole 30, traditional rice can be used in place of the cauliflower rice.
This dolma is not the exact same recipe from Ayse’s, though, if you are willing to smuggle that my way, I promise to cherish it and you at least until my plate is cleaned. However, it is my homemade take on it and I can promise it will be in my rotation again and again.
Now, let’s eat.
Need more Whole30 Inspiration? Check out these recipes:
- Enchilada Stuffed Smoked Poblano Peppers
- Sausage with Roasted Cabbage and Butternut Squash Puree
- Paleo Sesame Tuna Bowls
- Grilled Harissa Avocado Baked Eggs
Whole30 Approved Lamb Stuffed Peppers
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- 16 oz ground lamb
- 5 oz lean ground beef
- 3 cups cauliflower rice toasted and cooled
- 2 tsp paprika
- handful fresh mint chopped
- 1/3 cup pine nuts toasted and cooled
- salt and pepper
- 4 large peppers red green, yellow or orange, cut in half, from the top down and seeds removed
For the sauce
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 14 oz tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup water
For the mint sauce
- 1 cup Greek yogurt use tahini or cashew cream for whole 30
- 1 1/2 tsp fresh mint chopped
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1/2 tsp oregano
- 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Mix the ground lamb, beef, toasted cauliflower rice, paprika, mint, parsley, toasted pine nuts, salt and pepper into a bowl.
- Stuff the mixture in each half of the peppers and lay flat.
- Meanwhile, drizzle the oil in a baking dish.
- Spoon in the tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper.
- Nestle the stuffed peppers into the sauce and pour the 1/2 cup water in carefully on the side.
- Spoon a bit of the tomato sauce over each of the peppers and sprinkle with additional paprika.
- Bake for 40 minutes.
Make the Mint Sauce
- Whisk the yogurt (or cashew cream if you are doing the whole 30), mint, garlic, thyme, oregano and salt and pepper in a small bowl.
- Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes. Spoon the peppers out and serve with mint sauce if desired.