Meat & Bulgur Stuffed Swiss Chard: Etli Pazı Sarması

Turkish cooking includes nearly every kind of stuffed leaf or vegetable you can imagine, whether it be grape leaves, cabbage, peppers (fresh or dry), eggplant (fresh or dry), zucchini, tomatoes (fresh or dry), or even swiss chard!

These rolls are especially good for people who don't like the taste of canned grape-leaves and don't have access to fresh ones!


1 large bunch swiss chard (about 1 pound or 500 grams)
1 ¼ lbs lean ground beef (~550-600 grams)
¾ cups bulgur (145 grams)
1 medium onion, grated
7-8 sprigs of parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste (25 grams)
1 tablespoon red pepper paste (25 grams) *substitute w/ tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried mint (1 gram)
1 teaspoon (Aleppo) red pepper flakes (1 gram)
½  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (0.5 gram)
1 teaspoon salt (5 grams)

For cooking liquid:
2 cups warm water (470 ml)
2 tablespoon tomato paste (50 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (30 ml)

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and blanch chard leaves for 15 seconds each. Remove and place in cold water for a few seconds (to retain color). Drain.
  2. For the stuffing: mix together beef, bulgur, onion, parsley, tomato paste, pepper paste, dried mint, red pepper, black pepper, and salt. Use your hands and knead together to evenly distribute all the ingredients.
  3. Remove large stems from chard leaves. If the leaves are large, you can divide them up into more pieces to stuff (see pictures for example). Use extra or torn pieces to line the bottom of the large pot you will use to cook the sarmas.
  4. Stuff leaves by placing about 1 tablespoons of your filling in the center of the leaf. Fold down the leaf from the top over the filling, then fold in the sides toward the center and roll from the top down. Repeat until you run out of filling, placing each roll seam-side down into the pan in concentric circles (see pictures for more guidance). Some of your rolls may be smaller than others, but that’s okay!
  5. Create the cooking “sauce” in a bowl by whisking together 2 cups warm water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 1 tablespoon red pepper or tomato paste. Pour over the tops of the sarmas so that the sauce reaches about half-way up. If you have too much sauce, do not add the rest. If you need more liquid, simply add more water to the pot.
  6. Place a plate on top of the sarmas so they do not move around in the pot.
  7. Cover the pot with a lid and turn on the heat. When it begins to bubble, lower the heat to a simmer and continue to cook (covered) for about 25 minutes. The sarmas will feel rigid to the touch when the meat is cooked through. Test doneness by removing one from the pot and opening it up.
  8. Serve hot with lemon wedges and yogurt on the side.
Rolled and ready to be cooked in tomato paste liquid.

Rolled and ready to be cooked in tomato paste liquid.