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Cyprus cuisine with Marilena: koupepia
Cyprus cuisine with Marilena
Evgeniya Theodorou
Author: Evgeniya Theodorou

We are going to learn how to make the Greek version of «dolma» — a dish that is also popular in Armenia and Turkey.
Dolma (or koupepia in Greek) is a common village meal. Perhaps this has to do with the slow-paced lifestyle and traditions of village residents.

Meanwhile, Cyprus has added its own taste and traditions to the meal. Locals like to make dolma/koupepia in really large quantities and store the leftovers in the fridge until the next big dinner.

The dish tastes great when served bothhot or cold and can be enjoyed as part of our everyday menu or served on holiday occasions.

The dish’s rich taste comes from the combination of ground meat, rice, onion, tomatoes and spices. Today we are going to prepare koupepia that features parsley.

Cypriots really like to experiment with the stuffing, by adding different vegetables (pumpkin, zucchini, squash, etc.) and replacing rice with bulgur.

How do you choose the «right» grape leaves? It is simple: the more fresh the leaves, the better. The leaves have to be bright green (when it comes to white grape varieties, since the dark varieties have thicker leaves). By the way, did you know that grape leaves are very good for your health? They are rich in fiber, which aids your digestive system and overall metabolism. People, who consume a lot of grape leaves, enjoy better eyesight, better sexual health and age slower.

Many older generation Cypriot women like to purchase grape leaves in bulk. Stacks of 10-15 grape leaves can be wrapped into saran wrap and stored in a freezer for a very long time, without losing their nutritional value.

When it comes to the stuffing, our expert Merilena Joannides recommends using traditional ground pork.

Here is what she has to say about it:



Stuffed grape leaves




Ground pork – 500 gr.

Olive oil – 3 tablespoons

1 large onion – chopped

White rice – 1 small coffee cup

Tomatoes – 500 gr.

Parsley – ¼ of a bunch

Dried mint – 2 tablespoons

Salt and pepper – to taste

Other ingredients:

Grape leaves (about 50) – 200 gr.

Olive oil – 3 tablespoons

Water – 1 cup

Lemon juice from ½ lemon

Cooking method

Place the grape leaves into a bowl and pour hot water over them.  Let them sit for a few minutes, then remove and let them drain in a strainer.

Pour the olive oil into a saucepan, then lightly simmer the onion, add the ground pork and simmer for a few more minutes.

Now it’s time to add rice, tomatoes, parsley, mint, salt, pepper and cook everything for another 5 minutes.

Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil into a pot.

Lay the grape leaves on the table with the stem-side up. Place 1 teaspoon of the stuffing onto the leaf, tuck in the sides and roll tightly into a cigar shape. Place the stuffed leaf into the pot and continue stuffing the rest of them.

Once you’ve finished stuffing all of them and filled the entire pot, add water, lemon juice and place something heavy to hold them down (e.g. a flat plate turned upside down). Cover with a lid and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes.

Let your koupepia sit for a little while, then serve either hot or cold.

Recipe by Marilena Joannides.

PS: You can find another version of this dish in a book by M. Zalentin-Treger, called «Cyprus: A Culinary Adventure». (2017). The book is available in several languages and can be purchased at one of the bookstores in Cyprus.