Kavun Dolmasi – Stuffed Melon

These days, the hype in Istanbul is (not-so) fine dining restaurants that claim they serve Ottoman palace cuisine. Are all of those places bad? Of course not! Some are very genuine and not overpriced considering the food they serve. But for others, all I can say is “overrated”! Kavun dolmasi or stuffed melon is one of those dishes that existed since the 15th century, maybe even earlier. I guess it is Persian and Armenian influence what made Ottoman cooks combine meat and fruits, which when done right creates an excellent balance of flavor. The trick to this recipe is picking the right size and type of melon, small, round, aromatic variety that is, adding the right amount of spices and nuts and using good quality minced meat (preferably lamb meat ground with a chopping knife) with a good amount of fat content.


50 g + 50 g butter or ghee,

1 onion, chopped finely,

50 g of unsalted fresh almonds, shelled and peeled,

30 g pine nuts,

300 g ground meat,

1 teaspoon of blackpepper,

1 teaspoon of allspice,

1/2 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon,

1 teaspoon of salt,

30 g black currants, dried or fresh,

2 tablespoons of rice,

2 melons, grapefruit-size,

A pinch of salt,

Fresh parsley leaves

Boil rice in salted water. Drain. Set aside. Melt 50 g butter in a non-stick pan. Brown the onions. Add almonds and pine nuts. When roasted, add in the meat. When the meat is cooked and releases its fat add in the spices, then salt. Finally add the black currants and boiled rice and remove from the heat.The stuffing is ready.

Remove melons’ caps, as you see in the pictures. Scoop out the seeds and some of the flesh, discard those. Sprinkle a pinch of salt on the insides of melons. Stuff them with the meat filling. 

Place 25g of butter on each dolma you’ve prepared. Put the caps back on the stuffed melons and line them in a baking tray. You might want to brush the melons with melted butter on the outside for a more polished look, but this is optional. Bake the dolmas at 180 degrees Celsius for 35-40 minutes. Serve with fresh parsley leaves, roasted buttered almonds and black currants.

Bon Appetit.

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14 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. That looks delicious! I tried making your version of Saray Helvasi last month and it was divine! My whole family could not stop raving about it! I will definitely have to try this recipe soon! Keep posting — you’ve got a fan 🙂

    • Hi Becky, thanks a lot for the flattering comment of yours. Glad to hear saray helvasi turned out fine. If there is any Turkish-Ottoman recipe you’re after, I’d be happy to post on that as well. Cheers.

  2. Merci à vous de partager avec nous, toutes ces recettes, aussi succulentes les unes que les autres.Votre blog est une richesse incontestable.Bonne continuation.

    • Merci beaucoup Misacey, je vous remercie de votre gentil commentaire. Je parle peu italien, m’a aidé à comprendre votre commentaire. Excusez-moi pour mon Français horribles :).

  3. La traduction n’est pas du tout conforme au message que j’ai laissé précédemment!

  4. Thanks for the detailed recipe, I will try it. Just a few days ago I had Kavun Dolmasi in an Istanbul restaurant. I would think that the method of preparing the stuffing is similar, and the spices seem to be the same too.
    However, there is one major difference: that melon was not finished in the oven, rather it had been chilled and now served at room temperature, with the hot meat stuffing inside. The result was surprisingly pleasant, a nice combination on a hot day, with the cold melon holding the hot meat. I agree that the melon flavor is very important. Have you tried it that way? Thanks again!

    • Hi Florin, thanks for the comment. Interesting, never tried or heard that version before. I love the meat filling when infused with caramelized fruit flavor. Was it at Asitane? Once you try this one, let us know which one you like better.

      • Hi Elif, yes, that was at Asitane. When ordering, U fully expected that the whole thing would have been finished in the oven, so when it showed up cold-like I was surprised. The greater and far better surprise was how good it actually was like that. I will try the warm version next and will report, in a couple of weeks.

  5. Beautiful pages here! Thanks so much. I’d love to find a recipe for ekmek kadayifi from scratch. Any ideas?

    • Thank you :). I’ve never made it myself, but I’ll see if I can find it from trusted Turkish food blogs or come up with a recipe myself after some good old trial and error method. Which type are you looking for? Syrupy sponge cake sort or round pancakes again soaked in syrup?

  6. […] something unusual for the 20th edition of Knidos Cookery Club – stuffed melon. This dish was popular in the palaces of the Ottoman Empire, drawing on a Persian and Armenian-influenced fusion of sweet and savoury […]

  7. I enjoyed a stuffed melon dish at Asitane restaurant in Istanbul in 2012 and never forgot it. The dish surprised me with the mixing of melon with savory flavors. It is similar to a stuffed squash we more commonly make in North America. While searching for how to make this dish, I stumbled on your blog and thank you for publishing the recipe. I have a Turkish friend who is a former famous journalist in Turkey, Meltem Pusat. I wonder if your professional paths might have crossed. She is traveling abroad right now but I will share your blog with her. I loved traveling through your beautiful country and enjoyed its wonderful food and people.

    • Hello Johanne, I’m really happy if my recipe has been useful for you. A couple of weeks ago a friend told me that it tastes even better when served chilled.
      2012, well, it’s been quite long, you should come back asap 😉
      By the way, my mom is from the Black Sea region in the north, they make all sorts of dishes using various kinds of pumpkin/squash. They have a soup quite similar to the North American pumpkin soup, for instance.
      On Meltem Pusat, no, we’ve never met as far as I remember. I googled up her name and a news story came up in one of the largest national newspapers. Please send my regards.

      • I will give Meltem your regards and introduce her to your site. She is a gifted cook herself. I remember her telling me not to miss a pumpkin-like cake while in Turkey. We do think pumpkin is very N American but it is found in the world. In France they call it potiron. Maybe not the exact same but in the squash family. Glad your mom makes pumpkin soup. SO delicious!

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