Sharing Our Table: Ani’s Plant-Based Armenian Dolma

Last Update: February 5, 2024

Amid the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, the dinner table is a place to pause and reconnect. Cooking engages all our senses, helping us get grounded and find gratitude in the present. Especially at the holidays, gathering around a home-cooked meal is a chance to reflect on our fondest memories and make new ones. 

We asked Thrive Market employees to share a holiday recipe that holds special meaning for them, and we’re so excited to share them with you. From our team to your table, we hope you have a joyful season filled with good health and great food.

Becoming a vegetarian wasn’t a big adjustment for Ani Khachatoorian, Vice President of People Ops at Thrive Market—she’s been one since birth.

Since babyhood, Ani reflects, she’s had an aversion to meat. Her mother tried feeding it to her, but she always rejected it. While giving up meat was never an issue for Ani, figuring out how to enjoy her family’s traditional Armenian cuisine did require a bit of creativity.

One dish Ani has put her plant-based spin on is dolma, or Armenian stuffed peppers, a recipe she often makes around the holidays. “It’s traditionally made with a lot of meat,” she explains. “Over the years, I’ve modified it to be fully vegan.” Ani’s version replaces the typical ground beef filling with a hearty and flavorful blend of rice, legumes, and plenty of fresh and dried herbs. The resulting aroma “fills the house with this warm smell…the richness of the flavors is extremely satisfying, especially on a cold day. It’s very soul warming, and it transports me back to childhood.”

It was Ani’s grandmother who taught her how to cook, and about the power of sharing a meal. “She was a single mom who raised three kids with very limited resources,” Ani says. “The way she showed love was through food. I feel like I do that—I show my love of family and friends through food.” Now, Ani says, she’s passing the tradition along by sharing her passion for cooking with her youngest son.

Armenian cooking requires time, and this dish is no exception, but Ani sees that as an opportunity “to not just cook, but to be with your community, whoever that includes, and really just enjoy that time. I like to have too many people, and too much noise, and cook together, and drink together, and play music together.”

Though Ani may have tweaked this stuffed pepper recipe over the years to suit her preferences, one thing hasn’t changed: the fond memories that come up when she puts it into the oven and that unmistakable aroma fills the kitchen. “The recipe and the experience of cooking it is just purely home to me.”

Plant-Based Armenian Dolma Recipe

Yield: 6 servings 


5 bell peppers (any color) or 12 mini sweet peppers
¾ cup rice (jasmine, calrose or wild)
½ cup black or green lentils
¼ cup garbanzo beans (canned)
¼ cup great northern beans (canned)
1 serrano pepper (less if you like it mild) 
½ cup (1.5 bunch) green onions
½ cup flat leaf (Italian) parsely
½ cup fresh cilantro
¼ cup fresh dill
¼ cup fresh chives
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 ½ tablespoons tomato paste, divided
1 teaspoon curry powder
½ cup boiling water, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
Bread and/or dairy-free yogurt to serve, optional


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Prepare rice and lentils according to package instructions.  

With a sharp knife, cut the tops off bell peppers, creating an opening that’s wide enough to be stuffed. 

Drain canned garbanzo and great northern beans. Add to a food processor with serrano pepper and process until coarsely chopped. (For less heat, remove the seeds from the serrano pepper.)

In a large bowl, mix all the herbs, cooked lentils, bean mixture, and cooked rice. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon of the tomato paste, and curry powder and mix well to coat all the ingredients. Add ¼ cup boiling water. Mix well. Mixture should be soggy and wet. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Place peppers cut side up in a 9×13″ baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Spoon veggie mixture into each pepper and drizzle a little olive oil into each one. 

Combine ¼ cup boiling water, 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon tomato paste. Mix well and pour mixture over the veggies in the baking dish. Cover the baking dish with foil.

Bake until peppers are tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Baste the peppers approximately every 20 minutes. 

Increase oven temperature to 425°F, remove the foil, and continue to bake until the pepper skins are a little charred and bubbly, about 10 minutes more. Serve with bread and yogurt if desired. 

Tip: Leftover filling is delicious served on its own, as the base of a grain bowl, with pita bread, or in a salad with fresh greens. 

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Kirby Stirland

Kirby Stirland is a writer, editor, and New York transplant living in Los Angeles.

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