09 August 2010



I realized that despite a few lengthy entrees on kibbeh, I had never actually posted a recipe for the classic kibbeh, the Lebanese dumpling made with a meat shell and meat filling. I've only talked about kibbeh a few times here, and because it's so ubiquitous and common to me, I forget that it may not be to everyone else. A true Levantine food blog would probably have at least 10 variations on the meat kind of kibbeh alone. Shame on me, I headed straight to the store to get some lamb and remedy the situation.

Kibbeh is a bit tedious to make, but it usually makes a lot, and they keep and freeze pretty well, and they are very satiating. Essentially, you make a dough out of ground meat, bulgur, and seasonings. This dough is made by processing the meat to very smooth paste, a sort of sticky blob. For those used to the delicate patting-together of hamburgers, this is the exact opposite technique. By grinding up the meat you change to texture of its proteins, helping it adhere together better. This is the same principle as making ground meat kebabs, and how you get them to actually stay wrapped around the skewer.


The kibbeh filling is simply sauteed ground meat, onions, spices, and pine nuts. This kind of kibbeh is almost requisite on any mezzeh table, where people will often dip their kibbeh into a bit of hummus. But kibbeh is also a staple at home, where the fried kibbeh balls can be added to a sauce, such as a warm yogurt sauce, a lemony-tahini sauce, or a sauce of swiss chard and tomatoes, and then served over rice. Yes, it's labor intensive, but it wouldn't be Levantine if it wasn't.


If you have Middle Eastern grocery nearby, you want the finest grade bulgur. I could only find larger bulgur at my local store, but it's just as good, only leaves a slightly more rustic texture. Make sure to work with damp hands to prevent the mixture from sticking. This same kibbeh recipe can be made in a tray (place half the shell on the bottom, filling in the middle, then top with the remaining shell and bake).

1 lb ground beef, lamb, or veal, preferably twice-ground by your butcher
1 cup fine grade bulgur
1/2 an onion, diced
1 teaspoon seven-spice mix*
1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 pat of butter
1/2 lb ground lamb
1 onion diced
pinch seven-spice mix plus salt to taste
1/2 cup pinenuts

For the shell:
1. Place the bulgur in a bowl and pour boiling water to cover. Let sit for 5 minutes, until bulgur is softened, then drain any excess water.
2. Place meat in a food processor and process until finely ground, and a somewhat sticky consistency. Add the remaining ingredients (bulgur, onion, seasonings) and process to a smooth paste. Refrigerate for a couple hours.

For the filling:
3. Fry the onion and spices in some butter until the onion is pale golden and caramelized. Add in the lamb and fry until cooked through. Add the pine nuts in the last few minutes just to toast. Set filing aside to cool.

4. Get a bowl of water and a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap. Having the shell and filling ready. Moisten your hands with the water. Take a spoonful of the shell mixture in your hand and press your thumb into the middle to make a cavity. Work the shell around your thumb to make it as thin as possible. Add a small spoonful of filling to the cavity and pinch closed, making a sort of smooth football shape. Continue making kibbeh balls, keeping your hands moist to prevent to meat from sticking.

5. Heat a large pot of oil to 350 F. Add the kibbeh, 3-4 at a time depending on the size of your pot, and fry until crisply browned. Drain on a paper towel. Serve warm or at room temperature.

* Seven Spice Mix: a mixture of black and white pepper, allspice, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and coriander.


GretchenJoanna said...

I really want to make this. A Syrian neighbor gave me her version of kibbeh once, but it was in a pan, and didn't have the shell. The whole thing was meat and bulgur, etc.

About your recipe, under #4 where you are describing how to fill the shell, you say "Take a spoonful of the filling in your hand and press your thumb into the middle to make a cavity." I assume you meant to say "shell mix" instead of "filling" in that sentence?

Also, is the Seven Spice Mix also available at the Middle Eastern store? Because I do have such a store in my very town, and I love to shop there. I even bought some fine bulgur a while back with no idea what I was going to do with it. Now I know!

Mercedes said...

Gretchen, you're correct, thanks for the proofreading :) Yes, a Middle Eastern grocery should definitely carry seven-spice mix, but you can always mix your own. Also, see the note in the header, even kibbeh in a pan should have the inner and outer layers, though they aren't terribly distinguishable.

Michigan Food Blog said...

another 3arabiya blogging. nice to meet u :)

Nadine said...

I love Kibbeh, (I am Lebanese), inthe south of Lebanon they add something called "Kamoon" which is bulgur mixed with basil, mint and onions in a food processor and left dry in the sun for days...it gives a great taste to kibbeh (especially the one in the pan). you can use the kamoon with crushed tomatoes or boiled potatoes..delicious...I also wanted to tell you that there is a vegetarian Kibbeh made with pumpkin instead of meat and filled with chick peas and spinach..delicious too

Mercedes said...

Hi Nadine- I hadn't heard to kamoun before, but it sounds very interesting. Is it spelled differently than the word for cumin? It sounds similar to a homemade kishk, without the laban. I am familiar with the pumpkin version and have written about it here before (see link in post above).

radimus said...

Hi and thanks for the wonderfull recipe and blog!
I used a deep fat fryer to finish off the Kibbe and they were perfectly done, crispy on the outside - cooked and moist on the inside.
Looking forward to more recipe ideas.

Dad said...

Hurrah, a recipe on Desert Candy for kibbeh, my second favourite Middle Eastern dish (mujadarah being on the Top spot - I MUST post my mother-in-law's puréed version).

I'm off to find some allspice!

Nadine said...

Mercedes..deepest apologies for my typo, it is called kamouneh and not Kamoun. It is a specialty from the South of Lebanon. I am loving your pumpkin kibbeh recipe..many thanks.