Kibbeh is a traditional Middle Eastern dish made with ground lamb, bulgur wheat, pine nuts, and warm spices. You’ll find this popular dish in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and
Turkey. Each country’s recipe will vary. This recipe is one I learned over 40 years ago.
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My college boyfriend was from Pasadena, and when we were in L.A. on weekends, I would spend time at his house cooking with his mom, who was half Lebanese. From Mrs. M., I learned how to make the Lebanese food that she grew up with. She taught me how to make tabbouleh, tzatziki, hummus, work with phyllo dough, make baklava, and both raw kibbeh nayyeh. This baked kibbeh is adapted from her family’s recipe. (This recipe was originally published on August 9th, 2011)
What is the difference between kibbeh and kibbeh nayyeh?
Kibbeh nayyeh is ground, raw lamb, mixed with bulgur and kneaded into almost a paste. It’s similar to beef steak tartare, and served with a drizzle of olive oil and raw chopped onions. I haven’t eaten raw meat, beef steak tartare, or kibbeh nayyeh since the mid 80’s, but I make kibbeh ocassionally. I don’t think it’s much different from an American meatloaf, which uses a filler to bind it. Although it’s traditionally made with ground lamb, sometimes it’s hard to find in some grocery stores. If you can’t find ground lamb, you can substitute ground beef. There is a third type, which is football shaped, and deep fried. Mrs. M’s kibbeh recipe is baked in a pan, and cut into diamond shapes.
What is bulgur wheat?
Bulgur or cracked wheat, is a grain found typically in Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s similar in texture to couscous. It can come in a variety of sizes from coarse to finely ground. While the coarser bulgur is fine for Tabbouleh, choose fine bulgur wheat for this dish.
Ingredients for kibbeh
This recipe is made in layers. The center layer of ground lamb, pine nuts is cooked first, and is the “kibbeh stuffing”. The filling is then sandwiched between the finely ground meat mixture. In total you’ll need a total of 1 1/2 pounds of ground lamb to serve 8 as an appetizer or 4-6 as a main dish.
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons pine nuts
- 3 Tablespoons finely chopped onion
- 1/2 pound ground lamb
- 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 black pepper
Kibbeh top and bottom layers
- 1 1/2 cups fine bulgur wheat
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1/3 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoons black pepper
- pinch cayenne pepper
How to make kibbeh
- Soak the bulgur wheat
Start by soaking the bulgur wheat in cold water, covering it completely, for about 10 minutes.
Drain the bulgur in a sieve or fine colander, then squeeze out any excess water with a clean towel. Set the soaked bulgur aside.
Make the filling
While the bulgur wheat is soaking, make the filling. In a large frying pan over medium heat, add 2 Tablespoons olive oil. When shimmering, add pine nuts and lightly toast them. Remove the with a slotted spoon and transfer to a small bowl.
Reduce the heat to medium low, add the chopped onion and stir constantly, until they are soft and transparent, and golden, about 5 minutes.
Add 1/2 cup ground lamb and stir, breaking up any large pieces until lamb is browned. Add pine nuts, seasoning and mix well. Set aside.
- Make the top and bottom layers
In a food processor, pulse the ground lamb until it resembles a smooth paste, similar to pate. Next, add the spices and chopped onions, and pulse a few more times until the spices and the meat are well combined. Then mix the ground lamb mixture with the bulgur wheat by hand, kneading it a bit until all the wheat is incorporated.
Divide the lamb mixture in half.
Using damp hands, press half the raw kibbeh mixture into the bottom of an 13″x9″ baking dish, smoothing it out.
Sprinkle with all of the cooked kibbeh and pine nut mixture over the first layer. (Oops, I forgot to take a picture of this step!)
Wet hands again, and press the top layer on the cooked mixture.
Score the kibbeh on the diagonal into diamond shapes.
Bake kibbeh until it’s cooked through and browned, about 45 minutes. Store in refrigerated container for up to 5 days.
What to serve with kibbeh
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, cover bulgur wheat with cold water for 10 minutes. While bulgur is soaking, make the filling.
- Drain bulgur well and wring it out in a clean cloth until "dry". Set aside.
- In a large frying pan over medium heat, add 2 Tablespoons olive oil. When shimmering, add pine nuts and lightly toast them. Remove the with a slotted spoon and transfer to a small bowl.
- Reduce the heat to medium low, add the chopped onion, and stir constantly, until they are soft and transparent, but not browned, about 5 minutes.
- Add 1/2 pound ground lamb and stir, breaking up any large pieces until lamb is browned. Add pine nuts, seasoning and mix well. Set aside.
- In a food processor, pulse the ground lamb until it resembles a smooth paste, similar to pate. Add the spices and chopped onions, and pulse a few more times until the spices and the meat are well combined.
- Moisten hands with a little water to keep meat from sticking and mix the ground lamb mixture with the bulgur wheat by hand, kneading it until all the wheat is incorporated.
- Divide the lamb mixture in half. Moisten hands, and press one half into a 13" x 9" baking pan. Cover with cooked lamb and pine nut mixture. Press the remaining ground lamb on top, smoothing with moistened hands.
- Score the kibbeh with a knife to make diamond shapes. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 40-45 minutes, or until cooked and brown.