Legendary Dishes | Kébbeh / Kibbeh (crusted spicy meat-filled ovals)


A national traditional dish of the Lebanon, kébbeh / kibbeh are small crusty ovals with a spicy meat filling. The crust is ground lamb, ground spices, puréed onions and softened cracked wheat ground into a paste similar to paté. Traditionally made by pounding the meat, then kneaded into the bulgur, onions and spices, modern versions are produced with small-blade electric blenders.

The old method is described in Food from the Arab World, the 1959 book by Marie Karam Khayat and Margaret Clark Keatinge.

‘Select lamb from loin of the animal. Pound the cubed meat with a teaspoon of salt in a stone mortar with a wooden mallet (jorn and mudaqqa). Remove meat from mortar when it becomes pasty. Now pound onion with a teaspoon of salt and the pepper until it is reduced to a pulp. Combine meat and onion and pound together until very smooth. Wash burghul well in running water but do this quickly so that it does not soften. Press to remove water. Knead burghul and meat with the hands. Pound together in mortar. Add salt to taste. Dip mallet in ice water occasionally to keep meat moist and smooth. Properly prepared kibbeh must be pounded at least an hour. Then it is ready to be eaten as it is, or cooked in a variety of ways.’


  • 250 g beef / lamb, double minced
  • 250 g bulgur, ground fine, soaked in sufficient water to make a thick paste for 30 minutes
  • 75 g onions, puréed
  • 45 ml water
  • 15 g baharat (spice mixtures, see variations below)
  • 5 g chilli power / red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Salt, large pinch

Combine the bulgur and meat with the onion, spice mixture, chilli or red pepper flakes and salt, bring together, adding a little water at a time, into a smooth dough, set aside.


200 g beef / lamb mince
60 g shallots, chopped small
15 ml olive oil
15 g pine nuts
1 tsp baharat (spice mixtures, see variations below)
5 g pomegranate seeds, ground
5 g sumac seeds, ground
Black pepper, large pinch
Salt, large pinch


  • Oil for frying
  • Cucumber
  • Yoghurt

Fry the onions in the oil until soft, add nuts and fry until they take on some colour. Add the meat and spices, cook until meat is browned. Leave to cool.

Using damp hands shape the dough into 60 g balls or ovals. Make an indent in the ball using the a thumb, insert a heaped teaspoon of the filling into the hole, seal.

Repeat until all the dough and filling are used up.

Deep fry in 190ºC oil for about five minutes, until the kibbeh are browned. Drain on kitchen paper.

Serve with a mezze of yoghurt with cucumbers and a sprinkling of chilli flakes.

Spice Mixtures for Kébbeh / Kibbeh

Whole spices can be dry-roasted to increase depth of flavour.

Lebanese Baharat

  • 15 g allspice, ground
  • 10 g cinnamon, ground
  • 10 g coriander seeds, ground
  • 5 g black pepper, ground
  • 5 g cardamom seeds, ground
  • 5 g ginger powder
  • 5 g white pepper
  • 5 cloves, ground
  • Nutmeg, large punch

Syrian Baharat

  • 30 g allspice
  • 30 g cinnamon
  • 5 g cloves

Turkish Baharat

  • 15 g black pepper, ground
  • 15 g cumin seeds, ground
  • 10 g dried mint, ground
  • 5 g coriander seeds, ground
  • 5 g cloves, ground
  • 1 cardamom pod, seeds, ground
  • Allspice, large pinch
  • Cinnamon, large pinch