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Kibbeh, the national dish of Lebanon, is a ground lamb dish that goes perfectly with chickpea salad or tabbouleh.

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Yotam Ottolenghi Teaches Modern Middle Eastern CookingYotam Ottolenghi Teaches Modern Middle Eastern Cooking

James Beard Award–winning chef Yotam Ottolenghi teaches you his recipes for delicious Middle Eastern platters layered with color and flavor.

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What Is Kibbeh?

Kibbeh is a Middle Eastern meatball bound together with bulgur or rice. The word kibbeh comes from the Egyptian Arabic kubba, meaning “ball” or “lump.” In traditional preparations of kibbeh, you would use a stone mortar and wooden pestle to pound lamb or goat meat together with bulgur until smooth. Of course, you can simply use a food processor, but some home cooks swear by the labor-intensive traditional method. Kibbeh can be baked, boiled, or deep-fried.

4 Types of Kibbeh

Like other types of meatballs from around the world, kibbeh comes in many varieties.

  1. Kibbeh bil seniyeh is baked, sometimes as a casserole with layers of bulgur or mashed potatoes.
  2. Kibbeh hamdah is a meatball soup with a lemony broth and vegetables.
  3. Kibbeh nayeh is raw kibbeh. The raw meat is typically seasoned with fresh basil or mint leaves and served with tomatoes, chiles, scallions, onions.
  4. Kibbeh mahshi are torpedo-shaped kibbeh meatballs that are breaded with bulgur (or semolina or rice) and deep-fried until crispy, like a croquette. Fried kibbeh are often served as part of a mezze (appetizer platter) and for special occasions.
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What Does Kibbeh Taste Like?

Kibbeh tastes like a meatball or meatloaf, and its flavor varies depending on the type of ground meat with which it’s made. Traditionally, kibbeh includes ground lamb or goat, but it can be made with ground beef as well. There are also vegetarian versions of kibbeh made with lentils and vegetables. The spices that flavor kibbeh vary regionally. In Syria, you'll likely find allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, and cumin in the mix, while in Lebanon you may find kibbeh recipes with sumac, nutmeg, and pomegranate molasses.

What to Serve With Kibbeh

Baked or fried kibbeh make for a great appetizer or main dish. Try them with Lebanese cabbage salad, chickpea salad, creamed lentils, hamud (Syrian mint sauce), tahini sauce, tzatziki, arugula salad, tabbouleh, hummus and pita bread. You can also serve kibbeh alongside sliced raw vegetables such as radishes, cucumbers, and carrots.

Lebanese Baked Kibbeh Recipe

Serves
4-6
Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr 20 min
Cook Time
50 min

Ingredients

Baked kibbeh meatloaf is easy to make—no frying required.

For the filling:

  • ½ cup pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • ½ pound ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (or sumac, pomegranate molasses, or tamarind paste)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

For the base:

  • 1 large onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup fine bulgur
  • 1 tablespoon butter, for greasing pan
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Make the filling. In a small dry skillet over medium heat, toast pine nuts until golden brown and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Set aside the toasted pine nuts. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, combine butter and olive oil. When the butter has melted, reduce heat to medium and add onions. Sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the ground lamb and stir with a wooden spoon to break up any clumps. Cook until lamb is no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and add toasted pine nuts, lemon juice, cinnamon, allspice, pepper, and salt. Stir to combine and adjust seasoning to taste. Set filling aside.
  3. Make the base. Soak the bulgur for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, use a food processor to process onion quarters until finely minced. Add lamb, cinnamon, allspice, pepper, and salt and process until fairly smooth. Transfer the meat mixture to a large bowl. Fill a small bowl with cold water and a pinch of salt. Drain bulgur, then add to the meat mixture. Use your hands to knead the meat mixture together with the bulgur until smooth, about 3 minutes. Rinse your hands in the salted water occasionally to help moisten the kibbeh.
  4. Butter an 8x11-inch baking dish. Rinse your hands in the salted water, then use your wet hands to divide the base mixture in half. Press half of the base mixture into the baking dish to coat the bottom.To make the process easier, pinch off small chunks of base, flatten them with your palms, and place them in the dish. The base mixture should be about ½ an inch thick.
  5. Gently and evenly spread the filling mixture over the first layer of base. Top with remaining base mixture. Once you've covered the filling, moisten your index finger and use it to smooth out the surface of the kibbeh.
  6. Bake kibbeh until golden brown, about 35 minutes.

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