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  • Fried Kibbeh Balls – Lebanese cuisine

    Posted on | March 28, 2007 | 16 Comments |

    The best Lebanese food I’ve ever had was in Ireland of all the places! I was in Dublin on a business trip and my Irish colleagues took us to their favorite Lebanese restaurant for dinner – may be because there were people from four different continents in our group - and the food was amazing! Next day I was out shopping , I wasn’t looking for it, but it so happened that there was a tiny pocket sized Lebanese cookbook next to the check-out counter and I had to buy it. This was two years ago, then I promptly forgot about the book until I saw Meeta’s Monthly Mingle theme – Arabian cuisine. I’ve never made any middle eastern food at home, even though I love the cuisine! Thanks to Meeta, I dug out my cookbook and decided to make the national dish of Lebanon – Kibbeh.

    Situated between the Middle East and Mediterranean, Lebanon is a cultural crossroad between east and west. Lebanese cuisine is very unique in the sense that it combines the subtleties of European cuisine with the exotic eastern ingredients. Like the other Mediterranean cuisines, Lebanese cuisine is considered very healthy. 

    One of the main ingredients widely used in most of the Lebanese dishes is bulgur (also known as burghul or bulghur) , it is made by parboiling wheat, then drying and coarsely grinding it. The outer bran layers are removed and the grain is cracked, and then steamed or boiled to make the nutty tasting bulgur.

    Kibbeh, the national dish of Lebanon in its simplest form is oval shaped nuggets made with a mix of ground lamb and bulgur, and can be made grilled, boiled or fried. I love everything fried, and my book had the recipe for Fried Kibbeh balls, so here it is.

    I didn’t alter the recipe much, other than adding some black pepper and salt,  since the original recipe didn’t call for much heat, and I think they forgot to mention salt. :)  


    • 1/2 cup bulgur
    • 1/2 lb lamb
    • 1 cup finely chopped red onion
    • 1/2 tsp ground allspice (pimento)
    • 1/2 tsp ground oregano
    • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
    • salt for taste
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • vegetable oil for shallow frying
    • Filling
      • 1 tbsp olive oil
      • 1/2 cup ground lamb
      • 1/4 cup chopped onions
      • 1/2 tbsp pine nuts
      • 1/2 tbsp silvered almonds
      • 1/4 tsp allspice
      • 1/4 tsp oregano
      • 1/2 tbsp finely chopped mint leaves
      • 1/2 tbsp pepper
      • salt for taste


    Place bulgur in a bowl and pour cold water to cover. Keep for about 15 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water, and squeeze well to remove the moisture.

    Make the Filling: – Heat oil in a small frying pan, add the onions and cook till soft, add the pine nuts and almonds and cook till they start to brown. Add the spice powders, salt and ground lamb and cook till the meat is cooked through. Remove from the stove and stir in the mint leaves and keep aside.

    Add the bulgur, ground lamb, chopped onions, olive oil and the spices to a large bowl and mix well to combine. Add a little water if necessary.

    Shape the mixture into equal sized balls, this will make about 8 balls. Insert your thumb to make a hollow space in the ball, place the filling in the hollow and flatten out the balls and shape into ovals so that the filling is completely covered.

    Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan and shallow fry the Kibbeh balls till all the sides are browned and the meat is cooked through.

    Recipe adapted from Australian Women’s Weekly Lebanese Cooking.

    I made a a dipping sauce by mixing 1/4 cup creme fraiche with 1 tbsp lemon juice and 1 tsp of chopped mint leaves to go with the Kibbeh.

    The Kibbeh turned out pretty good for a first trial. I loved the texture of the bulgur-lamb combo and the nutty filling inside was a surprising pleasure to bite into. Next time I would spice it up a little more.

    This is my contribution for Monthly Mingle #9 Arabian Nights hosted by lovely Meeta. Thanks Meeta for the wonderful theme.

    Note: Coincidentally I just learned about allspice from Asha today. I had allspice in my spice rack, but I always thought it was a mix of spices like Garam Masala as in All + Spice. My cookbook says it is called Lebanese Pepper in Lebanon, Wikipedia calls it Jamaican Pepper. 

    Category: Appetizers and Snacks, Lamb or Goat, Middle Eastern, Nuts, Recipes

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    16 Responses to “Fried Kibbeh Balls – Lebanese cuisine”

    1. Richa
      March 28th, 2007 @ 12:03 pm

      hey sig, the combination of spices looks so good. wonder how it will taste if i substitute the lamb with soya/tofu?
      great pic.


    2. Asha
      March 28th, 2007 @ 12:07 pm

      Beau-ti-ful!!!!Gorgeous photo.At last your Allspice got a place to go!:)
      Great entry Sig,loved reading it too.Thanks.

    3. Freya and Paul
      March 28th, 2007 @ 1:23 pm

      I can’t wait to take part in this Monthly Mingle as I love this kind of food. Your Kibbeh looks delicious! I was surprised too when I found out that Allspice was a type of peppercorn that tastes like Cinnamon and Nutmeg all rolled into one.
      Great post!

    4. Sushma
      March 28th, 2007 @ 2:52 pm

      Like Richa..I am also planning to try it with paneer or tofu…

      The pictures are perfect…


    5. Mishmash !
      March 28th, 2007 @ 3:05 pm

      That was an interesting post!! write up and the photo was beautiful..I wish I could taste the kibbehs too :)


    6. Nandita
      March 29th, 2007 @ 4:49 am

      whaddup Babe!!! Looks wonderful, your photography skills are going up several notches in every post :) Kibbeh and my badenjan dip….good combo :)

    7. Sig
      March 29th, 2007 @ 5:21 am

      Richa & Sushma, I don’t know how good this will be with tofu, since the bulgur on its own is tasteless, so might be pretty bland. In my opinion you are better off making falafel instead of vegetarian Kibbeh.

      Asha thank-you :) thank god I read your post before I made this, i might have used garam masala probably, I have been using my AllSpice powder in place of garam masala, depending on whichever jar is closer to me!!!!

      Freya, can’t wait to see what you guys cook up for MM.

      Shn, thanks…:)

      Nandita, u know I thought about making your dip, but I was pretty tired by the time I made all the balls and filled’em :D , so opted for a simple dip instead…

    8. Jyothsna
      March 29th, 2007 @ 5:49 am

      I live in the Middle east, but have never tried cooking the local cuisine at home. But seeing you guys, I ight just have to give a try!

    9. Sia's corner
      March 29th, 2007 @ 12:32 pm

      cant say abt the food but excellent pic and wonderful colour

    10. Sheela
      March 29th, 2007 @ 10:51 pm

      hi sig, i am going to have to try this – maybe i’ll substitute lamb with wheat-meat… nice picture!

    11. Richa
      March 30th, 2007 @ 1:49 am

      you are right sig, thanks for pointing that out.

    12. Meeta
      April 13th, 2007 @ 12:06 pm

      Nice photo and the kibbehs look divine!

    13. Alex (UK)
      January 30th, 2009 @ 2:39 pm

      We called it “kobeba” when I lived in Alexandria. The trick is to get the outside shell as thin as possible so that it goes crisp when you fry it and releases the moist filling when you bite into it – absolutely delicious. Try some yoghurt as a sauce.

    14. szar
      September 23rd, 2009 @ 1:02 am

      Mustering the courage to make this. Am getting on the south beach diet. Maybe after this dish!
      Maybe after i have tried out most of the dishes on the site!

      BTW, all spice is known as ‘Kebab Cheeni’ in Hindi/ urdu.
      It is also an imp. element in Swedish Meatballs.
      This will be excellent with ‘tzatziki’ or a tahini based sauce too.
      Great pic as usual!

    15. tasteofbeirut
      November 19th, 2009 @ 7:36 am

      Good try! :razz: