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A Simple Kibbeh

A Simple Kibbeh

Prep: 85 mins | Cook: 5 mins | Soak and Cool Time: 40 mins | Total: 2 hrs 10 mins | Servings: 9 servings Yield: 25 small kibbeh

Kibbeh, a form of the Arabic word kubbah or "ball," is a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine. Made out of lamb or beef, these football-shaped croquettes are a flavorful blend of fragrant herbs and spices, filling meat, and hearty bulgur wheat. Delicious as an appetizer or side dish, the hearty zeppelins are wonderful when served with hummus, khyar bi laban (a yogurt-cucumber salad), pita bread, and labneh (strained yogurt).

There are many recipes for kibbeh, as many countries have a local version, but two main types exist: cooked or raw. Kibbeh nabilseeyah is the fried version, like ours, in which balls of raw meat are stuffed with cooked meat and then deep-fried. Kibbeh nayyeh, the raw version, is served with bread and other accompaniments like lemons and chopped onions. Other methods bake the whole preparation—similarly to a flat meatloaf—boil it in broth, skewer it, and grill it in patties or elongated sausage-like shapes.

Although labor intensive, making kibbeh is not difficult. Our recipe for these crunchy and meaty croquettes is easy and perfect for beginners. Prep ahead and reheat in the oven, or make bigger batches, fry, and freeze to have kibbehs at hand for a a quick snack, or light lunch.

If this is your first time cooking with bulgur, check the label and be sure it is a medium variety—there are also coarse and very coarse types that require more soaking and cooking.

By Saad Fayed


For the Bulgur:

1/2 pound bulgur

3 cups cold water

For the Beef Preparations:

2 medium onions, 1 finely chopped, 1 coarsely chopped

2 pounds lean ground beef or lamb, divided

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided

1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground pepper, divided

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts, optional

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

Vegetable oil, for frying

Lemon wedges, garnish

Steps to Make It

Soak the Bulgur

Gather the ingredients.

1. Ingredients for kibbeh recipe gathered

2. In a medium bowl, place the bulgur wheat and add the cold water. Let it soak for 30 minutes.

3. Remove excess water by placing the bulgur in a cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel and thoroughly squeezing. Reserve.

Make the Fine Kibbeh Dough

1. In a medium bowl, mix the coarsely chopped onion with 1 pound of the meat, the soaked bulgur, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1 teaspoon of the pepper. Stir well to combine.

2. Process the mixture in batches in a food processor: Pulse, then process to a sticky, smooth, dough-like consistency, adding some ice as needed to help break down the meat. Repeat the procedure until all of the beef mixture has been processed. Reserve, covered.

Make the Coarse Kibbeh Stuffing

1. In a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and the finely chopped onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 2 minutes.

2. Add the remaining pound of meat and the pine nuts, if using. Break apart the meat with a wooden spoon until well combined. Add the allspice, remaining 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and the cumin and stir well.

3. Once the beef is no longer pink, remove from the heat and allow it to cool off for 10 minutes.

Assemble the Kibbeh

1. Using damp hands, take an egg-sized amount of raw and fine meat mixture and form it into a ball. Using your index finger, poke a hole in the ball, making a pocket for the filling. Add some cooked filling and pinch the top to seal the ball.

Note: This recipe will yield 25 small-sized kibbeh—about 1 1/4-ounce dough plus 1/2-ounce of filling—so be mindful of how much filling you use when stuffing the raw meat dough.

2. Shape it into a ball, or pinch the ends to form a little football.

Fry the Kibbeh

1. In a deep frying pan or deep-fryer, add 4 cups of oil and heat to 350 F.

2. Fry the kibbeh in batches until golden brown and crunchy, or about 5 minutes. Be mindful of not overcrowding the pan so the balls cook evenly.

3. Drain on paper towels and serve hot or warm.

How to Store and Freeze Kibbeh

Here are a few tips on how to adequately store kibbeh:

- Fried kibbeh can be stored in the fridge for up to three days. Reheat in a 350 F oven, fan on, for 15 minutes.

- Un-fried kibbeh can be kept in the freezer in an airtight container for up to three months. Thaw overnight and fry according to instructions.

What to Use If I Don't Have a Food Processor?

In our kibbeh recipe, the food processor finely grinds and combines the meat, seasonings, and onions, but you can get away without one by choosing one of the following methods:

- Food Mill: When it's time to process your meat mixture, pass it through a food mill until the desired consistency is achieved. It might take a few times, so work in batches and pass all the mixture at least three times over the food mill.

- Rolling Pin: Place the finely chopped onion on a clean work surface and start smooshing it with the rolling pin until it becomes soupy. Add the bulgur and roll away until the onions and bulgur become a puree. Place in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Next, place the meat on the work surface and start rolling away from you, over and over, until the fibers of the meat start giving away and it becomes mushy. Once the meat feels soft, add it to the bowl with the bulgur mixture and vigorously mix with a wooden spoon until it has the desired consistency.

- Mezzaluna: Place the finely chopped onion, soaked bulgur, and beef on a clean work surface, start chopping the mixture with a mezzaluna over and over again, going in all directions. As the mixture spreads on the work surface collect it back in a mound and start over. Use the mezzaluna until the mixture has a mushy consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

Nutrition Facts (per serving) 

455 Calories | 32g Fat | 14g Carbs | 31g Protein 

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