Syrian Stuffed Kibbeh


I have been meaning to make kibbeh since I returned from Lebanon.

In Lebanon, kibbeh, along with hummus, is on every menu. Both are national institutions.  The reason I hadn’t got around to making them is they are bloody hard work.  I know because I made them once before and was scarred for life.

Here is an excerpt from Claudia Roden’s A New Book of Middle Eastern Food, this month’s feature cookbook by The Cook Book Guru.

“Pound the meat rhythmically and vigorously with a little salt in a stone mortar until it is smooth and pasty.  Alternatively, if a mincer is available, put the meat through it several times.  Grate and pound the onion with salt and pepper, or mince it a few times.  Mix the onion and meat together and mince or pound again, adding 1 or 2 tablespoons cold water or 1 or 2 ice cubes to achieve a soft and smooth texture.

Rinse the burghul in a sieve and quickly squeeze out the excess moisture.  Add to the meat and onion mixture, and knead vigorously by hand.  Adjust seasoning and pound in the mortar for as long as possible, about 1/2 hour; or mince together several times, then pound and knead again until soft and smooth.”

Phew …. by this time I was exhausted and I had only read the instructions, let alone followed them.

Claudia continued …

“Now that food processors have come in there is no need for all the pounding.  If you have one, blend the burghul separately and turn the meat to a paste, then blend the two together.”

That sounds better …

Food processor or no food processor, making kibbeh is a lot of work so you really have to want to do it.  I had three reasons:

  1. I thought it would be cool to make them having been to Lebanon;
  2. I really needed to make another recipe from this month’s feature cookbook; and
  3. I had this great toy that friends, Anna and Faye, had given me when they came back from Brazil.  I thought it would be useful for shaping the kibbeh and I wanted to give it a try.


If I haven’t put you off and you have time to spare, you may want to consider making kibbeh.  After we had eaten dinner, I asked Maus whether she thought they were worth the effort.  There was a moment of silence and then she said, “yes“.  That is a big call.  Two reasons, I think, allowed Maus to make that call:  we made 49 kibbeh so we have lots in the freezer for later meals and all Maus did was help shape them.  I did the rest.


  • 500g lamb
  • 250g burghul
  • salt
  • one large onion, finely chopped

This is what I did….

  1. Buy minced lamb.  There is enough mincing already.
  2. Mince the lamb on your mincer’s finest setting.
  3. Mince the onion, again on the finest setting. (Don’t worry about keeping it separate from the lamb as it gets mixed together, anyway)
  4. Rinse the burghul in a sieve and then squeeze out the excess moisture.
  5. Mince the burghul, again on the finest setting.
  6. Add some salt to the mixture.
  7. Mix everything together and re-mince it all again.
  8. Put the mixture, a bit at a time, in your food processer, and pulse it until quite smooth.  Then do it again.
  9. By this time, every appliance and utensil in your kitchen will be dirty so spend the next hour washing dishes.

Make the filling…


  • 1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
  • oil
  • 250g lamb, veal or beef, minced (I used minced lamb)
  • 60g pine nuts
  • 1 tbs currants (These aren’t in the recipe but I know how great lamb, pine nuts and currants are, so I couldn’t stop myself. )
  • salt and pepper
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • a few tbs of stock or water
  1. Fry the onion in the oil until golden and soft.
  2.  Add the meat and pine nuts and continue to cook until the meat has changed colour.
  3. Mix in the currants (if using) then add a few tablespoons of stock or water to soften the meat.
  4. Season with salt and pepper, then add the cinnamon and allspice.
  5. Set aside to cool.


The next day, we shaped the little buggers.  According to Claudia:

“The preparation of these small kibbeh requires all the talent of kibbeh-making. Syrian women measure their art and make their reputations by their craftsmanship and finesse when making this dish.”

If that is the case, heaven help me!

As I mentioned before, I had received a coxinhas former as a gift so I ignored Claudia’s advice to make them torpedo-shaped and also ignored all the egg-shaped kibbeh I had seen in Lebanon and decided on making mine coxinhas-shaped!!

Normally, you would take a lump of the kibbeh the size of a small egg and make a hole in it with your finger.  Work the kibbeh to make the shell as thin as you can.  Then take a few teaspoons of the filling and put inside the shell.  Finally, close the opening by wetting the rim with a little water and sticking the edges together.  Pat and smooth the kibbeh to get an egg (or torpedo) shape.

Deep fry the kibbeh in oil to a rich dark brown colour.  Drain and serve with Tahini Cream Salad with Yoghurt and a simple salad.  I hadn’t  tried the tahini and yoghurt before.  It was delightful and very simple to make.   Claudia advises it can be served as a dip or, as in this case, with grilled or fried meat dishes and salad.

Tahini Cream Salad with Yoghurt

  • 2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • salt
  • 150 mls tahini
  • 150 mls yoghurt
  • juice of 2½ lemons
  • finely chopped parsley, to serve.

Put all the ingredients (except the parsley) into a blender or food processor and process until smooth and creamy.

Garnish with parsley.



21 thoughts on “Syrian Stuffed Kibbeh

  1. Pingback: The Claudia Roden Round Up | The Cookbook Guru

  2. I give you a lot of credit on this one Glenda because I just looked at that photo and said “bet that’s a lot of work”. I do see your point though that if you’re going to make them, make a lot to freeze for later. I know I need to work on presentation skills but I’ve always wondered about having to shape foods a certain way. I mean, does it affect the taste? And if you’re feeding someone who has never seen the artful ones, how would they know?

    • Hi Diane, I guess in the old days when woman learned how to cook from their mothers, they would have shaped them as their mothers did. As a result, the shape would be significant. For us? Who cares?

  3. Holy cow! All I could think of was how could you make that meat into a paste AND fill the darned things. Turns out I was right. Making the stuff wouldn’t be a bother but shaping? Too much work I suspect. 🙂 I would LOVE to come to your house and eat them with you though.

  4. It must have been a full time job making these before electricity and food processors were invented. Sounds like these were a labour of love but it made for entertaining reading!

  5. Very nice indeed! I love that you are investigating all these delicious recipes, Glenda!

  6. Reblogged this on The Cookbook Guru and commented:
    Glenda has made for us a classic Syrian dish which involved a great deal of work, but a delicious sounding treat at the end. Check out the process and some great cheats that you can employ to help make these beautiful Stuffed Kibbeh. Another wonderful and classic contribution to this month’s Cookbook Guru.

  7. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks this recipe is hard work. But I’d be happy to bring my best bib and cutlery over to your place next time you make this delicious sounding dish.

  8. Wow….I was fascinated by Roden’s description of these but skipped right over them as a not right now because they would be too much work. It looks like the effort was worth it though, they look great and I’m sure they tasted fabulous too! A great classic contribution to this months cookbook guru.

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