A Simple Kibbeh

Kibbeh

The Spruce

  • Total: 50 mins
  • Prep: 40 mins
  • Cook: 10 mins
  • Servings: 9 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
332 Calories
21g Fat
7g Carbs
28g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 9
Amount per serving
Calories 332
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 21g 26%
Saturated Fat 7g 35%
Cholesterol 90mg 30%
Sodium 450mg 20%
Total Carbohydrate 7g 3%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 1g
Protein 28g
Vitamin C 1mg 6%
Calcium 41mg 3%
Iron 3mg 18%
Potassium 442mg 9%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

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, party food, or potluck 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 last-minute gathering, 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.

1:48

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Ingredients

For the Bulgur:

  • 1/2 pound bulgur (medium variety or #2)

  • 3 cups water (cold)

For the Beef Preparations:

  • 2 medium onions (divided, 1 finely chopped, 1 coarsely chopped)

  • 2 pounds ground beef (or lamb, divided)

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (divided)

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons pepper (divided)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • Optional:

    1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

  • 1 teaspoon allspice

  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin

  • vegetable oil (for frying)

  • Garnish:

    lemon wedges

Steps to Make It

Note: while there are multiple steps to this recipe, this kibbeh dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for cooking and assembling.

Soak the Bulgur

  1. Gather the ingredients.

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

    Soaking wheat in a bowl
     The Spruce
  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 one pound of meat, the soaked bulgur, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Stir well to combine.

    Wheat, meat and onions in bowl
     The Spruce
  2. Process small amounts of the meat mixture in a food processor until you obtain a dough-like consistency. Repeat the procedure until all of the beef mixture has been processed. Reserve, covered.

    Kibbeh ingredients in a food processor
     The Spruce

Make the Coarse Kibbeh Stuffing

  1. In a medium frying pan, add the olive oil and the finely chopped onion. Add pine nuts if using, and cook until the onions are translucid.

  2. Add the remaining pound of meat and with the help of a wooden spoon tear apart the meat to ensure all of it cooks homogeneously in small bits. Add the allspice and remaining salt and pepper. Add the cumin and stir well.

    Onion, garlic and ground meat in a frying pan
     The Spruce
  3. Once the beef is light brown, remove from the heat and allow it to cool off for 10 minutes.

The amounts of the recipe will yield 25 medium-sized kibbeh, so be mindful of how much filling you use when stuffing the raw meat dough.

Assemble the Kibbeh

  1. 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.

    Kibbeh stuffing in dough
     The Spruce
  2. Shape it into a ball, or pinch the ends to form a little football.

    Kibbeh in football shape
     The Spruce

Fry the Kibbeh

  1. In a deep frying pan or deep-fryer, heat the oil to 350 F.

  2. Fry the kibbeh in batches until golden brown and crunchy, or about 10 minutes. Be mindful of not overcrowding the pan so the balls cook evenly.

    Fried Kibbeh
     The Spruce
  3. Drain on paper towels and serve hot or warm.

    Kibbeh
     The Spruce
  4. Enjoy!

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 smushing 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.

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 3 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 3 months. Thaw overnight and fry according to instructions.