Kibbeh is one of the stars of any Arab mezze with its lightly fried crust, and luscious filling of meat, onions and spices.
Dipped in yogurt, tahini sauce or even hummus this is one of those foods that holds its own at the table.
Providing a substantial flavor of spices with soft and yet crisp textures, this comfort food is delicious when made well.
One of the main ingredients in kibbeh is bulgur.
Bulgur is a form of whole wheat that has been steamed for quick cooking.
It is a very nutritious way of eating the grain and is full of vitamins, niacin and even iron.
The method of turning whole wheat into bulgur has been around for centuries.
It was first discovered to be used in the Mediterranean region.
Bulgur is sometimes used as a substitute for rice in the Middle East, and is very easy and quick to prepare.
What Is Kibbeh?
Kibbeh is an iconic food of the Levant region of the Middle East, and is eaten in many countries in the region.
It is a food that is most often included in a mezze, and eaten with a lot of other little bites.
Coming from the Arabic language, Kibbeh (also spelled kubbeh, or kibbe) means ball.
A very good description indeed, given that is essentially what it is really.
A ball (kind of) of deep fried goodness, with two distinct parts to it.
The outer crunchy shell, made from a combination of a meat and bulgur mixture.
And the inner meat mixture with onions and spices.
Being as popular as it was as a hand-held street food, kibbeh made it all the way to South America.
A great success in many countries brought by immigrants.
Brought over in the first waves of many Arab immigrants in the late 1800’s, kibbeh has become a Latin American favorite.
Very popular in Columbia, Brazil and Venezuela, where they are typically made using beef as the meat of choice.
South America is a big beef producer so it makes sense that it became the type of meat used in those countries.
Traditionally, lamb is used in the Middle East which is the preferred protein of the region.
Can I Use Beef Or Chicken Instead?
Both chicken and beef can, and are used in various recipes, and sometimes these egg sized croquettes are made using a combination of meats.
The type of meat used in making your kibbeh is entirely up to you.
As long as it is lean, finely ground meat, it should work fine and provide you with a tasty kibbeh.
A popular way to make kibbeh is to use beef as the meat for the shell that is mixed with the bulgur.
Lamb is used to make the filling with the fried onions and sumac, and sometimes pine nuts.
Chicken kibbeh is a very good modern variation on this dish popular with people who want a lower level of fat.
My preferred meat is lamb, both for the filling and the shell.
Lamb has a whole lot of flavor and can hold its own with dips and sauces without the danger of being overwhelmed.
How To Make Kibbeh
Start by making the filling first.
This will allow it to cool, making it easier to fill the shells with.
In a saucepan over a medium high heat you cook a finely chopped onion in ghee or butter.
Add the ground meat, spices, salt and pepper to the hot butter or ghee.
Cook until the meat is well done with the consistency of broken up ground meat.
Set the filling aside.
Make the shell mixture while the filling cools.
Place a cup of soaked bulgur In the large bowl of a food processor, add meat, onion, and spices.
Process until all the ingredients are mixed well leaving you with what feels like a dough.
Divide the dough into equal sized balls.
“First we eat, then we do everything else.” – MFK Fisher
Place a ball of kibbeh dough into your left hand, and make a deep indentation in the ball using your thumb.
You want to try and hollow out the ball without going too thin.
Put a spoonful of the filling into the hole you made in the dough and seal the shell around it.
You want it to be about the length of your index finger, fat in the middle and thinner on the ends.
Heat oil for deep frying in a fryer or a pot on the stove.
Once the oil is hot, drop the balls of kibbeh and fry for 7 to 10 minutes until it is golden brown.
As an alternative method that is not deep fried you can make baked kibbeh using the same ingredients.
Just with the addition of a little olive oil, and do it in the oven.
For baked kibbeh put the filling in a baking dish and cover with the meat and bulgur mixture.
Score the top layer into diamond shapes, press a pine nut into the middle of each diamond.
Brush with olive oil and bake until golden brown.
This method is a much quicker way to make this dish and is most often served as a main meal.
What To Serve It With
The best thing to serve as a dipping sauce is fresh yogurt with chopped mint leaves stirred into it.
Yogurt and tahini sauce is also an accompaniment served traditionally with kibbeh.
A wedge of fresh lemon to squeeze over the top is very often served alongside a hot pepper.
This dish is very good as part of a mezze, so lots of other little dishes will compliment it nicely.
A fresh side salad or side of rice will be a good addition when your kibbeh is being served as a main dish.
Tips For Making
One of the best tips I can give is to have a bowl of water handy when you are shaping the kibbeh.
Wetting your hands will keep the bulgur mixture from sticking.
Also refrigerate the shaped balls for fifteen before frying.
Once done frying allow the kibbeh to drain off any excess oil on a plate lined with paper towels.
After removing from the hot oil let them cool slightly before serving, as the filling will be very hot.
For the Filling
- 4 tbsp Butter
- 1 Onion Finely diced.
- ¼ lb Lamb Ground
- ¼ tsp Salt
- ¼ tsp Seven Spices
- 1½ tsp Sumac
For the Shell
- 1 Onion Finely diced.
- ½ tsp Black Pepper
- 1 Garlic Clove Minced
- ½ tsp Salt
- ½ tsp Cinnamon
- ½ tsp Seven Spices
- 1 cup Bulgur Soaked
- ½ lb Lamb Ground
- Place the bulgur in a bowl, cover with boiling water, let sit until all the water is absorbed.
- Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.
- Add and saute the onions until they begin to soften.
- Add the lamb and saute.
- Add the salt, seven spices and sumac, cook until meat is done.
- Pour chopped onion in the bowl of a food processor.
- Add the pepper, garlic, salt, cinnamon, and seven spices.
- Process to mix onion and spices.
- Add the bulgur and process to mix well, then add the bulgur and mix.
- Add the lamb and process until well mixed.
Stuffing the Kibbeh
- Take a ball od the shell and make a indentation with your thumb.
- Fill the center with the filling, then close of the ball into an American football shape.
- Heat frying oil to 350º and fry for 7 to 10 minutes until golden brown.