This recipe for arayes is easy to make and bursting with flavor. Juicy ground beef is expertly seasoned with warming spices and fresh herbs before getting stuffed into pita pockets and grilled to crispy perfection.
Lebanese meat stuffed pitas, or arayes, are a popular street food in Lebanon. These simple yet scrumptious savory hand pies are chock full of warming spices, fresh herbs, and garlic. Cumin, allspice, red pepper, garlic, and herbs conspire to create the best meat stuffed pita you have ever tasted! They are savory, smoky, meaty, and satisfying.
Plus, arayes can be made in a flash. This simple Middle Eastern masterpiece comes together in just around 25 minutes! Just mix up the meat, pop it in the pita, and grill until cooked. Voila!
Table of Contents
- Ground Meat – Choose beef, lamb, or a combination of the two. For rich, moist results without a bunch of greasiness, look for ground beef on the leaner side. I recommend a 85/15 or 90/10 blend.
- Lebanese 7 Spice – Adds a spectrum of deeply warming, aromatic flavors. Make this homemade version or look for this blend at your local Middle Eastern market.
- Kosher Salt – Perks up all the other flavors in the recipe without adding excessive saltiness.
- Red Pepper Flakes – Flavors the meat with a touch of smoky heat.
- Black Pepper – Adds a sharp, piney warmth and deep earthy flavor.
- Onion – Infuses the meat mixture with a sweet, earthy pungency. I like yellow onions for this recipe, but you can substitute red or white if you prefer.
- Garlic Cloves – Delivers a zesty dash of snappy heat and sharp flavor.
- Parsley – Freshens up the profile of the dish with clean, peppery flavor and bright green color.
- Cilantro – Brightens up the meat with its fresh, peppery, and citrus-like taste.
- Pita Bread – Try your hand at my DIY version or, if going for a store-bought version, choose a brand that is on the thinner side.
- Combine Meat & Spices. In a large bowl, add the ground beef and/or lamb along with the Lebanese 7 Spice, red pepper flakes, black pepper, and salt, and set aside.
- Process the Herbs. Use a food processor to combine and finely chop the onion, garlic cloves, parsley, and cilantro. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and make sure you DO NOT puree. Transfer the mixture to a sieve to drain, then press gently with a spoon or fingers to remove excess fluid.
- Mix the Meat. Add the garlic, onion, and herbs to the mixing bowl with the ground beef and spices. Use your hands to mix well, incorporating the herbs and spices evenly throughout.
- Fill the Pitas. Make pockets by cutting your pitas into halves or quarters, then divide the meat into even portions. Stuff each pita pocket with meat, pressing with your finger to spread the filling.
- Cook Stovetop. Brush a grill pan with olive oil and set it over medium heat. Working in batches, transfer the stuffed pitas to the hot pan. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, flip, and repeat on the other side. You want the meat to be fully cooked and the pita bread to be crispy and scored. For the best texture, transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- OR Cook in the Oven. Alternatively, you can use the oven. First, preheat to 450 degrees F. Then, brush both sides of your meat stuffed pitas with olive oil, place them on a baking tray, and bake for about 12 minutes. Flip halfway through and check to make sure the meat has fully cooked before enjoying.
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These meat stuffed pitas make a wonderful snack, appetizer, or on-the-go lunch.
– Serve with a selection of sauces for dipping and drizzling. Tahini Sauce, Yogurt Sauce, Muhamara (Red Pepper Dip), Hummus, and Toum (Lebanese Garlic Sauce) are all great picks.
– Pair with french fries or another tasty side dish like Halloumi Fries, Falafel, or Zucchini Lentil Fritters.
– Freshen up your meal with a bright salad like Shirazi Salad, Lebanese Fattoush, or this Chopped Vegetable Salad.
The debate is still out on why exactly these are called arayes. The term arayes is actually an Arabic word that translates into brides. Some claim it is from the marriage of pita and meat, while others claim the white paper used for serving resembles a wedding dress. In truth, nobody is certain.
Meat stuffed pita is best when enjoyed fresh out of the pan.
However, you can absolutely make the meat filling up to a day in advance. Simply store it in the fridge in an airtight container and take it out when you are ready to stuff your pitas.
Arayes (Lebanese Meat Stuffed Pitas)
- Place the ground beef (and or lamb), Lebanese 7 spice, salt, red pepper flakes and black pepper in a mixing bowl. Set aside.
- In a food processor place the onion, garlic, parsley, cilantro and pulse until very finely chopped (NOT pureed), scraping down sides of bowl.
- Place in a fine mesh sieve and allow to drain excess liquid. Press with fingers or with back of spoon to extract.
- Transfer mixture to bowl with the ground meat and mix by hands until evenly combined.
- Cut the pitas into halves or quarters and open to form pockets. Stuff the divided beef mixture between the two thin layers of each pita. Gently press with your fingers to spread the filling inside.
- Stovetop: Place a grill pan over medium heat. Brush the pan with the olive oil and working in batches, place the stuffed pitas on the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until the beef is fully cooked and the pita is crispy with grill marks. Place on wire rack lined tray so they don't steam and lose crispiness.
- Oven: Preheat the oven to 400°F. Brush olive oil on both sides of the stuffed pitas. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 12 minutes, flipping halfway through.
- Serve with optional french fries, tahini sauce, shirazi salad.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.