If you want to take your appetizers up a notch, try Lebanese kibbeh! It’s a comfort food snack made with ground meat, pine nuts, and a variety of herbs and spices. Fried or baked, serve it with the dipping sauce of your choice!
I love a good appetizer. It can make a simple meal even heartier, and I’ve also been known to go a little crazy and make an entire dinner out of apps. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it! Bite-sized or small portion appetizers are popular everywhere you go. In Greek and Lebanese cuisine, they serve them on a large platter known as a mezze (or meze).
A typical Levantine mezze might include a dip like mutabal or a cheese spread like tyrokafteri served with an assortment of bread like khachapuri, simit, and khubz for serving. Another popular addition to many mezze platters is fried or baked appetizers like kibbeh!
Cuisine of Origin: Middle Eastern / Lebanese
Favorite items on a mezze platter in Lebanon include savory bites such as couscous cakes, cauliflower fritters, and lamb or beef croquettes known as kibbeh. These are a delicious treat made of and filled with a mixture of ground meat, bulgur wheat and earthy Middle Eastern seasonings.
Also popular in: Iraq, Armenia, Syria, Portugal, Dominican Republic, Brazil
Common names/spellings: Kibbeh, kibeh, kibe, kipe, quipe, croquettes, kibbeh balls
Preparations: Raw (kibbeh nayeh), baked, deep fried, pan fried, or broiled
The Arabic word kibbeh means, “ball”, or “form into a ball”. The outer casing is made of ground meat, bulgur wheat, onions and mint leaves. That mixture is formed into football-shaped croquettes filled with more ground meat that’s seasoned with Middle Eastern spices and pine nuts.
Although these special beef croquettes are popular in many countries, kibbeh is so loved by the Lebanese people, it is the national dish of Lebanon.
Recipe Difficulty: Medium 🥄🥄
Kibbeh Recipe Video
There are plenty of photos that show the process of making the filling and casing for beef or lamb kibbeh below. To see the process from start to finish, watch the video in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Ground Meat – Beef and lamb are the most popular options for this dish. I prefer beef myself for yummy beef croquettes.
- Pine Nuts – If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, toasted and ground almonds or cashews are a good substitute for pine nuts.
- Olive Oil – To pan-fry your pine nuts!
- Onions – Opt for white onions for your kibbeh recipe.
- Mint Leaves & Parsley – Use fresh and make sure to chop them. It’s another essential add-on your beef croquettes.
- Cinnamon – For a bit of added spice.
- Allspice – This spice works wonderfully with cinnamon and adds much to the flavor profile of the dish.
- Pomegranate Molasses – This unique ingredient lends a bit of sweetness to the meat mixture. You can purchase it online.
- Salt & Black Pepper – You’ll need them for the filling and for the outer casing.
- Bulgur Wheat – For dishes like beef croquettes, you’ll want to use fine-grain bulgur wheat, also known as #1 Fine. You should be able to find it at a Middle Eastern market.
- Vegetable Oil – If you want to fry your kibbeh recipe, use the vegetable oil of your choice.
- For Serving – Use any of the garnishes below:
- Sumac – A spice known for its tart citrus flavor.
- Lemon Slices
- Tahini Yogurt Sauce – I love my homemade version!
- Mint Leaves
HOW TO MAKE KIBBEH (BEEF CROQUETTES)
1. Make The Filling. In a large skillet over medium heat, heat a tablespoon of olive oil so that you can pan-fry the pine nuts. Cook for 2-3 minutes, or until they turn golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add more oil and place the onions in the skillet. Sauté for about 10 minutes over medium heat, then add the ground meat, mint, parsley, cinnamon, allspice, pomegranate molasses, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook until the meat is cooked (you shouldn’t see any pink). Set aside.
💡 PRO TIP
Don’t own a food processor? It’s fine; just be sure to finely grate the onion. Rather than using a knife, grating is much easier using the small holes on a box grater.
2. Create The Outer Casing. Rinse the bulgur under cool water until the water runs clear and set it aside. Using your food processor, pulse the onion until it’s minced. Add in the ground meat of your choice, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and pepper. Pulse for up to 20 seconds, or until the mixture turns to a paste. In a large bowl, add the bulgar to the paste and mix thoroughly for 3 minutes.
3. Assemble Your Kibbeh. Lay a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet and make sure that you have a bit of water nearby to wet your hands. Roll 3-tablespoon-sized balls of the filling until you have 32 balls. Using damp hands, use your index finger to press down on the center of the ball. Be careful not to tear the sides and don’t press through the ball completely — you’re essentially creating a package that will hold your filling. This step can be a bit difficult, so be patient with yourself! Place 1 ½ teaspoon of the filling into the casing and pinch to seal. Wet your fingers again and form an oval. Repeat until you’ve made all 32.
4. Bake Or Fry. You can either bake your kibbeh recipe at 400°F for about 30 minutes, or you can fry it in vegetable oil for 2-3 minutes on each side and browned all over.
Tips for Stuffing and Rolling
- Keep a bowl of water nearby. To prevent the mixture from sticking to your hands, lightly wet them before rolling each ball.
- Weigh or measure the casing and filling for consistency. You’ll want a little more than 2 tablespoons of mixture for the outer casing (roughly the size of a ping pong ball). By weight, you’re looking for 1 ¼ ounces, or 35 grams.
- Press the mixture closed on the top before shaping it into an oval, football shape, or ball. This prevents the filling from squirting out the top.
Kibbeh Recipe Cooking Instructions
- Heat 2 cups of oil in a large saucepan or deep fryer to 350°F.
- Gently lower 3-4 per batch into the oil and fry 2-3 minutes, gently turning often until crispy and brown.
- Remove the kibeh from the oil and transfer them to a plate lined with paper toweling to drain.
- Repeat with remaining balls.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Arrange the kibbeh balls in a single layer on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Spray the croquettes with olive oil or non-stick cooking spray.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until they are deep golden brown in color. Time can vary depending on the heat of your oven and altitude.
What Meat Is Kibbeh Made Of?
You can make your kibbeh recipe with the ground meat of your choice. Options include ground beef, lamb, turkey, chicken, and pork. Use your preference!
What Can I Serve With Kibbeh?
I love the idea of creating a mezze platter. If you’ll be serving these as a snack or light appetizer, it’s nice to include some Tahini Yogurt Sauce for dipping. I like to also serve it with pita, flatbreads and spreads like cilantro mint or tomato chutney. Croquettes also go well with salads, like this Greek feta salad, Mast o Khiar (Persian cucumber salad), or Kisir (Turkish bulgur salad).
Is Kibbeh Syrian or Lebanese?
It’s hard to pin down where this snack originated from. It’s actually considered the national dish of both countries! They are also often seen in Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, Armenia, Turkey, and Israel.
This post, originally published on Silk Road Recipes August, 2021, was updated with new content, photos and/or video in August, 2022.
Kibbeh (Beef Croquettes)
- 2 cups vegetable oil
- Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and fry the pine nuts for 2-3 minutes, or until golden. Remove pine nuts from pan, drain and set aside.
- Add the other tablespoon of oil to the skillet along with the onions. Saute over medium heat for 10 minutes. Add the ground beef, cinnamon, allspice, pomegranate molasses, salt and pepper. Stir to break up meat and cook until meat is no longer pink. Stir through the pine nuts, mint and parsley, set aside.
- Place bulgur in a sieve under cool water, rinsing until water runs clear. Set aside.
- Place the onion in a food processor and pulse several times until minced. Add the ground beef, salt, cinnamon, allspice and pepper. Process for 15-20 seconds until a paste forms. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Add the rinsed bulgur to the meat filling and combine for 3 minutes to mix thoroughly.
- Place some water in a small bowl and set aside. Place a sheet of parchment paper on a baking sheet (or lined with a silpat). Roll 3 tablespoon sized balls (roughly the size of a ping pong ball, 1 1/4 oz or 35 gm) of the filling. You should have 32. For larger kibbeh, double the size.
- Wet your hands. Holding the ball in one hand, use the index finger from the other and press down in the center of the ball, being careful not to crack or tear the sides. Do not press through the ball, you are making a package to fill. I use the hand holding the ball and gently press the meat mixture up and around my finger to the second joint (mid-finger) while move the index finger in a slow circular pattern to widen the opening. This takes practice, so be patient! The sides should be about a 1/8″ thick.
- Fill the cavity of the kibbeh with 1 1/2 tsp of the filling mixture and pinch the opening closed to seal it. Wet your fingers and shape and smooth the kibbeh into an oval with a pointed end (football shaped). Place on line baking sheet and repeat with remaining casing and filling.
- Heat 2 cups of oil in a large saucepan or deep fryer to 350°F. Gently lower 3-4 per batch into the oil and fry 2-3 minutes, gently turning often until crispy and brown. Remove the kibeh from the oil and transfer them to a plate lined with paper toweling to drain.Repeat with remaining balls.
- Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the kibbeh balls in a single layer on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Spray the croquettes with olive oil or non-stick cooking spray.Bake for 30 minutes, or until they are deep golden brown in color. Time can vary depending on the heat of your oven and altitude.
- Place on a platter garnished with lemon slices, mint leaves and a dipping bowl filled with Tahini Yogurt Sauce.
- Most stores I’ve found just have the whole, not the fine variety. I like to use the brand Sadaf Bulghur #1 Fine 20 oz. If using whole bulgur, pulse in food processor until coarse like cornmeal or in a Vitamix (as shone in photo).
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.