Kibbeh is a Lebanese comfort food of baked or fried croquettes filled with spiced meat. Make this kibbeh recipe to serve on a mezze platter!
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 breads like khachapuri, simit, and khubz for serving. Another popular addition to many mezze platters are fried or baked appetizers.
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 below 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 most countries, but where the Islam faith is a minority, they are often made with ground pork. If you’d like to make the kibbeh recipe a bit lower in fat and calories, you could substitute ground chicken or turkey instead.
- Pine nuts
These tasty, teardrop shaped nuts actually do come from pine trees, but only 20 or so specific varieties. The harvesting process is tedious, which accounts for their high price tag.
Pine nut substitute
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, toasted and ground almonds or cashews are a good substitute for pine nuts.
- Bulgur wheat
Bulgur is a cereal grain made from either red or white wheat, but most often durum. Also known as toasted cracked wheat, named for the production process. This includes parboiling, cracking, toasting and then rolling the kernels.
There are four varieties of bulgur, based on the grind; fine, medium, coarse, or extra coarse. The finer the grain, the less cooking time it needs, and the softer the grain is after cooking.
For dishes like croquettes, you'll want to use fine grain bulgur wheat, also known as #1 Fine. You are most likely to find it at a Middle Eastern market, Bob's Red Mill brand, but it’s available from online retailers too.
- Rinse the bulgur.
Some kibbeh recipes call for soaking the wheat, but I don’t think it’s necessary. Just place it into a fine mesh strainer and rinse with cool water until the water runs clear.
- Make the outer casing.
The outer shell is a mixture of soaked bulgur, onion, spices and raw ground meat.
NOTE: You want the mixture to have a consistency that will hold together well when the filling is inside.
For this reason, I recommend using a food processor to combine the raw meat with the onion and spices.
💡 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.
- Make the beef or lamb kibbeh filling.
There are a couple of steps involved here, but to keep cleanup at a minimum, I use the same pan to cook everything for the filling.
- Fry the pine nuts.
Be sure to preheat the skillet before adding any oil, and don’t add the pine nuts until the oil is shimmering. Otherwise, the nuts will become saturated with oil and they won’t fry.
- Remove the nuts from the pan and set them aside to cool, leave any remaining oil in the skillet.
- Brown the ground meat and seasonings.
- Chill the mixture. Don’t skip this important step. If you do, forming the kibbeh balls will be a much more difficult process.
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.
Mezze Platter Serving Suggestions
If you'll be serving these as a snack or light appetizer, it's nice to include some Tahini Yogurt Sauce for dipping.
This kibbeh recipe is a fantastic addition to a mezze platter! I like to serve it with flatbreads and spreads like mint or tomato chutney.
Croquettes also go well with salads, and it's okay not to stick strictly with Middle Eastern cuisine; mix things up!
I like to include a variety of salads, like Greek feta salad, Mast o Khiar (Persian cucumber salad), and Kisir (Turkish bulgur salad).
Kibbeh Recipe (Baked or Fried) + Video
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ⅓ cup pine nuts
- 3 white onions diced (3 cups total)
- 8 oz ground beef (80/20)
- ¼ cup mint leaves chopped
- ¼ cup parsley chopped
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp allspice
- ¼ cup pomegranate molasses
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ½ tsp ground black pepper
- 1 ⅔ cup fine bulgur wheat (See Note 1)
- 1 white onion quartered (1 cup total)
- 1 ½ lbs ground beef (80/20)
- 1 tbsp kosher salt
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 ½ tsp allspice
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 cups vegetable oil
- 1 tsp sumac
- 1 lemon slices
- Tahini Yogurt Sauce
- mint leaves
- 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 mint, parsley cinnamon, allspice, pomegranate molasses, salt and pepper. Stir to break up meat and cook until meat is no longer pink. 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 ¼ 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 ⅛" thick.
- Fill the cavity of the kibbeh with 1 ½ tsp of the filling mixture and pinch the opening closed to seal it. Wet your fingers and formand 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 below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.