This recipe for Kibbeh balls is simple, delicious and authentically Lebanese. These Lebanese kibbeh balls are stuffed with pine nuts and meat, shaped and then perfectly fried for the best kibbeh balls recipes ever!Jump to Recipe
Different Lebanese Kibbeh Recipes
When talking about Lebanese food, I'm not sure anything gets any more traditional than these Lebanese fried kibbeh balls. It is true that kibbeh (also spelled kibbi, kibby, and kibbe) is the national dish of Lebanon, but there are several different ways to prepare it.
There is kibbeh nayeh, which is consumed raw (yes, completely raw), and there is Kibbeh Bil Sanieh, which is a layered kibbeh dish that is baked in the oven. Recipes are in those links. However, today we are going to talk about kibbeh balls recipe, which is basically a Middle Eastern meatball.
Fried kibbi balls go deep into the recesses of my childhood memories. There is even a song that I remember my Sittie (grandma) singing to me about Kibbeh balls that had hand motions to go along with it. It's partly in Arabic and partly in English from my memory, and it goes something like this...
Kibbeh kah-buy-bee one, two, three. Make one for baby and make one for me.Arabic nursery rhyme
I really have no idea if this is a popular nursery rhyme, or if it was something my Sittie made up to calm down here grandbabies. If you know this one, please comment below! I would love to find out more! But anyway, I digress...
Kibbeh balls originated in the Middle East and kibbeh, in various forms and preparations, is considered the national dish of Lebanon.
Want to read more about Lebanese food? Check out this article ---> The Ultimate Guide to Lebanese Cuisine
- 1.5 lbs extremely lean ground beef
- 2 yellow onions
- cracked wheat (yellow bulgur #1) *see note below
- dried basil
- fresh mint leaves or dried mint
- toasted pine nuts
- butter or ghee
- ground black pepper
- light tasting oil for frying
There are 2 different parts to this recipe, the kibbeh meat mixture and the stuffing. The stuffing is called hashweh and is used in several other Lebanese recipes as well.
Note*- For the kibbeh mince, it is very important to have fine bulgur wheat (cracked wheat). I find it at my local Mediterranean store and it is not expensive. Here is some here on Amazon. I always get #1 fine bulgur, you don't want coarse bulgur for this recipe. Some people use red bulgur, however our family has always used yellow. It's really up to you personal preferences.
Is there a good substitute for bulgur wheat in kibbeh? You can use cooked quinoa in kibbeh, however be advised that it will change the texture quite a bit. If you really need to make kibbeh gluten free, this may be your best option.
The first thing you need to do is to measure out your bulgur and soak it in water. It must be soaked in water for about 30 minutes before putting it into the kibbeh dough. ⅔ of a cup of bulgur should be soaked in about ¾ cup of water.
While the cracked wheat is soaking, it's time to make the kibbeh stuffing. Take ½ lb. lean ground beef or ground sirloin, along with ¼ cup of toasted pine nuts (see how to toast pine nuts), butter or ghee, 1 chopped yellow onion, salt pepper and cinnamon and put it in a pan.
Over medium heat, brown the meat and other ingredients together until completely cooked through, breaking the meat apart as it cooks. If there is any grease in the meat, make sure to drain it completely. Set it aside to cool
It is common for some Lebanese families to use Lebanese 7 spices (or baharat seasoning) in their recipes instead of cinnamon. Feel free to do that. Our family uses ground cinnamon for most recipes.
Now back to the kibbeh meat... In a food processor, add 1 yellow onion quartered and process it until it is basically liquified (if using fresh mint leaves, add them also). Add 1 lb. of the raw ground beef (or lamb). The meat should be completely free of all fat and gristle, you may want a to ask a butcher to grind some for you.
Pulse the meat with the onions in the food processor just a few times until just combined. You don't want to over work it or warm it up at all. I highly recommend this Cuisinart food processor. It is my favorite and they last forever!
Transfer the meat mixture to a large mixing bowl. Make sure the cracked wheat has soaked up all of the water. If there is any excess water, dump it out. Add the cracked wheat to the mixing bowl along with the salt, pepper, cinnamon, basil and dried mint.
Dip your hands into ice water and mix the ingredients together by hand. It is important that the meat stays cold. Once it is mixed, cover and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes. It's easier to work with the meat when it is cold.
Forming kibbeh balls
There are 2 different methods for making kibbeh balls. Now these are not traditional round meatballs. Authentic Lebanese Kibbeh balls are actually in the shape of footballs.. like American footballs. Why? I don't know! They just are!
You can make them by hand (my grandma did it better than me, but I try anyway) or you can make it with a kibbeh mold.
Take some of the cold meat in your hand and make it into an oval or a ball. Press a whole in the middle and put a teaspoon of the kibbeh filling inside. Close the ball up and make it into a football shape.
This takes practice and time to master it. I love the taste of kibbeh balls, but whenever I shape kibbeh by hand, the don't look wonderful. Since it is rather time consuming, I opt for making it by the method below. You can thank me later!
With a kibbeh ball maker
This just might be the best kitchen tool I have purchase in the last year. I really love it. I am not my Sittie (grandmother), so I don't have the patience or the time to make kibbeh by hand. That's why this kibbeh mold has become my friend. Buy it! It's worth every penny and it's not that expensive. You can see my full review and how to use it here ---> "How to Use a Kibbeh Mold"
To use it, you will need 3 pieces of parchment paper. Place several tablespoons of the kibbeh meat into the parchment lined wells on all 18 wells. Put another piece of parchment paper over the top of the meat and take the other plastic mold and press down over the top of the mold, creating a place for the filling to go.
Carefully peel off the top layer of parchment paper. Place about 1 tablespoon or so of the hashweh filling in each of the 9 kibbeh balls on one side of the tray.
Carefully close the kibbeh maker together, pressing it down hard so that all of the kibbeh balls close together. There will be some excess meat around the edges, that is fine. Open it up and carefully remove the kibbeh balls from the mold and parchment paper.
Place the formed kibbeh balls onto a baking sheet and place them in the freezer for at least 20 minutes before frying. At this point you can freeze them completely if you wish and fry them at another time altogether.
⏲️ Frying time
These Lebanese meatballs are best when they are deep fried. You can air fry them, if you are just frying 4-5 kibbeh balls and if they are completely frozen. That is about the only time they should be air fried.
In a 2 quart saucepan or a deep fryer, heat some vegetable or canola oil up. Do a test fry to see if the oil is hot enough. Carefully place 4-5 kibbeh balls in the hot oil and fry for 3-4 minutes until deep golden brown. With a slotted spoon, remove the fried kibbeh from the hot oil and place them on paper towels to drain.
Continue with the rest of the kibbeh until they are all fried.
Lebanese fried kibbeh should be kind of crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.
💭 Top tip
- Always make sure the meatballs are cold when you go to fry it! It is so much easier to work with cold kibbeh. It also works great if they are completely frozen.
- Make sure the oil is hot enough by doing a "test fry" of one kibbeh ball
🥗 Side dishes
Typically, fried kibbeh is served with whole milk plain yogurt or with labneh, which is a thick Lebanese yogurt cheese. I highly recommend serving them with Lebanese Vermicelli Rice and some homemade pita bread! If you want another Lebanese dish to serve with it, Lebanese Chicken and Rice is always a good one. also!
It is very traditional to serve Kibbeh balls with yogurt or Labneh. I personally love eating it with this Mint Yogurt Sauce recipe.
So can you freeze Lebanese kibbeh balls? Yes! I am a big fan of freezing kibbeh balls. You can freeze the kibbeh meat (pre-cooked) and pull it out later to make the kibbeh balls, or you can freeze the kibbeh balls on a tray after making them (recommended).
Once they are completely frozen, you can remove them from the tray and place them in an airtight container or in a freezer bag for up to 3 months.
How to fry frozen kibbeh balls:
You can place frozen kibbeh balls into an air fryer on 425 F for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. I suggest only frying 4-5 balls in the airfryer at a time.
You can easily deep fry kibbeh balls either from completely frozen, or partially thawed. If you fry them while frozee, add several minutes of frying time.
Can you bake them?
I do not recommend baking kibbeh balls at all. They do not turn out the same when you bake them. If you want baked kibbeh, I recommend following my baked kibbeh recipe and it will be much less work, since you won't be forming the balls.
Kibbeh balls can be reheated in a microwave, or for best texture, reheat it in an air fryer until hot.
I have always highly recommended the Cuisinart Food Processor for this recipe and for many others. For this particular recipe, a food processor is imperative to getting the right consistency. If you don't have one, check out my affiliate link: Cuisinart Food Processor
I also highly recommend using a plastic kibbeh ball maker to form perfect kibbeh balls. Affiliate link: Kibbeh Ball Maker
Other popular recipes from A Pinch Of Adventure
- Instant Pot Indian Butter Chicken
- Lebanese Stuffed Squash (Kousa)
- Lebanese Falafel Recipe
- Stovetop Candied Pecans
- Cast Iron Skillet Peach Cobbler
- Lebanese Tabouli Salad
Shop kitchen products from this article
Fried Kibbeh Balls (Lebanese)
- 1 lb lean ground beef ground round if possible
- ⅔ cups bulgur wheat (fine yellow cracked wheat)
- ¾ cup water
- 1 yellow onion
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon heaping
- ½ teaspoons dried basil
- 1 ½ teaspoon dried mint leaf
For the filling
- ½ lb ground beef
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- 2 tablespoosn butter or ghee
- 1 yellow onion diced
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Begin by soaking the cracked wheat in about ¾ cup of cold water. Let it soak for about 30 minutes. Drain off any excess water before using (if any).
- Take a yellow onion and quarter it and put it into a food processor. Pulse it until it nearly turns into a liquid. You do not want any chunks of onions, make sure it is very finely ground.
- Add 1 pound of lean ground beef to the food processor. Pulse it several times until it combines completely with the onions. Do not over process. You don't want it get warm or lose its pink color.
- Remove meat mixture into a large mixing bowl and add the soaked bulgur wheat, salt, pepper, cinnamon, mint, and basil. Mix it by hand until combined. Cover with plastic and place it in the fridge.
For the stuffing
- In a large skillet, add the remaining ½ pound of ground beef, toasted pine nuts, diced onions, butter, salt, pepper and cinnamon. Brown together and break apart the meat until it is cooked through.
- Drain off any excess grease and set aside to cool.
Forming kibbeh balls
- Make sure you are working with cold kibbeh meat and form a ball about the size of a ping pong ball. Press it down in the middle to create a place to put the filling.
- stuff about 1 tablespoon of the cooked filling inside the kibbeh ball and carefully pinch the kibbeh ball closed. It should look like a little football.
- I personally prefer to use a plastic kibbeh mold to make kibbeh. It saves soooo much time and they turn out perfect. See above post for more details
- At this point you can freeze the kibbeh balls on a baking sheet, then transfer to a plastic bag, if you want to freeze it. If you want to fry it right away, place it in the fridge for about 30 minutes before frying.
- In a deep fryer or in a saucepan, heat a neutral frying oil up over medium heat.
- Do a test fry of some kibbeh meat to see if it is hot enough. If it sizzles it is ready. Fry about 4-5 kibbeh balls at a time for 4-5 minutes until deep golden brown on the outside.
- With a slotted spoon, remove the kibbeh and put it on paper towels to drain it from the grease.
- Continue the frying process until all of the kibbeh is fried. Serve and enjoy!