Kibbeh nayeh, which is a Lebanese raw meat dish, is a traditional Levantine dish that is served at family affairs and for holiday celebrations. Lean ground beef or lamb is processed with onions, herbs and Lebanese spices and served raw.Jump to Recipe
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My mom swore me to secrecy as a child. I was never allowed to tell anyone about kibbeh nayeh, and you will shortly find out why. I have been very apprehensive to post this recipe since it is a raw ground beef dish. For most Americans, consuming raw beef is a "no no" and considered very distasteful, but I'm hoping you will bear with me here!
If anything, just read this article and recipe for its cultural value, since this is very near and dear to Lebanese culture.
My mom used to let us taste the raw kibbeh after she made it, before baking it, but she would always tell us never to tell our friends about it. Because, to some people, eating raw meat is gross! Since I grew up eating it, I don't have a problem with it, but I know some people do. If you are having a hard time with this post, go ahead and scoot on over to my recipe for baked kibbeh or fried kibbeh balls.
Want to find out more about Lebanese Cuisine?? Check out this article >>> The Ultimate Guide to Lebanese Food
What is Kibbeh Nayeh?
Kibbeh nayeh is a traditional Levantine raw meat dish made with either spiced raw beef or with spiced raw lean lamb mince. Lebanese raw kibbeh is a very cultural dish served with the mezze (appetizer table). Some would say that it is the national dish of Lebanon, either as raw kibbeh or in its cooked form.
Very lean ground meat is processed with onions, cracked wheat, mint, basil and Lebanese spices and then served raw with olive oil on top. This kibbeh recipe was passed down from my ancestors who came to the U.S. from Beirut and Itoo Lebanon.
What country does Kibbeh Nayeh come from?
Lebanon. In Lebanon kibbeh nayeh (also spelled "kibbe nayyeh," "kibbeh nayyeh," "kibbe nayye," "kibbi nayeh") is a traditional dish and is served at family functions, holidays and events. This dish is served throughout other countries in the Middle East, but it is the national dish of Lebanon.
What does kibbeh nayeh taste like?
Contrary to what you may assume when thinking about eating raw beef or raw lamb, raw kibbeh does not really taste like raw meat. It is processed with onions and spices, and the texture of the soaked cracked wheat makes for a delightfully flavorful bite of culture. The texture is not stringy or gristly (or it shouldn't be!). It is almost fluffy. The careful preparation of this Middle Eastern dish makes this kibbeh Lebanese in every way.
Is kibbeh nayeh safe to eat?
*Eating raw meat always carries a risk of contracting a food born illness like E. Coli or Salmonella, so you must prepare and eat this at your own risk*. To learn more, you can read this article from Healthline.
Having said that, yes there is risk, but there are also ways to lessen the risk of food born illness. Keep reading for tips on making kibbeh nayeh safe (or safer) to eat.
The first is to have a trusted butcher do the work with fresh meat and on a clean surface. Like I said earlier, I live in an area where most of the butchers know what to do when asked for kibbeh meat.
If your butcher doesn't know what it is, you will need to explain that it needs to be cut, prepared and ground either first thing in the morning before the equipment has been used, or on a freshly sanitized work surface.
Is raw kibbeh made with lamb mince or beef?
My family's recipe for kibbeh nayeh either calls for lean lamb mince or lean ground beef. I'm not talking about the ground beef you buy in a package at the store. Meat for kibbeh either needs to be fresh ground by the butcher on a clean machine, or ground at home using a meat grinder (see below for more details).
When I grind it, I use a Kitchen Aid mixer with the meat grinder attachment. I don't grind it often, though. Fortunately I live in an area of the country with a large Lebanese population. I am able to go to most of the butchers in the area and ask for kibbeh meat and they all know what cut of meat to use, and how to prepare it.
💭 Top tips
Now onto the kibbeh nayeh recipe. There are four recipe saving tips that you really need to follow...
- Always work with very cold meat
- You must use a food processor
- Process the onions first
- Don't over process the meat!
- Get the right cut of meat
Now if you can follow those tips, your kibbeh nayeh will turn out great!
What cut is the best meat for Kibbeh Nayeh?
Getting the right cut of meat for kibbeh is very key to making the perfect kibbeh nayeh recipe. That's why you must have a butcher you can trust, or you need to have access to grinding meat yourself. You cannot use beef or raw lamb with any fat in it. There must not be even one piece of gristle!
Now for steak tartare, usually the cut is beef filet, however that cut cannot be used for kibbeh. Although it is a very lean cut of meat, it will turn out too mushy if used for kibbeh, since it is a very tender cut of meat.
So if you need to know what cut of meat to use for kibbeh, the answer is either round steak, eye of round, or top round. These cuts of meat are very lean, yet they are tougher and more durable and are the best cut of meat for making kibbeh. There really aren't any other options for making kibbeh nayeh meat.
How to order kibbeh meat from a butcher?
Ask them to trim ALL of the fat off of a round steak, or eye of round roast. Every piece of gristle must be removed. Then tell them that it must be ground in a clean grinder. They might say they can do it first thing in the morning so that the work surface is clean and unused. By all means, do what needs to be done to make the kibbeh meat safer.
This is why you need to have a trusted butcher. Following these steps will cut down your risk of food born illness, although it certainly won't eliminate it altogether.
Kibbeh nayeh ingredients are:
- Lean ground round or lamb mince (PLEASE see section above for the best cut of meat for kibbeh)
- Cracked wheat aka bulgur wheat #1
- Ground black pepper
- Ground cinnamon
- Fresh mint leaves (or dried mint)
Since we already covered the exact type of meat we need above, and how to prepare it, I'm going to talk about the cracked wheat for a moment.
Some families use a coarser cracked wheat in their kibbeh, or even red bulgur, and that is fine. One thing I love about Lebanese food, is that every family has a slightly different way of making these traditional recipes. The integrity of the recipes still stands.
Our family uses yellow bulgur #1, which is a fine cracked wheat, and it's not red. This is the same cracked wheat we also use in Lebanese Tabbouleh Salad. Make sure to soak your cracked wheat for at least 30 minutes before using it in this recipe for kibbeh nayeh.
How to make Lebanese kibbeh nayeh recipe:
Processing kibbeh nayeh...
So lets begin!!! Start by soaking the cracked wheat in water. You will want to measure the cracked wheat into a 2 cup measuring cup. Fill water to just over the top of the 1 cup line so that the bulgur is well covered. For ⅔ cup of bulgar, use ¾ cup cold water. The cracked wheat will soak up all of the water and expand.
You can always put more than ¾ cup of water in the bulgur, just make sure to drain off any excess water before putting the soaked bulgur into the recipe.
While the cracked wheat is soaking, put it in the fridge.
Make sure to let it soak for at least 30 minutes, you do not want to have crunchy or under-soaked bulgur.
Go ahead and get your food processor out. A blender is not going to work for this. You really do need to have a good quality large capacity food processor. I have this Cuisinart food processor. My Sittie (Aarabic for "grandma") actually had one of the first Cuisinart food processors ever and when she passed, my mother inherited it. My mother still uses the same food processor and it has to be over 40 years old! NO JOKE!
Coarsely chop the onion and add it to the food processor along with 20 fresh mint leaves (if using dried mint, just mix it in with the rest of the spices later). Process the onions until finely minced, they will be almost liquidy and that is fine.
Now add the cold meat to the processor and pulse it several times until just combined.
***You do NOT want to over-process the meat!!!
Remove the meat and onion mixture from the food processor and into a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the spices and mix it together by hand. Yet again, don't overmix. I actually remember my Sittie dipping her hands into ice water or cold water before mixing the kibbeh meat mixture.
As soon as the kibbeh meat is combined with the spices, you can either plate it, then refrigerate it again, or you can cover it and refrigerate it before plating.
Don't drizzle with any olive oil until you are ready to serve it.
🥗 Serving suggestions
How to serve Lebanese kibbeh nayeh
Kibbeh nayeh must be served cold. Usually it is spread in a thin layer onto a large serving platter. There is always some sort of design put into the kibbeh. You can use a fork to make a design, or I remember my Sittie would always put a cross in the middle of her raw kibbeh.
You can garnish it with fresh chopped mint leaves and a little drizzle of high quality extra virgin olive oil. Eat raw with a fork or inside of some thin Lebanese bread.
There are other cooked forms of kibbeh as well, which I will post at a later time. Usually it is stuffed with Hashweh and baked or fried.
Other lamb mince recipes:
Check out these other Lebanese recipes that used minced lamb or ground beef!
- Arayes Kafta (Lebanese Grilled Pita Sandwiches)
- Lebanese Kousa Squash (Stuffed Squash)
- Lebanese Stuffed Bell Peppers
- Sfeehas- Lebanese Meat Pies
- Lebanese Cabbage Rolls
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- 1 lb lean ground beef or lamb specially prepared ***See IMPORTANT Note #1
- 1 medium onion
- ⅔ cup bulgar #1 yellow or red
- ¾ cup cold water
- 2 teas salt
- ¼ teas ground black pepper
- ⅛ teas ground cinnamon
- ½ teas dried basil
- 1 ½ teas dried mint leaf or 20 fresh mint leaves
- 2-3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil for garnish
- In a medium sized mixing bowl, add ⅔ cup bulgar and ¾ cup cold water
- Refrigerate and soak the bulgar for at least 30 minutes
- In a food processor, add the coarsely chopped onion and fresh mint leaves (if using dried mint, wait to add it with the other spices)
- Process the onions until finely minced and nearly a paste
- Add the very cold meat to the food processor and pulse a few times until combined. Do not over process! The meat needs to stay cold
- Add the onion and meat mixture to a large mixing bowl. Combine all of the spices and mix the kibbeh meat by hand until just combined. Dip hands in ice cold water to avoid warming the temperature of the meat
- Refrigerate until ready to serve
- Spread the kibbeh nayeh onto a plate in a thin layer (¾" layer). You can form a design with a fork if you want. Generously drizzle with a high quality extra virgin olive oil
- Serve the cold kibbeh raw