Kibbeh, a popular Middle Eastern mezze, holds a special place in my heart, especially when it's homemade! The crispy golden shell that encases the perfectly spiced meat, combined with the crunch of toasted pine nuts and onions, all wrapped in a fun football shape, creates a truly comforting and delicious experience.
Since my husband is Middle Eastern, having a simple yet tasty kibbeh recipe is essential in our household. If you've never tried making kibbeh before, don't worry! I've put together a step-by-step guide below that makes the process easy. Although it takes some time to assemble, the result is worth it. And, of course, I couldn't resist adding a healthy twist and an Asian touch to the recipe.
What Is Kibbeh?
Kibbeh is a Middle Eastern cuisine comfort food that is like a croquette. The word kibbeh in Arabic translates as "ball" or "lump," which is pretty much the description of what it is. This classic dish has been a staple in Mediterranean cuisine for centuries, and its origins date back to the medieval era. Originally a dish of the Levant, kibbeh has since spread its influence throughout the Middle East, with each country putting its own unique spin on the recipe.
What exactly is kibbeh? A mixture of bulgur wheat, onion, and ground beef or lamb forms a shell stuffed with delicious ground beef, lamb, or a mixture of pine nuts and onion. The kibbeh croquettes can be deep-fried or baked, often paired with a dipping sauce and served as mezze or a side dish. From its simple yet satisfying ingredients to the intricate shaping techniques, kibbeh has stood the test of time and continues to captivate the taste buds of food enthusiasts worldwide.
What You Will Need To Make Air Fryer Kibbeh
To create the perfect kibbeh shell, you'll need a food processor, Vitamix, or handheld blender to blend and perfectly mix the bulgur wheat, meat, and other ingredients. These machines are essential for achieving the right texture and consistency.
When it comes to cooking your kibbeh, you have a few options to choose from. You can either bake them in the oven, fry them in a pan, or use an air fryer for a healthier twist.
If you haven't yet tried bulgur wheat, you're in for a treat. This lemony Middle Eastern grain is a staple in dishes like tabbouleh and adds a unique, tangy flavor to any dish. Made from cracked wheat kernels, bulgur is one of the easiest and most versatile whole grains to cook with, making it a must-have ingredient in any kitchen.
Bulgur wheat is easily found at most grocery stores or international markets in the grain section, particularly Middle Eastern stores.
To create the crispy outer shell of your air fryer kibbeh, you'll need to use bulgur wheat to make a bulgur mixture. With its nutty flavor and chewy texture, bulgur adds the perfect touch to your kibbeh and takes this classic Middle Eastern dish to the next level.
While many traditional kibbeh recipes in the Middle East combine ground lamb and beef, it's completely understandable if lamb isn't your preferred meat. Thankfully, this versatile dish can be made with various protein sources to suit your taste preferences. For this recipe, I only used lean ground beef.
For the perfect kibbeh, you'll need ground beef to create both the shell and the stuffing. To keep it healthier, I recommend using 90% lean ground beef. You can also use ground chicken or a mixture of ground meats for a leaner option.
If you're looking to create a vegan or vegetarian version of kibbeh, Beyond Meat ground beef is an excellent substitute. While I haven't personally tried it, I'm confident that it would work well with this recipe, offering a meat-free alternative that's both delicious and satisfying.
Toasted pine nuts are a must-have ingredient for a delicious nutty crunch in your kibbeh. Unless, of course, you have nut allergies, you will need to omit this ingredient. To achieve the perfect texture, you can either toast them on their own or sauté them with your onions for an added depth of flavor.
To create this kibbeh recipe, you'll need two large onions or two small onions. Raw onion is required for the shell, while sautéed onion is used for the filling. Make sure to have enough onions to ensure your kibbeh has the perfect balance of flavors and textures.
To make the perfect blend of Middle Eastern spices, you'll need a combination of aromatic and earthy spices, including cumin, allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Each of these spices is carefully selected to create a unique and complex flavor profile that will take your kibbeh to the next level.
For a touch of Asian influence in my kibbeh recipe, I like to add a splash of coconut amino, a healthy alternative to soy sauce. This ingredient offers a unique umami flavor that takes the dish to the next level. While it's completely optional, adding coconut amino is a great way to put your own spin on this classic Middle Eastern dish and join me in adding an Asian flare.
Pomegranate molasses is a staple ingredient in Lebanese kibbeh recipes and many other dishes in Lebanese cuisine. This secret gem adds a unique and tangy flavor to the dish. There's no need to worry if you don't have pomegranate molasses at home. You can either omit the ingredient altogether or substitute it with pomegranate juice or cranberry juice for a similar flavor profile.
To prepare the kibbeh filling, you'll need to sauté the ingredients in a pan. While you can certainly use olive oil for sautéing, avocado oil is an excellent alternative with a higher smoking point, making it a better choice for this cooking method. Its mild flavor won't overpower the other ingredients, and it offers a healthier option that complements the Middle Eastern and Asian influences in this dish. Give avocado oil a try for the perfect sautéed filling in your kibbeh!
How To Cook Kibbeh
Traditional kibbeh is known for its golden, crispy exterior and moist, flavorful filling. While deep-fried kibbeh is undoubtedly the most popular cooking method, it's not the healthiest option due to the use of oil during frying. Baked kibbeh is also an option, but it often lacks in texture and depth of flavor as the fried version.
Fortunately, with the advent of modern kitchen gadgets, like the air fryer, you can now achieve that same golden, crispy texture without the added oil. While it may not be a replica of the deep-fried version, it comes pretty close and offers a healthier alternative for those looking to indulge in this Middle Eastern classic.
Air Fryer Kibbeh Recipe
Prep Time: 45 Minutes Cook Time: 20 Minutes Passive Time: 30 Minutes
Serving Size: 24
1 1/2 Cup Fine Bulgur Wheat 1 Cup Hot Water 1 Large Onion Finely Chopped 1 Lb Lean Ground Beef Or A Mixture Of Ground Beef And Ground Lamb 1 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Allspice 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Coriander 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon 1/2 Teaspoon Paprika (Optional) Salt And Black Pepper 1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
Avocado Oil 1 Large Onion Finely Chopped 1 Lb Ground Beef 1 Tablespoon Coconut Amino 1/4 Cup Pine Nuts 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Allspice 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon 1/2 Teaspoon Paprika (Optional) 1/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger (Optional) 1/4 Teaspoon Sumac 1/4 Teaspoon Pomegranate Molasses Salt And Black Pepper Fresh Herbs For Garnish 1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
Heat a splash of avocado oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat to prepare the kibbeh filling. Once heated, add chopped onions and sauté until they are soft and translucent. Add ground beef to the skillet, breaking it apart into small pieces with a wooden spoon. Cook the beef until it's fully browned and no longer pink.
Next, add in a splash of coconut amino, toasted pine nuts, and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses. Mix in the Middle Eastern spices, and continue to cook until the filling is fully cooked and fragrant.
Remove the skillet from heat and transfer it to a medium bowl. Allow the filling to cool before using it to stuff the kibbeh shells.
Start by soaking the bulgur wheat in hot or warm water for 15-30 minutes. After the time has elapsed, drain any excess water from the wheat.
Add the soaked bulgur wheat and onion to a food processor, Vitamix, or handheld blender to prepare the base meat mixture. Process the ingredients until they are almost pureed. Add in the Middle Eastern spices and ground beef, and process again until a smooth paste is formed.
To make the croquettes, set up a working station with the meat dough, filling, and air fryer basket. Using gloves or rubbing oil on your hands, grab a golf ball-sized amount of the meat dough and roll it into an egg-shaped ball. Use your index finger to poke a hole in the center, then press down and rotate your finger to create a thin wall. Pinch the narrow end together and seal it halfway to create a funnel.
Fill the hole with a spoonful of the filling and seal the remaining open area. Roll and shape the kibbeh into a football-like shape before placing it in the air fryer basket. Repeat the process until you've used all the ingredients, wetting your hands as needed.
Air fry the kibbeh at 375 F for 10 minutes, then shake the basket and cook for another 10 minutes until deep golden brown. Depending on the size of your air fryer basket, you may need to cook the kibbeh in two batches.
Serve your freshly cooked kibbeh balls hot and enjoy the delicious Middle Eastern flavors and textures.
Yield: 24 Serving size: 1
Amount per serving: Calories: 130 calories. Total Fat: 4.1 g, Saturated Fat 4.1g. Cholesterol: 24mg. Sodium: 27mg. Total Carbohydrate: 12.3g. Dietary fiber: 0.4g. Total Sugar: 0.6g. Protein: 10.2g.
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.
Kitchen tool: if a food processor is not available, you can use a Vitamix or a handheld blender. You will follow the same instructions regardless of which tool you use.
Water bowl: If the meat dough sticks to your hands or gloves, simply wet your hands or rub some oil to prevent the dough from sticking. This will make it easier to work with the dough and shape it into the perfect football-shaped croquettes.
Gloves: If you don't want to touch raw meat, be sure to wear gloves before touching kibbeh dough.
Baked Kibbeh Recipe: To make the baked version, you must use extra oil in the baking pan to prevent it from sticking.
If you prefer to bake your kibbeh instead of air frying, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F and place the kibbeh in a greased baking dish or on parchment paper to prevent sticking. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the kibbeh is cooked through and golden brown on the outside.
Heat a deep frying pan with oil over medium heat until it reaches a temperature of 350 degrees F. This should take approximately 5 minutes. Once the oil is heated, carefully place the kibbeh into the pan and cook until golden brown on all sides.
To air fry your kibbeh, preheat your air fryer to 375 degrees F and place the kibbeh in the basket. Cook for 10 minutes, then turn the kibbeh over and continue cooking for an additional 10 minutes to ensure it's cooked through and golden brown on all sides.
How To Store Leftover Kibbeh
Store any leftover cooked kibbeh in an airtight container and place it in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to four days, allowing you to enjoy the delicious flavors of Middle Eastern cuisine throughout the week. Simply reheat the kibbeh in the microwave or oven and savor the authentic taste and texture of this classic dish once again.
If you'd like to keep your kibbeh for longer than a few days, it can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Whether you have cooked kibbeh or raw kibbeh, freezing is a great way to preserve their delicious flavors.
To freeze raw kibbeh, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze them for about an hour until they are solid. Once frozen, transfer them to a freezer bag and label them with the date for easy identification.
Leftover Kibbeh Dough Or Filling
Don't let any leftover raw kibbeh dough or filling go to waste! If you have some extra, simply cook it up and enjoy it separately. Serve it alongside rice for a complete meal, or get creative and turn it into a flavorful fried rice or noodle dish.
What To Serve With Kibbeh
Kibbeh is a beloved Middle Eastern mezze dish for sharing with friends and family. Traditionally served alongside other small plates, or mezze, you can pair your kibbeh with various delicious sides and dipping sauces.
For a classic mezze experience, serve your kibbeh with hummus, pita bread, stuffed grape leaves, and chickpea salad. For a refreshing twist, add a watermelon arugula salad to the mix. And for an extra burst of flavor, try dipping your kibbeh in tzatziki sauce, tahini sauce, or garlic yogurt sauce.