Kibbeh is ubiquitous throughout the Middle East. If you know anything at all about this dish, you know it is usually made with meat – beef, lamb, or, rarely, goat. It can be baked, fried, or eaten raw. It is essentially a meat feast with a little wheat thrown in.
However, during Lent, many Christians throughout the world – including the Middle East – give up eating meat. So, a vegetarian version was created (most likely in Lebanon) so they could still enjoy Kibbeh throughout Lent.
I came up with my version of this dish about 15 years ago when my husband was still a practicing vegetarian. He’s since come back to the dark side, but I still like to make this version on occasion whenever we are having a vegan week here at Chez Ray.
A few notes:
- I use pine nuts in this recipe, like I do in traditional Kibbeh. However, if you can’t find, afford, or don’t want to use them, you can substitute slivered almonds.
- If you want to add some additional flavoring or bulk, you can also layer in along with the filling, sliced boiled potatoes, sautéed squash, sliced tomatoes, or fried eggplant slices.
- If you are making this for someone who is allergic to nuts, then you can use vegetables (see above) or seitan or tempeh. However, if you decide to use either of these, be sure that either of them aren’t highly seasoned (like many commercial ones are – especially seitan).
- I like to use fine bulghur wheat for this dish (#1 grind) because the crust holds together better with the finer grind.
- If the crust mixture is too dry, add a little water; if it is too wet, add a little whole wheat flour. However, make sure that you have everything well mixed before you begin adding any additional ingredients. If you do have to add anything, adjust the seasonings accordingly.
- A traditional accompaniment to Kibbeh is a cucumber-yogurt salad. If you want to keep this completely vegan, then use a soy-based or coconut milk-based yogurt (however, check the label to make sure there’s no casein in the yogurt).
1 c. fine bulghur wheat
2 med. onions, diced
1 c. chopped parsley
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. walnuts, chopped
1/2 c. pine nuts or slivered almonds
3 tbsp. olive oil, total
2 tbsp. pomegranate syrup (molasses)
1 tsp. cinnamon, or to taste
2 tsp. allspice, or to taste
Salt & pepper, to taste
Additional pine nuts or slivered almonds for garnish
- Preheat the oven to 375F. Either spray or oil a medium baking dish (about 7″ x 11″) and set it aside.
2. Rinse the wheat in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear.
Then, put the wheat into a bowl and cover with 1″ of water. Set aside and allow the wheat to soak until it is “al dente”, about 20 – 30 minutes.
Once the wheat is ready, drain it through the strainer again. (There’s no need to squeeze out all of the water; just be sure the wheat is well drained.) Set aside.
3. Make the filling: Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions until they become soft, about 5 – 7 minutes. Stir frequently.
Take half of the onions out of the skillet and place them into a bowl. Set aside.
Place the skillet back on the heat and turn down the heat to medium and add the garlic to the onions. Sauté for 2 – 3 minutes. Stir frequently.
Add the pine nuts and the walnuts and cook for another 3 – 4 minutes, or until they have toasted (be sure not to burn them). Again, stirring frequently.
Add in 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon, 1 teaspoon allspice, the pomegranate syrup, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Take the skillet from the heat and taste for seasoning. Allow the filling to cool slightly.
4. Make the crust: Take the other half of the onions and place them into a food processor along with the parsley, and the wheat.
Pulse a few times to begin mixing the ingredients, scrape down the bowl and add the other half each of the cinnamon and allspice, and a good pinch each of salt and pepper.
Process the mixture (scraping down the sides and pulsing as needed) until it is well mixed and has almost a paste-like consistency. It should still have some texture, but the mixture should hold together. Taste for seasoning.
5. Assembly: Take half of the crust mixture and spread it evenly over the bottom of the dish.
Spread the filling evenly over the bottom layer.
Carefully spread the top crust over the filling, smoothing it down as you go. (You may have to do this in sections.)
6. Cut the assembled Kibbeh into serving-size squares; or, if you want to get fancy, into diamond-shaped pieces (it’s more traditional). Press a few additional pine nuts on each piece for garnish. Spread or brush the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the top. (See above photo)
7. Place the Kibbeh in the oven and cook until the top crust is slightly browned, about 30 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.