Baked kibbeh bil sanieh (which literally translates into kibbeh in an oven tray) has got to be one of Lebanon's most quintessential recipes. Growing up, I remember the excitement of walking into my grandmother's house when she was baking a kibbeh tray in the oven. Nothing beats that feeling.
The ingredients in this dish are pretty much the same as Kibbe Nayeh, but the taste is completely different but equally delicious.
Now there's a notion that it's super difficult to make baked kibbeh bil sanieh at home. I am here to change that for you.
What We Love About Baked Kibbeh
Baked kibbeh can be made ahead and frozen making it a great dinner option when things are really busy. Check out the tips below on how to freeze, thaw, and bake this dish. Another fabulous thing about baked kibbeh is it goes well with so many other dishes like fattoush, cucumber yogurt, and shredded cabbage salad.
- Raw lamb or veal meat: Make sure that the meat is fresh and well minced. In Lebanon, butchers create a super fine mince when we ask them for kibbeh meat but if you're abroad just mince the meat yourself if you want and give it a few more blends than usual or ask your butcher to do that for you.
- Fine bulgur wheat: The co-star of every kibbeh dish. For baked kibbeh bil sanieh, we never use coarse bulgur grains because that affects the texture. Therefore, when buying bulgar wheat at the store, look for the fine bulgar wheat. Also, bulgar wheat needs to be soaked in water for about 1 hour before using in this recipe.
- Onion: Chopped super fine it never even shows when I serve kibbeh.
- Allspice: A little bit of spice goes a long way when it comes to kibbeh so a dash of this works wonders here.
- Seven spices: Just a dash of this too.
- White pepper: A teeny bit to add a little bit of heat.
- Ground nutmeg: If you can find whole nutmeg and grate it fresh, it works amazing in this recipe.
- Vegetable Oil: Use a high quality vegetable oil. I used canola for this recipe but any kind you have on hand works fine.
How To Make Kibbeh Bil Sanieh
Soak the bulgar wheat for 40 minutes to 1 hour. Drain the bulgar wheat. Blend the meat in 3 batches; the first two batches are just meat and the third batch of meat is blended with the onion and spices. Mix the bulgar wheat and ground meat with your hands in a bowl.
Continue the kneading the kibbeh dough for about 5 to 7 minutes. Once everything is kneaded together, press the kibbeh into a pan.
Press the kibbeh dough evenly in the pan so that the thickness is the same throughout.
Cut the kibbeh dough into diagonal lines. Make parallel line indentations. Add holes where the kibbeh line corners intersect.
Add the oil on top of the kibbeh dough. Put the kibbeh into a pre-heated oven at 400 ℉ (204 ℃) for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Once the kibbeh is done cooking, allow it to cool down.
- Chicken Kibbeh Bil Sanieh: I often make this exact same recipe but with an equal amount of minced chicken, and it tastes amazing too. For this variation, add a bit more spices.
- Pumpkin Veggie Kibbeh Bil Sanieh: A vegan version of this dish is popular across Lebanon and is served during the lent season. This recipe features bulgur, onion, and all of the spices but instead of the meat, it features pumpkin or beans.
- Stuffed Kibbeh Bil Sanieh: Another famous version of this dish features a middle layer of meat & onion stuffing. Stuffed kibbeh is essentially the same bulgar wheat and meat mixture (as this recipe) but with a middle layer of cooked minced meat, onion, and pine nuts. This recipe can be modified to make the stuffed kibbeh version by doubling the bulgar/meat mixture and making the middle layer meat stuffing.
Best Meat For Kibbeh Bil Sanieh
The answer here varies depending on where kibbeh is being made in Lebanon. In some areas of the country, people use lamb meat, in others, veal is used. Regardless, a rule of thumb to get the best baked kibbeh bil sanieh is to buy the highest quality meat you can get. Make sure the cuts you choose are completely free of fat and gristle. Here, I tell my butcher to give me 'habra' for kibbeh which means a completely clean, boneless & lean piece of meat.
Is Baked Kibbeh Freezer-Friendly?
Yes, yes, and yes! Baked kibbeh is one of my favorite meals to prep ahead of time and I always have a tray of it sitting in the freezer. Here are a few tips:
- Don't bake the kibbeh before freezing it. Just complete the first few steps of the recipe, spread the meat dough in an oven baking dish. Cover it with plastic wrap or freezer wrap and place it in the freezer.
- Never add the oil to the kibbeh tray before freezing it.
- Take the kibbeh tray out of the freezer 2-4 hours before you want to start baking it in the oven. Add the oil and pop it in the oven at the regular cooking temperature.
Kibbeh is like Middle Eastern meat loaf. It's a mixture of ground beef or lamb (or both), bulgar wheat, spices, and some pine nuts.
Ground lamb, ground veal, ground beef, or a combination of either can be used for kibbeh.
Kibbeh is very different from falafel. Kibbeh is a ground meat mixture made with bulgar wheat whereas falafel is vegan and made from chickpeas, herbs, and possibly fava beans.