Lebanese fried kibbeh balls are made with ground meat, bulgar wheat, pomegranate molasses, pine nuts, and a blend of spices, then deep fried. They are one of my favorite childhood comfort foods. After all, what's not to love about kibbeh stuffed with spiced meat and fried to perfection?
My maternal grandmother who happens to be a master in the kitchen is famous for making the best kibbeh balls ever. She helped me make this recipe, which is her signature. It was incredible to take part in the process of making something so delicious and so pleasing to see how quick these were flying off plates 🙂
What I Love About This Recipe
Fried kibbeh balls are perfect for gatherings, parties, and dinners. They're equally useful for freezing and using in popular Lebanese recipes like 'labniyye.' Whether you're making them as an appetizer or serving them as a main dish, you're going to love these, I promise.
- Lamb or veal meat: You can also use beef. You're going to need two kinds of meat for this recipe. One type is the clean-cut meat used to make the kibbeh balls. The second is a regular meat mince that is used to make the stuffing.
- Fine bulgur wheat: Make sure you don't use coarse bulgur grains because that will affect the kibbe's texture. 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: Lots of onions here. Half is used in the kibbeh ball dough and the rest is used in the stuffing mixture.
- Spices: This fried kibbeh recipe uses allspice, Lebanese seven spices, white pepper, and ground nutmeg.
- Pomegranate molasses: To use in the stuffing mixture.
- Pine nuts: These are optional but add incredible texture and flavor to the stuffing.
- Vegetable oil: To fry these kibbeh balls up!
How To Make Fried Kibbeh Balls
Fried kibbeh is made in two parts: the meat stuffing and the kibbeh meat mixture. Then it's formed into kibbeh balls and deep-fried.
Prepare The Meat Stuffing
Heat up the olive oil in a pan and start cooking the minced meat. When the minced meat starts browning a little add in the onion and the spices. Cook until the meat turns dark brown. Add in the pomegranate molasses and pine nuts if using. Turn the heat off, set the meat stuffing aside to cool.
Prepare the Kibbeh Balls Meat Mixture
Soak the fine bulgar wheat in water for 40 minutes to 1 hour. The bulgar should be soft when ready. Drain the bulgar wheat. Split the meat into three batches. Ground the first two in a food processor and place them in a bowl. Put the third batch in the food processor along with the onion and spices and process. Add this mixture to the rest of the ground meat.
Add the drained bulgur to the meat and start kneading the mixture with your hands until everything is mixed together (it takes around 5-7 minutes so keep mixing). If you feel the mixture needs it, place your hands in a bowl of cold water and then mix again.
Make The Kibbeh Balls
Take some of the kibbeh meat mixture and wrap it around your thumb. Tightly pack it into a round shape. Remove your thumb and add 1 spoon of the meat mixture. Make sure not to overfill the meat mixture, so the kibbeh balls don't break apart when frying.
Heat up the vegetable oil between high and medium-high heat. Add the kibbeh balls to the oil and fry until the color changes. Flip the kibbeh balls halfway to cook the other side.
Using a slotted spoon or frying spoon, remove the fried kibbeh from the hot oil onto a plate with a paper towel. Allow the kibbeh balls to cool down.
Ways To Make This Recipe Healthier
There are a few ways you can make kibbeh balls a bit healthier but these do affect the taste so my recommendation would be to make these on a day when you want to indulge. However, since these can be addictive, here are ways to switch things up and make them a bit lighter:
- Bake don't fry: Make this exact same recipe but skip the frying part and bake the kibbeh balls instead.
- Use less stuffing: Decrease the amount of stuffing you're using in each kibbeh ball. This brings down the number of calories you're taking in. You can also make these without the stuffing.
- Stuff these with veggies: Create a vegetable stuffing to replace the meat. I sometimes use a mixture of spinach and onion, and it turns out great.
Since kibbeh balls are a household favorite across Lebanon, people came up with a few creative ways to have fun with stuffing them. Here are a few to get you experimenting:
- Kibbeh balls stuffed with Labneh: Yes you heard that right. I tried it once and it's super delicious. Use this recipe to make the kibbeh balls but leave them without stuffing. After frying them up, let them cool down. Then make a small cut in each ball and fill it up with labneh. You can get creative with this stuffing by adding dried mint or other veggies and herbs to it.
- Kibbeh balls stuffed with spinach: Replace the meat with spinach, onions, and a little bit of sumac. Stuff away and then fry.
- Kibbeh balls with walnut mushroom stuffing: Cook up some mushrooms, sprinkle them with chopped almonds. Stuff the kibbeh balls, fry and serve!
- Serve these on a bed of greens (lettuce, mint, or rocket leaves). Surround them with vegetables including tomatoes, cucumbers, and radishes. Or, serve these with tabbouleh or fattoush.
- Fried kibbeh balls taste amazing with hummus. I love dipping them in it! So you can serve these alongside a nice bowl of homemade hummus.
- You can drop a few kibbeh balls in a bowl of cucumber yogurt salad (I know it sounds weird but it's a combo that's tried and true).
- You can also serve kibbeh balls in small mezze plates with another popular cold/hot Lebanese sides including sambousek, stuffed vine leaves, and our version of baba ghanoush.
Fried Kibbeh Balls
- 2.2 lbs ground meat lamb or beef
- 20 ounces fine bulgur wheat dry weight
- 1 medium onion chopped into quarters
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon Lebanese 7 spices
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon salt
- water keep a bowl on hand to help you form the kibbeh dough
- 2-3 cups vegetable oil to fry the balls
For the Meat Stuffing:
- Heat up the olive oil in a pan and start cooking the minced meat.
- When it starts browning a little add in the onion and the spices.
- Cook until the meat turns dark brown.
- Add in the pomegranate molasses and pine nuts if using.
- Turn heat off, set the stuffing aside.
For the Kibbeh Balls:
- Soak the bulgar wheat in water for 40 minutes to 1 hour. The bulgar should be soft when ready. Drain the bulgar wheat.
- Add the bulgur to the meat and start kneading the mixture with your hands until everything is mixed together (it takes around 5-7 minutes so keep mixing). If you feel the mixture needs it, place your hands in a bowl of cold water and then mix again.
- Once the meat is properly kneaded, take a little bit in your hand and wrap it around your thumb. Keep moving your thumb in circles while shaping the kibbeh ball. When you remove your thumb there will be an opening in each piece.
- Take a large teaspoon of stuffing and place it inside the kibbeh ball.
- Close up the kibbeh ball and repeat until all the meat mixture is done. Make sure you don't overstuff the kibbeh balls so that they don't fall apart when you fry them. If there's leftover stuffing you can always freeze it and use it in another recipe.
- Heat the vegetable oil up in a large frying pan. Place in the kibbeh balls. Fry them on one side until they start turning dark brown. Then flip once and let them finish cooking.
- Lift from the pan and place them on some thick kitchen tissue paper to drain any excess oil.
- Serve & enjoy!
- Serve hot.
- Freeze leftover kibbeh dough in balls.