Hawawshi is a deliciously spiced minced meat stuffed pita sandwich made with Egyptian pita bread, minced meat, onion, tomato, parsley, mint, bell pepper, and spices. It's one of my favorite authentic Egyptian food recipes because it’s very easy to make, delicious, and freezer-friendly!
This pita sandwich is cooked to perfection in an oven or grill and served with some pickles and homemade french fries. This recipe is a large serving size. The reason for this big batch hawawshi recipe is that it gives you a few options:
- Lunch for the next week already made
- Sandwiches are freezer-friendly
- The meat mixture is freezer-friendly
What I Love About This Recipe
I freeze already baked hawawshi sandwiches in freezer-friendly bags. When I need a quick lunch or dinner option, I take out what I need and pop it in the oven. These stuffed pita sandwiches are easy to make and so so good.
- Ground meat: I recommend an equal ratio of ground lamb to ground beef. If you have trouble finding ground lamb then you can just use ground beef. Unless you have dietary restrictions, I recommend going with the fatty 80% ground beef. Ground lamb is already a pretty fatty cut of meat. The fat content adds a lot of flavor to the sandwiches.
- Baladi bread: Baladi pita bread is thick pita bread. Lebanese pita bread is thin and not the ideal pita to use for this recipe. If you use thin pita bread, just be mindful that the bread will crispy up quickly. The thicker pita bread soaks the flavors better, and it's more durable in the oven when baking.
- Vegetables and herbs: This is what flavors the meat and makes these sandwiches irresistible. If you don't have fresh mint and fresh parsley, you can substitute dried parsley and dried mint. Chop the onions, peppers, and tomato finely. I recommend mashing the garlic with a mortar and pestle.
How To Make Hawawshi
Heat oven to 400 ℉ (205 ℃). Chop the onions, tomato, bell pepper, spicy pepper, mint, and parsley into very small pieces. Smash garlic cloves with salt.
Add onions, smashed garlic, tomato, bell pepper, fresh mint, fresh parsley, spicy pepper, cumin, coriander, salt, and black pepper to a large bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice and add the tomato paste. Combine the ground meat with the chopped veggies, by mixing everything with your hands.
Cut the Baladi bread into two halves. Stuff meat mixture into the Baladi bread. Do not add too much meat. Just enough for a thin layer inside. Place the sandwiches onto a parchment paper lined baking pan with the thicker side of the bread facing down.
Wet hands and rub the outside of the bread. Using a pastry brush, spread a little olive oil on top of the sandwich (optional).Roast in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove when the top is golden brown. If the bread is cooking too quickly, remove and pat the top of the bread with water and reduce the heat in the oven to 375 ℉ (190 ℃). Don't flip the bread over.
Tips and Tricks
- Use Egyptian Baladi bread. If you can’t find Egyptian Baladi bread, you can use any type of pita bread (preferably a thick pita). If you use thin pita bread, I highly recommend coating the outer bread surface with some water and putting the baking pan at the bottom of the oven. The bread will brown very quickly, so it’s important to give the meat stuffing some more time to cook.
- Use fatty meat. The fat in the meat adds flavor to the sandwich. If you only have lean ground meat available, rub some avocado oil or olive oil on the outside of the bread prior to baking.
- Use parchment paper if baking in the oven. I bake these pita sandwiches with parchment paper, so the bread doesn't stick to the baking pan.
- Put the thick side down. Pita bread has a thick side and a thin side. Make sure the thick part is on the bottom and the thin side is on the top.
- Don't flip. If you flip the hawawshi with the thin side down, the sandwich will fall apart or not crisp up.
- Make the stuffing ahead if short on time. The meat stuffing can be made in advance and stored in the freezer for up to 2 months or fridge for up to 24 hours. If going this route, make sure the stuffing is drained prior to stuffing the Baladi bread.
- Spread the meat stuffing in a very thin layer. The amount of meat depends on the size of the pita bread you are using. I make sure there is enough meat covering the bread in all of the corners but in the thinnest layer possible. For a 10" (25 cm) diameter pita bread (like the one below), I stuff about ¼ cup of the meat mixture into each halved pita bread. So for the whole 10" pita bread, I will use about ½ a cup. If you overstuff the pita, the sandwiches will overcook on the outside and undercook on the inside. And, the meat-to-bread ratio will be off.
What Goes With Hawawshi?
One of the best side dishes to go with hawawshi is Egyptian pickled vegetables (torchy), pickled turnips, or homemade spicy refrigerator pickles. If I have time, I’ll make a salad like my Lebanese Fatoush.
Substitutions and Variations
If you would like that charcoal flavor, you can grill these pita sandwiches instead of using the oven. If you grill these sandwiches you need to adjust the flame to low heat and monitor them closely. The bread can quickly burn, so I recommend using the thicker Baladi bread if going the grilling route. Lastly, don't flip the sandwich! Make sure to keep the thick side of the bread facing down.
Freeze cooked pita sandwiches in a freezer-friendly bag for up to 3 months. To defrost, allow them to thaw for 30 minutes and reheat in the oven at 375 ℉ (190 ℃) for about 10 minutes.