Raw kibbeh nayeh (Lebanese raw meat kibbeh) is a quintessential Lebanese dish cherished by millions of people. I remember how my grandma would have it on the table during Sunday family lunches. It was always the star dish that everyone couldn't wait to have with a drizzle of olive oil and crunchy white onions.
Kibbeh is the national dish of Lebanon, and there are a lot of variations: fried kibbeh balls, kibbeh labanieh, baked stuffed kibbeh, and kibbeh bil sanieh. If you'd like a vegan kibbeh nayeh, check out this potato kibbeh (kibbet batata).
What I Love About This Recipe
I used to think kibbeh nayeh was difficult to make, but when I actually made it for the first time, I was surprised that it turned out to be super easy to whip up.
All you need is some good-quality meat, bulgur, and a few Lebanese spices and you'll be on your way to creating this much-loved Lebanese dish.
- Raw beef, raw lamb, or raw veal meat: The meat has to be fresh and bought from a butcher you trust.
- Fine bulgur wheat: Bulgar wheat is cracked wheat, and it comes in different sizes. 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 fine bulgar wheat. Also, bulgar wheat must be soaked in water for about 1 hour before using in this recipe.
- Onion: Use white onion for kibbe nayyeh.
- Allspice: I don't use too much of any spice in this dish because I always aim to avoid overpowering the meat flavor.
- Lebanese seven spices: Just a dash of this too.
- White pepper: A teeny bit to add a little bit of heat. Alternatively, substitute with black pepper.
- Ground nutmeg: Grind a little bit of this fresh.
- Extra virgin olive oil
Is Kibbeh Nayeh Safe To Eat?
Well, I am sure most health organizations will tell you to avoid consuming raw meat. However, the Lebanese have a few tricks to stay safe and healthy when enjoying this festive raw meat dish. Here they are:
- The number one rule is that you have to buy the meat you're going to use for this recipe from a butcher you trust. Why? Because they're going to give you the best quality meat. They'll also ensure that they grind it on completely clean blades (this is to avoid cross-contamination with any other fresh meat).
- According to my grandma (who has been cooking and eating kibbeh nayeh for over 60 years), an even better way to make sure your meat is 100 percent safe for consumption is to buy it fresh from the butcher but ask them not to grind it. You can grind the raw meat at home in a food processor or meat grinder.
- Make sure you buy the meat you're using for this recipe on the same day you're going to make it. It's very important for the meat to be fresh. Most Lebanese butchers will only sell you meat for kibbeh nayeh to order and this is to ensure that they grind it clean and fresh.
- Raw meat consumption is not safe for pregnant women, children, or some people with certain health conditions.
How To Make Kibbeh Nayeh
The first thing in making kibbeh nayeh is to prepare the bulgar wheat. Soak the fine bulgar wheat in water for 40 minutes to 1 hour.
Drain the bulgar wheat. The bulgar should be soft when ready. Peel and quarter the onion.
Split the meat into three batches. Ground the first two in a food processor and place them in a large bowl.
Put the third batch in the food processor along with the raw onion and spices and process. Add this onion mixture to the rest of the ground meat.
Some people add a few ice cubes to the kibbeh meat in the food processor so the meat doesn't overheat. Add very little ice to avoid excess water.
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 everything is combined, shape the mixture into a large ball. Move it to the serving dish and start patting it down until it covers the entire serving plate.
Use a fork to make lines across the kibbeh nayeh.
Drizzle with olive oil. Decorate with greens or mint.
Tips and Tricks
- Drizzle kibbeh nayeh with high-quality extra virgin olive oil.
- Use fine bulgar wheat, soaked and softened.
- For safe raw kibbeh use the freshest meat. Prepare and eat the kibbeh the same day.
Kibbeh nayeh is the most popular raw meat dish in Lebanese cooking. Every area in Lebanon has its variation of kibbeh nayeh. One version that comes from South Lebanon includes a strong taste of cumin. Another features some dried red chili powder (or cayenne pepper). One additional way of making raw kibbeh is adding fresh herbs like fresh mint sprigs and fresh basil leaves when grinding the meat.
There are two main ways to grind meat for kibbeh nayeh. One is a method used in the old days: beating the meat using a pestle and mortar. The other is to use a good food processor or meat grinder.
How To Decorate This Dish
There's a special way kibbeh nayeh is decorated before it's served. We use a fork to make lines in it. You can do these vertically, horizontally, or both. Then drizzle the dish with olive oil which is going to flow right in these lines and form a mesmeric sight.
If you have these on hand, top the plate with fresh greens, green onions, or mint leaves.
How To Eat Raw Kibbeh
I always serve raw kibbeh with fresh vegetables like mint leaves, crunchy white onions, green onions, and cucumbers. There's just something about the taste of raw meat with crunchy vegetables. In my family, pita bread is a must with raw kibbeh, so let me tell you how it's done: Scoop the raw meat using the bread, drizzle it with olive oil, and top it with a crunchy veggie.
Great dishes to serve raw kibbeh with include those featuring fresh, crunchy veggies like these salads below.
Lebanese Kibbeh Recipes
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Kibbeh Nayeh Recipe (Lebanese Raw Kibbeh)
- 2.2 lbs raw meat (I used lamb, you can use veal or beef)
- 20 ounces fine bulgur wheat (dry weight prior to getting soaked)
- 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
- olive oil to drizzle
- water keep a bowl on hand to help you form the kibbeh dough
- Soak the 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 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 everything is combined, shape the mixture into a large ball.
- Move it to the serving dish and start patting it down until it covers the entire dish. Use a fork to make lines across the kibbeh nayeh.
- Drizzle with olive oil. Decorate with greens and/or mint. Serve & enjoy.
- Serve cold.
- Due to the nature of raw meat, this recipe should be eaten the same day it's made.
- Make sure to get the ground meat from a source that's appropriate for raw consumption. There are inherent health risks when consuming raw meat, so it's not recommended for pregnant women.