Shish barak is a famous meat dumpling recipe all over the Levant region, and for good reason. After all, what's better than fresh, homemade meat dumplings cooked in a tangy yogurt sauce? Absolutely nothing - you can trust me on this!
This recipe does involve a few steps, so it takes a little bit of time. It's a great weekend dish or holiday dish when you want to make something extra special. Don't be intimidated by the difficulty because I'll walk you through step by step how to make it. Also, there's a video at the bottom of the post.
What You Will Love
Shish barak is one of those traditional recipes that symbolizes the ultimate comfort food. This traditional shish barak recipe is made from scratch with delicious homemade meat dumplings simmered in a dried mint yogurt stew.
There are three parts to this shish barak recipe, so the ingredients have been broken into those three parts below.
Shish Barak Dumpling Dough
- Flour: I usually a mix of whole wheat and all purpose flour, but you can use either.
- Yeast: A key ingredient to get the perfect dough.
- Warm Water: To help knead the flour mixture and bind it together.
- Vegetable oil: Super important to create the perfect dough. I use canola oil but you can substitute it for any other vegetable oil (sunflower/corn).
- Sugar: Yep, just a teeny bit of sugar brings out the best flavor when it comes to making the dumpling dough.
- Eggs: I use one egg in this recipe, it's a key ingredient in making the shish barak dumpling dough.
- Pinch of salt
Shish Barak Meat Filling
- Butter: Just a tad does wonders here. You can also substitute olive oil.
- Ground beef: Some people like to use ground lamb meat, but I prefer ground beef.
- Onions: Chopped onions are essential in this filling. The best onions for this recipe are brown onions, white onions, yellow onions, or sweet onions.
- Allspice: A dash of allspice brings out so much flavor.
- Ground cinnamon: Yep, it might come as quite a shock. However, cinnamon adds such an incredible flavor kick. Remember that a little goes a long way.
- Salt: A small dash (don't overdo it because there's a bit of salt in the dough and the yogurt mixture).
- Pine nuts (optional): The perfect addition to the best meat-filling ever.
Yogurt Mint Sauce
- Plain yogurt: Use plain unsweetened yogurt for the yogurt soup mixture. The yogurt must be strained before it's used for this recipe.
- Cornstarch mixed with water: This is what thickens the yogurt sauce and brings the shish barak dish together. Corn flour is not the same thing as cornstarch, so don't exchange the two.
- Short-grain rice: I add a handful of washed rice grains to the yogurt sauce.
- Dried mint: Fragrant and perfect for the sauce.
How to Make Shish Barak
Make the dumpling dough by mixing the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast together. Add the egg and vegetable oil to the dry ingredients and combine. Gradually start adding the warm water until the dough becomes non-sticky and soft. Roll the dough in a ball and place it in a large bowl. Let it rest covered for at least one hour.
While the dough rests, prepare the meat filling. In a small skillet, melt butter on medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion. Cook until the onion is fragrant and starts to change colors. Add the minced meat, breaking up the clumps with a wooden spoon until the meat is browned and cooked through. Sprinkle the filling with pine nuts if using. Set the filling aside.
Knead the dough and roll it out with a rolling pin on a floured surface.
Use a small round cookie cutter or glass to make small circles. You can also use a biscuit cutter.
Fill each circle with a teaspoon of meat filling. Don't overfill the dumplings. Use your fingers to close the dough to form a half-moon shape. Then fold both sides of the shape around your index finger and pinch them together.
Continue folding the dumplings until all of the dough and meat filling are used.
Heat up a tablespoon of butter in a wide sautee pan and half-cook the dumplings.
Strain the yogurt into a large pot.
Add the water and cornstarch to the yogurt and whisk until everything is combined really well. Turn the stove to medium heat to medium low heat, slowing bringing the yogurt to a boil (about 20 minutes). Continue stirring throughout this process. Once the yogurt starts boiling, turn the heat to low heat.
Add the partially cooked dumplings and dried mint. Continue boiling the yogurt sauce on low heat while stirring until the dumplings cook (about 10 to 15 minutes).
Tips and Tricks
- Set aside enough time to make this recipe, especially if it's your first time.
- Make sure you let the dough rest for at least an hour after you knead it. Cover it with some cling film and a kitchen towel. Then set it aside while prepping the meat-filling and other ingredients.
- Never stop stirring the yogurt sauce while you're bringing it to a boil. I learned this from my grandmother. This is the key to thickening up the sauce and preventing it from curdling. Once you place the yogurt and cornstarch mixture on the heat, you need to keep stirring it until it boils over a few times. (It takes around 30-40 minutes so you might need to ask someone to lend a helping hand here).
Meal Prep Options
Yep, you read that right. Even though it's considered difficult to make, this dish can be put together so fast when you meal prep for it. Here are a few ideas:
- Make the dough ahead or use frozen dough
- Double the amount of meat-filled dough dumplings for this recipe. You can use half here and freeze the rest (they keep well for up to 6 months) for future use. This makes it super easy to just defrost and cook the bites in yogurt the next time you're craving some shish barak.
How Long Does It Take To Make?
Shish barak takes quite a bit of time to make just because there are so many elements that need to come together before it's all done. All-in-all, it took me around 3 hours to make this dish. If you're looking to cut down the time, you can make the dough ahead of time or use frozen shish barak dumplings. Despite the fact that it requires quite the effort, this recipe is so worth it so don't be put off by the time it takes to make it.
What To Serve With This Dish
- In some Lebanese households, shish barak goes hand in hand with kibbeh b zeit (oven-baked meat and bulgur pie).
- I know many people who love having shish barak with fattoush (a super popular salad in Lebanon and the Arab world). I tried it once and found the combination quite unique. Fatoush is often served as a meal opener and then followed with shish barak as the main course.
- Shish barak has a tad of rice mixed in with the yogurt sauce but some love to serve it alongside Lebanese vermicelli rice on the side.
How To Lighten Up This Dish:
Instead of pan-frying the dumplings in butter, bake the shish barak dumplings in the oven at 375 ℉ (190 ℃) for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.
Another option is to use lean ground meat. It's possible to substitute ground chicken breast or lean ground turkey.
Finally, measure and reduce the amount of butter and use a non-stick frying pan. Additionally, a cooking spray is an appropriate substitute when pan-frying the dumplings.
Join the Tribe
Shish Barak Lebanese Dumplings in Yogurt
- 2 cups flour
- ½ cup water lukewarm
- ¼ cup oil
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon yeast
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon salt
Meat Filling for the Dumplings
- 1 tablespoon butter
- ½ lb ground beef
- 2 medium onions
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup pinenuts optional
Yogurt Mint Sauce
- 4 cups yogurt
- 2 cups water mixed with 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon short grain rice
- 1 tablespoon dried mint
Make the Dumpling Dough
- Mix the flour with the salt, sugar, and yeast. Add the egg and vegetable oil. Combine everything together.
- Gradually start adding water until the dough becomes non-sticky and quite soft.
- Roll into a ball, set in the center of a glass bowl. Cover the dough with cling film and a kitchen towel. Let it rest for at least one hour.
Prepare the Meat Filling
- Heat up the butter and add the chopped onions until fragrant and cooked up.
- Add the ground meat and spices and cook until the meat is browned.
- Sprinkle with the pine nuts if using and then set the filling aside.
Make the Dumplings
- Knead the dough and roll it out into a thin layer. Use a cookie cutter to make circle cuts in the dough.
- Fill each circle with a teaspoon of the meat filling (make sure not to over-fill them).
- Use your fingers to close up the dough and form a sort of a half moon shape. After that, fold both sides of the shape around your index finger and pinch it together. (The final shape looks a little bit like tortellini).
- Heat up a tablespoon of butter in a saute pan and half-cook the dumplings until they turn golden brown. Set them aside.
Simmer the Dumplings in Yogurt
- Strain the yogurt in the pot you're going to use during the cooking process. Then add in the water and cornstarch mixture and whisk everything really well.
- Turn the pot to medium low heat and slowly bring the yogurt to a boil while stirring constantly (about 20 minutes). Once the yogurt is boiling, turn the heat to low.
- Add in the dumplings, dried mint, and rice. Continue simmering the dumplings in the yogurt sauce for about 10 to 15 minutes.
- It's better to serve this dish after it cools down and not while it's still sizzling hot.
- Substitute minced lamb for minced beef.
- Use whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour, or a mixture of both.