Bulgur and lamb pilaf (Burghul bedfeen)

I would name this one of the most exquisite in the Lebanese roster of traditional dishes; however, it does require some TLC.

The onions have to be browned first, the lamb or beef need to simmer till thoroughly cooked in their broth and  the bulgur pilaf, studded with onions, chunks of meat and chickpeas,  should be fragrant with cumin and the flavor of the caramelized onions. 

Learned of a new technique today: When preparing the sauce for this dish, toast the flour first in the skillet till light brown, then add the broth and stir till thickened. 



  • 1 1/2 cups of coarse bulgur
  • 1 pound of pearl onions 
  • 1 pound of lamb shanks or lamb stew pieces or beef stew
  • 2 cups of cooked chickpeas or 1 cup of dry
  • 1 Tbsp of ground cumin
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp of black pepper (or allspice)
  • olive oil, as needed
  • 1/4 cup of flour

For a vegan recipe, click here.


  1.  Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil and brown the onions from all sides. Set aside. Sprinkle the meat with spices and brown briefly in a pot with a bit of oil; add 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups) of water and simmer gently until the meat is thoroughly cooked and tender. (you may add bones to the stock for extra flavor). If using dry chickpeas, soak them the night before with a dash of baking soda, drain and add to the meat stock to cook alongside the meat. If using canned beans, rinse and drain and add to the pot towards the end of cooking time. 
  2. Reserve 2 cups of meat broth (can take some meat and beans and onions as well for the sauce if you wish) to make the sauce; scoop out the meat and beans and cook the bulgur in the remaining stock. You need about 2 cups of liquid. Cover and cook the bulgur until soft and place the meat and beans back in the pot with the bulgur as well as onions. 
  3. Make the sauce: Toast the flour in a skillet until light brown and fragrant; add the meat stock (minus meat, beans and onions) and stir till thickened; add the meat, beans and onions in the sauce if desired. Stir to combine until smooth. Serve with the bulgur pilaf. 



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  1. Posted January 24, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Merci pour cette belle et délicieuse recette de votre terroir si riche en saveurs puissantes mais toujours délicates qui fleure bon le soleil….

  2. Posted January 24, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    A lovely dish, Joumana. We eat lamb shanks a lot and this pilaf looks perfect. Lovely photos; I can almost taste it!

  3. Posted January 24, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    What a hearty meal – looks so full of depth.

  4. Posted January 24, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    This looks so good- I am always on the lookout for more ideas on how to use bulghur.

  5. Posted January 24, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    All those pearl onions look so good. Love this kind of dish for winter… the grains make it so healthy too!

  6. Posted January 24, 2012 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    I’m entranced by the idea of this dish, the aromas, the tender meat and the nuttiness from toasting the flour. It looks delicious.

  7. samir
    Posted January 25, 2012 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    Exquisite is right! earthy, fragrant.nutty, succulent.. have never had it with sauce but i like the idea.. lamb is the best, but sometimes we make it with chicken .

  8. Posted January 25, 2012 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    Je dois goûter ça très vite !

  9. Posted January 25, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Jou a gorgeous dish full of lovely complex and earthy flavors! Love this!

  10. Posted January 25, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    I love the combination of flavors in this. I have some ground lamb which might work. I can see how toasting the flours gives a bonus.

  11. Posted January 25, 2012 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    This is one of my favorite dishes ever! Accompanied by salad or yogurt! Pure heaven!

  12. Posted January 25, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Interesting tip on toasting the flour first! This sounds like a soul-satisfying and delicious dish.

  13. s
    Posted January 25, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    J, I love this dish because it is a ‘centrepiece dish’; it is that one dish you make when everyone raves about it and says, “we are going to a burghul bedfeen feast tonight.” those are the sort of dishes i love and respect. so lovely. youre the best. x s

  14. Posted January 25, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Wow, this lamb dish looks great, like with chickpeas and bulgur. Very comfy.
    Hope you are having a wonderful week Joumana :)

  15. Posted January 25, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    You made roux (the new technique)! The dish looks comforting. I appreciate, too, that you provided a vegetarian version of the recipe. I miss your visits! Hope all is well.

  16. Joumana
    Posted January 25, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    Dear Alaiyo, I am unable to leave comments on your blog since I can’t remember my blogger password and name; will have to do some sleuthing for that !

  17. Posted January 26, 2012 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    Just reading about the technique in your presentation made my mouth water.

  18. Posted January 26, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    You know Joumana even though the recipes are different, this pilaf remind me of my Dad’s Yakhni Pilaf made with goat meat. I love the simplicity of ingredients here and the care of preparation. I can see why this would be a dish very close to your heart :)

    chow :) DEVAKI @ weavethousandflavors

  19. Posted January 28, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Those pearl onions look like little candies! This is incredibly appealing to me. I have actually heard of toasting flour in the oven to speed up making a dark roux, but I haven’t tried it …

  20. Posted June 14, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Thank you sharing these pictures and recipes !=D

  21. Joumana
    Posted June 15, 2012 at 5:25 am | Permalink

    @Lisa: My pleasure!

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