Kibbeh in yogurt sauce

One major difference between, say, French or Italian or Greek cuisine  and Middle-Eastern cuisine  lies in the widespread use of yogurt in cooking. In traditional Lebanese cooking, béchamel or white sauce is not used, period. Yogurt from cow milk or goat milk is used in hundreds of dishes. To add some kick, a pesto of cilantro (or mint), garlic and olive oil is fried quickly and swirled into the sauce at the last minute. 

When warming yogurt to make a sauce, use some cornstarch and (or) egg to prevent curdling and thicken the sauce a bit.

This kibbeh in yogurt sauce is as traditional as it gets; the only difference is that some people stuff the kibbeh balls and some do not. My grandmother never filled hers; my friend Lena would not  fill  hers either and told me that her husband’s reaction when he discovered the kibbeh balls were hollow was to say: ” Are you playing a trick on me?”. (He was angry). 

Most Lebanese supermarkets carry bags of frozen kibbeh balls. In a pinch, I would use frozen meatballs and add a small handful of rice (or bulgur) to the sauce. Kibbeh balls freeze very well  if you decide to make them ahead of time.

For a kibbeh labnieh recipe, click here

NOTE: If you make hollow balls, make sure to puncture them from both ends with a toothpick prior to poaching them so that they don’t burst!



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  1. Posted January 26, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    That dish looks amazing! Mmmhh, the yogurt sauce looks wonderful.



  2. Posted January 26, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Yikes! Guess some folks hate messing with tradition!

  3. Posted January 26, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    I never try to do this, looks so easy! Love the tip to add cornstarch, really simple. I use yogurt as salad gravy with lemon and olive oil, is the best.

  4. Posted January 26, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Wow, hollow kibbeh?! That’s really interesting – and that you can serve them in a yoghurt sauce. Must ask about that around here to see if there’s anything similar maybe in the east of Turkey – we’ve definitely not seen it in the southwest. Love the look of this though! :) Julia

  5. Posted January 26, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    The prevalence of yogurt sauces–rather than flour or meat-based sauces–in Lebanese cooking says, to me, that health is as important as taste. I’m wondering if dishes that include yogurt considered comfort foods in Lebanese food culture? Kibbeh in Yogurt Sauce looks quite comforting to me. I love the idea of cilantro in a pesto, because I’m one who absolutely loves the fragrance and taste of cilantro.


  6. Liz
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Oh do I ever miss my sitto’s kibbeh in yogurt sauce! Thank you for sharing so I can eat it again! Can’t wait to make!

  7. Joumana
    Posted January 26, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    @Alaiyo: Comfort foods here would include all of the homemade dishes from mothers or grandmothers, so yogurt-based and others, if made at home, are comfort foods.

  8. Posted January 27, 2012 at 12:46 am | Permalink

    This looks quite delicious. I love all dishes that have yogurt in them. Recently I’ve been experimenting with watering some Labneh with a bit of water instead of using yogurt in such dishes, and am finding a more delicious and richer sauce than with yogurt. Labneh has its own complex sweet/tangy flavor to it.

  9. Posted January 27, 2012 at 2:42 am | Permalink

    Joumana, In Adana, Türkiye we have a similar soup. We add kibbeh balls in tarhana soup which made yogurt, cracked wheat and some bulgur.
    On hot days, we cook yoğurt, wheat and some bulgur, make small pieces then dried under the sun and save in cotton sacks.(shortly)
    When we put some piece of dried tarhanas in water a night before, mix well and drain it.
    Before cooking you can add some yoğurt to the tarhana mixture and mix well. You have to stir while it boils.
    After boiling they add some small stuffed kibbeh balls, cook and serve hot.
    It’s special for this region in Türkiye.

  10. Posted January 27, 2012 at 3:03 am | Permalink

    Seriously cant take my eyes from ur irresistible click,super tempting dish.

  11. Joumana
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    @Sare: Tarhana sounds like our keshek! Thanks for the additional clarification, so much of this region of Turkey is shared by the Levant, we did have over 400 years of common history after all.

    @Mama’s Lebanese Kitchen: Great idea! I would love to try to use labneh in savory dishes like yogurt! Did you use homemade or store-bought labneh?

  12. Maureen Stewart
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    That looks absolutely mouthwatering … time for a late lunch :)

  13. Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    This is one of the first savoury recipes I cooked with yoghurt. I took it from a book by Claudia Roden: it made me fall immediately for Middle Eastern cooking. I don’t know why we don’t use yoghurt more in Europe: it is delicious. I never made them without filling, but since I have no tradition to refer to, I’ll give it a try next time.

  14. Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    HA….I’ve never seen hollow kibbeh balls before, I guess you know what camp my in-laws are in. How do you keep the hollow ones from collapsing? The sauce sounds magnificent.

  15. Joumana
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    @Oui, Chef: You have to poke them from both ends with a fine toothpick; one hole on each side.

  16. Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Il est fantastique ce plat, je connais le Kebbah mais préparée avec le yaourt comme ça je ne pense pas, elle va âtre super bonne comme tous les plats libanais qui utilisent beaucoup le yaourt dans la cuisine.

    Merci pour le partage et Bonne soirée.

  17. Posted January 28, 2012 at 2:54 am | Permalink

    I love this dish! Looks amazing

  18. Posted January 28, 2012 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Ah, this would have been a fine addition to the recent meatball challenge!! So interesting that there is a heated debate about stuffing them vs. not …

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

    Tu as bien raison nous n’utilisons jamais ( à ma connaissance ) le yogurt dans notre cuisine si se n’est en pâtisserie. Peut être pour certains dans les sauces et donc difficile d’imaginer les saveurs, mais pas de soucis pour moi j’adore goûter à tout…je suis un vrai ” globe cooker “

  20. Posted January 30, 2012 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Bechamel is so decadent but yogurt gives such a wonderful tangy flavor that is hard to beat. And the hollow balls are so funny – and the better to drink up more sauce, right?

  21. Posted January 30, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    I have always loved yogurt sauces and love using it in my dishes. This looks wonderful, and I think they are very interesting hollow…lovely dish!

  22. Spixs
    Posted August 26, 2014 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    I recently tried kibbeh that looked very similar to this in doha- was gorgeous! Anyone know where I can find a recipe? Thanks!

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