Yogurt soup

yogurt and meat soup

If I had to make a sweeping statement about Middle-Eastern culinary taste,  I’d say ” You’ve got to love yogurt!”. Yogurt is an intrinsic part of our food. When I was a kid growing up in Beirut, we’d get our weekly supply of yogurt delivered by a man wearing a sherwal (traditional trousers) and wearing a villager’s hat. He brought it in a clay pot (like the one in the picture) and it was covered with a layer of thick yellowish cream. He also brought a straw basket of eggs. These days are long gone, now people go to the supermarket to get these eggs called baladi (country-style). 

The traditional yogurt soups here have some meat-filled dumplings in them (called sheesh barak) or kibbeh balls; the good news is that these are available in supermarkets frozen; if one lives abroad however, then one has to make them and they are time-consuming. Instead, I used boxed pasta and meatballs for a speedy version.

INGREDIENTS: 4 servings

  • 1/4 lb ground meat
  • meat bones, as much as you like
  • 1 lb yogurt
  • 1 quart water
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed in a mortar
  • 1 egg or 1 egg white
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • salt, black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup small-shell pasta or orrechiette
  • 1 tbsp dry mint or fresh chopped cilantro (if using cilantro, increase the quantity to half a bunch) + 2 tbsp olive oil or butter
  • oil, as needed


  1. Heat a tiny bit of oil in a soup pot and brown the bones; add the water and bring to a simmer, skimming the froth as it appears, for 45 minutes;  remove the bones (give to your dog) and drop the pasta in the broth and simmer till al dente. 
  2. Meanwhile, shape the ground meat into meatballs, adding spices to the mixture. Place them on a baking sheet and bake in a medium hot oven for 10 minutes. Transfer to the pot with the pasta. Prepare the yogurt sauce: Dilute the cornstarch in 1/2 cup of water; pour the yogurt in a saucepan and add the cornstarch and the egg, stirring constantly for 10 minutes until a bit thickened. Transfer the yogurt to the soup pot and keep stirring for a few minutes till all is combined. Right before serving, mash the garlic, heat a bit of olive oil in a tiny skillet and fry the garlic and mint (or chopped cilantro) for 5 seconds until fragrant; transfer the pesto to the soup pot, stir to combine and serve immediately. 


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  1. Posted February 26, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    Your soup looks great! I seem to see Turkish yayla corbasi everywhere lately. And, in Turkey, we always joke that you either add yogurt or olive oil to a dish, and viola you have a Turkish recipe. ;-)

  2. Posted February 26, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

    A great soup.I love yogurt too.
    See you

  3. Posted February 26, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    A fabulous soup! Really different and ever so tempting.



  4. Posted February 26, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    I truly love it when I come across a recipe that is completely new and fresh. This looks wonderful, especially those little meatballs!

  5. Posted February 26, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Hello!!! It’s totally true, when I arrived in Syria I was very surprised about the widespread of labne coming from Lebanon, and I still remember the taste, very different from the one (almost watery) you can get in Italy. Nice recipe as usual! :)

  6. Posted February 26, 2013 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

    Funny, I’ve always loved yogurt, but it was a long time before I could appreciate it in savoury dishes. I used to hate raita and tzatziki! But I’ve grown to like yogurt-based savoury dishes very much, and this soup sounds excellent!

  7. Posted February 26, 2013 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Not to mention this is super loaded and healthy!

  8. Posted February 27, 2013 at 3:13 am | Permalink

    I love the combination of yogurt and dried mint in soups! This one sounds so tasty with meatballs! I like your version, it is quicker to use pasta and meatballs!
    I remember that my grandparents would make yogurt in a similar clay pot and it would have a thick cream on the top too! It was so tasty, market versions are not even close to it!

  9. Posted February 27, 2013 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Such a comforting soup! and great to see similarities in our cuisine; we sometimes add chickpeas and bulgur balls in them in Antakya too, so delicious. I was thinking of you last week while I was in Istanbul – discovered a glorious southern Turkish – Antakya cuisine there, it is in my blog this week :)

  10. Kathleen
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    She has blue eyes! What are the tattoos?

  11. Posted February 27, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    I love this soup!

  12. Posted February 27, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    let me tell you Joumana – what a concept! Never would’ve thought to combine yogurt and meat and that pics of the lady – gosh! what a real personality – hope I look half as good at her age!

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  13. Joumana
    Posted February 27, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    @Kathleen: I believe these are traditional in the Kurdish community, but I will find out and let you know.

  14. Posted February 28, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Interesting soup, Joumana. I have never had such a soup before.

  15. Posted February 28, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    What a beautiful soup!

  16. Posted March 1, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    I am growing to love yogurt more and more in food other than simply eating it for breakfast. You are certainly a beautiful testament to the the Mediterranean diet!

  17. Posted March 2, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    I love this…. We eat so much yogurt (as does everyone in France) Do you use cow’s milk or sheep’s milk yogurt?

  18. Joumana
    Posted March 2, 2013 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    @Katie: for this one, I used regular cow’s milk yogurt, but you can also use goat milk yogurt if you like the taste! :) Goat milk yogurt is used a lot in Lebanon and the advantage is that it does not require a thickener just stir and steam and let it thicken naturally.

  19. Posted March 3, 2013 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    I’m going to give yogurt soup a try – this sounds amazing. Thanks for including the photo of the clay pot. Since I recently met a gentleman who sells Greek yogurt in terra cotta pots, I’ve been curious what the traditional product might look like.

  20. Posted March 5, 2013 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    The best yogurt I ever had was in Marrakech, it was amazing. If our yogurt here in the States was as good, we’d probably use it in more dishes too.

  21. Posted March 6, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Une soupe où j’aimerai bien tremper ma cuillère….

  22. Amy
    Posted August 15, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I had this yummy soup at my host home when I studied abroad in Yucatan Mexico. My host family had Lebanese roots and prepared all kinds of different dishes for me. I loved this soup so much but I could never find it at any restaurant in North Florida. I think it’s because I was always told it was sheesh barak, but now I find out that sheesh barak are the meatball dumplings! I will be making more recipes from your blog soon!

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