Areesheh turnovers

cheese turnovers copyjpg

At a job assignment recently I was in the midst of a group of culinary and  restaurant professionals; all were native Lebanese, but each was from a different region. I started asking each one what kind of food did they love eating growing up. What was so surprising was that not one of them had similar food memories; in fact, each described a food that nobody else in the group had ever tasted. Lebanon is a tiny country with a population barely exceeding 4 million folks and a coastline of only about 140 miles long. This diversity is remarkable. 

In any case, these turnovers were one of the foods mentioned; from what I gather, it is a specialty up North (Akkar), and the chef remembered it fondly as one of his mother’s specialties. 


3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

3 Tbsp oil

1 cup water (more or less to make a smooth dough)

place one on top of other


3 cups areesheh (or ricotta cheese, drained in a sieve overnight); can also use a combo of feta and another white cheese, shredded

1 cup chopped fresh mint (or parsley)

1 cup chopped onion

1 tsp salt

1 tsp red pepper powder (paprika or chili powder), optional


Make the filling: In the bowl of a mixer, place the flour and salt and mix to combine; add the oil and mix a few seconds; gradually add the water while mixing until the dough is smooth and comes off the sides of the bowl. Flour a bit and set aside covered with a damp towel while your make the stuffing. 


Stuffing: Sprinkle the onion with the spices and toss a bit. 

In a bowl, place the cheese (if using two types, toss to mix), fresh herbs, and toss to mix; squeeze the onion to drain its juice out and mix it in the cheese mixture. Combine the mixture. 

Roll out the dough and cut into circles; place a tablespoon of stuffing on each circle and top with another circle. Crimp the edges to seal. If baking the turnovers, you can simply make them as the image above with only one circle of dough, pinch both ends. If baking them, place them on a greased cookie sheet and bake in a preheated 350F oven till golden. You can also brush them with olive oil for a crispier pastry prior to baking. 

If frying, heat several cups of oil to 375F and fry till puffed and golden; drain on paper towels and serve. 

cheese fatayer

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  1. Posted November 30, 2013 at 3:45 am | Permalink

    Beautiful turnovers! They look quite addictive and delicious.



  2. Anna Raad
    Posted November 30, 2013 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    This looks delicious, my husband is from Kobayat in Akkar and after 5 years in Lebanon I’ve never tried this before. I will make them for sure.

  3. Posted November 30, 2013 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    I can see why this would evoke such memories!

  4. Posted November 30, 2013 at 7:08 am | Permalink

    Is there anything in the world better than deepfried cheese? I don’t think so!

  5. Posted November 30, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Joumana, I know these pastries and they are so good, when they are still warm.
    I tasted them at a friend’s house long time ago…. she even added zeitoun aswad to the mix and I think green onions…

    Sahtein habibity

  6. Joumana
    Posted November 30, 2013 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    @Arlette: think you’re right, green onions. Thought of zeitoun also. :)

    @Elizabeth: Sorry, it is black (aswad) olives (zeitoun).

    @Maria: The onions are chopped as fine as possible; I think my friend Arlette is right, the green onions are more traditional.

  7. Maria
    Posted December 1, 2013 at 2:46 am | Permalink

    Joumana, these look amazing. Silly question but do you slice the onions in long pieces or in cubes? Can’t wait to make it. Thank you. Maria

  8. Posted December 1, 2013 at 4:13 am | Permalink

    These look great. I love the idea of adding green onions as well. I haven’t heard of zeitan aswad what is that?

  9. Posted December 1, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Hi Joumana these turnovers look absolutely delicious!!

  10. Posted December 1, 2013 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    they sound delicious!

  11. Posted December 3, 2013 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    I love those things and I really like how you formed them for frying as opposed to the half-moon shapes that I’m used to.

    However, no yeast in the dough? I’ve always thought these are made with “fatayer” dough that is yeast risen

  12. Joumana
    Posted December 4, 2013 at 12:03 am | Permalink

    @E.Nassar: Actually fatayer dough has no yeast; only man’ooshe dough; although I tasted a man’oosheh dough recently with jreesh and whole-wheat that had almost no yeast and was amazing. You would only use yeast if making rolls with cheese or sweet breads like kurban (Church bread) That being said a lot of people make fatayer with yeast; in my opinion, it makes the fatayer doughy and heavy. You can use yeast if you prefer the fatayer to be chewy and doughy in texture.

  13. Posted December 6, 2013 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    That is incredible, even more diversity than Italy! I was really surprised. Although we all eat very different regional foods here, most of us have tasted a great part of what the country cooks. These look amazing!

  14. Posted December 8, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Oohhh…these look like perfect little bite of goodness. LOVE cheesy turnovers.

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