Armenian cured meat (Basterma)

December 12, 2014  •  Category:

Armenian basterma

Armenian basterma

There is no tradition of cured or even smoked meats in Lebanon; however, after the Armenians settled in the country, locals started to get familiarized with the basturma and sujuk, both spiced and cured meat and sausage. Now these meats are popular all over the country. In Burj Hammud, the Armenian enclave in Beirut, one will see shawarma spits with sujuk and lines of people waiting for their order.
The principle behind basterma is straightforward. The meat needs to be dried up and coated with a spice paste and left to soak up the spice and dry further for two weeks or longer. The key is to find the best possible cut of meat from a trusted butcher.
• 1 lb. beef or lamb filet (at least 1 1/2″ thick)
• 1 lb. coarse salt
• Spice mix: 1/2 cup fenugreek powder (shaiman)+extra to sprinkle on the meat
• 2 tsp allspice
• 3 tsp cumin
• 2 tsp salt
• 2 tsp turmeric
• 1 tsp black pepper
• 1 tsp hot red pepper
• ½ cup paprika
• ½ cup garlic powder
• Enough water to make a thick paste

1. Cut off any fatty bits from the meat. Make a few slits alongside the meat (to ensure the salt will penetrate the meat). Pour half the salt in a dish and place the meat on top of it. Cover the meat with the rest of the salt, pat it all around and place in the fridge for 2 days (at the bottom of the fridge).
2. Rinse the meat; add several cups of water to the pan and place the meat in the water for 3 hours, replacing the water every 30 minutes. Drain the meat and pat it dry with paper towels. Sprinkle paprika and fenugreek all over the meat and place it on a wire rack set over a dish deep enough to provide some air under the rack (a pan with 3 inch sides or more). Place in the fridge in the same spot and let it dry for 2 days. Alternatively, skewer the meat with a thread and needle and hang it in a cool and dry spot, such as a cupboard or basement.
3. After 2 days, prepare the spice mix. In a blender, place all the spices and enough water to make a thick paste that would adhere to meat. Transfer to a bowl and apply that spice paste on the meat, slathering it with a spatula all around (hold the meat upright while you apply the paste). Cover the meat with a muslin cloth and twist tie it from both ends. Place it back on the wire rack for two weeks until dried up. When ready to serve, slit open the cloth, slice thinly and serve with pickles.


26 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Arlette says:

    Amazing Basterma , I have to try this one day. I love eating the fresh Shamaneh on a toast.

  2. Chris at Hye Thyme Cafe says:

    We refer to this as “roadkill” in my family … as in something that got run over (because of the powerful aroma). That’s for the Irish guys who can’t pronounce it lol. We absolutely LOVE both and, I have fond memories of my grandfather making them in his basement when I was a kid, but I have to confess that I’ve been chicken (no pun intended) to try making it myself. I make sure to stop at one of the Armenian bakeries when I’m in the Boston area and get it all nicely sliced and wrapped. I actually bought it whole once (basterma) and brought it to the grocery store to have the butcher slice it for me on his deli slicer. Boy, was he MAD at me!!! That paste on the outside was apparently not much fun to clean out of his machine. Oops! Yours turned out beautifully! 😉

  3. Rosa says:

    Ohhhh, thanks for the recipe! I have eaten basterma once and loved it. Now, I can make it at home…



  4. Hélène (Cannes) says:

    Alors là, tu m’ouvres de nouveaux horizons, Joumana !!!
    Bisous et bon week-end

  5. Ivy says:

    Thanks for sharing the recipe Joumana. Never knew how to make it. In Greece we call it pastourmas.

  6. Maureen says:

    What an interesting and wonderful recipe. I’m pretty sure I had this once at a party at a friend of a friend’s house. I raved about it for days.

  7. Alicia (foodycat) says:

    I love bastourma! I’ve never tried making my own though, so this is a must!

  8. Nadji says:

    Je n’ai encore jamais mangé de Basterma. Cette recette est des plus alléchantes.
    J’en mangerai avec plaisir.
    A bientôt

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  10. Aline says:

    Not purely Armenian.. more like Turkish/Armenian, but still yummy 🙂

    • Joumana says:

      @Aline: I agree, there is an overlap in the cuisines of people who lived in the same region of the Eastern Mediterranean. In Lebanon, the Armenians settled at some point and brought their distinct cuisine with them. Similarly, a lot of Lebanese dishes are influenced by the Turkish/Ottoman cuisine.

  11. Oui, Chef says:

    WOW….this looks so beautiful. I made a duck breast prosciutto by a similar method and really loved it, can’t wait to try this Armenian twist!

  12. Denise says:

    I was told by that I had won the giveaway for this book several months back, but have still not received it. I can’t find any other way to contact the author than this comment box. I would love to receive the book so that I can utilize the recipes in it and give it a nice review on goodreads. If the person in charge of the giveaway would kindly contact me, at the email provided, I would be thankful.

  13. Susan says:

    While I may be a little intimated by the recipe, I love the idea! I may try this with a small beef filet. What a wonderful idea!

  14. Nuts about food says:

    How interesting, and it looks delicious. I love dried/cured meats.

  15. Mazen says:

    Thanks for sharing, this is awesome! I love Bastourma and I can’t wait to do it at home.

    I have 2 questions though:

    1. Can the fenugreek be replaced with anything else or completely dropped from the recipe?

    2. Would having a food dehydrator help speed up the process? If so can you please share how to use it for this recipe?

    Appreciate your help.


    • Joumana says:

      @Mazen: I have done some research on bastourma and I did not see anywhere that the fenugreek has an essential function in the recipe. (although it does have other unrelated health benefits). So I would say, sure, if you don’t care for it, drop it. As fas as the food dehydrator goes, I have never heard nor seen anyone use it for this, but i would certainly give it a shot. After all, the idea is to dehydrate the meat and using this technique sounds like the answer to a prayer! Let me know if you use it how it went, I am sure a lot of people would like to know as well!

  16. Suzy @ The Mediterranean Dish says:

    Bastourma lover over here! I have never attempted to make it at home, but I will now for sure. Thank you for the great recipe, Joumana.

  17. Fallout Torrent says:

    1.Can the fenugreek be replaced with anything else or completely dropped from the recipe?
    2. Would having a food dehydrator help speed up the process? If so can you please share how to use it for this recipe?
    Appreciate your help.

    • Joumana says:

      @Fallout Torrent: Fenugreek is essential for that true Armenian flavor, but if you dont care for it, sure, leave it out. I have not used a dehydrator, but it is a BRILLIANT idea! Will try it next time!

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  19. ahmed(MARCO) mohamed says:

    I grew up in Cairo and basterma is essential for breakfast or dinner or anytime for that matter for me I love it a lot it was just like a baby formula and the way we eat it is like omelet mix it with eggs and eat it with pita bread or you can mix it with macrona bechamel al Forno since my young age I lived in NJ,and NYC it was easy to find every where,but now for the past 29 years I live in PA which not available I have to wait for long time untill I go back for a visit or sometimes my youngest brother will mail to me Uh I just love it.Thank you very much for sharing the recipe with us I might make it sometime.UR Ausome.

  20. Armenian Women says:

    Love the way my grandma used to make Basterma.. I’m gonna try this sometime soon.

  21. JINA says:

    Love it. I make it every year for Christmas and new years eve, but i don’t add turmeric, for sure i will give it a try next time.

  22. Armenian women says:

    Looks so delicious, will try soon and i will leave reply after making basterma

  23. Hrayr Tchamitchian says:

    its great

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