Candied orange peels (Murabba al-busfeyr)

March 25, 2015  •  Category:

Candied orange rinds

This is the uber traditional Lebanese confection, made yearly  by every grandmother in the country whenever Seville oranges (busfeyr) are available.  I figured I’d seize my chance when I noticed some. My aunt Wadad was pronounced the sole expert in the family (as the eldest, she learned it from my grandmother before being married off at 18) and I asked if I could watch her do it. Standing tall on her 4-feet, 80 pounds frame, she commanded her instructions leaving no room for adaptations or creative interpretations.


  • 2 pounds orange peels (see photo), including the white pith underneath
  • 2 pounds white granulated sugar
  • Juice of half a lemon
cut peels
cut into quarters

1. Wash and dry the oranges, grate the rind slightly and cut off the tip; using a sharp knife, make incisions all around from top to bottom and remove gently the evenly cut peels. You should have about 4 to 6 per orange (depending on their size)

boil peels
boil peels

2. Place the peels in a pot, add water to cover and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until softened, then dump the water. Add fresh tap water to cover and soak them overnight, changing the water 3 times. The next day, drain them and press to extract the water. If desired, you can roll each peel like a cigar and thread them with kitchen twine and a needle to form a garland, not using more than 12 per garland. This step is traditional but can be replaced by using toothpicks to roll each peel into a coil. You can also leave them as is.

cover with sugar
cover with sugar

3. Cover the coiled peels with the sugar (and about one cup of water) and set aside overnight or until the sugar dissolves. Place over gentle heat and bring to a slow simmer, letting the mixture bubble-up gently for about one hour, or until syrupy. Test the syrup by dropping on the counter. If it stays still or feels sticky to the touch,  it is done. About 40 minutes after starting to cook the syrup, add the lemon juice. Wait a few minutes then remove the peels and gently slide them off the twine. Cool, and serve. Keep in sterilized jars tightly sealed in the fridge.

NOTE: I found a great link on how to sterilize your jars using the oven or the microwave, if interested.

Bitter orange peels
Bitter orange peels


21 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. HT says:

    Love the candied citrus peels. In my Iraqi family we used also grapefruit and pomelo peels and sprinkle grated cocnut on top, for the texture and flavor.

  2. Oui, Chef says:

    Such a special treat, and what a beautiful translucent orange color.

  3. Sylva T. says:

    Delicious. I love this recipe. My mom used to make it all the time. Definitely going to make it. Thanks Joumana

  4. Loukia says:

    My Mom used to make this in Athens and send it to me here in PA. Thank you for sharing .

  5. Linda says:

    Can’t wait to try these Joumana…and will try the grapefruit as well. Sounds delish, and what a wonderful gift around the holidays these would be!

  6. Nadege says:

    They look amazing!

  7. Susan says:

    I love these recipes handed down for generations! Your aunt sounds like the queen of her kitchen 🙂

  8. humble_pie says:

    Joumana you know me & the technical questions … why are we dumping the water no less than 4 times at the beginning of the process (after initial simmer, then 3 times during the overnight soak.)
    these procedures are suggesting to me that unwanted phytochemicals leach out in these early soaking steps, possibly plant chemicals with bitter tastes? on the other hand some people really enjoy bitter, might we not want to keep the bitter pucker-up for them?
    i’ve candied peels a couple of times in my life although never Seville oranges, i don’t recall any elaborate changing of soak waters. But Aunt Wadad is another story entirely. I would not dare to even dream of arguing with Tiny Energy.

  9. MyKabulKitchen says:

    I love candied orange peels, we make something similar but it is more jamlike. These are better for snacking…maybe dipping in chocolate? 😉 Thanks for sharing

  10. Joumana says:

    @humble_pie: I love your technical questions! You are pushing me to find out the chemical interactions between ingredients which is a must, especially in baking. Actually the technique of boiling them first reminds me of another one I learned recently through one of my mom’s friends. She dips her fried eggplant slices in simmering water to leech out the oil. It works real well, although it is a nuisance to have to clean one more pot. (she has domestic help, I don’t!)/ anyway, yes, the boiling and soaking multiple times is to get rid of the bitterness. If you like bitter, then by all means, don’t bother! I have to say the oranges here of that variety are especially bitter, I tried once to use their juice in baking , and the pastries tasted so sour, I will never do it again~ 🙂 of course, taste and decide. The oranges in your neck of the woods may be much less bitter.
    @MyKabulKitchen: Dipping them in chocolate would be on the next trial, I have to say these satisfied me as is, for now!
    @Susan: I do too, and yes, she is the queen of her kitchen, maybe even the empress!
    @Linda: yes, it is actually made for holiday treats, with one coming-up especially
    @Nadege: Thanks!
    @HT: Love your Iraqi traditions and twists. I love Iraq, its history (ancient) and culture and cuisine
    @Sylva: I saw it listed in Armenian cookbooks as well, thanks
    @Loukia: How neat, I believe it is a shared confection, made in Greece and Cyprus as well
    @Lara: Merci mille fois, ça me fait vraiment plaisir! Je suis en train de faire des essais pour Pâcques, ka’ak al-sha3neen (des Rameaux). A toute! 🙂

  11. lara says:

    j’aime bien cette recette , ca me fait penser a ma tante aussi !
    je dois vous dire que j’adore votre blog , le fait de voir les photos et de lire vos petite histoires en debut de chaque recette me détend, tout simplement .
    j’attend impatiemment vos recettes de paques 🙂
    bon weekend et surtout, amusez vous bien dans la cuisine 🙂

  12. Alicia (foodycat) says:

    I fall for anything citrus flavoured! And I actually have some seville oranges in the freezer – I bought them in January and haven’t decided what to make yet!

    • Joumana says:

      @Alicia (foodycat): and I am learning from you I can actually store oranges in the freezer! Never thought of it before! 🙂

  13. Rikke says:

    Hi all. Last season I used my lebanese mother-in-Law’s similar receipe with a great result. I have two bitter orange trees in the garden, so I made a lot. I also tried something new I would like to share: I collected all the fine grated zest, dried it for a couple of days on a tray in the sun on the kitchen table. Then I put the whole lot in a zipper bag in the freezer. since then I have ben adding a heaped spoonful to all my spongecake or cupcake mixes with a great result.
    I hatte throwing all the actually orange out, using only the peel. Does anyone know of a use for the fruitmeat it self?

    • Joumana says:

      @Rikke: Thank you so much for sharing your tips! I also hate to get rid of the rind, it is what gives flavor, so sometimes I dunk it in a sugar jar and let it permeate the sugar then use the sugar in cakes and whatnots. As for the fruitmeal itself, I am going to try and dig up a recipe for a cake which uses the fruit meal with the peal, raisins and something else, but no butter. It was a lowfat recipe en vogue a decade (or longer) ago. Otherwise, just squeeze it and collect the juice, freeze it in ice cube trays and do as cooks do in Lebanon: use it for tarator, which is the tahini dressing for kibbeh or the dish called msabbaha or anything needing a tahini dressing like kafta meatballs, or shawarma sandwiches or any salad.

  14. Veena says:

    Is it 2 pounds of oranges or 2 pounds of orange peels? Thank you.

  15. Hella says:

    Thanks for sharing i love traditional food we make the same in turkey and we keep changing water for a longuer period( my mother in law is just like your aunt she changes the water for 7days) for me 3 is enough,your platter is realy nice.thanks again i will keep following your blog.

    • Joumana says:

      @Hella: Thanks for your praise and sharing your family’s traditions as well. I love to see the commonalities between our shared Mediterranean cultures.

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