Kibbeh in yogurt sauce

April 3, 2009  •  Category: ,

This was my all-time favorite dish growing up. I absolutely loved the creamy yogurt sauce flavored with streaks of garlic and fresh cilantro, the hollow kibbe balls that I would break open with my spoon in order to dip them in more sauce and stretch the pleasure. I consider kibbe labnyeh one of the masterpieces of Lebanese cuisine. Actually, it encapsulates what our cuisine is about: light, healthy and with a subtle use of spices and flavors. One reader from Turkey  requested the recipe and I placed  it on top of the pile. This is the method my teta (grandma) used when making it and I am sticking with it!

As they say, Rome did not get built in one day, and Kibbe Labnyeh does take a little time.  However, and this is one of the enormous advantages of Lebanese cuisine, you can prepare it  in several stages and over several days or even weeks. The first step involves making the hollow kibbe balls, that you can at this point freeze or keep in the refrigerator till later or the next day. The next step is to prepare the yogurt sauce. The final step is to prepare the cilantro pesto which will give the sauce a wonderful aroma and this step can be done in advance, even frozen and the pesto reheated at the last minute to swirl in the sauce.

INGREDIENTS: Quantity will yield 28-30 kibbes. I used 20 for this recipe and froze the rest. 6 Servings.


1 lb  (1/2 kilo) of twice ground lamb or beef or veal, extra lean

1 3/4  cup (300g. ) of bulghur or cracked wheat, very fine or #1, preferably whole-grain (don’t buy bleached bulghur), soaked in cold water for a few minutes and drained very well to remove all moisture.

Spices such as salt (1 teaspoon or to taste), black pepper (1/2 teaspoon), cinnamon (1/2 teaspoon), allspice (1/2 teaspoon)


1 32 oz container of organic plain yogurt (1 kilo)

1 Large egg

1/4 cup (2 oz, 75g.) of cornstarch, diluted in 1/2 cup (4 oz) of water

1/4 cup of medium-grain or sushi or Turkish or Egyptian rice


1 bunch of cilantro, washed and dried, stems discarded and leaves chopped fine

10 cloves of garlic or a heaping tablespoon of already made toom (garlic paste)

2 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil


  • Prepare the kibbe ‘raass (balls). Take the ground meat and place into a food processor and run the machine for a few minutes until the meat is pasty. Add the spices and the bulghur. Processor for a few minutes more until the mixture is uniform. Set aside in the fridge until you are ready.
  • Prepare a small bowl of water to which you will add a tablespoon of cornstarch. Mix. Add a handful of ice cubes.
  • Forming the kibbe balls: Measure balls no more than 2 ounces (I use a Starbucks coffee  measuring spoon!), even smaller if you can wing it. Then form the ball into a sausage shape. With the index finger, dig a deep hole in it. If the kibbe is too sticky, dip your finger in the bowl of icy water. Now start turning the hand that is holding the kibbe balls counterclockwise until the walls of the kibbe ball become as thin as possible. Then pinch the opened end of the ball by clenching your fist and close it up! This will get easier with practice, as it truly is an art form.
  • Now you can freeze a portion of the kibbes,one third, for another day.
  • Prepare the rice. Put the rice in a pyrex 2-cup measuring cup or any microwavable bowl, add to it 4 oz of water (1/2 cup) and cook in the microwave for 4 minutes. Another way is to cook the rice in a small pan for about 10 minutes until the rice is halfway cooked. Set aside.
  • Start preparing the laban (yoghurt). Whisk the egg in a small bowl. In another small bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of cornstarch (3 Tablespoons) and 1/2 cup of water. Drop the container of yoghurt in a pan and put it on medium heat. Mix the egg with a wooden spoon and start stirring the yoghurt in the same direction (clockwise) for 5 minutes. Then add the cornstarch mixture and keep stirring for another 5 minutes. Add the rice and keep stirring to cook the rice completely and keep the grains separate in the sauce. The yoghurt should start to  steam . Keep stirring another 5 minutes until the yoghurt is thick and creamy . Remove from the heat.
  • Take a big pot and fill it with 1 1/2 quarts of water (about 6 cups) and bring to a boil. Drop the kibbe balls, a few at a time, in the boiling water and boil for 7 minutes. Remove from the pot with a sloted spoon and drop them gently and one by one in the yoghurt. Add gradually up to 2 cups of the poaching liquid to the yoghurt while   stirring again gently for 10 minutes over low heat.
  • Final operation is the swirling of cilantro pesto or alyyeh at the end before presenting the kibbe labnyeh to the table.  Heat 2 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a small skillet for 2 minutes. Add the mashed garlic and chopped cilantro and with a wooden spoon mix it very well. Keep it on low to medium heat another 2 minutes and then remove from the heat. Swirl it into the soup gently. Another option is to use pesto already made and frozen . Reheat in the microwave, add a teaspoon or more of olive oil and proceed.
  • Serve the kibbe labnyeh. Sahteyn!





21 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. shayma says:

    Joumana, kibbeh labneh is one of my favourite dishes, too. i learnt how to make it but have been a bit lazy about it. my husband would adore this dish, as his father was posted to Beirut in the late 90’s and he has great memories of all things Lebanese. (knafeh is his and his mum’s favourite dessert). i often had this dish at a restaurant on the edgware road in london called ranoush- every sunday they served this as a specialty. that, with some fresh melon juice, and my sunday was complete. i like your recipe (esp the cilantro pesto) and will definitely try it, you are right it absolutely is a labour of love, but so worth it.

  2. chaiselongue1 says:

    Thank you for this recipe. I’m going to put a link to your blog on mine so that I can find it again easily.

  3. zawan says:

    i apreciat u you did nt miss 1 step give measurment in every type of mearusement i ll try it and i ll write u again thanx alot

  4. Josephine Tawil says:

    My mother in law used to make Kebbeh with ground rice instead of bulgur…Do you have the recipie for this and what it is called.


    • Joumana says:

      @Josephine: I think it is called kibbeh hamud, and it is iraqi, I have one kibbeh recipe in my upcoming iraqi cookbook that uses rice in the shell and it is called kibbet halab. I will post the recipe for this one when I do some research first. you may look on youtube, there is an iraqi lady who does a demo of this kibbeh, cant remember the name of the lady or the recipe at this point, sorry.

  5. salim says:

    just tried the recipe, loved it!

  6. Salah says:

    Thanks for the recipe. This is comfort food me and although my mother makes this dish my request, as you can only imagine a mom would, I have been meaning to learn the recipe. Of course, I couldn’t ask my mother as I would find the dish made faster than I can buy the ingredients. In any case, it turned out great…not my moms but great nonetheless. Thanks.

  7. Sueli Tame says:

    Excellent recipe. I followed it word by word and the kibbeh turned out perfect – like I remember it from a fantastic restaurant. Thanks!

  8. Sibylle says:

    It Looks so good. I want try this receip. But what I didnt understand: What is the filling of the Kibbeh? Is it rize?
    Thank you

  9. Hoda says:

    What if my kebbeh balls are frozen when raw?can i use them directly in boiling yoghurt or should i cook them in the oven first?

  10. Monika says:

    Hello Joumana,
    So i Have some frozen kibbeh, do I still put them into boiling water? Dreading they will fall apart on me ! Thank you.

  11. Ana says:

    So happy to have found this recipe and blog! Thanks for sharing your teta’s recipe with us. Yumm.

  12. Carine says:

    Thanks for the recipe ! I didn’t manage to use the kebbeh thin enough, hopefully next time. I was wondering,if the dish is not to be eaten right at the moment, is it better to wait to had the kebbeh at the last minute or can they stay for a while in the sauce ? Thank you !

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