Kibbeh in yogurt sauce

January 26, 2012  •  Category:


One major difference between, say, French or Italian or Greek cuisine  and Middle-Eastern cuisine  lies in the widespread use of yogurt in cooking. In traditional Lebanese cooking, béchamel or white sauce is not used, period. Yogurt from cow milk or goat milk is used in hundreds of dishes. To add some kick, a pesto of cilantro (or mint), garlic and olive oil is fried quickly and swirled into the sauce at the last minute. 

When warming yogurt to make a sauce, use some cornstarch and (or) egg to prevent curdling and thicken the sauce a bit.

This kibbeh in yogurt sauce is as traditional as it gets; the only difference is that some people stuff the kibbeh balls and some do not. My grandmother never filled hers; my friend Lena would not  fill  hers either and told me that her husband’s reaction when he discovered the kibbeh balls were hollow was to say: ” Are you playing a trick on me?”. (He was angry). 

Most Lebanese supermarkets carry bags of frozen kibbeh balls. In a pinch, I would use frozen meatballs and add a small handful of rice (or bulgur) to the sauce. Kibbeh balls freeze very well  if you decide to make them ahead of time.

For a kibbeh labnieh recipe, click here

NOTE: If you make hollow balls, make sure to puncture them from both ends with a toothpick prior to poaching them so that they don’t burst!




22 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Rosa says:

    That dish looks amazing! Mmmhh, the yogurt sauce looks wonderful.



  2. Belinda @zomppa says:

    Yikes! Guess some folks hate messing with tradition!

  3. paula mello says:

    I never try to do this, looks so easy! Love the tip to add cornstarch, really simple. I use yogurt as salad gravy with lemon and olive oil, is the best.

  4. Turkey's For Life says:

    Wow, hollow kibbeh?! That’s really interesting – and that you can serve them in a yoghurt sauce. Must ask about that around here to see if there’s anything similar maybe in the east of Turkey – we’ve definitely not seen it in the southwest. Love the look of this though! 🙂 Julia

  5. Alaiyo Kiasi says:

    The prevalence of yogurt sauces–rather than flour or meat-based sauces–in Lebanese cooking says, to me, that health is as important as taste. I’m wondering if dishes that include yogurt considered comfort foods in Lebanese food culture? Kibbeh in Yogurt Sauce looks quite comforting to me. I love the idea of cilantro in a pesto, because I’m one who absolutely loves the fragrance and taste of cilantro.


    • Joumana says:

      @Alaiyo: Comfort foods here would include all of the homemade dishes from mothers or grandmothers, so yogurt-based and others, if made at home, are comfort foods.

  6. Liz says:

    Oh do I ever miss my sitto’s kibbeh in yogurt sauce! Thank you for sharing so I can eat it again! Can’t wait to make!

  7. Lebanese Kitchen says:

    This looks quite delicious. I love all dishes that have yogurt in them. Recently I’ve been experimenting with watering some Labneh with a bit of water instead of using yogurt in such dishes, and am finding a more delicious and richer sauce than with yogurt. Labneh has its own complex sweet/tangy flavor to it.

  8. sare says:

    Joumana, In Adana, Türkiye we have a similar soup. We add kibbeh balls in tarhana soup which made yogurt, cracked wheat and some bulgur.
    On hot days, we cook yoğurt, wheat and some bulgur, make small pieces then dried under the sun and save in cotton sacks.(shortly)
    When we put some piece of dried tarhanas in water a night before, mix well and drain it.
    Before cooking you can add some yoğurt to the tarhana mixture and mix well. You have to stir while it boils.
    After boiling they add some small stuffed kibbeh balls, cook and serve hot.
    It’s special for this region in Türkiye.

    • Joumana says:

      @Sare: Tarhana sounds like our keshek! Thanks for the additional clarification, so much of this region of Turkey is shared by the Levant, we did have over 400 years of common history after all.

      @Mama’s Lebanese Kitchen: Great idea! I would love to try to use labneh in savory dishes like yogurt! Did you use homemade or store-bought labneh?

  9. Priya says:

    Seriously cant take my eyes from ur irresistible click,super tempting dish.

  10. Maureen Stewart says:

    That looks absolutely mouthwatering … time for a late lunch 🙂

  11. Caffettiera says:

    This is one of the first savoury recipes I cooked with yoghurt. I took it from a book by Claudia Roden: it made me fall immediately for Middle Eastern cooking. I don’t know why we don’t use yoghurt more in Europe: it is delicious. I never made them without filling, but since I have no tradition to refer to, I’ll give it a try next time.

  12. Oui, Chef says:

    HA….I’ve never seen hollow kibbeh balls before, I guess you know what camp my in-laws are in. How do you keep the hollow ones from collapsing? The sauce sounds magnificent.

  13. Culinaire Amoula says:

    Il est fantastique ce plat, je connais le Kebbah mais préparée avec le yaourt comme ça je ne pense pas, elle va âtre super bonne comme tous les plats libanais qui utilisent beaucoup le yaourt dans la cuisine.

    Merci pour le partage et Bonne soirée.

  14. Cherine says:

    I love this dish! Looks amazing

  15. Trix says:

    Ah, this would have been a fine addition to the recent meatball challenge!! So interesting that there is a heated debate about stuffing them vs. not …

  16. domi says:

    Tu as bien raison nous n’utilisons jamais ( à ma connaissance ) le yogurt dans notre cuisine si se n’est en pâtisserie. Peut être pour certains dans les sauces et donc difficile d’imaginer les saveurs, mais pas de soucis pour moi j’adore goûter à tout…je suis un vrai ” globe cooker “

  17. Jamie says:

    Bechamel is so decadent but yogurt gives such a wonderful tangy flavor that is hard to beat. And the hollow balls are so funny – and the better to drink up more sauce, right?

  18. Magic of Spice says:

    I have always loved yogurt sauces and love using it in my dishes. This looks wonderful, and I think they are very interesting hollow…lovely dish!

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