Lentil kibbeh balls stuffed with cheese

February 17, 2010  •  Category:

A while back, I posted a  lentil kibbeh recipe, a dish specific to areas in Southern Lebanon. I got a comment from Peter suggesting that it be fried. My initial reaction, to be honest, was like that of a Greek being told by a Frenchman: “It might be a good idea to stuff your spanakopitta with Camembert.

Later, lovely Bria chimed in and said pan-frying  would be a good idea. Two people thought the same thing! That constitutes a trend in my book and I started veering to their way of thinking: ” After all, falafels are fried!” I thought; ” it would give them some crunch“; “these lentil kibbeh do need some oomph“, etc.

So, over the course of a couple of hours, I experimented. Luckily, Nick was around and I knew he would happily give me honest and even brutal feedback, if needed.

I started out stuffing the little balls with olives, the kind that are called martini olives with a pimento in the middle. I coated them with bread crumbs and pan-fried them. Nick‘s comment is best kept out of public viewing, so I tried other ideas; I stuffed them with halloumcheese. Inconclusive. Finally, bingo, I stuffed them withKiri and coated them in toasted sesame seeds. Relief! These tasted great.

Now you may be wondering what Kiri cheese is: it is a processed cheese similar to cream cheese; you can find it in middle-eastern grocery stores. It can be replaced by any cheese that will be creamy enough to ooze out a bit after frying; feta cheese would work.


  • 1 cup of red lentils
  • 3/4 cup of bulgur #1 (fine)
  • 1 small onion chopped fine (I like to fry it, but it is optional)
  • Spices: rind of an orange, 1 tablespoon of cumin, 1 tablespoon of dried mint (crumbled), 1 teaspoon of red pepper (paprika or chili pepper), a pinch of cinnamon, salt, pepper.
  • 2 or more squares of Kiri cheese or the equivalent of a 3 ounce package of cream cheese or feta cheese.
  • 1 cup (or more) of toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 egg white (optional) to bind the dough
  • 3/4 cup of fine bread crumbs
  • 1 cup of oil (or more)


  1. This can be done the day before to save time: Boil the lentils in a pint of water till thoroughly cooked.
  2. Drain and add the bulgur, previously soaked briefly in water and patted dry with a spatula.
  3. Add the onion and all the spices. Adjust the spices to your liking, adding more heat if it tastes too bland. If the dough is too wet, add some bread crumbs, add the egg white if it is too dry.
  4. Cut the cheese in tiny squares and line up on a piece of wax paper. Pour the sesame seeds in a bowl and the bread crumbs in another bowl.
  5. Take an ice-cream scoop and dip it in water then in the bread crumbs; this will help to release the ball once formed into the oil.
  6. Scoop out some lentil dough; insert the piece of cheese in the middle. Add some more dough to seal it well. With a firm tap, release the ball into the bowl of sesame seeds, turning it to coat it all over.
  7. Place the balls side by side on a plate or board and heat up the oil. You could also refrigerate them for a few hours.
  8. Pan-fry for about 4 minutes till golden all over.



If the dough is too wet, it helps to refrigerate it for a while, or add some starch to it in the form of more bulgur or a few tablespoons of bread crumbs; don’t forget to adjust the seasoning though, this can easily turn bland.


48 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Bria says:

    Hey there, thanks for the shout-out. 🙂 These look too good for words and are such a creative and fun idea!

  2. Sushma Mallya says:

    Wow definitely worth trying one,looks so tempting and recipe also is too good..thanks for sharing this wonderful dish…

  3. Lubna Karim says:

    Wow….balls look extremely delectable….

  4. sheba says:

    love ur blog..and this one sounds so awesome..just one ques though..not sure what bulgur is…can I subs with anything else?

    • Joumana says:

      sure, you can subs with rice (make sure it is thoroughly cooked first) ; bulgur is cracked wheat, sold at middle-eastern stores and organic supermarkets.

  5. Bo says:

    Those look fantastic!!!

  6. Rosa says:

    What a delicious looking speciality! I really love the idea and spices!



  7. Priya says:

    Wow this kibbeh balls sounds really yummy..worth to try..

  8. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says:

    Thankyou for going to all of that effort to experiment with them! Sounds like you definitely hit the jackpot with the last method! 😀

  9. Maninas says:

    Love these balls! The spice mix sounds brilliant!

  10. Jagruti says:

    first time visiting your blog….beautiful space and great collection of reciprs…Dish looks so beautiful and awesome!!!

    cheers do visit me if you can..i’ll be here again..

  11. Graziana says:

    I tried bulgur last year but I didn’t like it… I think I should try you recipe to better understand it, thank you!

  12. MaryMoh says:

    Mmmm…these look fabulous. Love the sesame coating. Great finger food. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Mamatkamal says:

    Ils ont l’air si bon ces boulettes, je n’ai jamais gouter, mais je serai tres ravie de tester ta recette. Passes une tres belle journee.

  14. FoodFitnessFreshair says:

    These sound delicious, and I don’t think I’ve ever made anything quite like this!

  15. Astra Libris says:

    I just discovered your wonderful blog, and I’m so excited about all your beautiful recipes! I love kiri – I can just imagine how lusciously creamy these kibbeh must taste! So gorgeous…

  16. Asmaa says:

    Très appétissante ces petites boulettes et avec le fromage ça doit être très fondant en bouche

  17. Marysol says:

    Oh, but I wanted to read Nick’s comment!

    That delicious Lentil Kibbeh is one for the books. I’ve only made Kibbeh twice, so I’m no expert. But I certainly need no help eating them, with or without that gloriously-creamy cheese filling.

  18. Arlette says:

    how cute,
    what a nice twist to a traditional recipe… excellent as appetizer, and or vegetarian meal.


  19. Camille says:

    Fun!!! I’m sure these would be a huge hit at a cocktail party!

  20. rebecca says:

    oh wow would be great for a party

  21. tobias cooks! says:

    What to say. Another great dish…I probably have to try.

  22. TastyTrix says:

    Maybe I have Chinese New Year foods on the brain, but these look like sesame balls that you’d get in an Asian bakery. (Only savory, and with cheese of course!) That is an interesting and appealing idea, to have a crunch with the kibbeh.

  23. Christine @ Fresh Local and Best says:

    This looks so tasty! I’ve never had lentil kibbeh balls, they look like great appetizers to serve at a party.

  24. Dinners & Dreams says:

    What a lovely dish. I’ve never had kibbeh with cheese.


  25. Michelle says:

    They look so perfectly cooked with the cheese melted just right. Gorgeous dish!

  26. PJ says:

    Looks so delicious and would love to try it..

  27. deeba says:

    Excellent idea. have to find some blugur and set these balls rolling. They look finger licking good!

  28. peter says:

    Joumana, as long as you didn’t roll my eyes when you looked puzzled at my suggestion, I’m okay! lol

    These do look awesome and I think they would make a wonderful appetizer/meze. Let’s see what I can do with the goodies you sent me…;)

  29. lloret says:

    I love this kind of food, thank u for suggesting your blog, it’ll go straight ahead in my favorites!!

  30. Laila says:

    Great idea … looks really delicious 🙂

  31. rajani@eatwritethink says:

    i love the ingredients!!! lentils & kiri cheese! i think kids should love this?!? no?

  32. Fouad says:

    This is really interesting. I’m from the south and have never seen this recipe. Do you think la vache qui rit would do the trick? 😉
    I’m inspired to write a pumpkin kibbeh post for the lent period!

    • Joumana says:

      Fouad, you have never seen it because I invented it. La Vache qui rit would be great! Please do write your pumpkin kibbeh post for lent! I am going to do a lent-type kibbeh soon!

  33. Lori says:

    Wow you have so many amazing foods on your site. I am enjoying going page by page taking it all in.

  34. Mona says:

    I love the new look of the blog! And Kiri is one of most fav cheese that I miss so much! Those balls look terrific.

  35. Biksuit says:

    J’ai essayé cette recette dernierement et tout ce que je peux dire c’est que les boulettes étaient succulentes. Ma famille a adoré. Merci pour le partage.

  36. Alépine says:

    Superbe idée, très original ! Je garde ta recette dans mes favoris…

  37. Cherine says:

    I’ve never seen this recipe before! So interesting!! I love it!

  38. Louma says:

    Hi Joumana,
    Your cooking passion is awesome. I read the comments on this recipe but looks like noone actually tried it! I am trying it tomorrow, but I want to make it like kibbeh bel seniyeh because I won’t have time to make the balls, plus I am really bad when it comes to making identical things like kibbeh and fatayer etc. They never look good and I can never get them to close… Do you think it will be as good? If i put a layer of kibbeh, then a layer of kiri, and then another layer of kibbeh and the sesame seeds on top? It can’t be fried this way though… What do you suggest??
    Thanks :):)

    • Joumana says:

      I would say try it and see; it can’t be bad. I had a fabulous kibbé bel seniyeh today and it was “swimming in fat”; can’t get around it, fat makes things taste better always! so I would just brush it with plenty of olive oil, even if you end up scooping out most of it! (actually I heard from a couple of people who tried it and had success with the recipe)

  39. Alfonso Cevola says:

    This recipe reminds me of the Sicilian Arancini, rice balls. Interesting,. I will try this one. Looks wonderful, Thanks

  40. Louma says:

    Hey Joumana!
    Louma again 🙂 I never made the kibbeh bel seniyeh like I asked you last time, but I made the kibbeh balls today, and they were really good!! Yummi.
    I added summak and some fresh basil that I chopped, and stuffed them with Feta because I didn’t find Kiri. They turned out really really good with a fresh salad on the side!
    Thank you!!! 🙂

  41. Annalisota says:

    I made these last night and the flavor is GOOD! Question – when I rolled the kibbeh in the sesame seeds, everything stuck as it should. However, when I fried the balls almost all the sesame came off and the snacks weren’t crunchy as I was hoping. Was my kibbeh ‘dough’ to dry? Thank you, again(!), for all of your wonderful recipes.

    • Joumana says:

      @Annalisota: I think it may have something to do with the temperature of the oil; if you have a thermometer, it is helpful to check the temperature of the oil; it should be at 375F. Or, let a piece of bread slide in the hot oil, if it sizzles immediately and jump to the surface, then it is hot enough; also, crowding the pan makes the temperature go down very fast; so after every batch, I would wait to get the temperature back up again.

  42. domi says:

    Voilà des petites balles qui vont faire fureur dans mon prochain apéritif, très, très originales….

  43. Annalisota says:

    Thank you for your response! I’m going to give these another go very soon 🙂

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