Meat pies, Damascus-style

August 28, 2011  •  Category:


Meat pies are a must in all of the Levant, however, each region or community prepares them a bit differently; my grandmother used to add drained yogurt (labneh) to hers; these have pomegranate molasses which gives the pies a bit of a fruity flavor.

The dough is made with yogurt and is easy to work with; I let the dough rise all night covered in the fridge.

INGREDIENTS: 35 to 40 pies

For the dough: (recipe for the dough from alef ba’ al-tabekh, adapted)

  • 5 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 1/4 cup of yogurt
  • 4 teaspoons of instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • Oil, as needed to stretch the dough into pies


  • 1 pound of fatty lamb
  • 1 tablespoon of red pepper paste or tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup of pomegranate molasses
  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts (preferably Lebanese or Turkish); can substitute other nuts
  • 2 medium yellow onions
  • Spices: 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, white pepper; 1/2 teaspoon of allspice, 1 teaspoon of hot Aleppo pepper (can substitute hot paprika or chili powder)
  • 2 teaspoons of sugar (can substitute grape or carob molasses)
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (to fry the pine nuts)




  1. Warm the yogurt one minute in the microwave; in the meantime, dilute the yeast with the sugar in 1/2 cup of warm water and let it bubble up. Place the flour in a large mixing bowl with the salt and mix for a couple of minutes. Add the warm yogurt, active yeast, and olive oil and mix until the dough is compact and still moist but not too sticky. Dampen your hands with oil and transfer the dough to a bowl to rise, all covered in a thin film of oil, for about two hours or overnight in the fridge (covered in plastic wrap).
  2. Prepare the filling: place the onions, cut in quarters, in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the onions are chopped fine. Add the meat, pepper or tomato paste, pomegranate molasses, spices and sugar  and process for a minute until all the ingredients are well combined. Add the pine nuts (which have been previously fried in butter till caramel-colored).

  1. To make the pies: pour about 1/4 cup of oil in a small bowl and keep it nearby; dip your fingertips in the oil and take each small ball of dough and pat it to form a small pie; do this on the cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Place two generous tablespoons of filling on each pie and pat with the back of a spoon or your fingertips to make sure it gets incrusted in the dough.
  2. Bake the pies in a 400F oven for about 12-15 minutes, until the edges of the dough are golden and crisp. Serve warm or at room temperature with a side bowl of yogurt if desired and (or) some lemons, quartered.


NOTE: If you want to skip making the dough, an alternative is to use prepackaged biscuit dough in a can; you will 3 cans of 12 biscuits each.

This post has been submitted to the Yeaspotting site.










44 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Claudia says:

    I love the idea of yogurt in the dough. And then the pomegranate molasses in the meat. So many flavors coming together.

  2. Katie@Cozydelicious says:

    This dough looks so easy. Thepies seem lovely and so tasty, And I bet this dough could be used for so many different things!

  3. Richard says:

    I notice that you specify no kneading for the bases, why is this? I have been trying to reproduce these for a while now and my bread making skills have been failing me.

    • Joumana says:

      @Richard: I kneaded with my stand-in mixer for about 5-7 minutes until the dough was ready: as in smooth, shiny, compact. That’s it!

      @Samir: I am not in the habit of cooking the meat before, since my grandmother never did it; I think that cooking the meat is redundant here since it is baking with the bread so why cook it twice? (same fro shish barak); also the sugar goes in with all the other spices, thanks for catching that omission in the recipe, I will add that now.

  4. samir says:

    these look amazing!!!!…. you are right there are so many variations all delicious!!!..from labneh to tarator to dibs roman and I have tried an excellent Iraqi version with grated zuccinni and tomato .. two questions:where does the sugar go in the filling in this one? and also know that many people briefly saute the meat and onion whats your opinion of that?

  5. Banana Wonder says:

    These pies are really causing salivation. Fatty lamb? Im gonna naughty dreams now!!

  6. Banana Wonder says:

    gonna have… opps too sleepy to blog comment

  7. Priya says:

    Delicious and inviting pies..

  8. Miriam says:

    They look wonderful, I’m bookmarking these 😉

  9. Meeta says:

    Oh how I absolutely adore these meat pies. Remember the Lebanese style we used to enjoy when I was living in Qatar. Bookmarking to make these soon!

  10. Joanne says:

    I love that they’re like adorable mini pizzas!

  11. Nadji says:

    Des saveurs qui ont tout pour me plaire.
    A très bientôt.

  12. lisaiscooking says:

    The slow-risen dough with yogurt sounds fantastic. And, I love the small size of these pies. They look great!

  13. Jeannie says:

    Oh these meat pies look delicious! Wish I could try some!

  14. Katherine Martinelli says:

    These look so good! Labne and pomegranate molasses would both be amazin on these.

  15. Nadia says:

    I always buy these from the Lebanese bakery. They are so delicious. I like to dip pieces in labneh. 🙂 I will try your recipe soon.

    I also love your tablecloth (?) it’s beautiful.

  16. Bria @ WestofPersia says:

    Oh wow, this is one of my favorite treats. Love the step-by-step, and you know I’m feelin’ the pom molasses.

  17. Joan Nova says:

    ooh, I really like these. I don’t have the patience to work with dough but I sure love to eat it!

  18. T.W. Barritt says:

    Oh, with the pomegranate molasses that is a really lovely sweet/tart/savory topping.

  19. Ivy says:

    These meat pies are so tempting! I really love any kind of pies!

  20. Chiara says:

    Yummy! I love the idea of mixing meat and pomegranate!

  21. deana says:

    I am loving the idea of these pies… especially the yogurt dough which I’ve never tried… anything like this is usually a big hit in my household… pomegranate molasses is winner too.

  22. Tall Clover says:

    When the moon hits your eye like one of these amazing meat pies, that’s amore!

  23. Caffettiera says:

    These meat pies remind me a lot of what they call ‘turkish pizza’ in Germany. They are larger – like a small pizza – but the filling is quite similar. A world apart from the British meat pies I thought about when reading the title.

  24. 5 Star Foodie says:

    These pies sound so delicious, love the addition of pom molasses!

  25. gourmandelise says:

    Très jolie et surement délicieuses ces petites tartes à la viande!

  26. Oui, Chef says:

    I will definitely be serving these with labneh. I love the idea of yogurt in the dough too.

  27. Trix says:

    I would never skip making the dough! That’s the fun part : ) It looks as if you made enough to feed a small army – where you put it?? I want your secret to fabulousness

  28. Mely says:

    The recipe for the dough is very similar to one I found for naan bread. The dough comes out soft and extremely easy to manage. I am printing this recipe now I have an excuse to use the pomegranate molasses sitting in my refrigerator.

    As always you come up with great ideas to change my menu.


  29. Magic of Spice says:

    These would make such lovely appetizers…love the dough!

  30. domi says:

    Ces petites ” pizzettes ” sont à croquer…

  31. Rahel says:

    I ate somthing like this in a reastaurant some years ago and it was delicious! They added fresh pomengranade and parsley on top. Thanks for the recipe.

  32. Barbara says:

    Hello Joumana,
    These look wonderful and I look forward to making them.
    One question please ~ can I freeze them after baking?
    Thanks kindly,

    • Joumana says:

      @Barbara: You should have no problem freezing them; I would suggest baking them first until they are cooked, but not toasted; in other words, when you take them out of the freezer and into the oven, they would finish baking and getting a pretty caramel sheen. Also, I would not freeze them for longer than two weeks.

  33. michelle says:

    This looks so delicious- I make my naan bread with yogurt and really love it. I take it that these meat pies are small? How big should I pat out the circle of dough? Also, I live in quite an isolated place and have never seen ground lamb here- would ground beef work? I have some Trader Joe’s “pomegranate glaze” that I think will work for this recipe- I can’t wait to make it!

    • Joumana says:

      @Michelle: The pies are about 5 or 6 inches in diameter; actually, they can be even smaller. Ground beef works interchangeably in these recipes.

  34. michelle says:

    Just made these for dinner tonight and they were sooo good! Thanks! Fun to make, too. I made some 5-inch ones and then some tiny ones (like 1-inch) for the kids. The dough was so smooth and easy to work with- love the inclusion of olive oil and yogurt in it. I found a thick Pomegranate glaze and used that; loved the flavor of the meat. (I used beef, too). I love trying your recipes!

  35. Yara says:

    Hi Joumana !
    I keep on trying to make these and the meat is always coming out!
    Why its not “stuck ” to the dough like the ones we buy at stores ? The dough was great and meat delicious but …
    I could literraly take the whole piece of meat of and eat it separetly from the dough 🙁
    I really wanna be able to make it !
    Please help !

    • Joumana says:

      @Yara: One thing you can do is brush the pies (dough only) with a beaten egg white; place one or two egg whites in a bowl and beat slightly with a fork. take a spoon and dip it in the egg white or a brush and slather the pies after rolling them out with the egg white. then place the meat filling on the egg white coating, and press on it with the back of a large spoon or a spatula to make sure it adheres to the dough. Hope that helps.
      It could be that your filling is too wet. (possible) or the dough is too strong (too much gluten); use all-purpose, not bread dough and reduce the amount of yeast or dont use any yeast, just a teaspoon baking powder.

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