Meat pies, Lebanese-style (Sfeeha)
May 19, 2011 • Category: Mezze/Appetizers, Pastries/Breads
If there is one pastry item that deserves a standing ovation from the Lebanese kitchen, it is sfeeha (pronounced s-f-ee-ha with the “a” like apple).
What is sfeeha? A little meat pie; made extraordinary by the folks in Baalbeck (the number one tourist destination in Lebanon, site of incredible Roman temples). In the photo above, we were savoring sfeeha at Lakkis Farms, a must-stopover in Baalbeck, where they not only make their own cheeses, bread, but also grow their own livestock.
Why extraordinary? The meat mixture, first of all, is a combination of ground lamb (beef is good too), with onion, parsley, tomatoes, a dash of chili pepper, pomegranate molasses, labneh and (the key!) a bit of tahini. The meat mixture is uncooked and bakes with the dough.
When these little beauties bake, the fragrance that permeates the kitchen is something to experience.
If you make these for a party, wait to bake them when your guests arrive.
INGREDIENTS: Makes 40 sfeehas
For the dough:
- 3 cups of flour
- 2 teaspoons dry instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons of sugar
- 1/4 cup of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 tablespoon of powdered milk (buttermilk is fine)
- Olive oil, as needed for stretching the dough
- 1 cup of warm water (110F)
For the filling:
- 3/4 pound of ground lamb @90% (or beef )
- 1 large onion, chopped fine
- 1/3 cup pine nuts (preferably toasted or fried previously)
- 3 tablespoons of tahini
- 3 tablespoons of labneh (or yogurt, drained for 4 hours)
- 1/2 cup (packed)of flat-leaved parsley (leaves only)
- 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
- Spices: 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of allspice,1 teaspoon of sumac, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (can replace with chili flakes, or smoked paprika).
- 2 tablespoons of tomato paste (or 1 cup diced tomatoes)
- 1 tablespoon of red pepper paste (mild or spicy, to taste)
- 1/2 teaspoon of mashed garlic (about 3 cloves)
- 2 cups yogurt (to serve)
- 2 lemons, quartered (to serve)
- Prepare the dough first: In a small bowl, pour 2 ounces of warm (110F) water and add two teaspoons of dry yeast; add two teaspoons of sugar and mix well to combine; let the yeast bubble up in a warm and enclosed place. Meanwhile, place the flour, baking powder, salt and powdered milk in the food processor bowl. Process to combine well; add 1/4 cup of olive oil and process for one or two minutes until the mixture looks very sandy. At this point, add the proofed yeast mixture along with another 3/4 cup of warm water (add the water gradually); when the dough leaves the sides of the bowl it is ready and you can transfer it to a greased bowl and turn it around to coat it with oil and let it sit in a warm enclosed place to rise for a couple of hours until doubled in size. (I like to place the dough in the oven).
- Prepare the meat mixture: Chop the onion as fine as possible and sprinkle with the salt, allspice, sumac and a dash of cinnamon. Place the chopped onion on a sieve and let its waters come out. In the meantime, place the meat in a bowl and add the salt, pepper and red pepper paste and tomato paste. Add to the meat the chopped parsley leaves, pomegranate molasses, tahini and then the drained onion, labneh (or use drained yogurt) and tahini. Adjust seasoning based on your personal preference. Fry the pine nuts in butter and add to the meat mixture. Cover the meat mixture and set it in the fridge till the dough is ready. Prepare two cookie sheets by lining them with parchment paper or greasing and flouring them.
- Making the sfeehas: Roll out the dough and punch it to remove all the air pockets; roll into a large circle, about 1/8 inch (more or less) thick. Cut rounds with a cookie cutter and on each round place a generous amount of filling (about 2 tablespoons). Pinch the two opposing ends of the circle and then the two opposing other ends. Take the back of a spoon and press on the filling to enclose it within the pocket. Line up the pies on the baking sheets. Heat the oven to 500F and bake for about 10 minutes until the pies are golden and the meat is cooked. Serve warm or at room temperature with some yogurt or quartered lemons (to squeeze on the topping .
76 Comments • Comments Feed
Belinda @zomppa says:
They LOOK extraordinary! Problem taste even better.
On May 19, 2011 at 8:27 pm
Oh my – tahini – pomegranate molases – yogurt – how delectable. This is sweetly-spiced, enticing meats! Imagining the aroma. Happy.
On May 19, 2011 at 8:40 pm
I xould barely get through the recipe without salivating. Dear Joumana, how do you manage to do this each and every time! I wish I could eat the screen 🙂
chow! Devaki @ weavethousandlfavors
On May 19, 2011 at 8:42 pm
Tom @ Tall Clover says:
Joumana, you just made my favorite Lebanese dish. My Grandmother and Mother’s version had fewer filling ingredients, so I’m eager to try your version for a different twist on the familiar for me. And you can never have too many recipes for Sfeeha.
On May 19, 2011 at 10:44 pm
Oh, I love these! A scrumptious speciality.
On May 20, 2011 at 12:27 am
Succulent meat pies, looks delicious and addictive..
On May 20, 2011 at 1:25 am
Angel of the North says:
This is about the best recipe I have seen for sfiha. When I am allowed a touch of pastry again these will be first on the list. Your food rocks.
On May 20, 2011 at 1:37 am
We had these at a tiny place near Baalbeck, they were so very good!
On May 20, 2011 at 1:59 am
These truly are exquisite savory pastries/pies.. ..I didnt not know garlic and the red pepper paste were used in their filling..is this an innovation?
On May 20, 2011 at 2:09 am
@Samir: the addition of mashed garlic and red pepper paste is one I decided to try and (thankfully) it worked!
@Tom: My grandmother’s sfeeha was with fewer ingredients as well, a more restrained version with only meat, pine nuts, onions and labneh; this version is richer but the taste is way more flavorful
On May 20, 2011 at 6:54 am
These must be super duper delicious meat pies…I know that from the ingredients list. Packed punch of flavors – yum!
On May 20, 2011 at 3:51 am
I have made similar little treats before but this version is nothing short of stunning. I cannot wait to try it. It is beautiful and it must taste divine.
On May 20, 2011 at 6:15 am
merci Joumana pour la recette, j’adoooore ces sefiha libanaises que je mange toujours avec grand plaisir!!
On May 20, 2011 at 8:01 am
Banana Wonder says:
YUM! I love the lamb filling you got going on there.. with some labneh. These look so perfect.
On May 20, 2011 at 8:26 am
The pies look fantastic, so many great flavors packed in there. I’d never be able to stop at just one!
On May 20, 2011 at 10:10 am
I just love visiting your blog, Joumana. Every single day you make something wonderful. 🙂 I think I was born in the wrong country!!
On May 20, 2011 at 3:39 pm
Oh that is how you get that shape ?! I have seen it so many times but could never figure out … dumb me !! 😛
Looks so delicious and perfectly baked to that golden color …
On May 20, 2011 at 7:36 pm
Délicieusement gourmands ces petites étoiles….
On May 21, 2011 at 11:30 am
Gula welat says:
Merci pour la recette jadore ces petits chaussons j’en prend souvent au resto!
Les tiens ont l’air délicieux!!
On May 21, 2011 at 12:24 pm
I love sfeeha , and I have my own recipe, well, in fact was gave to me by my friend´s mom, A Lebanese who lived in Sao Paulo, she had fairy hands.
On May 21, 2011 at 6:08 pm
5 Star Foodie says:
These little pies look absolutely scrumptious, so flavorful with all the spices you use in the filling!
On May 21, 2011 at 11:21 pm
Seems that every culture has some sort of meat pie. Love the shape of those.
On May 22, 2011 at 3:52 pm
These look divine!
On May 24, 2011 at 4:06 pm
I love what you’ve used in the filling here – pomegranate molasses, tahini – talk about flavor!
On May 25, 2011 at 6:53 pm
Mouth watering delicious!!
On November 12, 2011 at 5:19 pm
I made these the other night, and they were a big hit. My husband ate 12 in one sitting. Hah. Mine didn’t look as pretty as yours because the dough kept shrinking up as I was moving/filling the circles (any idea why?) but we loved them. Definitely going to try your idea for the sfeeha pita next!
On January 26, 2012 at 8:11 am
@elly: the flour may be the reason; if you can get a hold of a flour called flour 00, try it; it is used a lot in Lebanon and it is very soft and good for these types of pastries. Otherwise, try mixing some cake flour with the all-purpose or bread flour as it has less gluten.
On January 26, 2012 at 9:56 am
Thanks! I’ll give it a try next time around.
On January 26, 2012 at 10:30 am
These look just fantastic. I have just given it a try, they are in the oven right now, and the smell is delicious. I have had kind of a hard time making them because the dough kept shrinking… and only now while writing this do I see that elly has had exactly the same problem. So I note down your comment on the type of flour and will for sure give it another try!
On February 28, 2012 at 2:15 pm
@Eli: Let me know!
On February 28, 2012 at 2:19 pm
I forgot another question: Why do you use both yeast and baking powder in the dough? (Trying to learn a bit about bread and baking, hence the question)
On February 28, 2012 at 2:54 pm
@Eli: to make the dough fluffier. I will investigate the ins and outs of this and give you a thorough explanation soon! (there is another type of mini-turnover, spinach fatayers, in which the dough simply does not have ANY YEAST; the dough without yeast is made with a flour called 00 and does not shrink at all! (guess it is very low in gluten and protein, it is the flour used here for all turnovers and bread rolls)
On February 29, 2012 at 12:04 am
I followed your recipe, except didnt do all the fancy stuff with the food processor for the dough but simply kneaded it by hand. While the meat mixture was delish (I loved the tahini and red pepper paste) the dough did not keep shape in the oven. It all spread out and my pies completley lost shape and turned into flat thin pizzas with a small mound of meat in the middle. I tried different shapes and techniques (less meat more meat, thinner “walls” etc…) but nothing helped please let me know if you have any tips. Thanks so much, and I love your blog!!!
On July 31, 2012 at 10:38 pm
@Dania: Can you tell me what type of flour you used? I admit I always use the food processor for kneading the dough because it saves me so much time. If the dough turned into flat thin pizzas it sounds to me like the flour does not have much gluten to give the pies the elasticity. Also, how long did you knead the dough by hand? Did you let it rise and how long?
On August 1, 2012 at 1:27 am
Yes, I used all purpose flour, and I let it rise about 1 1/2 hours (it had doubled by that time). I kneaded for about 10 minutes until it had formed into a dough. Also my sfiha did puff up so they did not get flat in the oven, but they did not keep shape the dough kept falling flat back into an oval shape. Only a few kept shape. I would appreciate any tips you may have.
On August 2, 2012 at 12:41 pm
@Dania: I would try without baking powder and just one teaspoon of yeast and see if that helps; also try rolling the dough real thin and pinching the two ends real tight to enclose the meat filling; observe the sfeehas, are they falling apart before they go into the oven to bake? that’s my two cent. Another option is to not use any yeast, like the dough I use on fatayer, and use flour 00 or some all-purpose and 1/4 cake flour. the goal is to reduce the gluten.
On August 2, 2012 at 2:15 pm
I must say they look amazing! Is it possible to do the sfeeha but with minced beef instead of lamb?
On July 13, 2013 at 6:30 am
On July 13, 2013 at 7:21 am
do u think i can try this with Chicken?? my family’s not too fond of Lamb. too greasy for them, grrr.
On August 21, 2013 at 4:32 pm
@annie: I would try it with ground veal or beef first; or ground chicken, sure. Just season it a lot! 🙂
On August 22, 2013 at 1:00 am
Thanks a lot for this delicious recipe 🙂
I tried it and I wonder whether I can make the sfeehas a day a head , then freeze them and bake them on the next day ?
Thanks again !
On October 15, 2013 at 6:53 am
On October 15, 2013 at 11:28 am
Thank you for your recipe. I have made meat pies many times but not like this. Thank you! Please tell me how to hold off putting meat pies in the oven until company arrives. They are amazing fresh out of the oven but it never seems to work when I try to make ahead. Should I make them up and par bake? Or wait and put the assembled pies in the frig until I’m ready to bake? Please help, I can never get it correct but I know that I cannot prepare these when company is here, too messy. thank you.
On November 29, 2013 at 3:18 pm
@Joyce: Just bake them an hour before company arrives (or thirty minutes) and reheat them slightly when ready to serve.
On November 30, 2013 at 11:38 am
Amina Andrews says:
I love this receipe. I add 1 cup Basmati or Jasmine Rice to the meat mixture. yummy!
On December 10, 2013 at 1:13 pm
hello! i’m so grateful to find your site! I grew up with a step-grandfather from Syria, and I recall fondly days we’d spend making stuffed cabbage rolls and ground lamb baked in bread dough. I’ve always recalled the name of the dish to be pronounced ‘fa tie ahs’. Now seeing your pronunciation guide, I believe this was the dish! i’m going to use your recipe to make these to surprise my family on Christmas Eve 🙂
On December 17, 2013 at 2:36 am
@Elizabeth: if your relative was from Syria he probably added some pomegranate molasses to the meat mixture; I’d say one teaspoon per cup of filling. Hope it turns out well and happy holidays!
On December 17, 2013 at 5:31 am
I live in the uk ,I was wondering what’s the best flour to use to make the sfeehah pies.
On February 27, 2014 at 10:09 am
@Salma: I am not located in the UK but I would imagine that any all-purpose flour would work; don’t sweat it 🙂
On February 27, 2014 at 12:22 pm
Hi! Today was my first time making sfeeha. I usually make the regular meat pies. I have been searching for a good sfeeha filling recipe to achieve that yummy perfect taste ! This recipe was it! Perfection. Thank you so so much ! Im going to be making sfeeha a lot more now.
On March 3, 2014 at 7:06 pm
@Suhad: Glad you liked it! 🙂
On March 3, 2014 at 11:05 pm
John Thabet says:
Have made these for many years. Like others I’ve used fewer ingredients. Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix works well for me. Guess I’m old school, but make golf ball size dough balls, cover & let rise then pat out with finger tips, about 6inch circle. Believe I’ll try your recipe next time.with the extra ingrediants. Made 4 batches this yr. eat most myself. Lol.
On December 27, 2015 at 8:30 pm
@John Thabet: sounds like you are ready to open a small business making these! 🙂
On January 11, 2016 at 3:54 pm
Please don’t hate me for mentioning this but could you recommend a ready made dough that I could use instead of making the dough please x pretty please?
On June 2, 2017 at 11:19 am
Joumana Accad says:
@Amal: Sure! I would use pizza dough.
On June 2, 2017 at 3:31 pm
Marion Sansing says:
I was wondering what kind of pepper paste? Spicy or mild? Thank you
On October 25, 2018 at 4:48 pm
@Marion: It is entirely up to you; in Lebanon, most people prefer mild pepper paste; in the Armenian community in Lebanon, they like it a bit spicier; personally I like it a bit spicy. The Lebanese version is not spicy, just flavorful.
On October 25, 2018 at 5:45 pm
Jennyfair Flynn says:
Had these at a food truck venue….If you can believe it in New Zealand. That was 5 years ago and I still remember them, but have not once seen that Food Truck again. Really happy to find a recipe that seems close to the ones I had 5 years ago. Thank you! A Foodie Freak from America( Who is actually Pacific Islander) living in New Zealand.
On March 14, 2019 at 6:03 am
Alisha Nguyen says:
These are little parcels of delightfulness! They fill the house with a tantalizing aroma of exotic spice. As someone who experiments with dumplings of all kinds, like dim sum, the dough shrinkage during shaping isn’t a big issue. Simply lay the dough round on your work surface and use your fingers to press/pull/stretch it back out to the size you want. Can’t wait to make these again for a party. Fabulous recipe.
On March 14, 2019 at 1:01 pm
I wanted to make some savoury pastries for a boat trip. In England the natural choice would be Cornish pasties, which are delicious, but I fancied doing something a bit different. As I love Lebanese cuisine, I looked for a Lebanese recipe and came across this one. I was a bit nervous about making pastry with yeast, as I’d never done this before, but it all turned out well. I am now the most popular guest amongst all my friends. Everyone loves these Sfeeha – they simply can’t get enough of them. Even my Lebanese friends said that they are the best they’ve ever tasted. Thank you so much for a great additional to my culinary repertoire!
On July 28, 2019 at 1:21 pm
So happy to hear! Glad you and your friends liked the sfeehas and letting you know you can make them in advance and freeze them., although they always taste better fresh! Take care.
On July 28, 2019 at 9:59 pm
Turned out perfect, delicious thank you!
On September 1, 2019 at 2:06 pm
Can you please post a pic or link to what red pepper paste you use? Also, can I forget about the sumac or just sub with something else, because I keep buying bags of this and barely use it for just a couple of recipes, before it becomes tasteless and I end up throwing it away?
On December 1, 2019 at 2:00 am
One more question. You said you use 00 flour. What brand did you use? Thanks!
On December 1, 2019 at 2:15 am
Louie Sabarini says:
The spices where on par, I added more allspice and sumac, it added more sour taste. The only thing I had to partily cook the meat and drain the access liquid.
On February 10, 2020 at 2:26 am
Meat tenderizer says:
First, I love the name; Second, the look and presentation are impressive. I recently made it, and it tasted amazing. Please share more delicious baking recipes like dumplings, etc. Thank you!
On March 24, 2020 at 6:20 am
Do you think the dough is similar enough to fatayer that I could make a large batch of dough and use it for both?
On April 12, 2020 at 2:49 am
Sure, although the falafel dough is just flour, salt, olive oil and water, with no yeast. but it will work for both.
On April 13, 2020 at 12:07 am
Affan Kapoor says:
Beautifull and delicious recipe thanks for uploading
On June 26, 2021 at 9:59 am
Joumana Accad says:
@Affan Kapoor my pleasure!
On July 6, 2021 at 12:36 pm
Recipes Ideas says:
I love this receipe. I add 1 cup Basmati or Jasmine Rice to the meat mixture. yummy!
On August 13, 2021 at 4:16 pm
JOUMANA ACCAD says:
@Recipe Ideas WOW, I was just reading a recipe in Anissa Helou’s book where rice is added to the meatballs and although she was skeptical initially that the rice would cook, she said the rice adds more moisture and it turns out great! Serendipity.
On August 13, 2021 at 5:02 pm