Kibbeh with yogurt sauce is such a luscious way to prepare Lebanese kibbeh. The little kibbeh balls, or arras kibbeh, are poached in laban or yogurt which is seasoned with lots of dried mint. Topping the kibbeh with yogurt sauce with garlicky olive oil infused with fresh parsley and mint is sophisticated, beautiful, and delicious.

Lebanese Kibbeh in Yogurt Sauce, Maureen Abood.com

It is striking to me when I realize how many food memories I have that are tied to the time surrounding my father’s passing. Somehow traditions instilled from childhood, like Sitto’s bread-baking days and all that was life growing up in at our Lebanese table–have always reign in the grand scheme of what I know and love about Lebanese food and family.

But if I line each Lebanese dish up with particular memories, more than a few call to mind that most painful, most impressive time when my father died. It hardly seemed like childhood in that I was 32 years old, though as that recedes deeper into the past, it starts feeling . . . more and more like childhood.

Homemade yogurt, or Lebanese laban, MaureenAbood.com

There was the chicken and hushweh, inspiring as the food my dad wanted most at the end, and so Mom made it for him. Then there was the huge tray of hushweh that was delivered to the house later, just before the funeral. This hushweh was topped with a mix of crunchy, salty, toasty nuts unlike anything I’d ever experienced. One family member in particular, my great-uncle’s wife, my aunt from Lebanon, brought us unforgettable food that gave me the feeling I was experiencing my true first trip to Lebanon without leaving home at all. Awatef made sfeha, perfectly shaped and dotted with tomato and meat, different than the meat pies we made, and incredibly good.

As she described how she had beds available with fresh pajamas for anyone who had come to town for the funeral and needed a place to rest (Lebanese hospitality knows no bounds), she warmed the tall pot she’d brought on the stove. One cousin took the lid off the pot and literally jumped up and down singing a little song: “Kibbeh with labneh!, kibbeh with labneh!” The rest of us crowded around and filled our bowls full of arras kibbeh that had been poached in highly seasoned laban (yogurt).

Yogurt sauce with mint, MaureenAbood.com

Kibbeh in yogurt sauce, MaureenAbood.com

The yogurt gently cooks the kibbeh and infuses it with all of the creaminess and tang that is laban, while the kibbeh in turn seasons the laban with all of its own spicy, flavorful goodness. The kibbeh footballs are served with the yogurt-as-sauce, rather than yogurt as a soup that has kibbeh in it.

Here was a dish that gave a whole new meaning to kibbeh for me—which until then I had known only as raw, and then fried or baked with a very definite deep golden crust. But never had I eaten kibbeh poached, with softness reigning all the way through, a gentleness that defines comfort food. This dish also gave a new meaning to laban for me, which until then I had known only as a cold dish, eaten with cucumbers as a salad, or thickened as labneh and used as a condiment or a thick dip with bread and olives.

Fresh herbs, garlic, and Lebanese olive oil for sauce, MaureenAbood.com

Garlicky herb oil, MaureenAbood.com

Lebanese Kibbeh in Yogurt Sauce, Maureen Abood.comThe jumping up and down and the little song that had welcomed the kibbeh into the kitchen that day were ever so well-warranted, and yet I never really thought about cooking with laban in this way until I wrote my cookbook. Then I rediscovered the whole world that is kibbeh, and that is laban-as-sauce, poaching kibbeh and also stuffed koosa. Any dishes like these that can take the family from crying to smiling, or at least to eating something amid the grieving, is what comfort food is all about. It’s softness around the edges, smoothness in the delivery.

What else are you poaching in your laban that’s song and dance-worthy, that’s comfort-the-family worthy? I’ve been asked a lot about a little pasta-like dumpling with meat cooked in laban. Do you know it? I’d love your recipe if you have it….

Kibbeh in Yogurt Sauce

Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Recipe by: Maureen Abood

Use my recipe for arras kibbeh, which are stuffed with househ (sautéed meat and onions with pine nuts), or use the mint-stuffed kibbeh balls in my cookbook, or even simple unstuffed kibbeh meatballs. Make the kibbeh balls any size you like; the ones I used for the photos above are quite large at 3- to 4-inches long. To make a larger batch of kibbeh in laban, simply double or triple the yogurt mixture to accommodate the amount of kibbeh balls you have.

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Ingredients

Instructions

  1. In a large heavy saucepan, begin to warm the laban over medium heat.

  2. In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the cold water. Whisk the cornstarch mixture into the yogurt, along with the crushed dried mint, salt, and lemon juice.

  3. Spoon the raw kibbeh balls into the yogurt, bring it to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer until the kibbeh are cooked through and the yogurt is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.

  4. While the kibbeh cooks, make the herb-garlic oil. In a small skillet, warm the olive oil over medium low heat. Add the garlic and cook just until it is fragrant and warm, about 1 minute. Add the parsley and mint, a pinch of salt, and warm that for 30 seconds. Remove the oil from the heat and set it aside until serving.

  5. Serve the kibbeh in warmed soup bowls, placing a few of the kibbeh balls (the number per bowl depends on the size of the balls), along with a ladle full of the yogurt sauce. Drizzle each with the herb-garlic oil.

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19 Responses to "Kibbeh in Yogurt Sauce, Kibbeh bi Laban"
  1. Vivian says:

    This sounds similar to kibbeh wish kish. Yum

  2. Christine Saikaley says:

    This is one of my favourite dishes…comfort food at its best! Another delicious kibbe “soup” is made with kishk.

  3. Sara says:

    This looks wonderful! What would you serve this dish with?

  4. Odette Shaheen says:

    If using Greek yogurt, should I dilute?

    • Maureen Abood says:

      Odette, yes, that would be pretty thick, so just add some water until you get a sauce-like consistency. You’ll need to adjust seasonings too (increase).

  5. Georgia Wilson says:

    Do you have any idea why my dinner size fried unstuffed Kibbie patties sometimes have an air pocket when you bite inside?

    • Maureen Abood says:

      I know that when I stuff kibbeh with mint butter, it appears as a pocket inside because the mint butter melts (this recipe is in my cookbook–ultra-delicious!).

  6. Johlarian says:

    The pasta-like dumpling with meat inside cooked in yogurt sounds like Turkish manti!

    A lot of people will say they are like ravioli, but it is still different from Italian ravioli…plus, it is always served with a yogurt sauce! Maybe this is it?

    I must tell you as I am now reminded by the mention of manti: I had knafeh as a dessert for the very first time – it followed a dish of manti I had while I was in Istanbul, in a very wonderfully casual and rustic cafe frequented by Turkish hipsters.

    The server pushed the knafeh over another dessert that had semolina in it – I suppose he knew what tastes Americans skewed towards, and he was right! One of the most heavenly experiences I’ve had: the tender manti in a tangy yogurt sauce, followed by this rich, cheesy dessert like nothing I’ve ever had, with the crust of shredded phyllo and that touch of orange blossom!

  7. Lopitta says:

    How about shish barak (small crispy tortellini like dumplings) in laban?

  8. Robin Carpenter says:

    Maureen, this sounds amazing and of course the story of the love and comfort that your family’s dishes provided everyone when your father died is beautiful. Andy and I will definitely be trying this one.

  9. I just made Turkish kibbeh (Icli kofti) this week (from “Istanbul and Beyond”) and they were delicious. Now that I have mastered (OK, done it without hurting anyone) the technique for making the kibbeh balls, I will try these next!

  10. Elaine Naddaff says:

    Food evokes so many thoughts. Filling part of one’s day food shopping. reading recipes, smiling at beautiful china, laughing at Julia Child’s witty comments, oogling over colorful table linens, saving for the latest pots to add, polishing mother’s pans which were “gifted” and beautiful silver, too… Yes, Maureen I stirred and stirred the laban for my mother, lovingly set the dinner table for the seven of us… My quiet tallest sister baked fudge for our dessert. The sweetest family grew and grew and grew up! “Our food” created strong minds and bodies; thus…

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