August 23, 2011

From My Mother's Kitchen: Vegetarian Kibbeh Nayeh with Bulgar and Red Lentils

When I was growing up in my Syrian Jewish household, one of my favorite Saturday Maza (Middle Eastern meal of little dishes) dishes was Kibbeh Nayeh, a torpedo made up of bulgar wheat and raw chopped beef. In recent years people have grown wary of eating uncooked meat, so my mother gave me this recipe which uses cooked red lentils to bind the mixture. This kibbeh is a spicy, tasty finger food, which has always been a hit when I've taken it to potlucks. It's also easy to make. You have to use finely ground bulgar so it will absorb the other ingredients. I think a more coarsely ground bulgar can be used if it is soaked in cold water until it begins to soften a bit before mixing.

1 cup red lentils
3 cups water
2 cups fine bulgar wheat
4 onions, chopped
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 can tomato paste
1 Tbs salt
3 Tbs cumin
cayenne pepper to taste
I chopped green or red pepper (optional)

  1. Cook the red lentils in the water until they get mushy.
  2. Saute 2 of the chopped onions in the oil until golden.
  3. Add the lentils and onions with oil to the bulgar. Add the tomato paste, salt, cumin and cayenne.
  4. Mix everything together well and let stand for a while until the moisture is absorbed and the bulgar is tender. Add chopped onion (I used red onion for this batch), and finely chopped red or green pepper if desired.
  5. With the hands, form into torpedo shapes about 3 inches long.
This recipe makes about 45 torpedoes. The photo above shows 1/2 of this recipe, 22 delicious pieces.


  1. Your food dishes always sound so yummy. I have never even heard of red lentils. While I have heard of bulgar I have never eaten it. I don't remember seeing it available in a store around here. My world is very small.

  2. Lisa, red lentils are very tiny and cook quickly; you can get them at health food stores. I have a recipe on the blog for red lentil soup, which is easy and delicious.
    I was very lucky to grow up in such an interesting culture with such good food, and to have a mother who is a great cook.

  3. As a child my Aunt Mary (who was Lebanese) used to meatloaf with lamb and pine nuts. She would drive 6 hours to Chicago to get good pita bread. These were amazing meals in our family. Thank you for reminding me. And...kibbeh was one of her favorites too!

  4. Mary, before Syrian groceries opened in our neighborhood, my mother used to drive a few miles to downtown Brooklyn to buy her supplies, but that certainly wasn't 6 hours! I can get a lot of ingredients in the local health food store, but some I have to get from Brooklyn, which is six hours from Vermont.

  5. These torpedoes look delicious....think we will try them for dinner tomorrow, thanks Altoon. And by the way each recipe we have tried we have loved.

  6. Liz, I'm really happy to hear that the recipes on the blog have worked out...phew!