Is that even allowed?!
Well, in this instance, it is because this dish is absolutely amazing!
So, what exactly is Kibbeh?
It’s an extremely popular Middle Eastern dish made of meat, bulgur and onions that are ground together with spices to make a dough. This dough then goes on to become a variety of delicious, and many times labor intensive dishes.
The ground dough can stay in its raw form and be enjoyed as what is known as Kibbeh Nayyeh (raw kibbeh), a delicacy that is scooped up in pita bread and only made when the meat is at its freshest. It can be made into hallow croquette style balls that are filled with sautéed ground beef, onions and almonds and then deep fried, which is the most wide spread version known simply as Kibbeh or even Kibbeh Mi’liyeh (fried kibbeh). The dough can be layered into a pan with a filling of the same sautéed ground beef mixture and then baked which is known as Kibbeh Bil Saniya (Kibbeh in a pan). It can also be made into mini domes that are stuffed with a sautéed ground beef and fresh animal fat mixture then barbecued, known as Kibbeh Mishwiyeh (barbecued Kibbeh).
There are so many other varieties that we can hopefully one day get to, but just from the few sentences above, you can see that meat is an integral part of traditional kibbeh. There are versions where the dough is made of potatoes or rice and bulgur, but even then, it is stuffed with ground meat so how can we make a vegan version of what is basically a meat lover’s dream food?
It’s actually pretty simple and the results will have you craving this dish day in and day out. This meatless version is most popular and most likely originated in Aleppo, Syria.
It is made of fresh bell peppers and tomatoes in place of the meat which are ground up with the bulgur, onions and pepper paste to form the Kibbeh Nayyeh. The dough is then spread in a plate and topped with walnuts, parsley, fried onions and olive oil. You can eat it on its own or with fresh pita bread, which of course is my preferred way to enjoy it.
The easiest way to serve this is to spread it in a large platter and top it with all the yummy toppings. You can also do small plates this way for individual servings so your guests can dig into a whole plate of their own.
The kibbeh dough can also be formed into mini Kababs and served as such. I decided to make mine into mini domes and top them with the parsley, fried onion and a walnut half.
No matter how you decide to serve your Kibbeh Nayyeh, the flavors will be there and the colors will make for a beautiful presentation. It’s a great dish to serve as an appetizer or side that will add a unique and flavorful flair to your entire meal. It’s perfect for when you’re having guests over as it only gets better the next day and can be made ahead and stored in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it.
Some nights, my husband and I even enjoy this with a salad for dinner because it really is hearty and filling without being too heavy. It’s an interactive meal where you get to use your fingers and choose what you want with each delicious bite. Give it a try, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at everything it has to offer.
Vegan Kibbeh Nayyeh
Makes About 2 1/2 Cups
1/2 large Onion, thinly sliced and fried*
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
In the bowl of your food processor, grind the onion, tomato and bell pepper until it forms a sauce, about 1-2 minutes.
Add the bulgur, salt and cumin, then process to combine. Allow the mixture to sit for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour and a half, until the bulgur has absorbed the juices and softened.
Add the pepper paste, and chili paste then process for about 4-5 minutes until the mixture comes together and forms a dough. Add the chopped walnuts and process to combine. The dough will get drier as it sits, but if it is too sticky, add a bit more walnuts, if its to dry, you can knead in some olive oil or water.
Once the dough has come together, adjust salt and spice to taste and knead it a few times with your hands. Press it into your serving platter and drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil. Garnish with the chopped walnuts, parsley and the fried onion. The dough can also be formed into mini, tablespoon sized balls, disks or kabobs and garnished as desired.
Serve the Kibbey Nayyeh with fresh Pita bread and enjoy!
* For the fried onion, heat about 1/4 cup of olive oil and fry the sliced onions until golden brown and crispy. The oil left over can be kneaded into the kibbeh nayyeh as needed for added flavor.
** The pepper paste and bulgur can be found at most Middle Eastern markets, at some major supermarkets, as well as online, here and here. I use the mild version of the pepper paste and add Sambal Oelek Chili Paste for a kick of spice.