Lebanese Meat Stuffed Pitas (Arayes)
Lebanese meat stuffed pitas (Arayes) are a snack, appetizer, or main course. Pieces of pocket pita stuffed with homemade kafta mixture and grilled or pan-fried until crispy. Serve with homemade garlic or tahini sauce!
Crispy pita on the outside, filled with a spice-scented kafta mixture on the inside.
Meat stuffed pitas are perfect to serve as an appetizer at parties, they would be delicious on a mezze platter, and they also work equally well as a main course. I serve them with a fattoush salad or a Shirazi salad with tons of dried mint and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses.
And the only thing that makes Lebanese arayes better is a swoop of creamy Lebanese garlic sauce (aka Toum) to dip them in. Some people like to serve meat stuffed pitas with tahini sauce but if you’re a true garlic lover, Toum is magic.
What are Arayes?
Arayes are Middle Eastern street food. Essentially it’s a meat-stuffed pita filled with a meat mixture that is similar to kafta seasoned with minced onions, seasonings, and fresh herbs. Arayes are grilled or pan-fried before serving.
Ingredients for Meat Stuffed Pitas (Arayes)
- Ground Beef: You’ll need one pound ground beef. I prefer to use 95-99% lean ground beef for this recipe. Using ground beef with a higher fat content will cause the arayes to be too fatty.
- Garlic + Onion: Onions provide moisture and tons of flavor to the ground beef mixture. I prefer to pulse the onions in a food processor so that they mix well and blend in with the ground beef. I also use a handful of garlic cloves to help flavor the meat.
- Parsley: We’ll add a handful of fresh parsley with the onions to make kafta.
- Seasonings: We’re using a ton of seasonings here! You’ll need ground allspice, hot paprika, ground cumin, cinnamon, Baharat seasoning (7 spice), and kosher salt. If you prefer a little heat, you can also add a pinch of cayenne.
- Tomato Paste: Tomato paste gives the meat mixture a delicious tomato flavor without making the meat mixture too watery.
- Pomegranate molasses: Adds a little bit of hang and flavor to the kafta meat. Pomegranate molasses is available in most middle eastern stores and you can also purchase it online. It’s optional but I find that it gives these arayes a beautiful depth of flavor. And you can always use leftovers to make fattoush or even sfeehas (meat pies.)
- Pitas: Lebanese pita bread is usually very thin and large in size. It’s a two-ply bread that is a bit delicate to work with. You can also use Palestinian bread or Greek pocket pitas for homemade arayes.
- Oil: for cooking. Any kind of oil will work so you can use a little olive oil, canola oil, or even avocado oil. If you are baking them, just brush the arayes with oil and bake. If you’re frying, add a little bit in the pan before frying a few meat-stuffed pitas at a time.
How to make meat stuffed pitas:
- Make the meat mixture. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the onions, garlic, and parsley until it is minced into tiny pieces. In a large bowl, add the ground beef, all the seasonings, minced onion mixture, pomegranate molasses, and tomato paste until it’s thoroughly combined. You can also toss everyting into the food processor and let it run until combined!
- Fill the pitas. Cut the pitas into 2-4 pieces depending on if you’re serving these for an appetizer or a meal. Place a few tablespoons of the meat mixture inside each pita and press the mixture into a thin layer.
- Bake them, pan-fry, or air fry. You can brush the pita quarters/halves with a little bit of oil, grill them in a cast iron grill pan, bake in the air fryer, or pop them on a wire rack placed on top of a baking sheet and bake in the oven until they’re golden. I don’t suggest baking them directly on the sheet pan or on parchment paper as you’re always left with at least one soggy side that way! You can cook the meat all the way through or to your liking. Serve immediately with dipping sauce while they’re still hot.
FAQs about Meat Stuffed Pitas
- I can’t find Baharat seasoning, what can I use instead? Baharat seasoning is just a combination of spices. Baharat seasoning is also known as Middle Eastern 7 Spice blend. If you’re in a pinch, you can substitute it with a teaspoon garam masala. Or you can use equal parts ground coriander, black pepper, ground cloves, and ground nutmeg in its place for this recipe. The other three spices are already being added in so these are the only ones you’ll need to substitute for Baharat.
- I’m not able to pull the pita apart, how do I get a pocket? If the pita pocket flaps are stuck together, wrap your pita in a slightly damp towel and microwave the pita for 20 seconds, the steam should help separate the pita for filling.
- Can I use something other than ground beef to make arayes? Ground lamb would be absolutely delicious as well or 50:50 beef and lamb. Ground chicken or turkey would also work but since they’re quite lean, they won’t carry the flavors as beautifully as lamb or beef.
- What sauce do you suggest serving with meat stuffed pitas? You can serve these with a homemade tahini sauce (a combination of garlic, mayo, tahini, lemon juice, and a splash of warm water.) or you can serve with homemade garlic sauce.
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
- Easy Persian Chicken Kebabs
- Lentil Rice Pilaf with Caramelized Onions (Mujadara)
- Most Delicious Homemade Shawarma Seasoning
- Beef Shawarma Bowls with Persian Rice
- Frozen Mint Lemonade
- 1 lb ground beef (95-99% lean)
- ½ medium onion, cut into a few pieces
- ½ cup parsley, packed
- 5 cloves garlic
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon EACH: ground allspice AND Baharat seasoning (7-spice)
- ½ teaspoon Each: hot paprika, ground cumin, AND cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses (optional)
- 4-5 flat Lebanese bread, Palestinian, or Greek Pita pockets
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more
- Garlic sauce or tahini sauce (in notes)
- COMBINE: In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the onions, garlic, and parsley until it's minced. Add this to a bowl along with the ground beef, 1¼ teaspoon of kosher salt, tomato paste, all of the seasonings, and the molasses. Use your hands or a wooden spoon to mix thoroughly. You can also just add all the ingredients to a food processor and pulse until they’re combined.
- FILL: Cut the pitas into 4 equal pieces. Place roughly 2 tablespoons of the mixture inside each pita and gently press the mixture down with a spoon. Repeat with the remaining mixture and pitas.
- PAN FRY, BAKE, AIR FRY: Heat a large cast-iron grill pan (or other grill pan) over medium-high heat. Brush both sides of the arayes with olive oil. When the grill is warm, place four arayes on the grill and cook for roughly 3-5 minutes per side or until golden and the beef is cooked to your liking. You can also bake these on a wire rack placed on top of a baking sheet in at 425ºF oven for 10-14 minutes (flipping halfway) and cooking them to your liking. The time it takes will depend on the thickness of the pita you’re using, Lebanese pitas require less time; thicker Greek pitas require longer. Air fry at 375ºF for 7-12 minutes (flipping halfway.) Serve with toum (garlic sauce) or tahini sauce.
- No baharat seasoning? use a ¼ teaspoon of each of these: ground coriander, ground black pepper, ground cloves, and ground nutmeg instead.
- Tahini sauce: Mix together 3 cloves garlic pressed, ⅓ cup mayo, ¼ cup tahini, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, a big pinch of kosher salt, and 1 tablespoon warm water in a bowl until smooth.