If you don't know what Arayes are... you're completely missing out. They're a Lebanese classic street food made by stuffing pita bread with spiced ground beef (or lamb), then grilling them to a crisp perfection. What's not to love? Meat... Bread... spices and crispiness. I love making Arayes as a quick weeknight dinner because everyone loves them; the adults and the kids.
What makes Arayes so perfect in my opinion is all that delicious olive oil that caramelizes the meat and the bread so perfectly. I love to make mine with a spicy and garlic-y stuffing that makes the final product resemble a crunchy burger. We then dip it in ketchup or my homemade yogurt tahini sauce (recipe here) and it's a fight as to who gets the last piece.
Here's the run down of how Arayes are made, which by the way, is super easy. You prepare the ground beef mixture with the garlic and spices, and I typically like to refrigerate it for a few hours or prepare it the night before. It really helps the flavors develop. I use extra lean ground beef because that's what I usually have on hand, but regular beef will work great, because the more fat the better for this dish. You want the fat to ooze out of the meat and crisp up the pita. That's why I add some oil to my meat.
Then it's all about stuffing the pitas, brushing with oil, searing, and baking. It really only takes about 15 minutes to make. The most important step that you mustn't forget is the searing! I sear the Arayes with the meat side down first to caramelise the meat, then I get a nice golden color on either sides of the pita. The final step is to bake them until the meat is full cooked.
They will usually crisp up further while baking but in case they don't (depending on your oven temperature and your tray), you can broil them for a few minutes on either side near the end. Oh and one more thing I forgot to mention... don't use parchment paper. Placing them directly on a tray will make them stay crispy (vs soggy).
Now of course you can also go a different way with your Arayes stuffing and use a classic Kofta stuffing, which I do quite often. But my preference is this recipe because I love the spice involved and that they resemble mini burgers.
If you end up making this recipe (after looking at these photos, how can you resist?!) be sure to leave me a comment and a review! I love hearing your feedback.
For more Middle Eastern recipes, check out:
- 1 lb or 500g lean ground beef
- 5 garlic cloves
- 3 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- ½ tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp olive oil for the meat
- ⅓ cup olive oil for the pitas
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses see notes
- 6 round pitas smaller 4 inch pitas
- Start by preheating your oven to 350F
- Peel and crush the garlic cloves
- Mix the ground beef with the garlic, all the spices and the olive oil using your hands, ensuring all the spices are well incorporated. If possible, allow the meat to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight
- Cut pitas in half and open them. Stuff them with about 1.5 to 2 tbsp of the meat mixture, ensuring the pita is full but not overfilling it. Press them down to flatten
- Brush the outside of the pitas with olive oil on all sides
- Over medium heat, outside of the pitas starting with the meat side down to caramelize the beef. Then sear on both sides until lightly golden
- Place on a baking sheet (don't use parchment paper) and bake in the oven for approximately 30 minutes, turning them half way through
- Ensure the pita is crispy by broiling for a few minutes if necessary (they should crisp up by baking but depending on your temperature/tray, you may need to broil)
- Serving suggestions: Ketchup or Yogurt tahini sauce
- If you don't have pomegranate molasses, you can skip it
- You can also use the large 8" pita bread and cut it into 4 quarters for stuffing
- Bake directly on a baking sheet without parchment paper to ensure the Arayes crisp up evenly