Arayes are a Lebanese classic street food which is basically stuffed pita bread with spiced ground beef (or kofta), then grilling them to perfection. This recipe is easy to make and they're a quick weeknight dinner that everyone loves!
Table of Contents
- What are Arayes?
- Ingredients You Will Need
- How to Make Arayes (Grill or Oven)
- FAQs and Expert Tips
- Recipes You Will Love
What are Arayes?
Arayes are really simple to make and they're a common street food in the middle east. There's an Egyptian version called Hawawshi as well. They're typically served as a light dinner and dipped into either yogurt, a tahini sauce or even ketchup. I love to serve mine with fries for the kids. I typically use my kofta ground beef mixture which is made of onions, parsley and various spices. The best part about this recipe is that:
- Its so simple and perfect for using up ground meat in your fridge
- Its a finger food and easy for kids to handle
- Its very quick to make!
Ingredients You'll Need
You need the typical Kofta ingredients for the pita filling. I also add pomegranate molasses to the filling to give it extra depth. The onions and parsley are there to give it lots of moisture, but if you're rushing, you can skip them.
One note on the ground beef: make sure you use extra lean ground beef to avoid a really greasy result. That's because they end up getting brushed with olive oil at the end!
Finally, you need pita bread of course! I love using the smaller rounds that are thicker, similar to Greek style pita. I find they hold up really well to the stuffing.
How to Make Arayes
As promised, we're going to keep this super simple. Start by making the ground beef mixture. This involves finely chopping the onions, garlic and parsley, OR using a food processor to make this faster.
Next, mix the onions and parsley with the ground beef, all the spices, olive oil (only add this if you are using lean or extra lean ground beef), and pomegranate molasses. Mix well using your hands. You can allow it to marinate in the fridge for a few hours if you have time.
The next thing you need to do is cut your pita in half to create half circle pockets. Place a few tablespoons of the mixture inside and spread it out evenly. You don't want a really thick layer so they cook all the way through. You also want the filling to come all the way to the edge so it gets a nice sear when we grill them.
This step is optional but highly recommended if you have a stove-top grill. Brush the arayes with olive oil on each side, then sear on each side for a few minutes to get those beautiful grill marks. I also flip it onto the exposed meat side and get a nice sear on that too, which helps the meat caramelize.
You can do this using an outdoor BBQ as well, and continue cooking them on the grill by lowering the heat slightly after searing. They need a total of 12-15 minutes to cook all the way through. This method will result in the crispiest Arayes.
If you want to bake them, after searing, place them on a baking sheet spaced evenly apart. If you have an oven sheet rack such as this one, I suggest you use it. This will ensure that the liquid drips to the sheet and allows the arayes to stay nice and crispy. Bake them for approximately 20 minutes, flipping halfway. Then, broil each side for a few minutes to crisp them up.
FAQs and Expert Tips
How to avoid soggy Arayes and ensure they are crispy?
- Use lean or extra lean ground beef to avoid too much oil making the bread soggy
- Grill them on a grill vs. baking in the oven for a crispier result
- If baking, don't use parchment paper. I suggest laying them on a rack on top of a baking sheet which will ensure the air circulates them and the drippings fall onto the sheet.
- Broil them at the end for a few minutes on each side (watch them closely!)
Can I make these in advance?
I have not tried freezing them uncooked. However, if you would like to make this easier, you can make the kofta mixture a few days ahead and store in the fridge, covered.
What can I serve with Arayes?
I love serving them with a yogurt tahini sauce and ketchup (which is the kids' favourite). You can also serve with plain or herby yogurt. I also usually make some fries which makes this a quick meal.
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Spicy Arayes | Middle Eastern Stuffed Pita
- 1 lb extra lean ground beef (500g)
- 5 garlic cloves
- ½ onion
- ½ cup parsley packed
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon seven spice or substitute with allspice
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses see notes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil for the meat
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil for the pitas
- 4 round pitas smaller 4 inch pitas
- Start by preheating your oven to 400F
- Peel the garlic cloves and onions and wash then dry the parsley
- Finely chop the onions, garlic and parsley or throw them in a food processor and process until fine
- Mix the ground beef with the onion, garlic and parsley mixture, along with all the spices and the olive oil. Mix well 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 to form pockets. 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 and ensure the filling comes all the way to the edge (check photos in post)
- Brush the outside of the pitas with olive oil on all sides
- Brush a cast iron gril with oil, then sear the pitas for 1 minute on each side, on medium high heat. Flip onto the exposed meat side and sear as well.
- Place on a baking sheet (don't use parchment paper) and bake in the oven for approximately 20 minutes, turning them half way through. If you have an oven rack, place them on the rack, on top of the oven sheet. This allows them to get more crispy and avoids sogginess.
- Ensure the pita is crispy by broiling for a few minutes if necessary. Watch them closely so they don't burn.
- Serve immediately with some yogurt, tahini sauce or ketchup and some fries. Enjoy!
- 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 (but I prefer the smaller ones because they make a perfectly sized pocket)
- If you don't have an oven rakc, bake directly on a baking sheet without parchment paper to ensure the Arayes crisp up evenly