whole food ~ well made

Lebanese lamb and lentil meatballs on skewers with yogurt sauce recipe at

Lamb-Lentil Kibbeh Skewers with Mint Yogurt Sauce

On Sunday, I attended a town hall meeting with our state’s US senator, Ron Wyden. At the end of the very civil and orderly Q&A, he related that he is a first-generation American, son of Jewish immigrants who fled Germany in 1930.

“We are a nation of immigrants,” he reminded us, and I felt tears flood the corners of my eyes.

I don’t get political on the Forage blog {I keep those comments to Twitter where I follow a lot of excellent journalists and activists}. In so many ways, food is the one avenue to transcend the polarization of politics.

No matter our backgrounds or views, we can all sit down to share good food, conversation and community.

It’s fascinating to me that one of the most popular trends right now is Middle Eastern cuisines. In Forbes, a 2017 food trends article states that this actually makes sense:

“When people are driven from their homes one of the first positive manifestations is a new raft of emigrant cuisine, as some of the world pays attention and some of the world addresses their displacement through comforting meals.”

Lebanese lamb and lentil meatballs on skewers with yogurt sauce recipe at
Yellow lentils, bulgur and onions bulk up these lamb kibbeh and serve more people with less.

How to Eat Less Meat

Perhaps this influenced me as I prepared my menu for my Forage workshop on Saturday night. The focus was “how to eat less meat,” and I created a three-course Middle Eastern-inspired meal.

These lamb-lentil kibbeh–or meatball skewers–were a favorite.

{For the curious, here’s the whole menu. Yes, there is quite a bit of meat, but as I’ll describe in an upcoming post, you can eat less meat while eating it!}

ground lamb & chard borek | chermoula chicken kebabs | kibbeh with yogurt sauce & pita bread | beef, egplant & chickpea tagine | Israeli couscous with chicken stock, saffron & preserved lemon | sweetmeat tarts with lard pastry & olive oil ice cream

Kibbeh, or Middle Eastern Meatballs

In Arabic, kibbeh (or kibbe) means “ball.” Typically, this preparation combines ground lamb with bulgur and is served both raw (kibbeh nayeh) and cooked. It can be fried, grilled, baked, broiled or grilled.

This meat dish is often associated with Lebanon, but it is popular in its many variations–and as many names, including kofte, kubbi and kobeiba–throughout the Levant from Turkey to Egypt.

Lebanese lamb and lentil meatballs on skewers with yogurt sauce recipe at

In this recipe, I use the oven to roast the meatballs, which browns them deliciously and is more hands free. I look forward to grilling them once the weather improves!

What makes kibbeh different from American-style meatballs or meatloaf {though they are decidedly second cousins}, is the distinctive blend of spices to heighten the flavors of the meat.

In this recipe, I combined ginger with cumin, coriander and fresh mint. And, you may have noticed that I also added yellow lentils.

Intrigued? Perplexed?

{Funny how often crossing cultures can instill both of those reactions at the same time, isn’t it.}

More Versatile Ground Meat

My goal was to make the meat go further so that everyone eats less meat. The side effect is that stretching ground meat with other tasty ingredients is also more economical, especially if you’re making the extra investment in local and pasture-raised meats.

Lebanese lamb and lentil meatballs on skewers with yogurt sauce recipe at

So by adding cooked yellow lentils along with the bulgur, the 12 ounces of ground lamb (or beef) feeds more people. The more the merrier, as my Mom always says.

I loved the texture and flavors of the lentils. And the most devoted meat eater of the group on Saturday night declared, “I never would have know it wasn’t all meat!”

Another benefit of ground meat is that you have total portion control. This winter, I posted a recipe for baby meatballs that puts this principle into action. The same holds here where you portion 1- to 1.5-ounce meatballs.

Then, there’s the fun you can have making the ground meat mixture into any shape. I was intrigued by the tradition of forming the meat into a cigar shape and grilling it on skewers.

Tell me, where in the world are there people who don’t love to eat meat off of a stick?

Making Meatball Skewers

Here’s the best way I found to form the meatball skewers so that they do not slide of the stick:

  1. Scoop the meatball mixture into golf ball-sized portions (about 1 ounce) onto a baking sheet.
  2. Chill the meatballs for at least 30 minutes up to overnight, covered.
  3. Insert the skewer through the center of the meatball and squeeze gently with your palm to form into a fat cigar shape.
  4. Arrange the skewers on the same sheet pan, alternating them so that they all fit.
  5. Chill until ready to roast {or grill}.

Lebanese lamb and lentil meatballs on skewers with yogurt sauce recipe at

I hope that you enjoy sharing these with a wonderful group of people as I did on Saturday night. We began the evening as strangers meeting across the urban and rural divide that defines Oregon.

We parted, with heartfelt hugs, as new friends.

I’d like to think that making and sharing food together had more than a little something to do with it.


and become a forager


Lebanese lamb and lentil meatballs on skewers with yogurt sauce recipe at
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5 from 5 votes

Lamb-Lentil Meatball (Kibbeh) Skewers with Mint Yogurt Sauce

Cooked lentils and soaked bulgur stretch ground lamb (substitute ground beef, pork or turkey) for meatballs you skewer before roasting or grilling. Finish them off with a squeeze of lemon and the mint yogurt sauce. For a hearty appetizer or light meal, serve the kibbeh over baby spinach or salad greens and warm pita bread.
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 6 people
Author Lynne


  • 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1- inch piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2/3 cup yellow lentils, cooked and cooled (see notes)
  • 1/2 cup soaked bulgur (see notes)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • pinch cayenne
  • 3/4 pounds ground lamb
  • lemon wedges, for serving

Mint Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt pastured
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1 whole lemon, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon sumac optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt


To make the kibbeh:

  • Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring until it turns translucent, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a mixing bowl and let cool to room temperature.
  • Add the ginger, garlic, lentils, bulgur, parsley, mint,cumin, coriander, salt and cayenne and stir to combine. Break up the ground lamb and use your hands or a wooden spoon until very well combined.
  • Portion the ground beef mixture into golf-ball sized meatballs each. For best results, chill them on a baking sheet for at least 30 minutes. 
  • To form the skewers, pierce the meatball through the middle with a wooden skewer, then squeeze gently with your palm to shape into an even cigar shape that adheres to the skewer and arrange them on a baking sheet. Chill until ready to cook.

To make the yogurt sauce:

  • Combine the yogurt, parsley, mint, lemon juice, sumac, if using, and salt in a small bowl. Taste for seasoning.

To cook and serve the kibbeh:

  • To roast, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and arrange the skewers on a sheet pan. Cook turning the skewers once until nicely browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes. 
  • To grill, preheat a charcoal or gas grill to high heat, scrape it well and oil it lightly. Grill the skewers (keeping the ends away from the main heat source), turning 2-3 times until nicely browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes.
  • Serve the kibbeh with the yogurt sauce and the lemon wedges.


To cook the lentils: Bring a pot of water to a boil, add 1/3 cup of rinsed dry lentils and lower the heat to a simmer. Stir once, cover, and cook the lentils they are toothsome but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Drain well and cool by spreading them into a thin layer on a baking sheet. Yields about 2/3 cup.
To soak bulgur: Put 1/4 cup of dry bulgur in a bowl. Add 1/4 cup boiling water, cover and soak for 20 minutes until softened and cooled to room temperature. Yields about 1/2 cup.


  1. I like those high proteins skewers! Plus the extra minty sauce it spot on! It would make good appetizers also for any party!

    1. Thanks. It’s fun to watch how excited people get eating meat skewers, Marie-Pierre.

  2. This would be a perfect dish for our backyard BBQ’s, a nice update on our usual spedini (lamb skewers done over the charcoal). And I love the addition of the mint yogurt sauce…perfect combination!

    1. I’m happy you think this would be a crowd pleaser, Melissa. Enjoy BBQ season!

  3. 5 stars
    Well we are lamb lovers…and lentils too. This sounds like a delicious culinary treat to me. Love the flavour profile….I use it often too.

    1. Happy you think so, Gloria. Not only delicious flavors but easy for entertaining!

  4. Anything served with a mint and yogurt sauce… I’m in! This sounds lovely! Do you think it would be as good with a lighter meat? We don’t eat beef or lamb, but I bet a mix of pork and turkey would be just as good!

    1. You could use any ground meat you like best, Nicole. I think either pork or turkey would taste terrific!

  5. I can’t wait to make these and throw them on the grill. I adore Middle Eastern food. I wholeheartedly agree that sitting down to a meal together can help bridge differences. Nicely said.

    1. Thanks, Eileen. I hope you put them on your summertime menu planning.

  6. 5 stars
    I love lamb, but have never had it in the form of meatballs. I bet these are perfectly moist!

    1. Ground lamb is actually my favorite cut of lamb, too! Very common in Middle Eastern cooking, but you can also substitute beef or your favorite ground meats. And they ARE moist.

  7. 5 stars
    How delicious, I love the idea of adding lentils and bulgar to them to make the meat go further. I’ve cut down on the amount of meat we are eating as a family and this recipe is perfect for us to try.

    1. We are in the same boat, Sarah, putting everything in balance. I hope you’ll let me know if you give this recipe a try!

  8. 5 stars
    Lovely flavours! I’ve only ever had fried kibbeh, which are also delicious. These baked ones are a much healthier option, and served on a stick they are perfect party food.

    1. Thanks, Nicole. I also love them grilled.

  9. Lovely photos and the recipe sounds delicious! I would love to try this. Sometimes I’m a little scared to try meals with mint but I would be open to trying your recipe out. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you, April. Mint is lovely in savory meals, but you could substitute cilantro or basil in the yogurt sauce for a similar effect.

  10. 5 stars
    I love anything with lamb! This sounds delicious!

    1. Thank you, Sarah.

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