Arayes are a Lebanese dish of grilled pitas stuffed with meat. Meat choices are typically lamb or beef, flavored with herbs and spices. The pita bread is sliced and the meat is stuffed into its pocket, then the pita is placed on the grill to cook the meat, where it develops a toasty crust.
Lamb and beef are traditionally used but other meats like chicken, veal and turkey are also popular choices. Arayes are sometimes call arayes kafta. Kafta or kofta is a traditional ground meat mixture used to make dishes like meatballs or kebabs. It’s common to use up leftover kafta by making arayes.
Besides grilling which is popular when prepared as street food, arayes are also baked and toasted. Arayes are served with salad such as tomato and sauces like tahini, yogurt or toum.
One of the better known versions of arayes comes from Egypt and is known as Hawawshi. Hawawshi is made with baladi bread which is similar to pita but is made from whole wheat flour. Unlike arayes which uses many spices to flavor the meat, hawawshi is a spicy version because it often includes hot peppers like chilies.
Origin & Cultural Significance
Arayes means brides. Some believe the name describes how the meat is wrapped in the pita like a bride in her dress, others think it’s the marriage of meat and pita. Some say there’s no connection at all. Arayes popularity has taken off beyond its birth place of Lebanon. Now, surrounding countries especially Israel is discovering and indulging in this modern Middle Eastern sandwich.
- Lean ground beef - 1 lb
- Garlic cloves - 5
- Onion – 1/2
- Parsley, packed – ½ cup
- Black pepper – ½ tsp
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Seven spice or substitute with allspice – 1 tsp
- Pomegranate molasses – 1 tbsp
- Olive oil for the meat – 2 tbsp
- Olive oil for the pitas – 2-3 tbsp
- Round pitas - 4
- Preheat oven to 400 F
- Finely chop the onions, garlic and parsley or put them in a food processor and process until fine
- Mix the ground beef with the onion, garlic and parsley mixture, add 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 the meat mixture, ensuring the pita is full but not overfilled.
- Press the pitas down to flatten and ensure the filling comes all the way to the edge.
- Brush the outside of the pitas with olive oil on all sides.
- Brush a cast iron grill 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 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 crispier and avoids sogginess.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 621Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 127mgSodium: 1109mgCarbohydrates: 49gFiber: 2gSugar: 5gProtein: 48g