A popular Lebanese street food, Arayes are meat-stuffed pita that is baked or grilled into crispy toasties. On the days I struggle to decide what to cook, this is my answer! I quarter a pita and spread the kafta thinly enough to easily pan grill or oven bake. We love to dip these crispy stuffed pitas in homemade tahini sauce which I highly recommend (recipe included).
These Middle Eastern meat-stuffed pitas can be served any time of the day as an appetizer or main along with dips like tahini sauce or labneh and salads like Tabbouleh or Mutabal. I usually end up making it for our weeknight dinner on a busy day and sometimes serve it with leftover garlic sauce that came with previous takeaways. No food waste here!
You only need two ingredients to make Arayes— Kafta and Kubz (pita). Kafta is a general term used for ground meat mixture and it can be used in multiple Levantine recipes like Kafta bil sanieh or Daoud basha, etc. So, even if you don't have enough pita to use up this batch of Kafta, you can always make meatballs or kabobs and serve them with Lebanese vermicelli rice.
I have included the ingredients for Tahini sauce because I highly recommend it but it is truly optional!
For Arayes kafta:
- ground meat (beef or lamb or mix of both)
- fresh parsley leaves
- ground cinnamon
- ground allspice
- pomegranate molasses
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- ...and Pita
For the tahini dip:
- lemon juice
- cold water
See the recipe card for quantities.
Let's make the easy Middle Eastern street food— Arayes! First, we have to prepare the kafta mixture which is ground meat with parsley and spices.
ground meat mixture
You may use a chopper to process the parsley leaves and onions together for ease and speed. Some like to add a clove of garlic here, I don't because I add garlic to the tahini sauce. Take a large mixing bowl and add the ground meat, chopped items, ground spices, salt and pepper.
Mix thoroughly well using your hands until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated. Keep this covered until you prepare the tahini sauce. You may refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours if you are not planning to make arayes immediately.
tahini sauce (tarator)
Though optional, I highly recommend making this sauce. Making Arayes is no hard work so take a little extra time to make Tarator aka tahini sauce and I am sure you will love it as we do. Thanks to the cookbook Everyday Lebanese Cooking that suggested this pairing - I am never having Arayes without this.
All you need is Tahini, lime or lemon juice, cold water and garlic. Use tahini which has only sesame seeds listed as ingredients. We will be using this both inside the pita before baking and serving the remaining as a dip after.
In a bowl, add the tahini and lemon or lime juice. Use a small whisk to whisk until thick ad fluffy. Now, add cold water a little a time while whisking and continue to add until it reaches the dip consistency. Lastly, add the minced garlic and salt to taste.
Lebanese meat stuffed pitas
Stack the pitas and cut using knife quarters (4 triangles). Some recipes call for halving so you have a pocket to fill. But I prefer this shape where you just open a triangle to spread the meat mixture.
Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons of ground beef mixture evenly on one side of each pita triangle using back of a spoon.
Now, just drizzle a spoonful of prepared tahini sauce all over the meat mixture.
Close and lightly press to seal the meat-stuffed pita. Place them on a lined baking sheet and keep them covered with a kitchen cloth. Repeat for the remaining pita pieces. You may oven-bake or pan-grill these until crispy and cooked through.
I prefer baking as it saves time and I don't have to deal with a messy stove top from grilling. But I do miss the beauty of the charred lines from a cast iron grill pan.
Drizzle or brush the meat-stuffed pitas with olive oil. Bake in a preheated oven at 392°F (200°C) for 10 to 15 minutes. In the last 5 to 8 minutes, take out, flip the arayes and bake for the remaining time or until crispy.
Hint: Try to use lean ground meat to avoid greasy Arayes. I usually bake them on the middle rack in my fan-assisted oven and they always get crispy on the edge and soft in the middle. You may have to adjust the temperature and rack as per your oven.
How to make Arayes on stovetop?
To make Arayes on the stovetop, cook on a lightly greased thick-bottomed skillet or cast-iron grill pan over medium heat. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side until the bread is crispy and the filling is cooked through. You may place a heavy skillet over the Arayes to mimic the sandwich press that evenly cooks both sides.
How to avoid soggy wet Arayes?
Initially, when I used to make Arayes on stovetop grill pan, they end up being in a pool of meat juice and hard to get them to crisp up. So, I tried oven baking and found a few pieces tend to get soggy. Over a few more attempts, I learnt a few lessons to make arayes that are not soggy.
- Use ground meat with less fat: I don't recommend fat-free as some fat is required for flavour and cook through the meat stuffed pitas.
- Don't wash the ground meat: This would be the number one cause of soggy or soaking wet arayes. I know some of you want to wash and drain the ground meat. While it is a debatable topic, just make sure you drain it really well before using.
- Cook on medium-high: Start with preheated oven or hot skillet. If making on the stovetop, avoid cooking on low heat. Low and slow will release moisture from the ground meat making the bread wet.
What to do with leftover meat filling?
- You can store it in a container with a lid and refrigerate it for a day or two and make more Arayes.
- You can shape them into meatballs and cook them in your favourite tomato sauce.
- Make patties for your morning sandwich or wraps.
- If you want to freeze, I would suggest to shape them into meatballs or patties and then freeze so you can use it for any recipe.
- meat: You can replace the ground beef with lamb or chicken
- ground spices: Instead of using cinnamon and allspice, you can replace it with any arab spice mix you already have.
- pita: I like to use Lebanese pitas that are thinner and so they get cripsy when baked. Also, I noticed when we use plain flour or white pita, the corners brown easily- Not pleasant to the eyes. So I tried with brown pita (wheat flour) and as you can see from the images, they turned out great looking.
- Some pitas are thicker and are perfect for a lot more meat filling as the bread can soak up all the meat juice.
- herbs: Fresh flat-leaf parsley is a must for this recipe. If you don't have parsley and still want to make Arayes, try using fresh mint or coriander leaves.
- pomegranate molasses: You can skip this or use a grated tomato instead.
I love how Arayes recipes are super versatile. Apart from this basic traditional recipe you can make Arayes with almost anything you love to grill!
- Spicy: I like to add a few green chillies to the meat mixture. Just chop them finely or add them along with onions and parsley in the chopper.
- Ground spices: Try adding cumin and coriander along with allspice and cinnamon for a different flavour.
- Feta arayes: A vegetarian version of arayes, where the pita bread is stuffed with a mixture of feta cheese, parsley, and onion, and then grilled or toasted.
- cheese and meat: Use the same recipe and add some grated cheese before sealing.
- Though not tried, I just learnt there is a veggie and seafood arayes too!
- baking tray
- Oven or grill pan
You can store this meat-stuffed pita in the refrigerator for up to three days. I have never tried freezing. When you want to reheat Arayes, simply bring them to room temperature and then reheat them in the oven or stove-top for crispy edges.
Try to keep the quantity of the filling same in each pita so they bake and toast evenly.
Arayes is a popular Middle Eastern dish consisting of pita bread stuffed with a mixture of ground meat, parsley and spices, then grilled or baked until crispy. The filling can be made from different types of meat such as lamb, beef, or chicken, and can also include vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, or peppers. Arayes are often served as an appetizer or a main dish and are typically accompanied by yoghurt sauce or tahini sauce.
The word "arayes" comes from the Arabic word "ara'is", which means "bride" or "newlywed". According to tradition, arayes were originally served to newlyweds as a special treat. The dish was made with the freshest and best ingredients available and was often served with yoghurt or other dips. Over time, arayes became a popular street food in many parts of the Middle East, and can now be found in restaurants and markets throughout the region.
Arayes are a popular dish in the Levantine countries like Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine. The exact origin of arayes is not clear, as similar dishes with variations exist in different parts of the region. Some sources suggest that arayes may have originated in Lebanon, while others trace their roots back to Palestine or Syria. Regardless of its exact origin, Arayes has become a beloved and widely enjoyed dish throughout the Middle East and beyond.
I had a few leftover Afghan khubz from a local bakery. Made the above-pictured batch of Arayes by carefully separating the layers.
Looking for other recipes using ground beef? Try these:
- 500 grams ground meat (beef or lamb or chicken)
- 1 large onion (approx 100g)
- 50 gram fresh parsley (approx 2 cups)
- 2 garlic cloves optional
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses optional
- ½ teaspoon allspice powder
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper powder
- 6 pita bread
- olive oil to brush
For Tahini sauce
- 3 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ cup tahini
- ⅓ to ½ cup cold water
- 1 garlic clove minced
- ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- Preheat the oven to 392°F (200°C).
- Process the onion, garlic (if using) and parsley in a chopper or pulse them in a food processor or use your knife to chop them very finely.1 large onion, 50 gram fresh parsley, 2 garlic cloves
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground meat with the chopped items, ground spices and pomegranate molasses. Mix well until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated. Keep covered until needed. You may make this a day ahead and keep refrigerated.500 grams ground meat, 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, ½ teaspoon allspice powder, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper powder
- Prepare the tahini sauce by whisking the tahini and lemon juice until fluffy. Whisk in cold water a little at a time until it reaches a thick pouring consistency. You may not need all of the water. Lastly, stir in the salt and minced garlic.3 tablespoon lemon juice, ½ cup tahini, ⅓ to ½ cup cold water, 1 garlic clove, ½ teaspoon salt
- Stack the pita bread and cut using a knife into half or quarters.6 pita bread
- Spread the meat mixture on one side of each pita triangle using about 2-3 tablespoons for each piece. You may drizzle a teaspoon of the prepared tahini sauce before closing. Close the pita bread pressing lightly.
- Place the stuffed pita on a lined baking sheet and brush the tops with olive oil.olive oil
- Bake the arayes for a total of 10-15 minutes. Serve hot with the remaining tahini sauce or any yoghurt dip.
If you have tried making this Arayes recipe or any other recipe on But First Chai, then please don't forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! I would be super happy to hear how it turned out for you. And if you happen to take any photos or videos, please share them with me on Instagram @butfirstchaai so I can see and share your feedback!