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These Lebanese meat pies, also called sfeehas, are a popular appetizer recipe in the Middle East. They are made with a simple dough recipe that’s stuffed with a spiced ground beef and onions mixture and baked until golden, usually in a pizza oven.
Ingredients & substitutions
- Dough: You can use the dough recipe below, use your own dough recipe or a store-bought one.
- Ground beef: Use 90-95% lean ground beef for the recipe. If you use something less lean, be sure to drain out the excess fat so the filling doesn’t carry too much moisture. You can also make this with ground lamb as a substitute.
- Onions: Yellow onions add flavor to the beef filling. Dice it finely so that it mixes well with the rest of the filling ingredients. You can also use red onions, shallots or green onions.
- Tomatoes: These are optional but they add so much flavor to the meat stuffing. If you’re using tomatoes, it’s helpful to remove the seeded core which contains a lot of juices. This way the meat filling doesn’t get too moist or affect the dough.
- Parsley: Parsley adds a nice burst of freshness to each bite. You could use another fresh herb like cilantro or basil for a different flavor.
- Spices: Traditional Middle Eastern spices that can be swapped to your taste.
How to make Lebanese meat pies
Make the dough
- The dough recipe is a an easy basic recipe that is common in Lebanese meat, cheese and spinach pies. It will have more olive oil than basic pizza dough, which helps it get golden in the oven.
Cook the filling
- Add the ground beef and onions to a hot skillet.
- Cook util the beef is browned and the onions are soft.
- Add the tomatoes, spices and parsley.
- Stir to combine until the ground beef filling is fragrant and the spices are well incorporated.
Assemble & bake
- Press the dough into circles. You can also roll, but it’s easier to press them out instead.
- Place some of the beef filling in the middle of each circle.
- Fold the dough over to cover the beef.
- Seal the edges with a fork or your fingers.
- Bake on a lined baking sheet until golden brown.
Tips for making meat pies
- Don’t be tempted to add more flour to the dough recipe. It should feel wet and oily and this will help them crisp in the oven and get that beautiful golden color. If you’re using store-bought dough, it helps to add oil to your hands when working with the dough.
- Flatten out the dough with your hands, not rolling pin. Instead use your hands and simply press down on the dough so they open up without becoming too thin.
- Spread the filling and make the meat pie in the baking pan. Think of an assembly line when making these meat pies and assemble them where you’ll bake them. This also helps to minimize the chance of the dough getting too thin from transferring it from the countertop to the baking dish.
- Fry them! While these are traditionally made in a pizza oven and baked at very high temperatures, it’s also quite popular to fry them in vegetable oil. They come out more crispy. But be sure to seal them tightly because they sometimes unravel when frying.
Frequently asked questions
These Lebanese meat pies will keep well in the fridge for up to 4 days. Let them cool before storing in an airtight container. You can enjoy them cold, or reheat them in the oven at 350F for 10 to 15 minutes til warmed through.
Yes! Sfeehas will keep well frozen for up to 3 months, thaw them in the fridge overnight before reheating. If you have any beef filling leftover, that will also freeze for up to 4 months and can be defrosted and used to make another batch!
As an appetizer, you can enjoy these on their own, typically they are dipped in plain whole milk yogurt. You could also serve them with this cucumber yogurt sauce.
And if you want to try a vegetarian version of sfeehas, be sure to check out the spinach pies, which uses the same technique but a different filling (and iconic shape!)
More Lebanese recipes:
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Lebanese Meat Pies
Make the Dough
- Combine the warm water, sugar and yeast in a bowl. Add the flour and salt and mix together until well combined. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead the mixture until sticky.
- Add the olive oil and continue kneading until the dough becomes soft and smooth and lightly sticky without leaving any dough on your fingers.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly greased and allow it to proof until doubled, about 90 minutes.
- Remove the dough and divide into 30 pieces and reshape to round balls. Let sit in an oiled tray until doubled, about 30 minutes.
Make the stuffing
- In a medium size pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and cook the onions until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Add the beef and onions and cook until the beef is browned, about 8-10 minutes. Fold in the tomatoes and parsley, then season with salt, 7 Spice, sumac and cinnamon.
Assemble & Cook
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Roll out the dough in 4-5 inch circles. Place 2 tablespoons of the mixture inside each circle.
- Hold two ends of the dough and seal them together over the filling, pinching the dough together to help bind. Fold the last side up to meet the first two sides, pinching the dough together with the first two sides to bind.
- Bake for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown.
- Serve warm on their own or with plain whole milk yogurt as a dip.
- Instead of ground beef, you can use ground lamb or ground chicken or even ground turkey.
- Instead of parsley, you can use more cilantro or basil, but parsley is more traditional.
- Instead of yellow onions, you can use red onions or green onions.
- Instead of 7 spice and sumac, you can substitute with more cinnamon and black pepper and cumin.