Arayes is an incredibly popular Middle Eastern appetizer! It is pita bread stuffed with seasoned ground lamb meat, baked, and then grilled for an extra crispy texture.
You’ll have it ready from start to finish within 30 minutes! Yes, it’s truly that quick and easy to make
Juicy and tender meat covered with crispy, flavorful pita bread. It is on every Middle Eastern restaurant menu, and it’s great party food.
You can make my homemade pita bread on the stovetop and use it in making this recipe. Don’t forget to watch the video below to learn how to make this delight.
Excited to learn more? Let’s get started!
What is Arayes?
In Egypt, it is known as Hawawshi and in Lebanon, it is known as Arayes, and it’s more like burgers but are flat and have so much flavor. An appetizer that’s quick to prepare, classic, popular, and economical.
Crispy and delicious on the outside, and tender on the inside is what Arayes is all about. They are pita bread sandwiches that are stuffed with minced lamb meat, spices, and herbs and are incredibly popular throughout the Middle East.
You can use homemade or store-bought pita bread in this recipe, but thick pita bread makes better tasting Arayes because it absorbs the flavors coming from the meat and olive oil without getting soggy.
I thought it was a good idea to share this recipe after sharing my Beef Burger Pizza Recipe to give my audience more ground meat quick recipes.
But as I have mentioned before, the flavor of the stuffed meat in Arayes is more delicious than a burger. You don’t need toppings or sauce with Arayes, but if you must, then you should pair it with Hummus!
What Does Arayes Mean?
The word ‘Arayes’ in Arabic is the plural of the word ‘Aroussa’ which means ‘the bride’. Now no one knows exactly why this dish is named this way but there are certain explanations that are now commonly thought to be true.
Some people say that the reason why is because they were originally in Syria and were sold wrapped in white paper and had been compared to white bridal gowns at the time.
Other people say there were named for the ‘marriage’ of meat and bread (fittingly so!), much like the delicious Moroccon Sardines Mariées.
It’s also said to have been named this way because of just how perfect-looking and beautiful this sandwich is, like a bride on her wedding day. Although Arayes originated from Syria, it then became extremely popular in Lebanon and Egypt.
There are many different ways it is spelled. In Arabic, it is written as عرايس and it is then Romanized into English. This leads to a bunch of different spellings.
But whether it’s called Arayes, Ara’yes, Arayes Kafta, or Arayes Bi Lahm, it’s still the same, beautiful pita bread sandwiches that we’ve all come to love.
Make Perfect Arayes at Home with These Tips
Use high-fat meat: To make a great-tasting Arayes use ground meat with a high amount of fat. The fat brings out more flavor and keeps the meat tender.
Finely chop the onion: By finely chopping the onions, the juices from it spread in the stuffing, adding moisture to the meat and it cooks quickly, leaving a hint of sweetness.
Add warm earthy spices: Not many spices are used, but the combination of spices chosen for this recipe works great with lamb meat. Don’t make the mistake of adding more spices; the amount used gives a balanced flavor.
Tomatoes: Remove the seeds from the tomatoes to reduce the acidity but add it to tenderize the meat. You’ll achieve an incredibly juicy and tender stuffing in this Arayes recipe, just like I promised you.
What You Need to Make Arayes at Home
Making these delicious pita bread sandwiches requires the simplest of ingredients! Here’s what you need to make them at home:
Ground meat: I’ve chosen ground lamb meat for this recipe, as that is what is used most commonly to make Arayes. But you can also use ground beef instead, or use half ground beef and half ground lamb meat. Many people also like using ground chicken instead of minced meat, it’s all up to your personal preferences but I’ve included the authentic recipe here. Feel free to adapt it to your preferences.
Onions: As I mentioned above, onions will add an incredibly juicy flavor and texture to your Arayes. They’ll also impart a slightly sweet touch of flavor to the final product that you’re going to absolutely love. Make sure to chop them really finely or use a food processor to do the trick for you!
Tomatoes: These add the perfect texture and flavor to the Arayes and it’ll be truly incomplete without them. To reduce the acidity, remove the seeds from the tomatoes but by adding them you’ll ensure that the meat is perfectly tenderized.
Parsley: Fresh parsley adds the perfect balance and freshness to this dish.
Spices: We’ll be using a few spices to season the meat correctly, namely ground cumin, paprika, black pepper, salt, coriander powder, cumin powder. This combination of spices will give you the perfect Middle Eastern flavor.
Garlic: Fresh, finely chopped garlic really helps bring out the flavors in the meat.
Pita bread: Arayes can’t be complete without some Pita Bread. Make yours at home or use store-bought ones if you’re in a hurry. Regardless of what you use, they’ll turn out incredible.
How to Make the Perfect Arayes – Step by Step
There are five simple steps to make Arayes! It’s almost unbelievable how such a simple recipe can easily win everyone’s heart. Here’s how to make Arayes at home step-by-step:
Step 1 - Preheat the oven: Start by preheating your oven to 392F or 200C.
Step 2 - Mix all ingredients except pita bread: In a large bowl, add all the filling ingredients. Mix well and keep aside.
Step 3 - Stuff the pita bread. Cut the pita bread in half and stuff each pita pocket. Alternatively, you can open the pita bread and spread the meat mixture on one side, and then place the plain side of the bread over it.
Step 4 - Bake for 30 minutes: Now it’s time to bake them! Cut large enough aluminum foil to cover all sides of the pita bread. Next, drizzle olive oil on the aluminum foil place the stuffed pita bread on the aluminum foil. Now, drizzle olive oil over the pita bread and close the aluminum foil from all sides. Place the sealed pita bread on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
Step 5 - Grill for a few seconds for extra crunch: Once done, remove the pita bread from the oven and the aluminum foil. Place the pita bread on a hot grill or a cast iron grill pan and grill it until it turns a little crispy and has grill marks.
That’s it! This amazing appetizer is ready to be served in a few minutes. Cut the pita bread sandwiches into triangles before serving. I recommend serving these stuffed pitas with plain yogurt, salad, or Hummus.
Read the tips and FAQs below to know how to store leftovers and what type of pita bread to use!
Tips and FAQs for the Best Arayes Ever
What kind meat can I use?
You can use lamb; it cooks faster than beef, but you can still use beef or mix half beef with half lamb. Make sure that the meat has a good amount of fat.
Can I grill the Arayes and skip the oven?
If you are using thin pita bread, then it might burn because the meat needs time to cook. To be on the safe side, it’s best to bake the Arayes in the oven and then grill it.
Can I place the stuffed pita bread on a baking sheet and cover it with aluminum foil?
No, doing so will make the juices from the stuffing come out and dry, besides the nightmare of washing the baking sheet. Wrapping each pita bread in aluminum foil helps in capturing the moisture within the pita bread and prevents it from burning while the meat slowly cooks.
Shall I use thin or thick pita bread?
You can use both, but I prefer to use thick pita bread. It’s the pita bread made mostly in Egypt, and I have the recipe on my blog too.
What to serve with Arayes?
How to Store Arayes?
When the Arayes are cool, place the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two days.
Arayes freeze very well for up to two months. Freeze first in a single layer on a baking sheet until set, then you can place them in a freezer bag altogether to save space in your freezer. When you’re ready to have them, take them out of the freezer. They’ll thaw quickly, and you can even bake/reheat directly from frozen.
FOR THE FILLING
- 500 gm ground lamb meat
- ½ teaspoon paprika powder
- ½ teaspoon coriander powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- Salt to taste. For this recipe I have used ½ teaspoon
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 1 medium tomato chopped. Seeds removed
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 small pita bread around 5 to 6 inch or 2 large pita bread.
TO BRUSH THE BREAD
- Olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 200C/392F.
- In a bowl, add all the filling ingredients. Mix well and keep aside.
- You have to options here, either cut the pita bread in half and fill the pockets with the stuffing previously prepared, or open the pita bread and spread the filling evenly on one side and then cover with the other half of pita bread.
- Cut large enough aluminum foil to cover all sides of the pita bread.
- Sprinkle olive oil on the aluminum foil place the stuffed pita bread on the aluminum foil.
- Sprinkle olive oil over the pita bread and close the aluminum foil from all sides.
- Place the sealed pita bread in the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove the pita bread from the oven and the aluminum foil. Place the pita bread on a hot grill and grill it until a little crispy and have grill marks.
- Cut the pita bread in triangles before serving.
- Serve with plain yogurt, salad, or Hummus.
- It is essential to preheat the oven. Turn on the oven and use it after 15 to 20 minutes.
- You can place the sealed pita bread on the oven shelf or on a baking sheet if you are concerned about the juices coming out of the aluminum.
- If you don’t have a grill, then place the Arayes after baking it in the oven on a hot pan and cook until a little crispy from both sides.
- To heat the Arayes, place them in the oven or heat them on the stovetop in a pan.
- Heating the Arayes in the microwave is possible, but the Arayes will not come out crunchy.