Kibbet La’teen – Vegetarian Pumpkin Kibbe

Queensland Blue Pumpkins

I have noticed that lately my blog has focused on Lebanese food. I don’t know why especially. The fact that I am Lebanese might have something to do with it, but I live in bicultural home were we live on a multicultural diet, as is befitting for a Sydney lifestyle. In my little corner of the world I can eat anything from ayam goreng to zabaglione, and I do. But lately, I often think of home. I miss my little village, our olive trees anxious for the summer time, and my parents who are waiting for that weekly phone call from their three boys who are scattered around the world. I find some solace in that phone call, and I spend hours talking to my mom, discussing day-to-day life, sharing worries and triumphs and swapping recipes. Easter is near, and normally I would have felt it approaching. You see, though Sydney has given me so much, it has also made me a stranger to traditions I used to identify with. That’s what nine years does to a migrant. In the period of Lent leading up to Easter Sunday, I would have been more aware of the approach of Easter, possibly because I usually would have had a lot of kibbet la’teen.

Kibbet La’teen – Pumpkin Kibbeh with Labneh

The days of Lent traditionally meant abstinence from meat. This has now changed, but in keeping with tradition, I wanted to make kibbet la’teen, or pumpkin kibbeh. Kibbeh is the national dish of Lebanon and we have so many variations on the theme. The most famous is the torpedo shaped balls filled with minced meat and pine nuts. Any decent or even terrible Lebanese restaurant would have kibbeh on the menu. But pumpkin kibbeh is the only kibbeh to have during Lent. I love the regional name kibbet heeleh. This names translates to “trick kibbeh”, the trick is, of course, the sneaky substitution of meat with pumpkin. The filling varies, and you can use anything. You would normally fill the little kibbeh balls with silver beet or spinach, fennel, raisins, chickpeas and onions. Another filling would be labneh (a creamy spread made by straining yoghurt) with onions and dried mint. I decided to go with the labneh filling and I also made a filling with fetta and walnuts, which turned out great. I got this recipe from yet another weekly phone call to the folks back home. Mom emphasised that I MUST squeeze the pumpkin after boiling. So please, do as Mom says.

Kibbet La’teen – Pumpkin Kibbeh Recipe

A visual guide to making kibbeh


For the kibbeh dough

  • Pumpkin – 2 kilos
  • Burghul – 400 grams (burghul is also known as bulghur wheat)
  • 1 finely diced onion
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 loaf of Lebanese bread

Labneh Filling (adjust quantities to suit)

  • Labneh – 2 cups
  • ½ cup finely diced onion
  • Salt, to taste
  • Dried or fresh mint (optional)

Fetta Filling (adjust quantities to suit)

  • 2 cups Fetta
  • Handful of chopped walnuts
  • ½ cup finely diced onion


  • Cut the pumpkin into equally sized pieces
  • Boil enough water to cover the pumpkin and add to the boiling water
  • Remove after around 15 minutes. You want the pumpkin to be cooked, but still firm. Set aside to cool
  • Put small amounts of the pumpkin in an old, but clean pillowcase. Squeeze to drain as much water as possible. Preserve the liquid that comes out
  • Repeat the above step with the remaining pumpkin. You should be left with around 650 grams of dry pumpkin flesh
  • Wet the Lebanese bread in the strained pumpkin water and then squeeze the excess liquid. Afterwards, shred the bread
  • Put the pumpkin flesh, shredded bread and the diced onion in a food processor, and whizz away
  • When the flesh and the onions are well processed, put in a big mixing bowl and add the burghul, salt and spices and knead well

Putting it together

  • Put a bowl of water nearby and wet your hands when necessary
  • Grab a small handful of kibbeh dough
  • Shape into a ball and hold in your left hand
  • Use the index finger on your right hand to make a hole in the ball
  • Gradually flatten the dough making it longer around your index
  • Make sure you don’t create any holes
  • It doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as it holds the filling. It gets better the more you do it. When the kibbeh is around the length of your index, place the filling of choice inside and close it up by either rounding the edges or flattening them.
  • Use the different edges to distinguish different fillings
  • Now to cook them, you can either bake, deep-fry or boil them. Deep-frying is the tastiest but least healthy, which is of course what I did. You want the colour to deepen to a nice dark brown. If boiling, do so for around 5 minutes. The colour will not go brown, but they will be cooked.
  • Eat hot or cold. It doesn’t matter, as long as you eat them. Enjoy, and if I don’t see you, Happy Easter.


  • That kibbeh la’teen is superb! I could tell from the color! You put plenty of pumpkin; you know when i made them they tasted almost sweet! I love them so much!
    I have noticed a lot more vegan kibbeh lately, like one made only with bulgur but i think the pumpkin one is the best; the fillings are great too!

  • I have had this last week! This is one of my favorite stuff to eat. We fill it with Chickpeas, chard, onions and sumac. We had some filled with plain labneh. I like the dried mint idea and onions with Labneh, will tell my mom to make it that way next time. This is one of the best things to eat really. I LOVE IT!

  • Joumana – It does taste sweet, doesn’t it. I agree. I think pumpkin kibbeh is even better than meat kibbeh.

    Viviane – great filling choice with the chard. I was busy making 3 other dishes that day so opted for a quick and easy labneh. It is a traditional filling though, and is quite popular in Lebanon. The fetta and walnut is a bit of an invention but works nicely too.

  • Well Fouad the Labneh is not popular in our family at least! I got to try your Labneh filling today though the onion is an amazing addition. A definite fave, I even liked it more than the traditional one. Can’t wait to try the Feta, walnut combo, I think we are up for more pumpkin from my uncle’s garden, so I get to try pretty soon 🙂

  • I tried Joumana’s recipe for Kibbi two weeks ago and it was great. I wish I had seen your ideas for fillings. Next time I will try the Feta and Walnuts as it sounds delish. Shukhran

  • I have never tried the labneh filling. I always stuff it with the chard & chickpeas! I must try this recipe. Sounds really delicious! Thanks for sharing

  • Fouad-thank you for this amazing, very adaptable recipe! I come from a Christian Middle Eastern and Jewish European background and I grew up in Latin America (am now in the US) with tons of “kipe,” “tabuleh” etc in our household dining repertoire. “Kipeh” because b’s do become p’s by the second generation in the West. 🙂

    If my background wasn’t complex enough, I have become vegetarian and vegan and have been adapting recipes ever since. I’ve tried all manner of potato and pumpkin kibbes since but have been looking for a recipe that wil allow me to make the little balls, instead of filling out a baking dish. This recipe IS AMAZING and I am SO trying this out.

    My mother has a fantastic oven baked vegan kipe recipe that I will kindly share with you as soon as she shows me how to do it (we’ve schedule a ‘cookout’ for next month).

  • Vivianne – I’m glad you tried the labneh filling. I agree the onions do make it. They add a beautiful sweetness. Let’s see a post using your uncle’s pumpkin

    LebnMex – Go for a creamy fetta, or mix in some labneh

    Cherine – It’s great with labneh, even Vivianne liked it 🙂

    Silvia – What an amazing mix of cultures you come from! Wow. It’s quite interesting what you say about the b becoming a p. The kanaanites didn’t have the letter b, and used p instead. My last name used to be kissep (not the modern day kassab) which in phoenician means silver smith 🙂 Glad I was able to help

    Jenne – Thanks for the compliments. I’m glad you liked it. Let me know how you go with the recipe

    Lazy_Ducky – You’re right, they are great boiled too (or baked even). I’ve never had them with vermicelli rice though. That’s usually something we have with the meat kibbe that is cooked in yoghurt (kibbe b’laban).

  • Oh my, I had no idea there was a vegetarian version of kibbeh. I will have to try this once I get the chance. My mom isn’t a fan of kibbeh balls but we’ll see if this changes her mind.

  • I just listened to ur interview. u did look a bit nervous in the beginning but I think Lebanese food has got a good ambassador in Australia now 😀
    I might post about my uncle’s pumpkin, but I need to ask my mom to wait for me to try and make it with her. She is not keen on my kibbeh balls skills 😀
    .-= Viviane´s last blog ..Wild Rice Jambalaya with Turkey Kielbasa =-.

  • Hi Vivianne – hehe, I was a bit nervous, but got less so as the interview kept going. Hope your mom lets you tag along with the recipe 🙂

    KW – it’s really a great recipe this one, and the pumpkin is sweet and has a beautiful texture. Hope you enjoy

  • Marhaba Fouad

    Never tasted Labneh and Feta in Kibbee Lakteen… We do Spinach, or muchrooms, or potatoes
    looks great… I dont squeeze mine, just put them on a fine strainer.. we need some juice to soak the burghul, other wise they will be dry… and you need to work fast when its still warm to mix well and combine with the burghul , then leave to rest….
    You did a great job and I can see that you are listening to your mom….

    By the way, I had a friend at school also from Kassab family, and begining of the war, they left Mousseitbeh… and never heard about him again.

  • Hey! just came across your site via Tastespotting. Wow – love the recipe, cant wait to make it. Have a gorgeous red pumpkin waiting. So nice to connect with another vegetarian site especially in Australia. I visited about 2 years ago and was blown away by your food culture over there. X Aletta
    .-= Forage´s last blog ..Lentil koftas with roasted salsa =-.

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