Arayes is a popular Middle Eastern dish that consists of stuffed and grilled (or baked) pita bread filled with a mixture of minced meat, typically beef or lamb, along with various seasonings and spices. This incredibly easy-to-prepare recipe includes 2 cooking methods to suit your preferences, as well as a dipping sauce.
The word "arayes" is Arabic and translates to "brides" in English, possibly referring to the dish being a favorite at weddings or celebrations.
These meat-stuffed pitas can be served as either an appetizer or in a larger portion as a main dish. Serve with Jerusalem Chopped Salad, Vermicelli Rice, Fattoush Salad, Batata Harra (spicy potatoes) or Tabbouleh Salad. If you’re feeling up to it, you can even make your own homemade pitas.
This recipe doesn’t require fancy or expensive ingredients.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Ground Meat: I recommend that you use Extra Lean ground beef as it will have the least amount of fat. Too much fat in your kafta mixture will cause the bread to get soggy. Reduce your chances of soggy bread by using Extra Lean. You can also use ground chicken or turkey instead of beef. Ground lamb is also quite traditional.
- Pita Bread: Traditionally arayes are made with a thin Lebanese-style pita. This type of pita is sold in bundles at most grocery stores. I recommend you use the freshest pita possible, as it will be much easier to open them up. Stale pita will crack and you’ll end up having issues spreading the kofta mixture. I don’t recommend using thick Greek-style pita, but if you want to, see my Expert Tips section below for more insights.
- Baharat: I know that most folks probably don’t have Baharat (Levantine 7-Spice Blend) in their pantries, but don’t let that stop you. You can use a combination of equal parts ground cumin, coriander and cinnamon to achieve a similar flavor profile. If you love to prepare Middle Eastern, Lebanese or Levantine food, I suggest you pick up some Baharat from your local Middle Eastern store or online.
- Seasoning: The meat mixture is based on the same recipe for Beef Kafta or Chicken kafta with one extra addition of sumac spice.
See the recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
How to Make this Arayes Recipe (Two Ways)
1. Process: In a small food processor, pulse the chopped onion and parsley until fine (Image 1).
2. Mix: In a large bowl, combine the ground beef, onion and parsley mixture, spices, salt and pepper. Mix really well. (Image 2 and Image 3)
3. Prepare Pita: Cut your pita breads in half and very carefully open them up. You can use your fingers to open them up or a butter knife. Make sure the pocket remains intact (Image 4).
4. Scoop: Using an ice cream scoop, scoop about 2 portions of the meat mixture in each pita pocket (Image 5).
5. Spread: Using a butter knife, spread the meat filling evenly and all the way around (Image 6).
For this recipe, I am outlining two cooking methods. Choose the one that best suits your needs.
Cooking Method 1: Grill Pan
Grill: Lightly oil the stuffed pita halves and grill them on both sides until the meat is cooked through and you have nice sear on the bread.
Cooking Method 2: Oven or air Fryer
Bake: Brush the stuffed pita halves with a little olive oil and place them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake in a pre-heated oven until cooked through and the bread has a light golden brown color.
- Using Greek Pita Bread: Those viral Arayes videos on TikTok and Instagram over-stuffed Greek pita breads are not traditional by any means. I’m sure they are delicious just as much, but you will need to be extra careful to make sure that the meat is cooked through, to a temperature of 165F.
- Use an outdoor grill: I love making Arayes on the BBQ in the summer months. Whether you use a charcoal grill or a gas BBQ, they will taste much better than ones cooked in the oven.
- Use a wire rack: Though not necessary, you can bake the arayes on a wire rack to help juices drip away from the pita and reduce the chance of soggy bread.
No, I do not recommend that you make this recipe ahead of time. The bread will get soggy quickly and they are best enjoyed hot right away. If you want to save some time, you could make the Kafta mixture ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 day or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
My recommendation is that you make what you need. Leftovers don’t keep well at all.
Traditionally, thin pita bread (Lebanese or Levantine style pita) is used. However, you can use a thicker Greek-style pita if you wanted.
Certainly, you can spice the meat mixture as you like. Add some chili flakes, more fresh herbs, pomegranate molasses or pine nuts.
Other Levantine Recipes
If you make this Arayes (Authentic Levantine Meat Stuffed Pitas) or any other Main Dish on Urban Farm and Kitchen, please take a moment to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It’s such a help to others who want to try the recipe.
Arayes (Authentic Levantine Meat Stuffed Pitas)
- Cast iron grill pan - Optional
- 1 Medium white onion - Roughly chopped
- ¼ cup Fresh parsley
- 1 ½ lbs Extra lean ground beef - You can use ground lamb or chicken too
- 1 tablespoon Baharat (7-Spice) - or 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon coriander, 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon Garlic powder - Use more if you like garlic
- 1 teaspoon Sumac
- Salt and Black pepper - start with 1 teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. You may need more.
- 3-4 Thin pita breads
- Olive oil for brushing
Tahini Dipping Sauce (Optional)
- 2 tablespoon Tahini
- 2 tablespoon Lemon juice
- Cold water to thin the sauce - as much as you need to reach desired consistency
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Process: In a small food processor, pulse the chopped onion and parsley until fine.
- Mix: In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, onion and parsley mixture, sumac, 7-spice, garlic powder, salt and black pepper. Mix really well. I encourage you fry up a small tablespoon of the mixture and taste for seasoning. Adjust if necessary.
- Prepare Pita: Cut your pita breads in half and very carefully open them up. You can use your fingers to open them up or a butter knife. Make sure the pocket remains intact.
- Scoop: Using an ice cream scoop, scoop about 2 portions of the ground beef mixture into each pita pocket.
- Spread: Using a butter knife, spread the meat filling evenly and all the way around.
Cooking Method 1: Grill Pan
- Grill: Lightly oil the stuffed pita halves and grill them on both sides in a grill pan or cast iron skillet set on medium-high heat until the meat is cooked through and you have nice grill marks on the bread, about 4-5 minutes on each side.
Cooking Method 2: Oven or air Fryer
- Bake: Preheat your oven to 375F/190C. Lightly oil the stuffed pita halves and place them on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake until cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.
Make the Tahini Sauce (Optional)
- In a small bowl, combine the tahini and lemon juice and whisk. This will form a paste. Add cold water 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired dipping sauce consistency. Don't make it too runny. Season with salt and pepper.