LEBNIA – An Acquired Taste?


An acquired taste this should not be,
This soupy flavor is heavenly.

Yogurt mixed with creamy butter,
Will set your taste buds all aflutter.

Kibbe balls spiced just right,
Spoon one up in every bite.

For density a cup of rice,
For garnishment some mint is nice.

Outside the box? Perhaps a bit,
But have a bowl and you’ll admit…

This medley is a notch above,
One you don’t need time to love.

This Lebnia recipe is from my late Aunt Margaret. She was one of the best Lebanese cooks in our family. Everything she served was fresh and home-made. I especially remember the bread she used to bake in the oven out in her garage, her delicious pie crusts and this fantastic soup. As far as I know, my Aunt Margaret was the only one in the family who made it.  For me,  her memory will always be attached to this delicious, comforting soup.

Photo Courtesy of Street Gourmet LA and Hayat's Kitchen in Los Angeles

For the Kibbe

1lb. ground London broil or top sirloin (have butcher grind for you)
1 small red onions quartered
1/2 small red bell pepper (seeded)

1/2 heaping cup #1 cracked wheat (soaked in warm water for approx. 15 minutes)
1 TBS ground allspice
1 TBS ground cumin
1/2 TBS Kosher Salt (approx.)

For the Soup

1 egg, beaten well
1 Qt. regular plain yogurt
3 1/2 cups water
1 cup white rice
1 tsp. kosher salt (or to taste)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped and fried in olive oil


In a food processor, add quartered onions, mint and red bell pepper.  Mix until pureed.  Place meat in a large mixing bowl. Add pureed mixture,  allspice, cumin, salt and pepper.  Mix well (preferably by hand.)  Add the cracked wheat.  Mix well.  Add additional seasonings if needed to taste.  This is called KIBBE and can be eaten just as it is with olive oil, pita bread and fresh onions.

For this recipe, however, form 2 TBS of kibbe mixture into a football shape.  Stuff each piece with a pat of butter.  Place on tray and freeze.

In a large pot, add yogurt, water and egg and whisk over low heat.  Add rice and salt. When it comes to a slow rolling boil, add the frozen kibbe balls and cook on low for about 20-30 minutes. Do not cook with the top on the pot or the soup may curdle.  Garnish with fried, salted mint. Serves 6.

7 thoughts on “LEBNIA – An Acquired Taste?

  1. How have I never heard of this soup before? I feel cheated. Shishbarak is my favourite dish in the world, but I never make it because it takes so long to wrap those little parcels. But THIS. This might have similar flavours with a lot less fuss – thanks for sharing!

  2. Sue, I have never seen this dish before, but it looks lovely. I especially love the fried mint leaves. A very pretty dish.

  3. Sue

    I did not know you had a Lebanese grandmother! Mine also made an awesome labniyeh and I have tried making it here but I remember hers as tasting better!
    Love that you made it I know it is not an easy dish to master! Your labniyeh looks authentic and very tasty!
    We also made it with a bit of rice in the yogurt and some mint swirled at the end in the yogurt.

    1. Hi Joumana,

      Yes, both of my grandmothers are (were- one has passed) Lebanese. I have really only eaten this dish a few times but it has such a special flavor from the onions and spice from the kibbe mixed with the yogurt. The only thing that gets lost in translation is the spelling 🙂 Ma behki Arabi. I wish I did.

  4. Sue,
    Thank you so much for dedicating this wonderful soup (lebnia) to my mother. She would be so happy and I so agree with you that she was a fabulous lebanese cook. I hope that my children and grandchildren continue this tradition and thanks to you it looks like we have a great start. LOVE YOU!!!

  5. This looks like another wonderful dish and I loved the tribute to your aunt too. I am a huge fan of your cooking and I’ve been missing your poetic take on recipes. Welcome back!

  6. wow great poem did you write it? I write for The Great American Spice Co. could I add to blog?

    and wow what a yumm meal


    rebeccasubbiah at yahoo dot com

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