Vegan Series: Kibbet Hileh (Vegan Kibbeh with Caramelized Onions) + A Dedication to My Teta

Today I’m sharing another recipe from my vegan series: kibbet hileh, or vegan kibbeh with caramelized onions.

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It took me awhile to sit down and write this post. It was the last recipe my grandmother gave me before she passed away about 10 days ago.

Syrians love the people in their community, and my grandmother was no different. Being a matriarch meant she had a daily and weekly routine of interactions, from the grocery deliverer, to the butcher and the bread maker. These were friendly and familiar faces that get lost when one moves and no longer tends a house. She had a generations and extensions of family members and friends who were at her beck and call anytime she wanted to play a hand at cards or host a lunch. She was constantly surrounded by the people she loved.

A couple of years after the conflict began in Syria, she relocated to Jordan, where hospitals and healthcare are more reliable. She continued living her days with my aunt, who was also displaced. I can’t imagine how difficult the transition was. Not only was her home stripped from her, with the neighborly faces and generations of family members, but also was her identity as the leader of a house. Her continued pleasure with food really kept her going. Her eyes lit up every time she had a delicious bite. She spoke in an upbeat tone when discussing something she craved. FOOD, not just the eating of it for nutritious reasons, but the savoring of it, was necessary for her survival.

When I visited my grandmother last month, I asked for some recipes. This recipe stuck out in my mind because it was one I’d never heard before, and it was a dish that my grandmother had not eaten since a child. She expressed that she LOVED kibbet hileh, but she never made it for her own household, so my own mother never tried it either.

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She told me to make a dough of vegan kibbeh by combining semolina, bulgur and a bit of flour. You make balls of the dough and boil them. Separately, you cook onions and add some safflower (عصفر) and pomegranate molasses. The balls are then added to the onions and cooked together. “Mmmm….delicious!” my grandmother said.

So, I dedicate this recipe to my grandmother, and you can thank her for providing you with one of my simpler recipes on this blog 😋.

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Kibbeh, as you probably know at this point, is a dish which combines minced meat and bulgur. Hileh is a word which means “counterfeit” in Arabic. So the exact translation of this dish is “counterfeit kibbeh,” or meat-free kibbeh. To my understanding, any form of meat-free kibbeh can be kibbet hileh, but my grandmother used this name to describe this specific dish.

My grandmother also told me that you should enjoy kibbet hileh with a drink combining pomegranate juice, lemon juice, cucumbers, garlic and dried mint, so I also included that recipe here.

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I hope you enjoy it! If you give this a try, don’t forget to add it to the comments and to tag @omayahatassi and #omayahcooks on Instagram.


Kibbet Hileh (Vegan Kibbeh with Caramelized Onions)

Delicious balls of semolina and bulgur are combined with onions, safflower and pomegranate molasses.

Serves: 4 Name of image (title of post is fine)  
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes  


    2 c fine bulgur (#1)
    1 c coarse semolina or regular semolina
    2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
    1 Tbsp ground coriander
    1 Tbsp crushed red pepper or Aleppo pepper
    3 tsp salt, plus more to taste
    3 medium onions, sliced
    1/4 c olive oil
    2 tsp safflower
    2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses
  1. Soak the bulgur for about 20 minutes or until soft. Drain by placing a cheese cloth over a strainer. Squeeze dry.
  2. Combine drained bulgur with the semolina and flour in the bowl of a food processor. Process until a dough forms. Add seasoning with 2 tsp salt and process until combined. Taste to see if well salted and add more if necessary.
  3. Tip the dough onto a work surface. Wet hands with water and knead the dough until soft and easy to work with, about 3-4 minutes.
  4. Set about 4-5 cups of water in a stock pot to boil. Begin forming the dough into balls. Add balls to boiling water and simmer until cooked through, about 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, add oil and onions to a pan and sauté over medium heat until soft and light golden-brown, about 15 minutes. Add safflower and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add pomegranate molasses.
  6. Drain the kibbeh balls and add to the onions. Sauté over medium-high heat until well combined, about 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

Pomegranate Juice with Cucumbers

A tasty and refereshing drink traditionally served in Syria.

Serves: 3 Name of image (title of post is fine)  
Prep time: 10 minutes  


    16 oz. fresh-squeezed pomegranate juice
    2 Tbsp lemon juice
    1 small cucumber, diced finely
    1 garlic clove, crushed
    2 Tbsp dried mint
  1. Combine the ingredients in a pitcher. Chill until ready to serve.
  2. Can be made up to 2 hours ahead.