For A Unique Spin On Burgers, Try Making Lebanese Arayes

While burgers are the all-American favorite recipe to make use of ground beef, other cultures have their own tasty traditions. Lebanese arayes are quick, easy, and flavorful handhelds that put a unique twist on burgers. A popular street food in LebanonĀ and various other Middle Eastern countries, arayes are a cross between sliders and quesadillas.

Served on the streets as a snack or quick meal, they consist of halved or quartered pitas stuffed with a raw, seasoned, and often marinated ground beef mixture. Once prepped, they are placed on a hot grill or griddle until the pita is crispy and the beef is cooked through. Similar to burgers, the ground beef receives a flavorful boost from aromatics and spices, mixed together in a matter of seconds in a bowl. However, in contrast to burgers, arayes call for lean ground beef, omit a binding agent like egg or breadcrumbs, and use a more elaborate seasoning blend.

They're also smaller, quicker to make, and more efficient to prepare than burgers because they're an all-in-one sandwich pita in which the meat and bread cook simultaneously. Halved or quartered pitas are closer in size to sliders and much thinner than a typical burger bun, providing a delectable crunchy contrast to their chewy meaty innards. Furthermore, the pita gets a hefty brush of olive oil which infuses the bread with earthy richness and keeps the lean beef moist as it cooks on the grill.

Lebanese arayes flavors, garnishes, and dipping sauces

The ground beef mixture in arayes is similar to kofta, the ground beef and lamb mixture that comes in various forms from skewers to cylinders around the Levant and Middle East. Seasoned with seven spice, cumin, paprika, and coriander, the ground beef in arayes is bursting with savory and piquant spices, not to mention the caramelized savoriness from diced onions and garlic. Since the meat is cooked inside the pita with no additional garnishes or sauces, arayes typically come with a dipping sauce. Popular dipping sauces include tahiniĀ or an herbaceous yogurt. Tahini provides a nutty savoriness to enrich the spiciness of the meat, while yogurt sauce brightens arayes with freshness and tartness.

You can branch out from the traditional dipping sauces, as the flavorful meat-stuffed pita will taste delicious with many other options. A ketchup-based cocktail sauce would work well, as would a vinegar-spiked chimichurri, or a drizzle of pomegranate molasses or balsamic reduction. You could also garnish your arayes with pickles, pickled onions, a sprinkling of feta, or a scoop of Lebanese salad.

While grilling or pan frying are successful cooking methods for flavorful and moist arayes, you can also bake the stuffed pitas in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for around 15 minutes, flipping at the halfway mark. To achieve that extra crispy pita shell, you can place the pita under the broiler for a few minutes before serving.