That Spicy Chick

Spicy Meat Stuffed Pitas (Arayes)

These Spicy Meat Stuffed Pitas are a made with a beautifully spiced lamb and chicken filling and pan-grilled before being baked to crispy golden brown perfection! They’re easy to make, great for lunch, dinner, or as a party appetizer, and taste so delicious with garlic sauce, tahini, and a light side salad!

Friends, have you ever tried arayes? These Spicy Meat Stuffed Pitas are easy and low-effort to make and SO delicious with a side of garlic sauce and a fresh salad!

I first tried lamb arayes at a Middle Eastern restaurant here in Hong Kong and fell in LOVE. I just knew I’d have to make them at home and share it with you all!

What are Arayes?

They are grilled pita bread sandwiches that are stuffed with seasoned ground meat (kofta) and are popular in Lebanon, Israel, Egypt (known as hawawshi there) and other places in the Middle East. Traditionally, ground lamb or beef is seasoned and marinated and then stuffed into pita halves before being grilled. However, these days you’ll even find arayes with fish, chicken, and other types of meat fillings.

Although you can simply use a grill pan or skillet to cook them completely, I like to grill them briefly on the grill pan to get the lovely grill marks and then bake and briefly broil in the oven to make the pita bread extra crispy and crunchy!

These spicy meat stuffed pitas are great for an easy lunch, dinner, or fun party appetizer. I think you’re going to love them!

Chicken and lamb arayes on plate with arugula salad and garlic sauce in a bowl.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Easy to make. All you have to do is marinate the meat, stuff the pitas, grill on the grill pan and then pop them in the oven to make them extra crispy!
  • Customizable. You can use chicken, turkey, lamb, beef, or a combination of two types of meat for the filling.
  • Adjustable spice level. Make them as spicy or mild by using more or less of the spicy ingredients based on your heat level preference.
  • Great for any occasion! Enjoy them for an easy lunch or dinner with some garlic sauce or tahini for dipping and a refreshing side salad. Or cut the pitas into quarters and serve them up with garlic sauce as a party appetizer or snack!

Ingredient Notes and Substitutes

Labeled ingredients for Spicy Meat Stuffed Pitas on a wooden board.
  • Ground Meat: I used a combination of lean ground chicken and ground lamb made from lamb shoulder. You can use lean ground beef (10-15% fat), chicken, turkey, lamb or a combination of any two types of ground meat if you prefer.
  • Aromatics and Herbs: Red onion (or use yellow onion), garlic, fresh small red chilies, fresh coriander (cilantro), and parsley. I used Thai Bird’s Eye red chilies, but you can use any other small hot red chilies you like. Use less chilies or omit completely for a milder flavor.
  • Spices & Seasonings: There are plenty of spices and seasonings needed to make the marinated meat filling for arayes! However, most of them are everyday pantry seasonings that you likely already have on hand. Traditionally baharat (Lebanese 7-spice seasoning) is used, but I like to use a homemade garam masala instead and other warm spices like ground cumin, coriander, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, and cayenne for heat. I also use sumac and za’atar. Sumac is a dark maroon Middle Eastern spice with a lemony flavor. Za’atar is a spice blend usually made with dried thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and sometimes other spices and dried herbs depending on the regional variation. Feel free to leave these two out if you don’t have them on hand. You can add an extra splash of lemon juice instead of sumac to the meat marinade.
  • Double Concentrated Tomato Paste: For rich and bold tomato flavors without having to use fresh tomatoes and risk watering down the meat marinade.
  • Harissa Paste: This is a smoky and slightly spicy Tunisian hot chili pepper paste that is made with roasted red peppers and other spices and herbs. Find it in the Middle Eastern aisle of your local supermarket, at Middle Eastern/Mediterranean grocery stores, or order it online.
  • Lemon: For freshly squeezed lemon juice to add tangy flavors to the meat.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil: For flavoring the meat marinade, cooking in the grill pan, and brushing the stuffed pitas to help them become crispy.
  • Pita Bread: This is a common type of bread used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. You’ll need doubly ply pitas to make arayes. When cut in half, there’s a pocket which you can stuff the meat in. Use either regular white or whole wheat pitas based on your preference.
  • To Serve: I love serving these spicy meat stuffed pitas with my kebab shop garlic sauce and a side salad. You can also serve them with tahini, plain yogurt, a cooling mint & cucumber yogurt dip or a creamy cilantro and mint sauce too for dipping if desired. To go with these arayes, I make a quick salad with baby arugula, diced tomatoes and red onion, chopped parsley and coriander and a simple dressing made with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.

Full ingredient list and amounts are in the recipe card below.

Front view of chicken and lamb arayes on plate with salad and garlic sauce.

How to Make Spicy Meat Stuffed Pitas

1. Process the aromatics. Add the chopped red onion, garlic, red chilies, coriander, and parsley to a food processor bowl and process until finely minced.

Chopped aromatics and herbs in a food processor bowl, unprocessed and finely minced after processing.

2. Marinate the meat. Combine the ground chicken and lamb with the processed aromatics and the rest of the meat marinade ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix using your hands until combined well. Transfer to an airtight sealed container and place in the fridge. Allow to marinate for at least an hour or overnight for best flavor.

Marinated chicken and lamb kafta meat mixture in a mixing bowl.

3. Assemble the arayes. Take the marinated meat out from the fridge 30 minutes before you plan to cook to take the chill off. Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Line a large baking tray with a sheet of foil and place a wire rack on top.

Cut each pita bread in half. Stuff the inner pocket of each pita half with the meat mixture. Gently press down on the stuffed pitas with your hand to ensure the meat spreads to the edges of the pocket.

Pita halves stuffed with marinated kafta meat mixture on a cutting board.

4. Cook on the grill pan. Heat oil in a nonstick or cast iron grill pan (or skillet). Brush both sides of the meat stuffed pita halves lightly with oil. Grill in batches of 2 or 4 stuffed pitas (depending on the size of your grill pan). Start with the meat side down on the grill, then grill the flat sides until lightly browned and grill marks appear. Transfer to the prepared baking tray and repeat with the remaining meat stuffed pitas.

Grilling spicy meat stuffed pitas on a grill pan.

5. Bake. For a few minutes in a preheated oven at 200°C/400°F, turning the pitas halfway through. Then broil briefly to make them extra crispy!

Grilled arayes, fresh out of the oven on a wire rack.

Serve! Serve immediately with garlic sauce and/or tahini, plain yogurt, cooling mint & cucumber yogurt dip or creamy cilantro and mint sauce and a fresh salad on the side if desired. Then dip, sink your teeth into the deliciousness, and enjoy!

Closeup front view of chicken and lamb arayes on plate with salad and garlic sauce.

Full detailed instructions are in the recipe card below.

Cook’s Tips

  • Do not overmix. Overmixing the meat mixture will cause the meat to become tough. Mix the meat with your hands until everything is just incorporated.
  • Marinate overnight for best flavor. While an hour or two is good enough if you’re short on time, the flavor of the meat will be more delicious if you marinate the kofta meat mixture longer.
  • Adjust spice level to taste. Use more or less (or omit completely) of the fresh red chilies, ground cayenne, and harissa to make the kofta meat filling milder.
  • Don’t brush too much oil on the stuffed pitas. This will cause them to become soggy instead of crispy. A light coating will suffice.
  • Cut the pitas into quarters if serving as an appetizer. After grilling in the grill pan, you can cut each stuffed pita half into half before baking. The smaller quartered pita size makes them perfect for serving as a party appetizer or snack.
Closeup top view of chicken and lamb arayes on plate with salad and garlic sauce.

FAQs

Can I make them ahead?

They are best eaten right after they’re out of the oven as the meat will be perfectly cooked and the pita bread will be crispy, crunchy, and hot. However, you can marinate the meat and store in the fridge for up to two days in a sealed airtight container. Remove the meat from the fridge 30 minutes before you plan to cook the arayes. Then assemble the meat stuffed pitas, grill, and bake as indicated in the instructions.

Can I freeze the kofta meat mixture?

You can freeze the marinated kofta meat mixture for up to 3 months. To freeze, roll the marinated meat mixture into a ball and wrap tightly with cling wrap, then again with a sheet of foil for extra protection. Place in a Ziploc bag and squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing and freezing. Thaw overnight in the fridge, then assemble, grill, and bake the spicy meat stuffed pitas as indicated in the instructions.

Can I grill them on an outdoor BBQ grill?

Definitely! They’ll take about 8-12 minutes to cook completely on an outdoor grill depending on your desired doneness level for the meat. You won’t need to use the oven to make them extra crispy if using an outdoor grill.

Hand holding up a meat stuffed pita that's been dipped in garlic sauce and bitten into.

Variations

  • Add pine nuts. A handful of pine nuts will add some crunch to the meat mixture. They are traditionally used in arayes in the Middle East.
  • Add bell peppers. You can add finely chopped red or green bell peppers to meat mixture.
  • Make them vegetarian. Use a plant-based ground meat substitute such as Impossible Beef or Beyond Beef instead of real meat.
  • Make them gluten-free. Use gluten-free pita bread.
Stacked arayes on a plate drizzled with garlic sauce with a side salad. Text overlay "Spicy Meat Stuffed Pitas", "Lebanese Arayes", and "thatspicychick.com".

More Middle Eastern Recipes

Sauces for Serving/Dipping Arayes


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Chicken and lamb arayes dipped in garlic sauce and stacked on a plate.

Spicy Meat Stuffed Pitas (Arayes)

These Spicy Meat Stuffed Pitas are a made with a beautifully spiced lamb and chicken filling and grilled before being baked to crispy golden brown perfection! They’re easy to make SO delicious with garlic sauce, tahini, and a light side salad!

  • Author: Lavina
  • Prep Time: 22 minutes
  • Cook Time: 18 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x
  • Category: Lunch
  • Method: Grill
  • Cuisine: Lebanese
Scale

Ingredients

For the Meat Marinade:

  • ½ medium Red Onion – finely chopped
  • 56 Garlic Cloves – finely chopped
  • 24 fresh Red Chilies (I used Bird’s Eye, but any small hot red chilies will work), to taste – finely chopped
  • 2 TBLS chopped fresh Coriander (Cilantro)
  • 2 TBLS chopped fresh Italian Parsley
  • 240 grams / 8.5 ounces Ground Chicken (see note 1)
  • 200 grams / 7 ounces Ground Lamb (made from lamb shoulder)
  • ½ TSP freshly cracked Black Pepper
  • 1.5 TSP Kosher Salt (use half the amount if using iodized table salt)
  • ½ TSP Coriander Powder
  • ¼ TSP ground Cumin
  • ½ TSP ground Cinnamon
  • ¼ TSP ground Nutmeg
  • ¾ TSP Garam Masala (homemade preferred but store-bought is fine too)
  • 1 TSP ground Cayenne, to taste
  • ¼ TSP Dried Thyme
  • ¼ TSP ground Cardamom
  • ½ TSP Za’atar (see note 2)
  • ½ TSP Sumac (see note 2)
  • 1 TBLS Harissa Paste (see note 3)
  • 1 TBLS Double Concentrated Tomato Paste
  • 1 TBLS freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1.5 TBLS Extra Virgin Olive Oil

To Cook:

  • 2 TBLS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 6 (6-inch/15.25cm) Pita Breads, white or whole wheat – halved

To Serve (optional sauces and salad):

Instructions

  1. Prep: Finely chop the red onion, garlic, red chilies, coriander, and parsley. Transfer to a food processor bowl and process until finely minced and combined well – about 1 minute.
  2. Marinate the meat: In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground chicken, ground lamb, all of the spices and seasonings, harissa paste, double concentrated tomato paste, lemon juice, and 1.5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Mix using your hands until combined well. Transfer to an airtight sealed container and place in the fridge to marinate for at least 1-2 hours, or overnight for best flavor.
  3. Preheat oven: Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Line a large baking tray with a sheet of foil and place a wire rack on top.
  4. Assemble the arayes: Take out the marinated meat from the fridge 30 minutes before you plan to cook to take the chill off. Cut each pita bread in half. Stuff the inner pocket of each pita half with 1/3 cup (about 100 grams/3.5 ounces) of the meat mixture. Place the stuffed pitas on a cutting board or plate and gently press down with your hand to ensure the meat spreads and reaches the edges of the pocket.
  5. Cook on the grill pan: Brush 1 tablespoon of oil in a nonstick or cast iron grill pan or griddle (or a nonstick skillet) and heat over medium-high heat. Brush both sides of the meat stuffed pita halves lightly with oil. Place 2 of them meat side down in the grill pan and cook for 1 minute. Turn over to the flat side to cook for 1-2 more minutes, until grill marks appear if using a grill pan or lightly crisped and browned if using a skillet. Turn the stuffer pitas over so that the other flat side is facing down and cook for another 1-2 minutes to grill the other side. (If serving as an appetizer, you can cut the pita halves in half at this point.) Transfer to the wire rack (flat side down) on the prepared baking tray and repeat with the remaining meat stuffed pitas.
  6. Bake: Bake for 12-14 minutes, turning the pitas to the other flat side halfway through. Broil for 1-2 minutes to make them extra crispy. Watch closely to make sure they don’t burn. Transfer the tray to a wire cooking rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  7. To Serve: Serve immediately with garlic sauce, tahini, or other sauces of choice and a fresh salad on the side if desired.

Notes

  1. Meat choices: I used a combination of ground chicken and ground lamb. You can use ground beef (10-15% fat), chicken, lamb, turkey or a combination of two types of ground meat if you prefer.
  2. Sumac and Za’atar: Sumac is a dark maroon Middle Eastern spice with a lemony flavor. Za’atar – is a spice blend usually made with dried thyme, sumac, sesame seeds, and sometimes other spices and dried herbs depending on the regional variation. They’re available online and at Middle Eastern/Mediterranean grocery stores. You can leave them out if you don’t have them on hand. Add an extra splash of lemon juice in place of the sumac to the meat marinade.
  3. Harissa Paste: A smoky and mildly spicy Tunisian hot chili pepper paste that is made with roasted red peppers and other spices and herbs. Find it in the Middle Eastern aisle of your local supermarket, at Middle Eastern/Mediterranean grocery stores, or order it online.
  4. Side salad: I made a simple salad with baby arugula, chopped tomatoes, red onion, parsley, coriander and a simple dressing made with lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Any side salad you love with a light dressing or vinaigrette will pair well with arayes.
  5. Make ahead tips. Arayes are best eaten right after they’re out of the oven as the meat will be perfectly cooked and the pita bread will be crispy, crunchy, and hot. However, you can marinate the meat and store in the fridge for up to two days in a sealed airtight container. Follow steps 3 through 7 as indicated in the instructions to assemble and cook the meat stuffed pitas.
  6. To freeze the marinated kofta meat mixture. Roll the marinated meat mixture into a ball and wrap tightly with cling wrap, then again with a sheet of foil for extra protection. Place in a Ziploc bag and squeeze out as much air as possible before sealing and freezing. Thaw overnight in the fridge. Then follow steps 3 through 7 as indicated in the instructions to assemble and cook the meat stuffed pitas.
  7. If using an outdoor BBQ grill. They’ll take about 8-12 minutes to cook completely on an outdoor grill depending on your desired doneness level for the meat. You won’t need to use the oven to make them extra crispy if using an outdoor grill.
  8. Cook time: Total cook time indicated in the recipe card does not account for the 2-4 hours/overnight marinating time for the meat mixture.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 2 meat stuffed pita halves
  • Calories: 440
  • Sugar: 4.2g
  • Sodium: 1316.7mg
  • Fat: 24.3g
  • Saturated Fat: 6.9g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 12.7g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 37.5g
  • Fiber: 1.2g
  • Protein: 18.9g
  • Cholesterol: 58.7mg

The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

This post may contain affiliate links. We are a part of the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you) by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. The nutritional information provided is approximate and can vary based on several factors. It should only be used as a general guideline. For more information, please see our Disclosure.

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