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 makeSO delicious with garlic sauce, tahini, and a light side salad!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To Serve: Serve immediately with garlic sauce, tahini, or other sauces of choice and a fresh salad on the side if desired.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.