These crispy arayes with cheese are the easiest weeknight dinner. A flavorful ground meat mixture and shredded cheese are stuffed into pita bread then grilled to crispy, juicy perfection. Pair these meat stuffed pitas with a good sauce for dipping, and you'll have a quick and delicious meal that everyone will love.
Arayes (pronounced ah-rah-yes) is one of the easier, simpler Lebanese recipes but still packs a ton of flavor. The meat mixture is very similar to kafta, which is a Lebanese meatball.
In fact, you can make a big batch of the meat mixture and use some to make arayes with cheese one night, then form the rest into meatballs and serve them with a side of Lebanese rice or potatoes and a refreshing tomato salad another night! Two birds, one stone.
Arayes with cheese is the perfect vehicle for a good dipping sauce, so whip up a batch of tarator for a flavorful tahini sauce, or some toum for a big punch of garlic flavor. You can't go wrong with either one!
- Ground meat: Arayes is made with ground beef or ground lamb. I think using 50% beef and 50% lamb is the most delicious, but you can play around with the ratio!
- Cheese: You'll need a good melting cheese such as mozzarella, and shred it yourself if possible.
- Aromatics: Onion, garlic, parsley, tomato paste, hot pepper paste, and pomegranate molasses add so much flavor and moisture to the meat.
- Spices: Lebanese 7 spice, Aleppo pepper, and black pepper give it the traditional Middle Eastern flavor.
- Olive oil: It's brushed on the pita for the perfect crispy bite.
- Pita bread: Thicker pita will hold up better to the juicy meat.
Quarter the onion and tomato (if using) and place them in the bowl of a food processor with the parsley and peeled garlic cloves. Pulse a few times, scraping down the sides occasionally, until it is finely and evenly minced.
Alternatively, you can grate the onion and tomato and use a knife to finely chop the parsley and garlic.
If you see liquid collecting in the bottom of the food processor, make sure to strain the mixture for a few minutes before adding to the meat. If you're not using a fresh tomato, this is less of an issue.
Place the ground meat and strained vegetable mixture in a medium bowl. Add in the pepper paste, tomato paste, pomegranate molasses, and all the spices. Use your hands to mix the meat until well combined.
Cut the pitas in half and open the pockets. Spoon the filling inside and spread it evenly. I like to fill each half with about ¼ cup of filling. You can fill it with more or less and adjust cooking time accordingly.
Sprinkle the shredded cheese inside and close the pita pocket. Repeat with the remaining meat and pita bread.
Brush both sides of the stuffed pita bread with a little olive oil and sprinkle some salt on top.
Place the arayes on a preheated grill pan or cast iron skillet and cook on each side for about 3 minutes, or until the pita is crispy and the meat is cooked to your liking.
Substitutions and Variations
- Meat - beef and/or lamb is traditional, but you can try making it with ground chicken or turkey. You'll need to add some oil to the meat mixture if using lean meat.
- Spicy - use more Aleppo pepper or some crushed red pepper if you prefer more heat.
- Dairy-free - omit the cheese for more traditional arayes, or substitute with a plant-based melting cheese.
Tips on Making the Best Arayes with Cheese
- Work quickly. Once you stuff the pita with meat, you need to start cooking it right away to prevent the pita from getting soggy and falling apart.
- Don't overprocess the onion mixture. If you process it too much, you'll essentially start juicing the vegetables. Process just until it's evenly minced and before you see any juice collecting at the bottom.
- Make sure the onion or meat mixture isn't overly wet. If it is, it is absolutely essential to strain the excess liquid to prevent soggy arayes.
- Don't overcook them. Arayes with cheese is best when the pita has a deep golden, crispy exterior, the cheese is melty, and the meat filling is nice and juicy. You can test one first on its own to make sure you have the temperature and timing down before making the rest.
Frequently Asked Questions
Ground beef and lamb are the traditional choice, but you can experiment with other ground meats. Note, however, that if you're using a lean ground meat such as chicken or turkey, you'll need to add oil to the mixture and cook it thoroughly.
Arayes are delicious on their own as a simple meal, but they're even better with some toum (garlic sauce) or tarator (tahini sauce) for dipping. A salad on the side would make it a complete meal.
Arayes are best consumed immediately to enjoy the crispy pita and juicy meat. It is best to only prepare the amount you anticipate to eat fresh. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for three days, and reheat in the oven.
You can refrigerate the leftover raw meat filling in an airtight container for a day or two and make more arayes later. You can also freeze the leftover raw meat filling for a couple months. Alternatively, you can form it into meatballs or burger patties and cook to your liking within a couple days.
See My Latest Recipes For More Delicious Ideas
- Lebanese Red Lentil Soup (Instant Pot & Stovetop)
- Two-Ingredient Pita Bread
- One-Minute Homemade Mayonnaise (Immersion Blender)
- Cucumber Mint Yogurt Salad (Cacik)
- Smoked Tomato Confit
If you’ve tried making this Arayes with Cheese or any other recipe on Forks & Foliage, then please don't forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! I would be so happy to hear how it turned out for you. And if you took any photos or videos, please share them with me on Instagram @forksandfoliage so I can see the deliciousness you made!
Arayes with Cheese (Meat Stuffed Pitas)
- 1 yellow onion, quartered
- 1 cup parsley, stems and leaves
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 small tomato, optional, quartered
- 1 pound ground beef and/or ground lamb
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon hot pepper paste
- 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 teaspoon Lebanese 7 spice
- 1 teaspoon aleppo pepper, plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 6 ounces mozarella cheese, shredded
- 6 pita bread, cut in half
- Place the onion, parsley, garlic, and tomato (if using) in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse a few times until finely minced. Strain for a few minutes if there is liquid collecting at the bottom.
- Transfer the strained vegetable mixture to a medium bowl and add the ground meat, tomato paste, hot pepper paste, pomegranate molasses, one tablespoon of olive oil, Lebanese 7 spice, aleppo pepper, black pepper, and salt. Use your hands to mix until fully combined.
- Begin preheating a grill pan, griddle, or cast iron skillet on medium heat.
- Cut the pita loaves in half and open up the pockets. Spoon about ¼ cup of meat filling into each half, spreading it evenly into all the edges.
- Add some shredded cheese and close the pita pockets. Brush both sides lightly with olive oil and sprinkle some salt on top.
- Place the meat and cheese stuffed pita halves on the preheated grill pan and cook for about 4-5 minutes on each side, or until the pita is golden and crispy and the meat is cooked to your liking.
- Serve the arayes hot with an extra drizzle of pomegranate molasses or a dipping sauce if desired.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate and may vary.