Sambousak Bi Lahm (Egyptian Meat Pies)

"A savory meat pie from Egypt. The recipe calls for ground lamb, most frequently I don't have lamb available so I use ground beef. It is still quite delicious. You can either make snack size, in which case this recipe makes 20 pastries, or a larger size (similar to the size of a Hostess fruit pie, for those who know American junk food!) in which case you will get 12. This recipe is adapted from Claudia Roden, from her "The Book of Jewish Food.""
photo by Chef Edlear photo by Chef Edlear
photo by Chef Edlear
photo by Chef Edlear photo by Chef Edlear
Ready In:
12-20 pies


  • For the pastry

  • 23 cup oil (canola oil or olive oil are my preferences)
  • 23 cup warm water
  • 12 teaspoon salt (I use a generous 1/2 tsp)
  • 3 cups flour (more or less, according to need)
  • For the filling

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 lb ground lamb or 1 lb ground beef
  • 12 teaspoon allspice
  • 23 teaspoon cinnamon
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 14 cup water
  • 6 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
  • To finish

  • 1 egg yolk, for the glaze (optional)
  • sesame seeds (optional)


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • In a large bowl, mix the oil, water and salt, until dissolved.
  • Gradually work in enough flour to make a soft, malleable dough.
  • You may roll it out right away to use, or if you want to set it aside for an hour or so you can, but keep it covered and at room temperature.
  • Now make the filling: Brown the meat in a large skillet, breaking up into small pieces.
  • Add the onions and cook until they are translucent and starting to brown.
  • Add the salt, pepper, allspice and cinnamon, and stir well.
  • Add the water to deglaze the pan and cook another 5 minutes or so.
  • Add the toasted pine nuts and mix well. Turn off the heat.
  • Now divide your dough in pieces, either 12 pieces for large pies or 20 pieces for small pies (appetizer-sized).
  • Without using flour for the rolling board or rolling pin, roll each piece into circles or ovals, less than 1/4 inch thick, if possible (equivalent to less than 1/2 cm). This is an oily dough and won't stick to your rolling board or your pin, and doesn't need extra flour.
  • For small pies put 2 heaping teaspoons of filling, for large pies put 3 generous tablespoons, just off-center.
  • Fold one half of the dough over to cover, and make a half-moon shape. Seal the edges by pinching, folding and twisting.
  • Lightly oil (or spray with Pam) your baking sheets, and place the pies spaced at least 1/2 inch apart.
  • Mix the egg yolk with about one teaspoon of water, and use to glaze the pies, if desired.
  • If desired, sprinkle the sesame seeds on top.
  • Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden brown.
  • Let cool a few minutes before eating, as filling will be very hot. These are also good cold the next day, if you have any left!
  • Freezes well.

Questions & Replies

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  1. JenniferB_RN
    These were really delicious... I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 because I had to add a few spices to get the taste right. I used this recipe as my base, but I added spices that I'd seen in other recipes (to taste). I added coriander and curry (I think the most important additions), plus a little turmeric and fennel seeds. I also used phyllo. Yum!
  2. Ciocia DD
    Like the other three reviewers I, too, increased the seasonings. I used 5 lbs. of meat to make freezer batches and I multiplied the seasonings by 7. Next time I will go higher, I think. The seasonings seemed like they were more of an "aroma in my mouth" than actual flavor. Also, my filling came out very, very dry. Perhaps it's because I ground the lamb myself and trimmed off as much fat as possible. I added about a cup of white wine and 2 tsp of cornstarch to the filling as I mixed it but next time I will do more. Since the filing was so dry I Googled 'Egyptian lamb sauce recipe' and found a reference to apricot sauce with lamb meatballs. Using this as a starting point I melted down some apricot preserves and mixed in a little whole grain mustard to serve with the meat pies. Much improved! Thinking along those lines I may add some dried-rehydrated apricots to the filling next time. Maybe even some rehydrated raisins. This will help it stay moist and tie into the sauce that I will make again. Also, I felt the dough was too "short." It didn't stretch much for me. So the ratio of dough:filling is too high. I would prefer more filling. When making these pies I intended to be able to grab a couple as breakfast on my way out the door in the morning. Since there is so little filling in each to get enough protein I will have to have three or four. Next time I will either use a frozen bread dough here or even store-bought fresh pizza dough. Another note: I chopped the pine nuts so that they would be more evenly distributed. I did not toast them. I know from prior experience that toasting nuts to add to baked foods does not add anything to the flavor. In fact all the toasting does is ensure that the nuts will suck moisture out of the surrounding ingredients during the baking.
  3. CakenCoffee
    I found this recipe when I was looking for something different to do with the ground lamb I had in the freezer and wanted to get rid of. Now I am buying ground lamb regularly specificaly for this recipe! My family loves this recipe so much that we have it at least twice a month. I usually have to make a double batch to freeze so we can fullfil the craving and take them for lunches. They are absolutely delicious paired with mango chutney! Just a few notes: I double up on the allspice and cinnamon because it has such a wonderful flavour. Also, I found them a bit dry the first time I made them so I have since adapted the recipe by doubling the water and letting the meat cool completely before I add it to the pastry for easier handling. I make the pastry while the meat is cooling which seems to work out well. Thank you for this delicious recipe that has become one of my family's all time favorites!
  4. thothep
    Wish I could give this 4.5 stars, but it just doesn't quite make it for 5. I made it straight to the recipe the first time (with beef, I'm on a budget) and while it tasted nice I was left feeling like something was missing. But I'm having a wonderful time adjusting the seasoning back and forth looking for what tastes best to me, and these are great to pack for lunch up on campus.
  5. Chef Edlear
    Excellent! Well written and easy to follow. I used a combination of 2/3 ground beef and 1/3 ground lamb, and olive oil in the dough. The dough was very easy to work with, and daughter #3 loved the "short" texture of it. She thought that it tasted like piroshki dough. The seasoning is very North African tasting to me, but I will zip it up abit the next time I make these. Thanks for sharing this recipe!


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