Winter Squash Kibbeh

You might have thought I was all done with the winter squash. But then you must not have peeked into my pantry lately. If you were to take a look, you would have spied 4 giant butternut squash, 2 sugar pumpkins, 1 acorn squash, 1 delicata squash, and a splendid blue hubbard.  That is how our lovely CSA ends with an October bounty that will last us until January, if I manage to store them correctly. So forgive me for continuing the squash journey.  I brought you a warming Tex-Mex inspired butternut soup, and that Pumpkin Maple Spice ice cream that detoured through China.  Today, we’re heading to Lebanon.

I’ve never been to Lebanon, so this is, more precisely, Lebanon by way of Beacon Hill, Boston. Down the street from our last apartment was a very cozy Middle Eastern restaurant. The decor was slightly shabby, the menus worn. The jolly proprietor and solitary waitress were warm, though inefficient. But when work was piling up, and the thought of generating a single additional plate to wash in that dishwasher-less apartment was just too much to bear, we would head down the street. When a Nor’easter had settled in, but cabin fever was reaching never-seen-before heights, we would trudge down. It could still count as a Saturday night outing, even if we didn’t make it more than one short block, right?

Sometimes we ordered lentils & rice, and sometimes the appetizer combo, which had enough hoummus, tabouli, and baba ganoush to feed us for days.  Sometimes it was the falafel, and occasionally we gave into the baklavah.  But we never passed up the pumpkin kibbeh. A kibbeh so delicious even this pumpkin-skeptic gal couldn’t deny its charms. Hearty, warmly spiced, and not overpoweringly sweet: this is the perfect entree for fall.

Now that we’ve moved away from that apartment, I finally got around to creating my own version.  Tangy swiss chard and chickpeas are layered between whole grain bulgur and pumpkin, and baked together. This recipe captures all the magic of the original, and had us going back for seconds and (yes) thirds.

Pumpkin Kibbeh

1 cup coarse bulgur
1 cup water
1 large bunch chard or 2 bunches spinach, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can chickpeas
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sumac (or sub. lemon juice to taste)
1/4 cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts
2 cups roasted, pureed winter squash
2 cloves garlic
1 onion, chopped and divided
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp pomegranate molasses (optional)
For the lemon tahini sauce:
lemon juice
garlic powder

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Add water and bulgur to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, until softened.
3. While bulgur is cooking, in a large frying pan, fry 3/4 of the onion and two cloves of garlic until lightly golden. Add the chard or spinach and fry until it is wilted. Add the chickpeas, salt, and sumac. Smash the chickpeas with the spatula. Add pine nuts, and stir to combine. Remove from heat.
4. In a food processor, add cooked bulgur, squash, remaining onion and garlic, flour, spices, and pomegranate molasses. Pulse until a well-combined (but still textured) mixture forms.
5. In a greased 8″x11″ pan, spread half of the bulgur mixture. Then sprinkle the greens & chickpeas over that. Use a spatula to spread remaining bulgur on top. Bake for 30 minutes, or until it has become firm and lightly browned.
6. While it bakes, mix together a few tablespoons tahini with a squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of garlic powder, a pinch of salt. Thin with water until it is the consistency of a drizzling sauce. If you really want a recipe for this, you can click here, but I promise this one needs no measuring. Just taste as you go, adjust if necessary, and trust yourself!

Notes: Recipe traditionally calls for pumpkin, but I used a mix of acorn and delicata squash.

You may also make this with fine bulgur, but I have a much easier time buying coarse bulgur locally. To make it with fine bulgur, do not add the water, and do not cook the bulgur.  Simply stir together fine bulgur and pumpkin, and set that aside for 10 minutes. The bulgur will soften in the squash mixture, and then proceed with the recipe as written. You may need to add a little bit of water back at the end, if you are not achieving a spreadable consistency for the bulgur mixture.

If you are new to cooking with coarse bulgur, please note that the water-to-bulgur ratio was specifically designed for this dish; I cook the bulgur in less water than usual, since the bulgur will absorb additional moisture from the pumpkin as it bakes.


13 thoughts on “Winter Squash Kibbeh

    • It’s on the chewy side. The coarse bulgur retains some of its texture and contributes chewiness. The whole dish firms as it bakes to create something easily sliceable. It’s so delicious–you should try it! 🙂

  1. I can hardly wait to try this! Pumpkin Kibbeh is one of my all-time favorite cold-weather dishes, and this recipe looks wonderful. I wouldn’t have thought to add chard, but it’s a great idea and really makes this a one-dish meal option. Your tahini sauce striping adds great visual appeal, too. Thanks!

  2. I’m sure I know the restaurant you are talking about. It was one block down the hill from our apartment. I am lebanese but never had pumpkin kibbeh till I went to that restaurant. I am so sad it recently closed and now I’m looking for the recipe. Does yours really taste like the restaurant’s?

    • Hi LH,

      I never had the two dishes side-by-side (my version and Phoenicia’s version), so they are likely not identical. However, this one really does evoke the original for us; they are very similar. I would strongly encourage you to give it a try, and you can always adapt it to suit your own tastes. They used spinach in their version, so I would start with that variation.

      If you are looking to try the dish elsewhere, the Middle East in Central Square makes a pumpkin kibbeh too!

  3. Made this tonight and liked it a lot! Comfort food at its best yet healthiest. My pumpkin purée was on the dry side so I had to add in some water and my pumpkin-bulgur mixture was overprocessed. I think I’ll pulse the cooked bulgur next time, then mix it with the remaining ingredients because your version looks a lot better and even more delicious. I think I’ll add more of the spices next time though. The simple tahini sauce is wonderful and complemented the kibbeh nicely because it added some zing and some saltiness. Thanks!

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