Middle Eastern Meat Flatbreads (Lahm Bi Ajeen)

Recipe by Ron & Leetal Arazi / New York Shuk

Lahm bi ajeen, also called sfiha, are meat-topped flatbreads that can be found throughout the Middle East in various forms (they’re also comparable to Turkish lachmajoon). This particular version comes to us from Ron and Leetal Arazi, the founders of New York Shuk, which produces Middle Eastern pantry staples. Ron’s father was born in Lebanon, and it was his family's ritual to make and eat these flatbreads on Sunday afternoons. In this recipe, the meat and onion topping is flavored with harissa, an untraditional addition that gives the flatbreads an extra layer of flavor.


25 mins
18 to 20 mins
2 hrs 30 mins
15 small flatbreads
Middle Eastern Meat Flatbreads (Lahm Bi Ajeen) - select to zoom
Middle Eastern Meat Flatbreads (Lahm Bi Ajeen) - select to zoom
Middle Eastern Meat Flatbreads (Lahm Bi Ajeen) - select to zoom


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  1. To make the dough: In a liquid measuring cup, combine the water and salt, stirring to dissolve the salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and yeast. Make a well in the middle and add the water mixture, yogurt, and olive oil. Mix together with your hands to form a shaggy dough. 

  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 1 minute. Form into a rough ball, then place in a greased bowl and turn to coat so that the dough is lightly greased. Cover and let the dough rest at room temperature until it doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours.  

  3. To make the topping: In a medium saucepan, combine the onion and oil (you want the oil to just cover the onion). Bring to a bare simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook. Stir occasionally to keep the onions from sticking, until they’re very tender, about 30 minutes.

  4. Stir in the ground meat, baharat, and salt. Increase the heat to bring the mixture just to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat into small bits with a wooden spoon, until the meat is cooked through and very tender, about 30 minutes.

  5. Strain the mixture through a mesh sieve. Discard the oil or reserve it for other cooking needs (see “tips” below).

  6. Let the mixture cool, then stir in the harissa and pine nuts. Adjust harissa and salt to taste. 

  7. Preheat the oven to 500°F with racks in the upper lower thirds. Lightly grease two baking sheets with olive oil or line with parchment. 

  8. To shape the lahm bi ajeen: Transfer the dough to a generously oiled work surface and divide it into 15 pieces (about 60g each). With oiled hands, roll each piece into a round ball, then use your hands to flatten each ball into a rough disk about 4" in diameter. Transfer the rounds to the prepared baking sheet, then repeat with the other balls of dough, dividing them among the sheets as you work. 

  9. Evenly divide the meat mixture between all 15 disks (about 2 heaping tablespoons meat per piece), and then use your hands to spread it over the surface, leaving a 1/2" border. 

  10. Bake the lahm bi ajeen for 18 to 20 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the dough is golden brown. Enjoy the lahm bi ajeen while warm with a side of tahini sauce and matbucha (see "tips" below). 

  11. Storage information: The filling can be made up to 3 days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Baked lahm bi ajeen freeze well: Wrap them individually and take them out as needed. Defrost them in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat in a toaster oven. 

Tips from our Bakers

  • Baharat is a Middle Eastern spice blend that varies between regions and vendors. (New York Shuk’s blend includes black pepper, cinnamon, and rose petals.) It’s key to the flavor, so don’t skip it. 

  • For a meat free-version, top the flatbread with another traditional topping made of za’atar and olive oil: Mix olive oil with za’atar to create a loose paste, then spread generously over shaped dough before baking. Brush more on after baking for additional color and flavor. 

  • Harissa paste varies greatly between brands in terms of consistency and spiciness. We prefer a medium or spicy harissa for this recipe. For best results, taste to determine the heat level; if you’d like a spicier topping, add red pepper flakes to taste. (Ron and Leetal’s own harissa, New York Shuk Signature Harissa, works wonderfully in this recipe.) 

  • These flatbreads are even more delicious with the right sauces: matbucha and tahini sauce. Matbucha is a Moroccan condiment made from cooked tomatoes, and tahini sauce can be prepared by thinning tahini with water until it’s the consistency of maple syrup, then seasoning with salt and lemon juice to taste. 

  • While it seems like this recipe includes lot of oil, you’re essentially using it to confit the onions and meat. After you strain it, you can reuse the oil for cooking when making a pot of rice, sautéing vegetables, or in any other dish where you’ll still be able to taste the spices that have infused the oil. 

  • The maximum temperature rating for most parchment paper is below 500°F, and at temperatures between 450°F and 500°F parchment’s exposed edges begin to char. To be safe, keep a close eye on anything being cooked at temperatures above 450°F (especially anything on an upper rack). Burned edges can also be minimized by trimming away excess parchment before baking.