RECIPE: Sambusak, Spicy Middle Eastern Turnovers

image-sambusak-turnoverFancy a hot snack? Try sambusak.

If you suddenly need a nosh while browsing an open-air market  (like one of these shouks), look around. You’re sure to find a sambusak stand where hungry shoppers are buying these hot, spicy pastries.  These popular turnovers also appear at wedding buffets and fancy hotel receptions.

Made at home, they freeze well and are excellent to have on hand  when guests are coming and you need something to offer in a hurry. Of course, a cup of Turkish coffee (recipe here) is the perfect drink to go with sambusak.


yield: about 20 pastries

Ingredients for Dough:

1/4 oz. dry yeast, or 1 cube fresh yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons sugar

1 cup water

3 cups all-purpose flour


In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water.

2. Add the salt, baking powder, and sugar. Stir.

3. Add the flour a cup at a time. Mix, then knead till the dough is firm.

4. Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise for 2 hours.

Ingredients for the Chickpea Filling:

2 cans of chickpeas

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon white pepper – or use 1 teaspoon of either white or black pepper

oil for shallow frying


Put the chickpeas in a strainer. Drain and rinse them.

Put them through a food processor till they’re a chunky paste, or blend them.

Fry the onions in the olive oil till translucent.

Add the dry spices to the onions; stir and cook about 3 minutes.

Add the spiced onions to the chickpeas and mix everything up well.

Form the pastries

Take pieces out of the dough till you have 20 equal-sized pieces. Pat each piece into a rough circle in the palm of your hand as you work.

Flour your work surface and roll each patty into a circle about 3 inches in diameter. Don’t be afraid to roll them out thin.

Place a tablespoon of stuffing in the middle of each circle. Fold the dough over to make a triangle, hiding the stuffing.

Pinch the edges of the sambusak together, or crimp them with a fork to seal them.

Fry the sambusak in shallow oil over medium heat. Turn them over when the first side is golden, and fry the other side. Drain on paper towels or crumbled newspaper and serve hot.

Another delicious filling is mashed potatoes seasoned with fried onions and spices as above.

Freeze un-fried sambusak in layer separated by baking paper. Put them straight into hot oil when you take them out of the freezer, and proceed as above.

Bon appetit!

More Middle-Eastern snack recipes from Green Prophet:

Photo of sambusak by Miriam Kresh.

Miriam also writes a food blog.

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