Sambousek (deep-fried Lebanese pastries)

Sambousek (deep-fried Lebanese pastries)

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  • Makes about 36
  • Medium


  • For the dough:
  • 3 kg all-purpose flour
  • 4 t salt
  • 4 t sugar
  • 360 ml sunflower oil
  • 1.15 litres tepid water
  • For the filling
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • olive oil for frying
  • 2 T pine nuts, lightly toasted
  • 1 kg fresh spinach, washed
  • a sprinkle salt
  • 4 T sumac
  • 2 lemons, juiced, with zest of 1 reserved
  • salt and black pepper to season
  • vegetable oil, for frying

Cooking Instructions

1. To make the dough, place the flour in a food processor. Make a well in the centre and add the salt, sugar and oil. Process using the dough hook until the mixture is smooth. Gradually pour in about 500 ml of tepid water, continuing to process until the dough has the same consistency as a soft bread dough – you may not need to use all the water.

2. Remove from the mixing bowl and knead for a few seconds before dividing into two pieces and wrapping them in clingfilm. Leave to rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before using.

3. To make the spinach filling, heat a little olive oil in a skillet and fry the onions on a medium heat until they are transparent. Add the lightly toasted pine nuts and fry until they are light golden brown. Set aside to cool.

4. Chop the spinach finely and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with the salt and massage well until soft. Squeeze to drain excess water – you might have to repeat this process a few times to get rid of all the liquid. The filling should be as dry as possible.

5. Add the onion and pine nut mixture, sumac, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix well. Drain the excess liquid as you want a thick, dry stuffing.

6. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 2 mm. Using a pastry cutter of about 8 cm in circumference, cut into rounds.

7. Place a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of each circle, making sure that the filling does not touch the edges. Fold the pastry in half and pinch the rounded edges together firmly with your fingertips to seal completely. Now fold the edges back in a classic rope style to seal properly.
Heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-based saucepan and deep-fry the pastries until golden brown. Drain on paper towel and serve while still warm. Alternatively, bake in a moderate oven for 10–15 minutes.

My mom and granny loved to make sambousek, especially because these deep-fried versions are made without yeast and can be kept, uncooked, in the freezer for emergencies. To freeze, brush each pie with a little vegetable oil to prevent them from sticking to one another. Freeze on a tray, separated and not touching. They can be popped in the heated oil straight from the freezer. This recipe is a vegetarian version, meat fillings can also be used.

Extracted with kind permission from Going Home - Food and Stories from Lebanon, the Land of My Forefathers, by Sophia Lindop. Photographs by Hein van Tonder. Published by Annake Muller Publishing. 

Sophia Lindop Recipe by: Sophia Lindop
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Cookbook author Sophia Lindop learnt to cook by watching her Lebanese grandmother and Afrikaans ouma. She grew up on a farm in the Northern Cape and now lives in Cape Town, where she runs Lebanese cooking classes. Find out more about her classes and culinary tours to Lebanon at

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