Feb 072010

Sambusak are savory turnovers filled with chickpeas, ground meat, cheese, or potatoes . They’re good as appetizers or to pack into a lunch box, or to have on hand frozen when guests are coming and you need something to offer, in a hurry.

I like this spicy chickpea filling. But it’s easy to vary the filling with cheese and scallions, or ground beef or mashed potatoes mixed with the spiced, fried onion mixture detailed below.

You can either fry or bake sambusak. While it’s healthier to bake them, there’s something about a fried sambusak…particularly a deep-fried one…like the kind you can pick up in the shuk or at shwarma stands…that’s so good. But then, so many dangerous things are.

I fry these yeast-raised ones  in shallow oil. If you prefer to bake your sambusak, use the second dough recipe, which is unleavened.

Chickpea Sambusak

yield: about 20 pastries

Ingredients for Yeasted 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 Simple, Unleavened Dough

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons salt

8 ounces unsalted margarine or butter at room temperature

1/2 cup cold water

1 egg, beaten for glazing baked sambuska

sesame seeds for baked sambuska


1. In a medium bowl, mix the flour with the salt.

2. In a large bowl, beat the margarine or butter till its creamy. Add the flour, mixing well as you go.

3. Add the water and mix well.

4. Knead the dough till a smooth ball forms. Cover the bowl and put it aside. The dough will ferment slightly while you’re busy making the filling.

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


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

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

3. Fry the onions in the olive oil till translucent.

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

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

Form the pastries

1. 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.

2. 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, especially with the yeasted dough.

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

4. 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.

Or, preheat the oven to 350°F – 180°C.  Lay the sambusak in a baking pan. Glaze the upper sides with beaten egg; sprinkle sesame seeds on top. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden-brown.

Unbaked (or un-fried) sambusak can be frozen in layers, then packed into heavy ziploc bags. Put them straight into hot oil or a preheated oven when you take them out of the freezer, and proceed as above.

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  16 Responses to “Chickpea Sambusak”

  1. That sounds so yummy! I haven’t eaten sambusek in years!

  2. Next time you come over, Yael, I’ll make you some.

  3. i love your blog so much. still getting used to the new design.. i make mine a little differently but one tip i learned that has really worked nicely is to use a little of the chickpea water in the bough. also i cook my chickpeas in the pan after the onions have caramelized and mash it all together. sorry about the typing my hands are full of a sleeping baby. i miss cooking maybe when he’s a little older i can revisit the kitchen

  4. This looks so tasty and easy. I think I’m going to make a batch.

    JOOC, would you recommend baking or frying them all then then freeze?

  5. Hi, Devo,

    No, freeze them as is and when you’re ready, either bake in a preheated oven or allow them to thaw slightly then put them right into hot oil.
    I confess, I got so hungry writing about sambusak that I got up and started a new batch.

  6. …my hands are full of a sleeping baby…

    How lovely! What a good reason to be out of the kitchen!

    Thanks for the tip – I’ll use it next time I make sambusak. Which if the Little One has anything to say about it, will be soon.

  7. Mmm..this looked so yummy that I had to try it out..I´m trying this recipe out right now – they´re in the oven.

    I would love it if you could also post receipes for ground meat and potato sambusaks.

  8. Hope your sambusak turned out great, LittleMoi. Recipes for meat and potato fillings next week…

  9. Recipes looks great! Just curious, why put both yeast and baking powder in the first dough?

  10. Sorry for the delayed answer – the computer was temporarily on the blink. The baking powder gives the dough lightness, especially when the sambusak is fried.

  11. Thanks. Interesting how baking powder can improve doughs. I was just reading in a German baking book about murbteig doughs for sweet tarts. For a version of murbteig with half the usual amount of butter, the author adds baking powder to give the dough lightness.

  12. You make it look so easy!

  13. can you use the puff pastry that i find frozen in the stores for the recipe here instead of doing my own dough?

  14. Hi Sherri. I would only use puff pastry if you’re planning to bake the sambusak.

  15. is there any other dough you can buy here that you can use the stovetop for, since my oven is currently not working?

  16. Sherri, I think the cigarim wrappers might work.

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