My Thanksgiving Wouldn’t Be Complete Without Hashweh — But It’s a Great Stuffing to Serve All Year Too

My first Thanksgiving in the United States was when I was 11-years-old. It was a Lebanese-inspired spread complete with hummus, tabbouleh, grape leaves and hashweh — an Arabic stuffing made with ground beef and onions served alone or inside the turkey.

November 05, 2021

Get the recipe: Thanksgiving Hashweh

Get the recipe: Thanksgiving Hashweh

As a child growing up in a small town in Sierra Leone that was heavily populated with Lebanese families, my family didn’t eat Thanksgiving dinner. But when we moved to the United States in 1993, after the civil war in Sierra Leone, I remember rejoicing at my first experience with this quintessential American holiday. My aunt had invited us to her house for dinner —she had three turkeys, 30 guests and endless happiness in watching the whole family enjoy dinner together.

My delight was mainly centered around tasting a turkey for the first time and learning about the Thanksgiving tradition that my cousins in the United States celebrated each year. It was like Christmas, but with enough food that you had leftovers for a whole week! I particularly enjoyed the fusion of the traditional Lebanese foods I grew up eating with these traditional Thanksgiving foods.

My aunt turned mashed potatoes into shepherd’s pie, served hummus to dip with buttery dinner rolls, chose tabbouleh as the main salad, and made a traditional hashweh with ground beef, onions, rice and spices stuffed inside of a turkey. My mother has made that hashweh recipe my whole life, using it as stuffing for peppers, squash, grape leaves, potatoes, cabbage and roasted chicken. I supposed it made sense for the hashweh to make an appearance at this Lebanese-infused Thanksgiving dinner. I was excited about the marriage of flavors and it felt nostalgic to enjoy these flavors from my childhood in our new home in the United States.

Within a year, my mother was learning to cook her own turkey, after much demand from my siblings and I, and also stuffing it with hashweh. It was our special way of making Thanksgiving infused with our Lebanese traditions. And now as I have started helping make side dishes for Thanksgiving and throwing my own Thanksgiving dinners, I love to add a hint of my heritage in the foods I’m serving to my family and friends.

You may ask yourself "to stuff or not to stuff?" when it comes to your Thanksgiving turkey. If you’re team stuffing and you make sure to follow all the food safety guidelines, then adding stuffing to your turkey can really enhance its flavor.

What I love about this hashweh is that the fat from the ground beef lends additional flavor to the turkey and the onions and seven spice seasoning create a warm aroma that’s very welcoming during the holiday season. Unlike traditional American stuffing that is mostly made up of croutons, this popular Lebanese stuffing is mostly made up of rice, which gets moist and flavorful with the turkey.

Just like traditional stuffing often includes nuts, like chestnuts, pecans or walnuts, this hashweh stuffing can also feature some nuts; add them before you stuff the bird or afterwards to maintain their crunchy texture. I love serving hashweh with toasted pine nuts, slivered almonds or roasted cashews. You can toast any of the nuts on a skillet before cooking the rice and beef or you can buy them toasted already.

More Ways to Use Hashweh

Whether made with or without rice, this ground beef and onion stuffing is a popular Lebanese recipe that is full of Middle Eastern flavor but easy to replicate at home with a handful of ingredients.

What’s great about this recipe is it’s become one of those back pocket recipes that I make so often for my family to use as stuffing for all kinds of vegetables, from peppers, tomatoes, potatoes and squash to chard and cabbage. You can even serve this hashweh (without the rice) on top of hummus, mixed in an omelette or alone with pita bread or pita chips. It’s such a versatile recipe that’s easy enough for a weeknight dinner but also can be dressed up for Thanksgiving dinner.

Thanksgiving Hashweh

This dish is inspired by traditional Lebanese hashweh—which is the Arabic word for stuffing. Hashweh is generally made with onions, ground beef, spices and sometimes rice. It’s used for stuffing peppers, squash, grape leaves, potatoes, cabbage and chicken. It is also ideal for turkey. The fat from the ground beef lends delicious flavor to the bird, while the onions and spices provide a warm aroma perfect for the holidays.

Get the Recipe

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