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Middle Eastern Meatloaf-Cooking Hacks to Fight Inflationary Meat Prices

posted on: Mar 2, 2022

By: Blanche Shaheen / Arab America Contributing Writer

If you are the primary grocery shopper in your household, it would be hard to ignore the current rampant inflation. At the end of 2021, US households were spending more than 12% of their disposable income on food purchases, up from 10.8% the year before. This marked the highest share of food spending in more than two decades. Inflation continues to soar this year as well, especially for proteins. As of January 2022, the cost of beef and veal was 16% higher than it was in the same month one year earlier. Eggs are up 13%, fish and seafood climbed 12.7% and chicken is up 10.3%. Even chicken wings, a traditionally low-cost protein, have spiked up in price over 40% of their 2020 costs. 

During times like this, I have turned to my Arab ancestors for guidance on how to feed my family on a budget. The people of the middle east have endured many years of wars, droughts, and famines, and learned how to survive even the harshest of conditions. 

They managed to feed large families with a Mediterranean approach of incorporating more vegetarian dishes or adding grains and legumes to meat-based dishes. Filling meals like “mujadarra,” with lentils, rice, and caramelized onions, can feed a family of 5 for under $10. Hummus was not only a dip but also laid the foundation for a variety of main entrees. For instance, in the dish called  “hummus b lahme,”  a small portion of sauteed lamb tops a layer of hummus and pita croutons, which stretches the animal protein to feed more people. With dishes like baked kibbeh, bulgur wheat is combined with ground meat to make a heftier casserole that can feed more people for less.

You can use similar techniques of incorporating more legumes and grains to stretch out your proteins for dishes from any culture. For the following recipe of Middle Eastern Style Meatloaf, bulgur wheat is used instead of bread crumbs to add filling fiber to the ground lamb. As of this writing, ground beef and lamb are less inexpensive than whole cuts of meat, so are a better budget choice. Herbs and spices like parsley, mint, cumin, and allspice add middle eastern flavors. In many Arab households, mothers have fresh mint growing on their windowsills or gardens for easy cooking access.  A layer of ketchup stays true to traditional meatloaf, though this is optional and you can brush the top of the loaf with pomegranate molasses for a middle eastern alternative. 

You can serve this meatloaf with a side of vegetables and potatoes, or you can even use leftover slices in hearty sandwiches with condiments of choice. 

Middle Eastern Meatloaf

  • ½ cup bulgur wheat
  • ¾ cup boiling water
  • Handful parsley, finely chopped
  • Handful fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 pound ground lamb
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 2 tbsp worchestire sauce 
  • Salt to taste ( ½- 1 tsp)
  • Dash lemon pepper or regular pepper
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Ketchup

Add the bulgur to the boiling water and set aside. Add the chopped onions to a cheesecloth or paper towel, and squeeze out any excess moisture. Combine all ingredients except the ketchup, and place in a bread pan with ketchup on the bottom. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 350, then remove the cover and bake 15 more minutes at 375. You can serve with more ketchup on top if you wish. 

Blanche Shaheen is the author of the cookbook called “Feast In the Middle East, a Journey of Family and Cuisine”  which you can order here:   She is also a journalist, and host of the popular cooking show called Feast in the Middle East. She specializes in Arab cuisine of the Levant and beyond.  You can check out her cooking video tutorials at  Her recipes can also be found at: 

Check out Arab America’s blog here!