Makdous: A Healthy Pickled Delight

Contributing writer: Jameel Dabbagh

A delicious and healthy plate of makdous

An ancient culinary delight, the roots of makdous stem from Syria although it is a beloved staple throughout Levantine and Middle Eastern cuisine. It consists of oil-cured baby eggplants and is traditionally stuffed with a flavorful mix of roasted capsicum (red peppers), walnuts, garlic, salt and olive oil. These ingredients are used in makdous recipes across Lebanon. The Qaa village in the district of Baalbeck is renowned for its makdous which is made from irrigated eggplants in the Masharee al-Qaa agricultural area.

Autumn is considered “makdous season.” The season extends from the end of September into October. A comforting snack, it is prepared mainly in households and by local small-scale producers and local coops. It is eaten for breakfast or dinner and is considered a side dish in many homes across Lebanon and the Levant. Fall is an ideal time to prepare makdous, as it is when small and tender black-colored eggplants are harvested. The season also coincides with when walnuts are harvested and when red peppers are at their ripest. In Lebanon, the two eggplant varieties are locally known as Bou Shawki and El Homsi. Makdous production also plays an important role in improving rural livelihoods and empowering women, as many of the makdous producers in the villages tend to be women who make an income from selling makdous and other mouneh products. In Lebanon, makdous is also an essential part of the mezze spread which is an assortment of finger foods served as an appetizer at restaurants.

Makdous pickled in a jar

Every component of makdous offers various nutritional benefits. The eggplant itself is an excellent source of potassium and fibers. The stuffing of the eggplants comprises a tasty combination of healthy ingredients. Walnuts are a nutrient-dense food rich in plant-based omega-3 fatty acids making it an essential heart-healthy food. Additionally, capsicums are an excellent source of vitamins A, E, B6 and most importantly are one of the richest dietary sources of essential vitamin C. They also contain many healthy antioxidants that are good for eye health. Moreover, the essential and flavorful ingredient, garlic, is a very good source of manganese and vitamin C, besides several minerals including phosphorous, calcium, potassium, iron and copper. Garlic compounds can reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels, hence lowering the risk of heart disease. Overall, this combination preserved in olive oil constitutes a healthy appetizer when consumed moderately.

10 kg of baby eggplants
1 kg walnuts
1 garlic bulb
1 kg ground coarse salt
3 kg sweet red capsicum

1. Wash the eggplants and put them in a bag, then put them in a saucepan that contains boiling water. Let the water boil for about five minutes, and then wash them under cold water and cool the eggplants in order to prevent them from blackening.

2. Remove the stems and slit each eggplant with a knife in the middle, then put some of the coarse salt inside the slit and put the eggplant back into a bag and put a weight on it so that it is compressed and drained of water. The compression should last between 24 to 48 hours.

3. To prepare the filling, chop some walnuts, garlic and capsicum. Add coarse and crushed salt (salt according to your preference).

4. Once the eggplant is drained, stuff if it with mixed ingredients and then place the eggplants in clean, pre-sterilized jars.

5. Add oil to fully immerse the eggplants and leave them for 48 hours, if the oil level drops below the eggplant add more oil so that the eggplants remain submerged. Leave them to cure for about two weeks before eating, the longer you marinate them, the more sour they will be.

Ain Loz Coop preparing makdous in the Ain Ata Village, Rachaya District, West Bekaa (photo courtesy of Yasmin Olabi)
Jars full of makdous prepared by the Ain Loz Coop in the Ain Ata Village, Rachaya District, West Bekaa (photo courtesy of Yasmin Olabi)

Best practices for making makdous:

• The size of the eggplant is an important factor, if the eggplant is too big then it will have too many seeds and it will have a bitter taste. There are several varieties to choose from when making makdous: black, purple or even white eggplants.

• When grinding nuts, try to grind roughly so that a coarse texture for the stuffing is achieved.

• It is possible to use vegetable oil only, provided that it is of good quality, but it is preferable to mix olive oil with vegetable oil.

• Do not use olive oil alone because the oil freezes in the winter, which facilitates the entry of air into the product and leads to the formation of bacteria. High temperatures are ideal for the fermentation process.

• The most important factor in properly preserving makdous is extracting as much water from the eggplants as possible.

• The shelf life of makdous is approximately two years.

Tray full of makdous

Where to buy makdous:

The Bekaa Valley:

Rachaya, Bekaa: Ibtisam Barakat
ج.ت النسائية للتصنيع الزراعي – وادي التيم م.م

Kfarmeshki, Bekaa: Rola Fawzi Al Farikh
ج.ت لانتاج الحليب في كفرمشكي وجوارها م.م

Ain Ata, Bekaa: Hanan El Sahili
ج.ت الانتاجية في عين عطا – عين اللوز م.م

Kherbet Qanafar, Bekaa: Lina Saadeh
لقمة وريف

Kherbet Qanafar, Bekaa: Amila Azzam

Khiara, Bekaa: Najla Haidar
خيرات بقاعنا – الانتاجية في الخيارة

Sultan Yaaqoub, Bekaa: Sawsan Abou Salheh
لتصنيع الغذائي في السلطان يعقوب

Sohmor, Bekaa: Zeinab Abbas
الجمعية النساىية للتنمية الاجتماعية

Kamed El Loz, Bekaa: Bassam Taha
نادي كامد اللوز الثقافي

Ksarnaba, Bekka: Rabiaa Dirani
الجمعية التعاونية الانتلجية في قصرنبا و الجوار

Qab Elias, Bekaa: Mohana Haidar
دار فريدة

Bedneyel, Bekaa: Chadia Haidar
76-641 471

Southern Lebanon:

Zawtar, Nabatiyeh: Mohamad Ali Nehme
الجمعيية التعاونية الزراعية النباتات الطبية والعطرية في زوطر الشرقية وجوارها

Deir Mimas, Marjeyoun: Amal Hanna
الجمعية التعاونية لزراعة العضوية وتربية النحل في ديرميماس وجوارها م.م

Rihan, Jezzine: Sahjanan Hassoune
الجمعية التعاونية الزراعية العامة
70-518-826 or 03-721-607


Makloubet Batenjen – Upside-down eggplants

Makloubet batenjen ©DedosFoodTruck

Makloubet Batenjen which literally translates into “upside-down eggplants”, is an old traditional dish that originated in the Levant region. It is mainly cooked in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine. Makloubeh is cooked in various ways using different kinds of vegetables such as eggplants, cauliflower, carrots or potatoes, and can be prepared either with beef or with chicken.

Total Servings: 6

Preparation time: 1 hour


1 kg of rice

1 kg of eggplants

1 kg of ground beef

280 ml of vegetable oil

1 tbsp. of salt

6 cups of water

1 tsp. of seven spices (black pepper, cinnamon, cumin, dry coriander, cardamom, cloves, saffron)

1/2 kg of raw cashew nuts for decoration

Preparation steps:

  1. Wash the rice thoroughly and then soak it in water for half an hour
  2. Cut the eggplant into 1cm thick circles
  3. Add salt to the eggplant slices and deep fry in 250 ml of vegetable oil.
  4. Leave the fried eggplant aside on a sieve to allow the oil to drain
  5. In a pot, fry the ground beef in 30 ml of vegetable oil
  6. On top of the fried ground beef, add a layer of eggplant then a layer of uncooked rice. Keep forming layers of eggplants and rice until you use all the quantity that you have
  7. Add the water and heat on a medium heat
  8. When the water starts boiling, lower the heat and let simmer for 20 minutes until all water is evaporated and the rice is well cooked
  9. Turn off the heat and leave the pot for 2-3 minutes closed
  10. After that, open the lid and turn the cooker upside down over a large plate
  11. In a saucepan, fry the cashews and add them over the cooked dish
  12. Serve with yogurt or a seasonal vegetable salad

For a healthier version, you can roast the eggplant slices in the oven.


Sheikh el mehshe b laban (stuffed eggplants with yogurt sauce)

Sheikh el mehshe recipe usually means stuffed eggplants with tomato sauce. However, stuffed eggplants stuffed with ground meat turn out to be super delicious when served with a yogurt sauce or laban and rice on the side. We do not know the exact origin of this delicious main course, but we know it is prepared in different parts of Lebanon.

Servings: 5

Preparation time: 90 mns


1 kg of small eggplants

1 large onion, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, minced

200 g of ground lamb

¼ cup of pine nuts

1 tbsp. of tomato paste

1 tbsp.  of pomegranate molasses (optional)

1 cup of vegetable oil

½ tsp of salt

¼ tsp of sweet pepper

¼ tsp of cinnamon

¼ tsp of 7 spices

Yogurt sauce

4 cups of plain yogurt

1 ½ tbsp. of corn starch

1 egg

½ cup of water to dissolve the starch

Frying the eggplants in vegetable oil
Frying the partially peeled eggplants in vegetable oil

The eggplants are now stuffed!
The eggplants are now stuffed!


Preparing the eggplants

  1. Peel the eggplants
  2. In a skillet, heat the vegetable oil and fry the eggplants until all their sides are wilted
  3. Remove on a paper towel and leave to dry
  4. In the remaining oil, brown the pine seeds
  5. In another skillet, fry the chopped onions with the meat
  6. Add the tomato paste, the pomegranate, the salt and all spices. Mix well
  7. With both thumbnails, open each eggplant and stuff with a tbsp. of the meat mixture

Cooking the eggplants in the yogurt sauce
Cooking the eggplants in the yogurt sauce

Yogurt sauce

  1. In large pot, add the water with cornstarch, the egg and the minced garlic to the yogurt. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon over medium. Do not stop stirring; otherwise the yogurt sauce will break apart
  2. Keep stirring until boiling and reduce heat to low then stop stirring
  3. Pour the yogurt mixture through a sieve into a large skillet over low fire
  4. Put the stuffed eggplants carefully in the sauce and cook for 5 minutes
  5. For serving, put some pine seeds on of each eggplant and top with the yogurt sauce. Enjoy with cooked rice on the side

Raheb Salad – Eggplant salad

Total servings: 5

Preparation time: 1 hour


2 Kg of raw eggplants

200 g of cucumbers, finely cubed

300 g tomatoes, finely chopped

50 g onions, finely chopped

2 Tbsp of parsley, finely chopped

1 Tbsp of mint, finely chopped

1 garlic clove

150 g green bell pepper (sweet), finely chopped

150 g of lemon juice

50 g of olive oil

5 tsp salt

4 tsp sumac

Preparation Steps: 

  1. On high flame, grill 2 kg of eggplants until skin is burnt and eggplants are soft from all sides
  2. Peel the eggplants and place in them in a strainer to drain their water
  3. Add the cucumbers, the tomatoes, the green pepper and the finely chopped greens altogether
  4. Smash 1 garlic clove and add to the mix
  5. Mix oil, sumac, lemon, and salt together to prepare the sauce
  6. Once water is drained, place the eggplants in a plate
  7. Place the vegetable mix on top of it
  8. Pour the dressing on the dish and serve

Eggplant Moussaka

Eggplant Mussaka

Total Servings: 5


1 Kg eggplant

½ Kg soaked chickpeas

½ Kg tomato

5 large onions

1 garlic head

½ cup oil

½ tea spoon salt

½ tea spoon pepper

 Preparation Steps:

Fry the finely chopped onions and garlic in oil until they develop a yellow color.

  1. Add the peeled chickpeas and cook for 1 ½ minutes, then add a little water and keep over a low fire until the chickpeas are done.
  2. Peel the eggplant, fry in oil and keep aside.
  3. Add the grated tomatoes over the chickpeas and leave for a while on the fire.
  4. Add the eggplants with salt and pepper and cook until all the water evaporates.
  5. Served cold.

For a healthier version enjoy the eggplants grilled in the oven!