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

In The Media

Pomegranate – Taste&Flavors

The pomegranate shrub (small tree) has been planted in the Mediterranean region since ancient times. The name pomegranate derives from medieval French and means seeded apple. In many cultures, the fruit symbolizes prosperity and fertility.

Check out the full article in Taste&Flavors magazine, Autumn 2016 issue.

Pomegranate: Taste&Flavors


Sharing Culinary Heritage in the Arab World

The Food Heritage Foundation in collaboration with KariaNet is on the hunt for traditional recipes in the Arab World.

 To share the specialty of your region, send us a typical recipe from your village or country to be featured on our website and social media platforms!

Send your recipe to with the following information:

  • Name of the recipe
  • Cultural background: tell us the story behind it, if it is prepared for special events, what makes it special
  • Ingredients and total servings
  • Preparation steps and required time
  • And pictures of course! (high resolution)

Every two weeks a recipe will be selected and posted on our social media platforms featuring your name.

For more info contact us on or send us a message on Facebook.

Recipe hunt_flyer 1_web

Recipe hunt_flyer 2_final

Eat Local

Wild Edible Plants

Food heritage expert Zeinab Jeambey goes on a journey to meet rural women, from the four corners of Lebanon, and learn about different wild edible plants, their benefits and cooking methods.

wild garlic
Wild garlic – thoum

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) defines wild plants as “those that grow spontaneously in self-maintaining populations in natural or semi-natural ecosystems and can exist independently of direct human action.” Though not part of urban diets, many wild plants are edible and local communities consumed them for their health and medicinal qualities long before their nutritious, protective and therapeutic effects were proven by science. Several of these often-called famine foods proved to be important sources of high quality protein, essential amino acids and minerals. In low-socioeconomic communities, wild edible plants contribute to food security and nutrition.

In Lebanon, Wild Edible Plants (WEP) are regarded as valuable food within rural areas.

Dardar sold at a local farmers’ market

Known as sliq or sliqa in Arabic, traditional knowledge about these plants is often passed down through generations by word of mouth, with women being the main beholders of this wealth. Come spring, you can spot rural women in orchards and highlands collecting what Mother Nature has in store for them. But WEP are more than just food. They reflect the pride of rural residents in their land and hold the wisdom of their ancestors. Eaten raw, boiled or cooked, a whole culinary tradition has developed around them, all the while being used for their medicinal benefits, treating health problems ranging from skin irritations to anemia.

You can still find people knowledgeable in WEP in rural Lebanon. Nonetheless, this knowledge is dwindling because
of the lack of interest among younger generations and their detachment from nature. Jeambey meets some of the villagers still retaining this tradition. It’s a call for everyone to document knowledge about WEP in order to preserve this centenary heritage.

Seasoned chicory with garlic, lemon juice and olive oil

Hindbeh (chicory): Khadijeh Chahine, responsible for Al Ahd Coop in Buwayda, Hermel, is a wealth of knowledge
on local seeds and a fervent activist for the sustainable collection of WEP. Her Co-op specializes in selling local crops such as jurdi chickpeas and salamouni bulgur and flour.

Health and cooking tips of chicory: treats anemia and fights constipation. Eat it raw with a few olives or in a salad with green onions, pomegranate molasses and olive oil. Another alternative is to stir-fry with lots of onions and eat it with a squeeze of lemon.

Shoumar (fennel): Suraya and Sumaya Kaakour are adorable 75-year-old twin sisters from Baassir in Iqlim Al-Kharroub. They made sure everyone knew that they were on a mission to enrich our quest. As I accompanied them
and thanked them for their generosity, Sumaya told me “take pictures of us! This way, when we are gone, you will remember the two old ladies from Baassir who told you how important Wild Edible Plants are.”

Health and cooking tips of fennel:  Fennel seed infusion alleviates bloating and stomach aches. Eat it boiled, strained and marinated with lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. Chop it with mint, parsley and onions and mix it with eggs and flour before frying into an omelet.

Stir-fried mallow with onions and chickpeas

Khebbayzeh (mallow): Nabila Azzam, a passionate cook from Ein Zebde in West Bekaa, inherited her extensive
knowledge about plants from her mother. Although WEP are abundant from February until the end of April, Azzam collects a variety all year round. She is a host on the darb el karam food heritage trail. Join Azzam on a touristic activity collecting WEP and enjoy her WEP turnovers, baked on Saj.

Health and cooking tips of mallow: Mallow is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Stir-fry it in olive oil with onions, cilantro and chickpeas. Eat it with bread and a squeeze of lemon juice.

May preparing her special eryngo pastries
May preparing her special eryngo pastries

Qors aaneh (eryngo): May Kanaan is know as the “Queen of Saj” in her village Mrosti in the Shouf Mountains, May
Kanaan has the energy of a bumblebee. Owner of a mini-market, Kanaan has been baking Saj bread for over 20 years. In spring, Kanaan roams the highlands and collects wild oregano to make and sell her zaatar mix. She also gathers other edible plants to use as fillings for her turnovers and mana’ish. Full of energy and life, she is a host on darb el karam food heritage trail, and will make a joyful guide to follow on a day in the wild.

Health and cooking tips of eryngo: Eryngo is a potent anti-poisonous plant. It was often used to counteract the effect of snake and scorpion venom. Make an eryngo tabboule by substituting parsley for eryngo or simply pickle it.

This article was featured in Lebanon Traveler magazine .


Seasoned Chicory – Assoura


Total Servings: 5

Preparation Time: 35 minutes


7 cups of wild chicory, chopped

1/2 a cup of lemon juice

7 garlic cloves, crushed

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 Preparation Steps:

  1. In a cooking pot, put chopped chicory and immerse them with water
  2. Cook on medium heat until tender
  3. Set aside to cool then squeeze the water out very well
  4. Add the garlic, lemon juice and salt. Mix well
  5. Drizzle olive oil on top and serve cold



Kishk Turnovers

Fatayer kishk or mana’eesh b kishk are very popular in Lebanon and prepared in various ways. They are consumed usually over breakfast. The recipe we are sharing here is a healthy one from Ras Beirut, and rich in fibers.

Total Servings: 5 dozens


500 g of cow’s milk kishk
5 cups of vegetable oil
2 tbsp. of tomato paste
100 g of onions, grated
2 tbsp. of sesame seeds, roasted
1 tbsp. of pomegranate paste

700g of brown whole wheat flour
300g of bran flour
3 tbsp. of vegetable oil
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of sugar
2 cups of water

Preparation Steps:

  1. In a bowl, mix all filling ingredients and set aside
  2. In another bowl, mix the dough ingredients and let it rest
  3. After 15 minutes, divide the dough into small balls
  4. Pat the small balls into round shaped pieces of 3 mm thickness
  5. Put one tbsp. of filling on the dough
  6. Press both ends of the dough and stretch to form a boat shaped turnover
  7. Press the edges to make sure they stick together
  8. Preheat the oven at 240˚C. (fire should be from the bottom side)
  9. Place the turnovers on an oven pan covered with parchment paper, sprinkle them with bran flour and leave to rest for 15 minutes prior to inserting the pan in the oven
  10. Bake for 15 minutes or until the bottom of the pastries turn golden in color.