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food with friends

Recipe: lahmacun (turkish pizza)

I hope those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving had a nice one this past week. I’ll tell you about ours later, but I need to share this recipe with you before it gets buried in my queue of posts! A few weekends ago, my stitch-n-bitch crew got together at Nichole’s house for lunch. It had been quite a while since I had seen some of these ladies. I mean, one of my girlfriends got married since I last saw her, and another got her Ph.D. (actually, I skied with her last spring – but still!). We spent time catching up and everyone offered a dish to share as well as hands to help Nichole with prep. I brought the rolled pistachio baklava as well as a quart of precious huckleberry ice cream.

But the real star of the show was Nichole’s Turkish pizza or lahmacun. I had never had it before and I obsessed over it for days afterward until I begged her for the recipe. The flavors, the fresh ingredients – it’s all wonderful. I did a little research online and cobbled together a compromise between Nichole’s version and another more traditional version to excellent results. I love it when my friends introduce me to new foods.


ground lamb, olive oil, red peppers, onion, garlic, tomato paste, canned tomatoes, parsley, pepper, salt, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, paprika

brown the lamb

drain the fat



You can use lamb or beef, but because we have truly excellent local Colorado lamb, the decision was practically made for me. Some recipes cook the meat before mixing it with the sauce ingredients while others leave the meat raw because it will cook when you bake the pizzas. I opted to brown the lamb and drain off the fat (of which there was a lot). Nichole cooked and simmered her sauce for a few hours and I swear it was phenomenally good straight from the pot. I just didn’t have the time to simmer the sauce and wanted to see if my quicker method would work.

chopped vegetables and diced tomatoes

process to a thick sauce



The sauce comes together in a matter of minutes, which is good because you are going to spend a little time baking each pizza. It helps to have one person cranking out the dough and pizzas and another tending the oven and/or grill.

sauce ingredients prepped

combine in a large bowl

the sauce is ready for action



For the dough, I used my favorite pizza dough recipe. You want a dough that can roll quite thin. I think mine bubbles a little more than lahmacun are supposed to, but it’s still fantastic stuff. We’re aiming for crisp, not chewy.

form 4-ounce balls of dough (about the size of a tennis ball or smaller)

roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface



If your dough is particularly springy and keeps shrinking back as you try to roll it out, leave it be for a few minutes to let the gluten relax. Come back to it and it should roll out more easily. I usually roll them to a 4-inch disk and then begin tossing the dough. If you are a tosser, go for it. If you aren’t – you should start practicing! It took me about a year to figure it out (and not throw pizza dough across the kitchen). I’m no expert, so you should just google for a good video on how to toss pizza dough. Once the dough is thin and about 10-12 inches in diameter, set it on a lightly floured pizza peel (or use the back of a flat cookie sheet) and apply the sauce.

spread a thin layer of sauce on the dough

ready to bake or grill

golden edges

stack them up to serve



Now for the fun part! Traditionally, lahmacun is eaten with a salad on top, but I really enjoyed the lovely array of goodies that Nichole served at her party. It was a salad of sorts with tons of fresh ingredients on offer. Everyone selected what they wanted to customize their own pizza. It’s whatever floats your boat.

sumac, baby arugula, lahmacun, feta cheese, parsley, toasted pine nuts, lemon, pomegranate seeds, plain yogurt

squeeze some lemon over everything



Once the pizza is loaded with all of the goodness, fold it in half or in thirds to eat. If you make larger pizzas (in the interest of time), just cut the pizza into large slices. The sauce is really what makes the magic happen, but the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts. Jeremy was skeptical when I made this at home… that is until he took a bite and now he’s become as much of a fanatic as myself. The second time I made this, I served tzatziki instead of plain yogurt – and it was even awesomer than the first time I made it.

bright, colorful, delicious



Lahmacun (Turkish Pizza)
[print recipe]
modified from Nichole’s recipe and this recipe

16 4-ounce balls of pizza dough (I used this recipe)
meat sauce (recipe below)
2 tbsps sumac
2 cups plain yogurt (or tzatziki)
2 cups feta
2 cups parsley, chopped
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1 cup toasted pine nuts
4 cups baby arugula
2 lemons, cut into wedges
1/4 cup red pepper flakes

the sauce
1 lb. ground lamb or beef
2 red peppers, large dice (seeds and core removed)
1 large onion, large dice
28 oz. canned tomatoes, diced or crushed
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsps paprika
1 1/2 tsps ground cumin
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
2 tsps salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 tbsps olive oil
1 cup parsley, chopped fine

Make the sauce: Brown the lamb or beef until cooked. Drain the fat. Reserve the meat in a large bowl. Discard the fat. Place the red pepper, onion, tomatoes, and garlic in a food processor and pulse until it becomes the consistency of a thick sauce (leave chunks more or less to your liking). Pour the vegetables into the bowl with the meat. Add the tomato paste, paprika, cumin, pepper, salt, cinnamon, coriander, olive oil, and parsley. Combine until well-mixed. Set aside.

Make the pizzas: Preheat oven with pizza stone on a rack in the center to 500°F or heat your grill with a pizza stone on the grate to 500°F. Working one at a time, roll each ball of dough out into a thin disc on a lightly floured work surface. Mine were about 10-12 inches in diameter. If the dough keeps shrinking back, let it rest for a few minutes and try rolling it out again or if you know how to toss pizza dough, do that. Set the dough on a lightly floured pizza peel. Give the peel a little shake forward and backward to make sure the dough doesn’t stick. If it does stick in places, carefully lift the dough up in the trouble spot and toss a little flour underneath. Spread a thin layer of sauce over the dough. Transfer the pizza from the peel to the hot pizza stone (usually placing the end of the peel on the back of the stone and angling the peel up until the edge of the pizza slides down onto the stone – then carefully, but quickly pull the peel back out from under the pizza as it comes to rest on the stone). Bake or grill until the edges are crisp and deep golden (this took us anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes depending on grill or oven). Repeat for all of the pizzas.

To serve: Top the lahmacun with salad or an array of toppings (like the ones I list above). Fold the pizza up in half or into thirds and enjoy. Makes about 16 10-inch pizzas.


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  1. Evi says:

    I’m so happy that this is basic street food here in Germany and in really good quality available at every corner. It comes rolled like a burrito though and is sometimes also topped with döner kebab. Incredibly delicious! Your refined version looks wonderful!

  2. Caroline says:

    Yum, looks fantastic! It is basic street food here too but I tried to make it at home once and thought it was too much work at the time. But your recipe looks much better than what I’ve used so I will give it another try because I really love lahmacuns too!

  3. Tieghan says:

    These are gorgeous!! I love those pom arils on there!

  4. Kalyn says:

    This really does sound amazing!

  5. Abbe@This is How I Cook says:

    These are in every bakery in Israel. I bake ma’aneesh which is flatbread with za’atar. Good post!

  6. samantha says:

    Stunning, in a word! Thanks for sharing with us once you’ve worked it out, so good of you – gal of many talents!

  7. Sherry says:

    I really have to ask — how does one fold a pizza into thirds? Do you make a slit in order for it to lay down flush against each side or does it turn out to be some sort of pizza origami?

  8. Sophie says:

    Wow! I am loving these flavors, Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cooking is rocking my world these days. I love the piles of goodies on top, too! So glad you took the time to share with us. As usual, you are a busy bee :)

  9. chen says:

    When I travelled in Turkey, I fell in love with this pizza! Thanks!!!

  10. jenyu says:

    Evi – oh, I am soooo jealous of your access to fresh lahmacun! Yes, I would have rolled mine like the traditional burrito shape, but I think my dough was a little on the poofy side. Next time, I will try to get it right!

    Caroline – mmm mmm mmm!

    Tieghan – the pomegranate really gives it a lovely tart/sweet/juicy bite!

    Kalyn – oh, you must try it (and I think it’s pretty healthy!)

    Abbe – Gah, that sounds heavenly!

    samantha – thank you, my dear! xo

    Sherry – ha ha, no origami necessary. You just roll it up or fold it like you would a burrito. If it’s too crisp, then break the crust where you want to fold it. It works :)

    Sophie – thank you!

    chen – I think I need to get myself to Turkey…

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