The Ultimate Grilled Pita Sandwich- Arayes!

Let me give you a visual of one of my camping trips from childhood in Blue Lake, California. Imagine a large campground next to the lake. The sky is a deep blue, pink, and crimson red at sunset. My father fires up the grill, then retreats to a lawn chair, tabla in hand playing some hypnotizing Arabic beats. My aunts and uncles bustle around, assembling cucumber tomato salad, cheeses, hummus, watermelon wedges, and ears of corn as they speak loudly and excitedly in Arabic.

Triangular Arayes sandwiches are already assembled and ready to go, as my amo (which means uncle in Arabic) lines them up on the grill. The smell of kefta, or meat seasoned with onions, parsley, and garlic, permeates the air. The tabla intensifies along with the savory smell, and pretty soon other campers we don’t even know follow their noses and ears in our direction, wanting to be a part of the action.

This is the memory that I hold dear every time I make arayes for my family. Arayes in Arabic means “bride and groom.” There are so many theories as to why they call this pita pocket sandwich arayes. Some say the seasoned kefta meat on the inside represents the tuxedo, and the white pita bread represents a bridal gown. Others say the sandwiches are an embrace between bread and meat, representing the embrace of a bride and groom. Regardless of the origin, the crispy bread enveloping the tender and juicy meat in the middle is downright addictive and delicious. 

Unlike hamburgers, where the meat is cooked separately and placed in a bun, for arayes you spread a thin layer of raw meat in the pita, and they get cooked together. During the cooking process, the juices from the meat season the bread, and the golden brown pita gets a crackly and crunchy texture from the olive oil brushed on top. 

While this traditional recipe uses ground beef, you can use ground lamb, turkey, or chicken. Vegetarians can use mushrooms that have already been sauteed with salt and pepper to get rid of excess moisture, in combination with fresh mozzarella cheese. The pita sandwiches are made for dipping, whether you like hummus, tzatziki, or muhammara spreads. 

These popular grilled sandwiches are ubiquitous in Palestinian, Lebanese, and Syrian street stalls, and now you can make them at home!

To see the technique of how to make this sandwich, click on my new video below:


  • 1 pound hamburger meat (ground lamb, beef, or a combination of both)
  •  1/3 bunch finely chopped parsley
  •  3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  •  1/2 small onion, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (optional if you want a sweeter flavor)
  •  1 rounded teaspoon allspice
  •  1 package pita bread, white or wheat, each cut in half
  •  Olive oil for brushing


  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees 
  • Combine the garlic, parsley and onion in a large bowl. By hand, gently incorporate the vegetable mix with the ground meat, salt, lemon pepper, allspice and optional pomegranate molasses until well combined.
  • Cut each pita in half, and open up each pocket so that they are ready for filling.
  • Take a golf-ball size of meat mixture and use your hands to flatten the meat to approximately 1/4-inch thick. Shape the meat to fit inside the pita pockets. When finished with the entire batch, brush both sides of the pitas with olive oil.
  • Bake in the oven for 5 minutes, then turn over and bake for another 5 minutes. You want the pita bread to be nice and golden brown on the outside, so that might take longer depending on the strength of your oven. You can also cook these sandwiches on a grill, just make sure to not skip the step of brushing olive oil on the bread so that the sandwiches won’t stick to the grill. Grill for about 5 minutes each side. 
  • Cut into triangles, and serve with hummus or any other condiment you prefer.

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