It’s a bowl. A pita. A sandwich. It’s all the things and I’m here for it. Mediterranean Bowls are the new deconstructed gyro and our current favorite way to get a quick exciting dinner on the table in mere minutes. We pepper ground chicken with citrusy sumac, sweet sun-dried tomatoes and plenty of onion and garlic before nestling the mixture on top of cheesy Labneh. We serve it with warm, soft pita bread and plenty of cucumber for crunch.
With Greek, Lebanese, and Middle Eastern roots, a recipe title of Mediterranean Bowls is accurate but only an umbrella term for what this delicious meal actually is. At first glance it appears to encompass a mixture of ground chicken tucked into pita bread and served with a spread of sorts. And while this is true, it’s only a snapshot.
Your first impression may also give you the illusion the time and effort needed to replicate it will take more than you’re willing to spare but rest assured, this easy meal comes together in 30 minutes, tops.
Here’s the deets:
Instead of dumping a medley of spices in ground chicken to flavor it, we use Za’atar, a medley of Middle Eastern spices conveniently located in one jar. In addition to plenty of garlic, onion, and sun-dried tomato, this permeates the ground chicken with a smoky, citrusy, and slightly sweet flavor unlike any of your typical Greek pitas. (Although we are still pretty obsessed with our Greek Meatball Pitas and Mini Gyro Lamb Burgers.)
The ground chicken mixture on its own is plenty flavorful to tuck into warm pitas, but to add another layer of flavor we serve it atop a slathering of our favorite store-bought labneh and crunchy sliced cucumber.
Which brings us to….What is Labneh?
Seeing as this is a core ingredient in our Mediterranean bowls, we should take time to address it. Fortunately and unfortunately Labneh comes in many shapes and forms. This means that the version I use local to Kansas City may not be the same version you can find in your city.
At its simplest form it’s a soft cheese made from strained yogurt. The yogurt is strained for a least 24 hours to reach a super thick, almost cream cheese-like consistency. You can often find it peppered with seasoning, but the version we love is actually a combination of yogurt, whipped feta, walnuts and cream cheese. It’s tangy, full of texture and oh-so delicious.
The combination of simple ingredients add monumental flavor so when you go to make your version, if your Labneh doesn’t include feta in the ingredient list, I’d make sure to mix a 1/4 cup or so in with yours. I’ll list several substitutions at the bottom of the page so be sure to reference that as you’re cooking and shopping.
Ingredients in Mediterranean Bowls
Ground chicken. As we’ve mentioned in past posts, you can buy pre-ground chicken. However, if you already have chicken breasts on hand, skip buying something extra and pop the breasts you have in the food processor to grind it yourself. Not only is this more cost effective, but there’s less water and fillers in it as well.
Za’atar. We touched on this prior, but typically the spice medley that makes up Za’atar its combination of cumin, sumac (which tastes lemony), sesame seeds, oregano, and coriander. It’s a really lovely combination.
Onion + garlic. Even though the seasoning has plenty of flavor I like to add just a little bit more with the addition of onion and garlic.
Lemon. Because Za’atar includes sumac which is innately citrusy, I like to compliment that flavor with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Salt. For every pound of chicken I use, I add one teaspoon salt.
Sun-dried tomato. I love the sweetness sun-dried tomatoes add to this dish. Buy sliced or chopped sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil. If you can only find them whole, no big deal, just finely chop them yourself.
Olive oil. We stick with heart-healthy olive to cook the chicken.
Pita. If you can, buy pita bread local to your community. Grocery stores these days will often sell local brands in the deli isle so check there first. I’m partial to regular, but if you want to make these Medterrean bowls extra healthy, use whole-wheat or whole-grain.
Labneh. We went into detail about this star ingredient above.
Cucumber. To add texture and crunch, sliced cucumbers are mandatory.
Let’s Make Mediterranean Bowls
Cook the onion and garlic. Add a little bit of olive oil to a skillet. I like to use cast iron. Sweat the onion and garlic over a medium heat. You don’t want them to brown, just turn translucent.
Cook the chicken. Add the ground chicken to the onion and garlic mixture along with the sumac ad salt. Brown until the chicken is just cooked through. Add the lemon juice and sun-dried tomatoes. Toss to combine.
Assemble! I told you this was easy! Heat the pitas in the microwave for about 15 seconds. You can assemble two ways. First you can spread a little bit of the labneh on the bottom and then spoon a generous amount of the chicken on top and around. Top with cucumber and serve with warm pita.
Use the a spoon to spread some of the the labneh on the pita and then tuck the ground chicken and cucumbers in the pita.
You could also simply make them as pitas to begin with. After you heat the pitas, spread the labneh on each pita. Top with chicken and cucumber. Dig in!
Can I make these in advance?
Yes! Actually Mediterranean bowls are a great meal prep make ahead meal. Cook the ground chicken a day or two in advance and store in air-tight containers. When you want to eat simply heat the pita, spread with labneh and top with pre-made chicken.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
The Labneh is going to be the trickiest thing to replicate in these Mediterranean bowls. Look for Labneh that includes yogurt, feta, and nuts. IF you can’t find this here’s what you can do:
- Add 1/4 cup of crumbled feta and two tablespoons of chopped walnuts to the store-bought labneh. Mix to combine.
- Add 1 cup feta to a mini food processor along with 2 tablespoons walnuts. Mix until whipped and combined.
- Simply use the store-bought lebneh you can find.
- Buy feta dip and use as the spread.
- Use tzatziki or any Mediterranean or greek spread you can find
- Don’t forget to heat the pita. This makes them pliable and oh-so delicious.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 small onion, diced
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 lb ground chicken breast
- 1 tbsp za'atar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 10 oz labneh See blog post for notes
- 1 English cucumber, sliced
- 6 pitas
- 1/4 cup toasted chopped walnuts (optional)
- Heat a large skillet to a medium heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Saute until slightly softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add garlic. Cook one minute.
- Add ground chicken, salt, and sumac. Use a wooden spoon to break up the chicken into very small pieces. Brown just until cooked through. Add sun-dried tomato and lemon juice. Cook one minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Heat the pita bread. Spread the labneh on the bottom of a plate or shallow bowl. Top with chicken mixture. Arrange cucumbers around. Tuck pita bread in. Sprinkle with walnuts if desired. You can also heat the pita bread. Spread the labneh on the pita. Top with chicken. Layer cucumbers on top of the chicken. Sprinkle with nuts. Serve.