Sambusa– cheese pillows

When my mother and father came to visit us in Saudi, mom loved going to traditional Arabic restaurants. One of her favorite items was, Sambusa. Not knowing Arabic, she called them cheese pillows and would actually order them in this way! Sambusa is a spring roll with cheese inside, then deep fried. Sambusa can be made with a homemade dough as well.

A lovely Saudi lady who I had known for years, made wonderful home made dough and the best cheese sambusa I had ever eaten! I asked her how she made them and she happily recited the recipe. It was a glass of this, a very small tea cup of oil, a large spoon of water and the list went on. She told me that she used the glass from cream cheese spread after it was finished. She washed it and it became her measuring cup! She had lived in the states for years while her husband worked on his Phd so she understood my confusion at her recipe! She looked at my scrunched up face and laughed and then we both laughed until we cried!  I found very soon that many of my Middle Eastern friends did the same, a glass of this, a tea cup of that.  I wrote it down and used the recipe for years. Since moving back to my home country, I cannot find that recipe and so I made my own, loosely based on the “tea cup, cheese glass” recipe I received!  Sambusa are traditionally fried which results in a delicious crispy, flavor. Frying them means extra difficulties as cheese tends to leek out, and obviously they are fatty!! I have been fighting high cholesterol for a few years now and so I have cut all fried foods from my diet. I now make my own homemade dough and bake them and the kids love them this way.



1 cup Ricotta cheese

1 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley

1 cup feta cheese

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

1/2 tsp. salt or to taste

This cheese mix should have a great deal of flavor so season to taste with the salt.

Mix the filling ingredients together and refrigerate.


I am adding a traditional meat filling as well.

Meat Filling

1/2 pound of ground beef( lamb would be used in the middle east)

1/2 cup frozen peas

1 small onion chopped

2 Tbs. pine nuts

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp. ground allspice

1/2 tsp. ground cumin

Fry ground beef and onions until beef is fully cooked. Add cooked peas, pine nuts and spices. Mix well and continue simmering for a few minutes. Turn off heat and season for desired flavor.



Home made sambusa dough

3 cups flour

1/8 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup water

Place all ingredients in a mixer and use a dough hook or an attachment that works with heavier dough. Let the ingredients mix well and knead a little by mixer or by hand. Cover dough and let it rest for 30 minutes. Pinch off pieces of dough and roll into balls using a tucking motion.


Cover and let the balls rest for 30 minutes.


The balls pictured above are large and used for Arabic bread but show the general idea of rolling the balls and how to place them. For sambusa the balls can be the size of a walnut or double that. It really depends on how big you want the sambusa.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray baking sheets with cooking spray or lightly grease.

Roll out each ball turning several times to make sure it is even and thin. Place a spoon of desired mixture, either meat of cheese in the middle of the circle.


Fold over and seal by pinching the edges.  Fill tray with Sambusa and place in oven. Bake until done, approximately 20 minutes.


Remove from oven and serve.





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