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Jul 10, 2022

Libyan Lamb Stew with White Beans and Spinach (Lubia bel-Saeilk)

This Libyan stew, made with lamb, white beans, and spinach, is a tasty, filling, and nutritious dish.  

Libyan Lamb Stew with White Beans and Spinach (Lubia bel-Saeilk) in a bowl.


The sauce for this Libyan lamb stew, or Lubia bel-Saeilk, is made from a reduction of steamed and then charred spinach. 

You begin with two pounds of spinach (about four bunches) and, over about 40 minutes of steaming and then continuous cooking in a hot skillet, you reduce it down to less than a cup of concentrated flavor before assembling the sauce and cooking the beans and meat. 

Bowl of Libyan stew.


How to Make Lubia bel-Saeilk:

First, you will need to soak the beans overnight. Drain them and rinse them the next day while the spinach is cooking.

Next, wash the spinach and shake it dry, but not completely dry. Chop it coursely and then cook half of it a large skillet until it wilts, and then add the other half of the spinach and wilt it down too. 

After than, add some olive oil to the pan and continue to cook the spinach for 15 to 20 minutes until it is a bit blackened and beginning to smell smoky. 

In a food processor, process the spinach until it is smooth, and then add it to a Dutch oven, along with some minced garlic and chopped onions and sauté. Add the beans, the meat, some cilantro, turmeric, and pepper. Pour in either water or broth (I used a combination of chicken and beef broth, along with some water), and simmer for about 2 1/2 hours, until the lamb is tender. 

Bowl of libyan stew with bread pieces.


This Libyan lamb stew has its roots in the descendants of the Jewish community of Libya, which, as of 2004, no longer exists. 

At one time, there was a large and thriving Jewish community in Libya, particularly in Tripoli, but beginning with World War II and then the Six-Day War of 1967, the Jewish population of the country mostly migrated to Israel, Italy, and the United States throughout the years (The Jews of Libya, retrieved July, 2022).  

This recipe was slightly adapted from Joan Nathan's King Solomon's Table: A Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World. In the book, she explores the authentic recipes of the Jewish diaspora. 

It's a beautifully written book, and includes so much history and many beautiful stories behind the recipes. She also has written many other cookbooks, for which she's won several awards and accolades. 

She was introduced to this stew in Rome from a member of the Libyan Jewish community who had fled Libya as a child after the 1967 war. 

Overhead shot of bowl of Libyan Lamb Stew with White Beans and Spinach (Lubia bel-Saeilk).


Recipe Notes and Substitutions:

For the lamb, feel free to substitute beef round, and for the spinach, you can substitute Swiss chard, or use a mixture of spinach and chard. 

For the broth, you can use just water, or you can add some broth or stock. 

The original recipe calls for cannellini beans, but I could not find the dried version, so I used Great Northern beans. You could also use chickpeas if you prefer. 

This stew is easily reheatable and you will feel virtuous eating it, with all of the concentrated greens in the sauce. 

Libyan Lamb Stew with White Beans and Spinach (Lubia bel-Saeilk) in a bowl.


This stew, with its green sauce, is a little unusual looking. I'm sure my guests were a little skeptical at first, but fell in love with it's smoky flavor after their first bite. 

This recipe will feed a crowd of 8 to 10. If you have any leftover beans and sauce, they also make a nice lunch or side dish with a sandwich. 

The Sunday Funday group is sharing recipes for Libyan food, hosted by Amy's Cooking Adventures

Libyan Recipes:

  • Ejja - Libyan Frittata from Mayuri’s Jikoni
  • Libyan Harissa Paste from Cook with Renu
  • Macroona Imbakbaka (Libyan Minestrone) from Amy’s Cooking Adventures
  • Maghreb Chicken and Vegetable Stew from Palatable Pastime
  • Mbakbaka (Spicy Libyan Pasta) from Culinary Adventures with Camilla
  • Libyan Cheese Dip from A Day in the Life on the Farm
  • Pilpelchuma - Libyan Chili Paste from Food Lust People Love
  • Sharba Libiya - Libyan Mint and Lamb Soup from Pandemonium Noshery


  • Libyan Lamb stew in a bowl.


    Libyan Lamb Stew with White Beans and Spinach (Lubia bel-Saeilk)

    Libyan Lamb Stew with White Beans and Spinach (Lubia bel-Saeilk)
    Yield: 10 servings
    Author: Karen's Kitchen Stories
    Prep time: 20 MinCook time: 3 H & 20 MInactive time: 12 HourTotal time: 15 H & 40 M
    This Libyan stew, made with lamb, white beans, and spinach, is a tasty, filling, and nutritious dish.

    Ingredients

    • 1 pound (453 grams) dry white beans such as cannellini or great northern
    • 2 pounds (907 grams) spinach (about 4 bunches)
    • 1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil
    • 8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
    • 2 medium onions, peeled and chopped
    • 2 pounds (907 grams) lamb shoulder, cut into 2 inch cubes
    • 1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped (reserve 2 tablespoons)
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
    • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
    • 5 cups water, chicken, beef, or vegetable broth, or water, or a combination

    Instructions

    1. Rinse and soak the beans in enough water to cover by 2 inches in a bowl overnight. Drain.
    2. Wash the spinach and shake off any excess water, but leave damp. Coarsely chop the spinach.
    3. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat and add half of the spinach. Cook it, stirring regularly, until it wilts down a bit, about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the spinach and continue cooking until the spinach is wilted and most of the water has evaporated. This should take about 20 minutes.
    4. Add 1/2 cup of the olive oil to the pan and keep cooking over medium heat for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, until the spinach begins to slightly blacken and smells a bit smoky.
    5. Transfer the spinach to a food processor and process until smooth. Add more olive oil if needed.
    6. Add the spinach mixture to 6 quart Dutch oven or heavy pot. Add the garlic and onions and cook, stirring regularly, until the onions start softening, about 5 minutes.
    7. Add the beans, the lamb, the cilantro, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Add the 5 cups of liquid. If it does not cover the ingredients in the pot, add enough water to make up the difference. Bring the pot to a boil. Lower the temperature to a simmer, and cook, covered, for 2 1/2 hours, until the meat is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.
    8. Serve with rice or couscous and sprinkle over the remaining chopped cilantro.

    Nutrition Facts

    Calories

    264.25

    Fat (grams)

    14.36

    Sat. Fat (grams)

    2.68

    Carbs (grams)

    17.35

    Fiber (grams)

    5.65

    Net carbs

    11.69

    Sugar (grams)

    2.33

    Protein (grams)

    18.23

    Sodium (milligrams)

    816.32

    Cholesterol (grams)

    36.58
    Stew, Lamb
    Main courses
    Libyan, Jewish
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    Would you like to comment?

    1. What a nice, hearty looking stew!

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    2. It reminds me of some Persian stews the way it looks. I would definitely love to try a bowl.

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    3. Hubby loves lamb and am sure he'll thoroughly enjoy this stew. Wholesome, healthy and filling.

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    4. That looks really good. The method of cooking the spinach sounds really interesting. I will have to get some lamb from my parents and give it a try!

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    5. This looks so healthy and flavorful! This will be perfect for fall!

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    6. That last comment was me (again). But still yum!

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