Wild Recipes

Elk Pita Smash (Arayes)

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We are now in the full swing of hunting season and hopefully all your coolers are filling up. I got one of the greatest gifts someone can get from a friend the other day, fresh ground elk meat! That’s the beauty of being part of the hunting community. Even if you don’t have the opportunity to hunt a certain species, friends and family always come through to share their stories and fruits of their labor.

I’ve been asked by a lot of people for other ways to use ground meat other than burgers or meat sauce. This dish is very easy, quick and works as either a meal or an appetizer. It’s a play on a traditional Lebanese snack called Arayes. You can make it in the oven or throw it on the grill to get nice grill marks on the bread. I cooked this recipe with elk but you can really make it with any ground meat.

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1lb                   Elk, Ground (You can also use Venison, Antelope, Beef or Lamb)

1/2                   onion, fine diced

2 cloves           garlic, minced

2 tb                  parsley, chopped

1/4 tsp             cumin

1 tsp                salt

1/2 tsp             black pepper

1/2                   lemon, juice

1/4 cup           Red pepper paste (optional)

2                      pita bread 8”

Yogurt Dipping Sauce: Combine all ingredients

1/2 cup            plain greek yogurt

2 tb                  olive oil

1/2                   lemon, juice

1 tsp                parsly, minced

Salt , Pepper   to taste


  1. Pre heat oven or smoker to 400 degrees
  2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together all the ingredients except the pita bread and olive oil.
  3. Cut the pita bread in half and open them up gently to create pockets
  4. Divide the Elk mixture into 4 equal parts.
  5. Place one part of the meat mixture into each pita pocket. Spread the meat so it gets all around in the pocket. Close the pocket and gently smash it down.
  6. Place the pockets on a sheet pan with a wire rack. Brush both sides with a little bit olive oil. Then place them in the oven for 10-12 min. Flip them over and cook for an additional 10-12 min or until the bread gets a nice golden color.
  7. While waiting, combine all the ingredients for the yogurt dipping sauce in a small bowl and mix well.
  8. Serve hot with yogurt dipping sauce on the side, Enjoy!

Ara Zada

Born and raised in Los Angeles Ara Zada is a chef, author, TV personality, food stylist and avid bow hunter. He has worked with Outdoor News, PBS, Food Network, ABC, CBS, NBC, TNT, Jaime Oliver Food Foundation and a range of others. His first cookbook ‘Lavash’ was released Oct. 2019. When he’s not cooking he’s shooting his bow, teaching his kids about the outdoors, training for triathlons and filling any available time with parkour.

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