Israeli cuisine offers a unique culinary tradition that borrows flavours and cooking techniques from the Middle East, Northern Africa and even the Mediterranean. Here’s an introduction to the various sweet and savoury dishes you must sample during a visit to Israel.
Hummus is the one food item that makes an appearance at the table for every single meal: breakfast, lunch and dinner. This favourite is made from crushed chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic, and it is always served with flat pita bread.
Although shakshouka is believed to have Tunisian origins, it is a staple breakfast dish among Israelis. Shakshouka is made by preparing a rich tomato sauce and then cooking a few eggs over top. It is eaten straight out of the pan with a loaf of bread.
Roasted eggplant with tahini is usually served as a side dish at the dinner table. The way to ensure this dish is spectacular is to roast the eggplant over an open flame until the exterior is charred and the interior feels soft and gooey. You then add a little bit of tahini and olive oil on top.
Sambusak is a pastry you’ll spot in most bakeries. It is stuffed with salty feta cheese and spinach, then coated in sesame seeds. It makes for a nice midday treat.
Lahmajoun is a thin-crust Turkish-style pizza. It is often topped with ground meat (beef and lamb), parsley, onions and tomatoes. Once the lahmajoun is out of the oven, you can add tahini on top for a nice kick of flavour.
Za’atar is a blend of herbs and spices that often appears in Middle Eastern cuisine. It includes ingredients like thyme, oregano, coriander and cumin, among others. Many bakers in Israel make pita with za’atar and this bread can accompany almost any meal.
Knaffe is a dish with mixed origins and while Lebanon is often attributed as its creator, you’ll find this dessert served across Israel. Knaffe is a cheese pastry that is soaked in sugary syrup and covered in shredded phyllo dough. It’s easy to spot this dish because it resembles a bird’s nest.
Halva is a crumbly nut butter-based dessert made from a sesame seed paste known as tahini. It is often paired with a cup of coffee or tea, and it comes in a number of different flavours, including vanilla, raisins, dark chocolate, pistachio, coffee and cherry.
Malabi is sweet milk pudding and it’s a popular dessert in Israel. While it can be eaten plain, you’ll often find it’s served in raspberry syrup with some chopped nuts and shredded coconut sprinkled on top.
Qatayef is a pancake dumpling with Arab origins that is quite popular in the city of Nazareth. The dumpling can be prepared two different ways: either stuffed with goat cheese for a savoury flavour, or stuffed with a blend of nuts and sugar for a sweeter taste.