If you are visiting Israel and want to try the best Israeli food, here is a list of the most popular Israeli dishes and Israeli drinks I have tried on my trip to Israel
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Modern Israeli cuisine represents a culinary fusion of traditional Jews foods and foods brought to Israel by Jewish diaspora. Due to the geographical position of Israel, the cuisine of Israel belongs to Middle Eastern cuisine and Mediterranean cuisine strongly influenced by Asia, Africa, and Europe. Thanks to various cultural and culinary influences, Israeli foods represent one of the most delicious foods in the World and one of the healthiest foods in the World.
Talking about Israeli food means talking of first-class olives and olive oil, nutritious chickpeas, fava beans, couscous, bulgur, lentils, health beneficial goat cheese, saporous tomatoes, aubergines, zucchini, avocados, mangos, heavenly Medjool dates, ambrosial Jaffa oranges, clementines, lemons, grapefruits, grapes, figs, pomegranates … sweet date honey called Silan … and spices such as cumin, zaatar, turmeric, sesame seeds, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, aniseed, saffron … or herbs such as rosemary, mint, sage, thyme, oregano, lemon verbena, fennel, bay leaves.
To conclude this short introduction to Israeli food and the Israeli diet, let me just say that Israeli cuisine is a haven on the Earth for vegetarians, vegans, and all healthy food lovers.
I am deeply grateful for my experience of solo traveling to Israel. In my blog you can find my self-tailored 10 day Israel itinerary, you can read about my Masada hike in sunrise, the holy sites in Israel I have visited, and what best day trips from Tel Aviv I recommend taking.
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- 1. POPULAR ISRAELI FOOD
- 1.1 HUMMUS
- 1.2 MSABBAHA
- 1.3 FALAFEL
- 1.4 SHAKSHOUKA
- 1.5 TAHINI
- 1.6 BABA GANOUSH
- 1.7 MUJADDARA
- 1.8 SABICH WITH AMBA
- 1.9 ISRAELI SALAD
- 1.10 TABBOULEH
- 1.11 ISRAELI STUFFED VINE LEAVES
- 1.12 HAMUTZIM
- 1.13 LABNEH
- 1.14 ISRAELI LAFA BREAD
- 1.15 JERUSALEM BAGEL
- 1.16 CHALLAH BREAD
- 1.17 MATZAH FLATBREAD
- 1.18 LATKES
- 1.19 LOX
- 1.20 SHAWARMA
- 1.21 KEBAB
- 1.22 BAKLAVA
- 1.23 KANAFEH
- 1.24 SUFGANIYOT
- 1.25 HALVAH
- 1.26 MALABI
- 1.27 MEDJOOL DATES
- 1.28 JAFFA ORANGES
- 1.29 ISRAELI BREAKFAST
- 2. POPULAR ISRAELI DRINKS
- 3. FOOD TOURS IN ISRAEL
- 4. ISRAELI FOOD COOKBOOKS TO READ:
1. POPULAR ISRAELI FOOD
The list of the most popular Israeli food covers most popular Israeli dishes and typical food in Israel. It goes from famous Middle Eastern spreads like Hummus and Tahini, delicious Israeli Falafel, divine Israeli Shakshuka to popular Middle Eastern salad Tabbouleh and wholesome Israeli salad. The Israeli foods list ends with appetizing bread from Israel and the world’s popular Middle Eastern Shawarma and Kebab. But to sweeten your trip to Israel, I have listed mouthwatering Israeli desserts and Israeli sweets you should try in Israel too.
Famous food in Israel and the best food in Israel:
HUMMUS is a Levantine spread usually prepared of mashed chickpeas. Sometimes hummus is made of other beans too. Mashed beans are blended with tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and garlic. Where to find the best hummus in Israel is a never-ending debate in Israel.
If you want a perfect treat for your palate, I would suggest to try out hummus with pine nuts. After trying roasted pine nut hummus, there is a great possibility of becoming addicted to it. Thus, please beware of hummus with pine nuts in Israel!
Masabacha or msabbaha is a version of hummus. The base of msabbaha and hummus are the same. But unlike in hummus, chickpeas in msabbaha remain whole. Msabbaha literally means ‘swimming’ in Arabic. So, if you want to try hummus with ‘swimming chickpeas’, order msabbaha. Again, msabbaha with pine nuts is a whole another level! Clearly, Masabacha is a popular Levantine spread.
FALAFEL is a traditional Middle Eastern food, and inevitably traditional Israeli food. In Israeli cuisine, falafel takes a special place as it is considered to be an Israeli national dish. Falafel is also the ultimate street food in Israel you can find on every street corner in Israel. Ergo, falafel is a popular Israeli food in Israel. While falafel originates in Egypt, today is commonly eaten everywhere in the Middle East.
FALAFEL BALLS are made of deeply fried chickpeas, fava beans or both. Falafel is often wrapped in a pita sandwich or eaten alone as a part of the meze (the Middle Eastern palette of appetizers)
To talk about typical Israeli food and not to mention Israeli Shakshouka is impossible. Shakshouka is among the most popular Israeli food in Israel.
SHAKSHOUKA is an Israeli dish made of poached eggs in the sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, and onions spiced with cumin or zaatar, paprika, cayenne pepper, and coriander. Shakshouka is one of the most Israeli loved dishes of Israeli cuisine and for a good reason. Unambiguously, Shakshouka is divine. This Israeli egg dish is typically eaten for Israeli breakfast. Shakshouka was introduced in Israel by Jewish immigrants from North Africa, more precisely from Tunisia.
The word Shakshouka comes out of the Arabic word Shakka, meaning ‘to stick together‘. After tasting Shakshouka you find out how good poached eggs, tomatoes, chilies, paprika, onions, cumin, pepper, and coriander stick together. And as a result, you stick to Shakshouka for the rest of your life!
TAHINI is a creamy and savory paste made of sesame seeds usually found in hummus, baba ganoush spread (an eggplant dip), falafel sandwich or as a salad dressing. Authentic Israeli tahini is made with sesame paste, lemon, olive oil, and garlic.
Let me point out here that tahini is an ancient food tracking down sesames seeds cultivated in India 5.000 BC. If you want to find out why people have been adoring sesame seeds for the past 7.000 years, you should try tahini in Israel.
1.6 BABA GANOUSH
BABA GHANOUSH is a famous Middle Eastern dip made with roasted eggplants. To prepare it, all you need is just to mix eggplants with lemon juice, and sea salt and you will get one the most delicious spreads in the world ever. If you prefer eggplants to chickpeas, you shouldn’t debate about hummus or baba ganoush. Your choice is obvious. One of the best countries to treat yourself with authentic baba ganoush is Israel.
MUJADARA is another classic Middle Eastern dish. Mujaddara is a simple and vegetarian dish made with cooked lentils, brown rice, and caramelized crispy onions. Additionally, it can be garnished with herbs and roasted peanuts (like mine in the photo). If your diet is vegetarian, most likely you will be bewitched by mujadara in Israel.
1.8 SABICH WITH AMBA
SABICH, or SABIH, is a popular Israeli sandwich and one of the top popular Israeli food. Basically, Sabich is a pita bread filled with fried eggplant and hard-boiled eggs, tahini sauce, hummus, Israeli salad, and amba (a piquant mango dressing). Sabich was brought to Israel by Iraqi Jews and it goes to the list of Jewish food in Israel eaten traditionally on Shabbath.
Sabich with amba was the first famous Israeli food I have tried in Tel Aviv on my arrival to Israel and I was literally screaming: ‘What’s this?! This is soooo good!! What’s this?! What am I eating? This is so perfect!’
1.9 ISRAELI SALAD
When you mix fresh chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, bell peppers and dress it all with lemon juice, olive oil, tahini, zaatar, you get one of the most delicious salads you have ever tried. Israeli salad is a standard Israeli side dish in Israeli cuisine. There is no need to specially mention how much healthy this salad is!
TABBOULEH is a delicious classic Middle Eastern salad originating from neighboring Lebanon. Israeli Tabouli is a salad prepared of finely chopped vegetables, parsley, bulgur wheat spiced with olive oil and lemon juice. This salad is one of those compulsory Isreali side dishes that make to appreciate Middle Eastern cuisine. Tabbouleh is a simple salad that confirms that beauty lies in simplicity.
1.11 ISRAELI STUFFED VINE LEAVES
Rolled boiled or steamed fresh and young vine (grape) leaves stuffed with cooked rice, olive oil, peppers, salt makes one of the most delectable Israeli dishes. Best stuffed vine leaves you can find served in Druze villages in Israel. Druze people are well known in Israel for their glorious culinary skills and delicious food.
Stuffed vine leaves are widely prepared in all Mediterranean. Sometimes the leaves can be stuffed with minced meat too. In Israel, vine leaves are stuffed only with rice and represent a mouthwatering vegetarian and vegan treat!
Pickles in Israel are called HAMUTZIM. Israeli pickled vegetables typically include pickled cucumbers, pickled olives, pickled carrots, pickled cabbage, pickled cauliflower, pickled bell peppers, pickled tomatoes, and pickled garlic.
LABNEH (or LABNI, LEBNI) is a strained yogurt cheese, dried and prepared either as a buttery spread or shaped into balls. Native to the Middle East, Labneh cheese is a popular food in Israel. Creamy labneh is usually spread out onto a pita bread or a bagel. Labneh blends well with lemon juice, olive oil, zaatar, and herbs like marjoram, oregano, thyme, and sesame seeds.
1.14 ISRAELI LAFA BREAD
LAFA (or, TABOON BREAD) is a traditional Middle Eastern and Iraqi flatbread sold as street food in Israel. Lafa bread in Israel is heavily topped with lots of olive oil and zaatar. On my trip to Israel, the first lafa bread I have tried was in Nazareth and I got hooked on it immediately.
1.15 JERUSALEM BAGEL
When talking about traditional Israeli foods I should mention BEIGEL or BAGEL bread, too. BAGEL bread is probably the most popular Israeli bread in the World. Bagel bread in Israel is believed to be brought by Jewish people from Poland. Oblong bagels with sesame seeds are another popular Israeli street food. Jerusalem bagels belong to the list of the most popular Israeli food in Israel.
1.16 CHALLAH BREAD
CHALLAH bread is Jewish people’s food and Israeli bread traditionally baked for holidays and Shabbath. Tasty Israeli Challah bread dough is made of water, sugar, salt, yeast, raisins, honey, eggs, and olive oil. For Rosh Hannah, Challah bread is usually prepared in a round shape implying the circle of the year.
1.17 MATZAH FLATBREAD
Matzo or Matzah stands for traditional Jewish flatbread eaten for Passover remembering the Exodus from Egypt. Jewish Matzah is made only from flour and water (without oil, honey, salt, and similar ingredients) and the most important, without yoast. If you are traveling to Israel during Passover time, most likely you will have a great chance to sample this classic Jewish bread.
Latkes are popular Israeli potato pancakes brought to Israel by Ashkenazi Jews. These simple pancakes are made from mashed or grated potatoes, flour, eggs, onions, and matzo meal (finely crushed matzo crackers). Ashkenazi Jews traditionally eat fried latkes for Hanukkah.
Lox in Yiddish means salmon. But as a popular Jewish food, lox refers to salt-cured salmon on a bagel with cream cheese, typically served with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and capers. This traditional Jewish food has been brought to Israel by Ashkenazi Jews. Today lox is a popular food among observant Jewish communities across the world as lox is pareve (not meat and not dairy according to the kosher laws) which means that lox is allowed to be mixed with other foods.
Israel offers many vegetarian options, but meat lovers shouldn’t be worried about what to eat in Israel. I am a pescatarian, but I am aware that many readers of my blog are omnivores. So, I am adding some meat delicacies here. Shawarma is a popular Middle Eastern street food made of lamb, veal, chicken, turkey or beef meat. Although Shawarma originates from Turkey, it’s well-liked in all Middle East. In Israel, Shawarma is popular Israeli street food. If you are after tender, juicy, and pleasantly flavored meat in Israel, you should opt for Shawarma in Israel.
Another iconic Middle Eastern meat dish is also an easy find in Israel. You can find three different types of kebabs in Israel: Arab, Bulgarian and Romanian. Arab kebabs in Israel are made of chopped lamb, onions, parsley, other herbs. But, what makes Arab kebab in Israel especially popular are pine nuts which are added as well. Romanian kebabs in Israel are usually made of beef meat to which baking soda and garlic are added. Bulgarian kebabs are praised to be softer than Romanian kebabs. Bulgarian kebabs served with freekeh (green wheat) are exceptionally loved among kebab devotees in Israel.
Baklava is a famous pastry dessert traditionally prepared in the Middle Eastern cuisine, but also in the Maghreb cuisine, and some cuisines in the Balkans region and Central Asia. Baklava comes in many varieties depending on the region. Baklava in Israel is very rich in aroma and flavor. Typically it is prepared from phyllo dough sheets, with butter, and pistachios, cashew nuts, and walnuts and traditionally soaked in sugar syrup.
Kunafa is a famous Middle Eastern pastry and Middle Eastern dessert dish. Typical kunafa is orange-colored string pastry with layered cheese, typically soaked in sugar syrup and sometimes garnished with smashed pistachios. In Israel, kunafa is a popular dessert, especially Palestinian Knafeh nabilsiyeh that comes with white cheese called Nabulsi.
Sufganiyah refers to popular Jewish jelly donuts traditionally prepared for Hanukkah. These puffy donuts were brought to Israel by Jews from Europe but soon got accepted widely among the Jewish community during the Hanukkah holiday since fried food in oil in Jewish tradition honor the miracle of the menorah oil that miraculously burned for eight days.
Halva is a traditional Middle Eastern dessert, and therefore one of the most popular Israeli foods as well. Israeli halvah is traditionally made of tahini and in the shape of a cylindrical cake. Halva in Israel comes with many mouthwatering flavors to meet everyone’s taste: from typical chocolate and vanilla flavor to pistachio, coffee, coconut, and cinnamon flavor, and many more. No matter what flavor you prefer, this classic Middle Eastern confection is not to be missed out on your trip to Israel!
Muhallebi is a classic Middle Eastern dessert originating from Persia. Malabi is a milk pudding flavored with rose water and garnished with chopped almonds or sometimes pistachios. While the main ingredients are milk, rice flour, rice, and sugar, every cook has their own secret Malabi recipe. If you like Italian Panna Cotta, most likely you will like Israeli Malabi too. Can you imagine a kind of Panna Cotta with a Middle Eastern twist? Interesting and delicious, huh?!
1.27 MEDJOOL DATES
Majhool date is a large, sweet, and soft variety of dates that comes from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, Morroco, and South Africa. While traveling to Israel, you can see large plantations of majhool dates, especially in the border area between Israel and Jordan. Israel is the largest exporter of medjool dates in the World. So if you want to treat yourself to a healthy dessert in Israel, go for sweet Israeli Majhool dates.
1.28 JAFFA ORANGES
Jaffa oranges originate from the city of Jaffa in Israel. Jaffa is the oldest part of Tel Aviv. Therefore, Tel Aviv is nicknamed ‘Big Orange’. Jaffa oranges refer to sweet, seedless, and oval-shaped oranges developed by Palestinian farmers in the 19th century. Today Jaffa oranges are highly sought after fruits in the world. So, please don’t miss an opportunity to enjoy Jaffa oranges in Israel.
1.29 ISRAELI BREAKFAST
Traditional Israeli breakfast is a world-famous meal from Israel. Typical Israeli breakfast is more sumptuous than continental breakfast. It is made up of a variety of dishes and drinks like shakshuka, hummus, tahini, baba ganoush, labneh, Israeli salad, fresh vegetables, bread and pastries, tea, coffee… But meat is never served for breakfast in Israel. Instead, Israeli breakfast is first and foremost a dairy meal. Hearty breakfast in Israel typically comes as a self-service buffet. Israeli breakfast is the most important meal in Israel. And if you ask me, the most delicious meal in Israel!
2. POPULAR ISRAELI DRINKS
Good food goes with good drinks. Food in Isreal is often accompanied by some of the next beverages:
2.1 POMEGRANATES JUICE
One of the healthiest juices ever is offered at every street stall in Israel. Salesmen at street stalls in Israel simply squeeze fresh pomegranate just in front of your eyes before you start indulging in your ruby-colored juice. Pomegranate juice in Israel is cheap, refreshing and salubrious!
2.2 ARABIC COFFEE WITH CARDAMOM
Israel doesn’t lack sweet coffee treats for coffee devotees.
In Israel, all coffee addicts, like me, can find their pleasure in sipping Arabic coffee prepared in Arabic copper coffee pot with cardamom, saffron, and rose water. Arabic coffee in Israel is usually served in a small delicate cup with some sweets and cakes on the side. My sweet morning sin in Israel was Arabic coffee accompanied with some toothsome dates cakes and anise cakes. Did you know that Israel was the only country in the World where Starbucks failed because locals love their coffee so much?!
SAHLAB or SACHLAV (or Salep) is a popular creamy Middle Eastern beverage made of hot milk and a pudding powder from the orchid plant. Most commonly is topped with cinnamon and pistachios. Salep should be drunk while it is warm. Warmness and sweetness are what you get when drinking Sahlab!
ARAK is an alcoholic drink made of anise. Arak is widely used throughout the Middle East and it is made of the fermented juice of figs and grapes flavored with the seeds of anise.
2.5 ISRAELI BEER – GOLDSTAR
Goldstar beer is a dark lager beer produced in Israel. Goldstar is No 1 selling beer in Israel. This Israeli lager beer worths to give it a try if you are a beer lover. If you are in Israel and want to try the best Israeli beer then Goldstar beer should be your choice.
2.6 MINT TEA
When you put fresh mint leaves into hot water, you get a perfect tea widely sipped in all the Middle East and Africa region. Mint tea grants comfort and calmness.
2.7 ISRAELI WINE
The tradition of winemaking in Israel goes back to thousands of years, although the winemaking in the area was stopped during Ottoman Palestine. Nevertheless today there are about 300 wineries in Israel in 5 main wine regions: Galilee, Judean Hills, Negev, Samson, and Shomron. Today some of the most popular wine producers in Israel are Carmel Winery, Golan Heights Winery, Tabor, Barkan, Teperberg, Recanati, and Binyamina. When in Israel, don’t miss an opportunity to have a glass of Israeli Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc.
3. FOOD TOURS IN ISRAEL
If you are traveling to Israel, you should definitely consider taking some food tours in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to get familiar with foods from Israel. I would recommend visiting traditional Israeli markets like the Levinsky Market in Tel Aviv to try out some of the best Tel Aviv food or Machane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem to sample tasty Jerusalem food from selected market vendors.
3.1 TEL AVIV FOOD TOURS
In my opinion, visiting Tel Aviv without trying food in Tel Aviv would be a big mistake.
- Tel Aviv: Food, Culture & People
- Israeli Cooking Workshop in Tel Aviv
- 3-Hour Levinsky Market & Florentine Food Tour in Tel Aviv
3.2 JERUSALEM FOOD TOURS
No visit to Jerusalem is complete without trying food in Jerusalem.
4. ISRAELI FOOD COOKBOOKS TO READ:
Italians say ‘Chi mangia bene, viva bene’, or “Who eats well, lives well’. At the end of this post, I would add that people in Israel eat well!
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