Israel is a small country but it has a big diversity of food. Moroccan, Persian, Yemen, Arabic, Eastern European are just a few world cuisines that influenced the Israeli kitchen. Israel is a melting pot of many cultures and if we add super fresh ingredients we have a portion of delicious and unique food.
You will find everything that your taste buds desire.
So what is the food you need to try in Israel? Let’s dig in and see some of the Israeli food classics.
Hummus – Food you need to try in Israel
Hummus is for many Israelis the king of all dishes, probably the most known and for sure the most appetizing food Israel has to offer. Even though in the last past years, hummus gains a huge growth of popularity in other parts of the world, we guarantee you – nothing will compare with hummus you will try in Israel.
For those who don’t know what hummus is – it is basically a paste made out of cooked chickpeas, tahini (ground toasted sesame paste), lemon and olive oil. Usually served with pita bread, raw onions and some pickles. Each person or place has its hummus recipes so I highly recommend that you try as many as you can eat, you will be surprised how different they can be.
Another good thing to know is that there are several types of hummus you can choose from. Here are the most popular ones:
Masabaha hummus – warm cooked whole chickpeas mixed with cumin, lots of lemon and zip of olive oil
Hummus Ful – warm cooked Egyptian fava beans lay on silk humus paste
Mushroom hummus – hummus with stir-fried mushroom topping
Cholent – Jewish slow-cooked stew (also called hamin)
In winter times when the weather gets cold and rainy, a good plate of steamy hamin is perfect to warm your body. This traditional Jewish stew has many variations, but usually, it contains potatoes, beans, grains or any legumes you can think of. Some people also add whole eggs on the top of the stew and it can be both – with meat or vegetarian.
Traditionally its made on Friday night, in a big pot, sitting in the oven for 12 hours on low heat. This slow cooking method makes the stew creamy and rich with deep flavors. In the past, it was considered as a family dish on the Shabbat (Saturday), but today you can find hamin also in food places and restaurants.
Still, your best chance of having this dish will be on the weekends.
This delicious takeaway snack comes from the Druze kitchen, the Druze people are an ethnic-religious group, most of them live on the Northside of Israel. Druze cuisine is famous for its rich kitchen based only on local ingredients. The dish contains simple flat taboon bread, with sour labneh cheese, olive oil, spicy lemon chili, Tabbouleh salad and Za’atar (a local dried herb).
This pita is usually found in the North part of Israel, but you can also find it in other parts of the country, especially on food markets. If you see a food stall with a woman dressed in Arabic traditional clothes, sitting next to a round big taboon for pita bread you will know you found it.
Jachnun – Yemenite breakfast
A classical dish from the Jewish Yemen kitchen. Its a roll of dough filled with clarified butter, traditionally made in a pot seating in the oven on low heat overnight. The dough comes out with a bit of sweet taste and it’s served with fresh grated tomatoes, boiled egg, and Yemen chili paste.
You can usually find Jachnun only on Fridays or Saturdays. Most of the kiosks in Israel sell jachnun on the weekends so you will have the most chances of finding it there, it’s worth asking. Especially on Saturday mornings, you can see food trucks by the roads towards the countryside selling jachnun along with side dishes like ‘Turkish burekas’ and ‘malabi’ – also great to try.
Sabich – Israeli sandwich
A very delicious Iraqi Jewish sandwich – warm pita bread filled with crunchy sweet deep-fried eggplant, steamy boiled potato, and eggs. Over that you have dripping creamy sauces of tahini and amba, prepare to get dirty (in a good way).
This is a very popular street food dish and you can find it everywhere you go, usually, you will find it in falafel places. I recommend you to go to places that specialize in preparing sabich, so you get the best of the best.
One of our favorite breakfasts – shakshuka, once you try it you will want to eat it all the time.
We make a rich sauce from sautéed tomatoes, lots of garlic, onions, and chili peppers and on the top, we put perfect poached eggs. So simple yet so delicious.
It is usually served to the table in a hot pan, with fresh crunchy bread, olives, and pickles.
Even though Israelis prefer to have shakshuka for breakfast you can get this wonderful dish all day long. If you are in a hurry and just want to grab something fast, you can get it in pita bread or even better in a fresh warm baguette.
Falafel is considered to be the national dish of Israel, and I don’t think I have to say much more about it. Deep-fried balls made out of mashed chickpeas, spices, and herbs, inside a warm pita, with selections of salads and sauces for you to pick. Delicious. Even though this dish exists almost in every corner of the world, the Israeli falafel is one of the best. A must-try for sure.
Malabi – Israeli milk pudding
For all those that love sweets – this dessert will blow your taste buds! Silky pudding made out of milk or cream (also vegan option water-based), covered with sweet rosewater syrup, crunchy peanuts, and coconut flakes. For the perfect bite just mix everything. Malabi is a very popular dessert in Israel and you can find it everywhere; restaurants, markets, food trucks and even in the supermarkets.
Bourekas – Simple savory pastries
The famous puffy pastry that all Israelis love, comes in a wide variety of shapes, and also different kinds of fillings. The most popular one is the potato filling (square shape) or the cheese filling (triangle shape).
You can find this at every respectable bakery, feel free to mix different types of bourekas to see which one you like the most (usually you buy it by the pound). If you are really hungry, another option is to go for the ‘Turkish bourekas’ which is basically a huge bourekas (potato or cheese) filed with boiled egg and spices.
Knafeh – Middle Eastern sweet cheese pastry
Knafeh is a traditional Arabic dessert, made out of kadaif noddels filled with goat cheese. Its usually served warm with hot sugar syrup. It’s full of unique flavor and very sweet and delicious. In the past, you could get it only at Arabic restaurants and bakeries but lately, the knafeh business is blooming and it is more and more popular. A lot of new places are opening serving this wonderful sweet snack.
So, as you can see the Israeli food is multi-diverse, and there is a lot to explore. From the traditional foods of Jerusalem to the gourmet chefs restaurants of Tel Aviv, the options and tastes are endless.
If you come to visit take into consideration that the food here is really special, so try to absorb (to the stomach) as much as you can.
*Read also: Israel travel tips