8 Foods You Need To Eat In Israel

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We are pleased to have this guest post on Israeli food by our friend Cory Lee from Curb Free with Cory Lee*.  

As well as being a treasure trove of diverse culture, sacred places, religious artifacts and contrasting modern industry, Israel is also foodie heaven! It’s now renowned for being a country full of award-winning chefs and incredible Michelin starred restaurants. However, it’s not just about trendy, smart restaurants where you can experience the flavorsome and richly spiced Israeli dishes.

There are thousands of outlets and street food stalls across the country selling homemade snacks and filling meals. Israeli food is most definitely a melting pot because it’s derived from so many different influences, religions and cultures, and this is reflected in its national dishes. It’s so exciting that many of the dishes you’ll sample when visiting date back thousands of years, but equally lots of food comes from other parts of the Middle East. Additionally there are plenty of foods that come from parts of Eastern Europe making it a real fusion of foods.

spice-market-in-israel

 

If you are about to embark on a trip to Israel there are a number of foods that you should definitely try. I promise you’ll enjoy sharply contrasting textures, extraordinary flavors and feel completely satisfied in each of these Middle Eastern dishes.

8 Foods You Need to Eat In Israel

Falafel

Deep fried, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, falafel is on almost every menu and every street corner! An Israeli favorite for thousands of years and supposedly appeared during Egyptian times, the name coming from the word “mefelfel” which means “spicy” in Arabic. It’s made out of chickpeas combined with onions, scallions and a host of different spices including garlic, cumin and coriander. It’s spicy, but not too spicy and incredibly satisfying. The Israelis like to enjoy it with a finely chopped Israeli salad or inside a large, warm pita bread pocket along with their famous salad. It makes a light lunch or a filling snack. If you’re visiting Nazareth, you’ll find some fantastic falafel at Casa Nova Restaurant.

 

Labneh

You will find lots of yogurt based food on Israeli menus and in small coffee shops. Coffee shops are especially popular because Israelis like to watch the world go by and sit and chat with their friends. They serve plenty of Israeli snacks, one of which is Labneh, a spicy cheese snack made with tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil. There’s also Labneh yogurt dip, which is similar, but creamier and used with crudités or served alongside other food. It’s a popular dish served with salads and with olives – which are home grown in Israel, so they are plump, juicy and packed full of flavor. Israelis like a savory breakfast with plenty of cheese and salad so you’ll find Labneh on lots of breakfast menus. Labneh is particularly great in the Old City of Jerusalem, where Yemenites brought the original recipe over – it’s extremely authentic.

Delicious Hummus and falafel.

Delicious Hummus and falafel.

 

Schwarma

You can’t miss out on Schwarma because the Middle East is renowned for this dish and it’s served in so many places in Israel. Extremely popular, it’s a combination of mixed meats such as chicken, lamb, beef and veal. The meats are marinated for hours on end to produce an exotic, spicy flavor and then the huge Schwarma is grilled on a large upright spit for hours. It can be served as a kebab with rice and salad but it makes an amazing sandwich when it’s placed in warm, soft and fluffy pita bread. Mostly, it’s served with an Israeli salad, a Labneh dip or hummus dip and perhaps a crispy falafel ball. While you’ll find Schwarma everywhere – if you’re in Jerusalem head down toward the bus station and you’ll find a shrine to Schwarma with plenty of street stalls and restaurants serving this renowned Israeli dish – enjoy!

 

Kugel

Not so much a Middle Eastern dish as an Eastern European dish but definitely a part of Israeli heritage – try Kugel! It’s a traditional Jewish recipe that dates back hundreds of years. If you want filling, this one will definitely satisfy you. Made with egg noodles, sour cream, eggs, butter, potatoes and with a sweet helping of cinnamon and sugar, it’s served in plenty of Israeli restaurants. You’ll find it usually accompanies a pot roast style dishes. It’s not for you if you’re dieting though – it’s a very sweet and definitely a naughty dish! Look for an Ashkenazi (Eastern European) Jewish restaurant in Jerusalem to enjoy kugel – but go hungry because you’ll need an empty belly for this one!

 

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Sinye

Sinye is a very popular Israeli meat kebab dish made with ground beef, onion and plenty of fresh herbs and spices; it is then topped with a crispy crust and served with tahini sauce. Sinye is filling with an incredible burst of exotic flavors – the best place to enjoy this meat dish is in the Galilee.

 

Israeli Salad

No meal is complete without an Israeli salad, which is a refreshing, crisp, chopped salad. It’s usually made with cucumber, tomato, onion and lightly dressed with freshly squeezed lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil. It can be enjoyed as an accompaniment or makes a tasty snack or lunch. Traditionally it is served with almost every Israeli meal and every restaurant in Israel has it on the menu. Enjoy this light, zesty and delicious tasting salad anywhere in Israel, it’s a staple!

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Delicious Israelis salads.

 

Shakshuka

Shakshuka means “all mixed up” and is an incredibly filling and flavorsome Israeli dish made using eggs, tomatoes, chilies and onions and packed with a fusion of heady spices. It’s normally served at the table still in the frying pan! The base of Shakshuka is cooked in the frying pan and then the eggs carefully cracked and placed on the top so they cook whole. One of the best places to enjoy this is in Old Jaffa where you’ll find a plethora of traditional style Israeli restaurants. It’s the type of dish you can enjoy all day long for breakfast, lunch or dinner!

 

Hummus

Enjoying hummus with pita on a warm, summer’s night with a cool glass of wine is just one of the ways to sample this dip. It’s an exceptionally tasty, rich and creamy dip that Israelis like to serve with a number of different foods, whether an appetizer, with crudités or to accompany a main course. Hummus is made with chickpeas, lemon and garlic and is a national favorite. After eating hummus in Israel, don’t expect to be satisfied with store bought hummus in the U.S. anymore. Nothing can compare to the real thing in Israel.

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So there you have eight different dishes you must try when in the Holy Land. However, there are hundreds of other dishes, which are all a fusion of the different cultures and religions and from many different areas of the world. That’s one of the reasons I love Israeli food – it’s an exotic blend of traditional food from all the different people who live there, in one wonderful destination.

Thanks so much for taking us on this tasty journey to Israel Cory! We can’t wait to visit ourselves. 

*To read more about Cory’s experiences in Israel, check out his blog Curb Free with Cory Lee

 

18 Responses to 8 Foods You Need To Eat In Israel

  1. Denis C Gagnon Reply

    January 14, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    Thanks for your article about Israeli food. It brings back great memories from our trips to Israel last year. I can’t really say that I have a favorite but shakshuka, hummus and the Israeli salad are the top contenders!

  2. Kristy @ Mommy Hates Cooking Reply

    January 11, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    One of the things that scares me most about travelling abroad is knowing what to eat. I love the idea of experiencing other cultures, but I guess I’m always a bit reserved when it comes to trying foods that are new to me. This is really helpful and has opened my eyes to foods that I know I will love!

    • suereddel

      suereddel Reply

      January 12, 2017 at 4:59 pm

      So happy to hear that Kristy! We truly believe that eating together and learning about other cultures is the way to world peace. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. bitesforfoodies Reply

    January 11, 2017 at 12:25 pm

    These all sound delicious!! When I was younger I worked with a Lebanese friend and he used to bring me his mom’s home cooking all the time. I could eat hummus and falafels every day!

  4. Valerie Reply

    January 11, 2017 at 9:42 am

    I love food like this. What a dream market to go through and try these different things. Very yummy.

  5. Jennifer Siegler Reply

    January 10, 2017 at 10:54 pm

    I have tried Schwarma before and I loved it. I just love to wonderful flavor complimented with the spices! Delicious! I have yet to try Falafel and Kugel too. I am just wondering when I can find an restaurant near me that offers these dishes.

    • suereddel

      suereddel Reply

      January 11, 2017 at 10:39 am

      It’s all so delicious it’s difficult to choose! Where do you live Jennifer? We might be able to recommend a Mediterranean restaurant near by.

  6. Cindy Gordon Reply

    January 10, 2017 at 8:55 pm

    What a great listing of foods to try! I have never been to Israel, but I love exploring new foods when we travel! Some of the foods on your list, I may not have tried had you not mentioned them! Thanks for the heads up for when I travel there!

  7. Carol Speake Reply

    January 10, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    I love middle eastern food. I’m sure that I have had many of these in Restaurants. It’s nice to know the names of them. Hummus is a favorite of mine and I make it all the time.

  8. Janice Chung Reply

    January 10, 2017 at 9:30 am

    Great post for those planning to go to Israel (or want to try the foods in their own country). Reminds me of the restaurants and souks in Morocco….such interesting cuisine. I think I need to try the REAL Falafel because people rave about it.

  9. Debbra Dunning Brouillette Reply

    January 9, 2017 at 8:29 pm

    I love Middle Eastern food, in general, and am sure I would totally fall in love with the food in Israel. Hummus is one of my favorites, and to taste the authentic version there would be amazing. I’ve never been a big fan of falafel in restaurants but would try it in Israel, for sure! I have had a form of kugel and found it to be delicious. Thanks for this post… I am now officially hungry!

  10. Carole Terwilliger Meyers Reply

    January 9, 2017 at 7:42 pm

    I love Israeli cuisine, particularly the salads. Another don’t-miss is fresh-squeezed pomegranate

    • suereddel

      suereddel Reply

      January 11, 2017 at 10:40 am

      That’s a wonderful tip Carole, thanks!

  11. Nancie Reply

    January 9, 2017 at 5:08 pm

    Reading this before breakfast was not a good idea! I ate delicious felafel in Egypt. I can imagine how tasty it would be in Israel. I have eaten some of the others as well and would love to try them. I have never tried kugel and sinye and they are now on my “to eat” list!

  12. Karen Warren Reply

    January 9, 2017 at 8:42 am

    I remember trying felafel for the first time when I went to Israel (a long time ago). There seemed to be lots of shops just selling felafel, in a pitta bread with mixed salad and a spicy sauce on top – lovely! I probably tried most of the others on your list too, but I’m not familiar with kugel – I’ll have to look out for it when I go back.

  13. Rachel Heller Reply

    January 9, 2017 at 6:09 am

    Whenever I’m in Israel, I end up pigging out on hummus, because it’s so much better there than anywhere else. Now I’m eager to try shwarma, sinye and shakshuka when I’m there in March! Thanks!

  14. Jenny Freedman Reply

    January 9, 2017 at 4:13 am

    Israel has been high on my wish list for a few years now because of the wonderful food I keep reading about. I’m hoping I’ll be able to try some of these fabulous dishes in 2017!

  15. Charles McCool Reply

    January 8, 2017 at 5:47 pm

    Sinye and Shakshuka sounds absolutely delicious. I have never been to Israel but have had some of those other dishes, in some American or other country form.

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