Lebanese cuisine is one of the most underrated in the world. Though Lebanese food is popular in its home country, it has yet to make a big splash on the international scene. That’s a shame, because Lebanese food is amazing. From succulent kebabs to delicious dips, food is essential to Lebanese culture, representing life and the joy of sharing food.
Influenced by French, Turkish, and Greek cuisines, Lebanese food is one of the healthiest cuisines in the world.
Small dishes, or mezze, exemplify the practice of gathering around and sharing a meal in Lebanese culture. This tradition of several small, light dishes for a meal is standard in Lebanese cuisines.
What’s Special About Lebanese Food?
Lebanese food is known for its generous use of herbs, spices, and garlic that create big flavors with complement simple ingredients. Fresh notes of lemon and parsley are found in most dishes, with a drizzle of olive oil to finish before serving.
Vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole grains are the typical highlight of many dishes in Lebanese cuisine. Most food is grilled, baked, or enjoyed raw along with different types of flatbread for a flavor-packed meal.
Lebanon’s take on a diet makes traditional Lebanese foods well-liked worldwide. Many of the most popular dishes in Lebanese cuisine are familiar in other countries because they are so delicious and simple!
Therefore, if you get a chance to travel in the region, here are some of the most unique and well-known dishes in traditional Lebanese food to try
Most Famous Lebanese Food
Kibbeh (Spiced Ground Meat)
Kibbeh is Lebanon’s national dish, and for a good reason. This delicious Lebanese food is made from ground meat, onions, spices, and bulgur and falls somewhere between a meatball and croquette.
This traditional Lebanese dish is important to the culture, and females learn to make it from a young age. The ingredients used to make kibbeh are commonly found throughout Lebanese cuisines.
What makes kibbeh special is how it’s made. Bulgur wheat is pounded into a paste with either lamb or beef, then combined with spices and formed into a football or cylinder-like shape.
Kibbeh is fried to a crispy consistency and enjoyed with tahini sauce or hummus on a platter. This traditional Lebanese food exemplifies the simplicity of ingredients and spices used to make delicious food in the culture.
Traditional Lebanese Foods
Kafta (Spiced Meatballs)
Kafta is a grilled meat dish popular across Lebanon. Typical of Lebanese cuisines, these meatballs are made of ground beef or lamb and seasoned with spices and onions.
Often cooked with potatoes, tomatoes, and onions, Kafta is eaten alone or with pita bread. Commonly, it is shaped onto skewers before being grilled and eaten on the go.
Kafta is an example of the simple ingredients used in Lebanese cuisine. While the preparation doesn’t require much, the flavors and spices elevate this dish.
Kafta can be eaten on its own or enjoyed inside a soup, stew, or rice pilaf. This famous Lebanese food is also found in other countries throughout the middle east.
Kousa Mahshi (Stuffed Zucchini/Squash)
Meaning squash in Arabic, Kousa Mahshi is zucchini or squash stuffed with rice and spiced ground meat. This traditional Lebanese food is healthy and delicious.
Squash is ideal for stuffing because it can be easily hollowed out and is sturdy for filling. Kousa Mahshi is cooked in a tomato broth made with garlic and mint.
This straightforward and flavorful combination is a typical Lebanese dish that can also be made vegetarian. The savory spices unite to make a dish that lacks no flavor when made without meat.
Mujadara (Rice, Lentils, and Caramelized Onions)
Mujadara is a traditional Lebanese dish made of rice, lentils, and caramelized onions. The primary spice in Mujadara is cumin, and olive oil is used to caramelize and fry the onions.
Mujadara is made with rice or bulgur wheat and brown or green lentils. This traditional Lebanese food was known as a peasant dish because it is inexpensive to make yet filling.
While most of the onions are caramelized in this Lebanese dish, some are fried. This gives the mujadara a versatile texture and flavor from the onion’s different preparation.
Tabbouleh (Bulgur and Parsley Salad)
Full of fresh and bright flavors, tabbouleh is a salad dish well-liked in Lebanese cuisine. This straightforward salad is a staple food in Lebanon and is made with bulgur, parsley, mint, tomatoes, onions, lemon juice, and olive oil.
Regularly featured on a mezze platter, Tabbouleh is always served cold alongside other dishes. This parsley-heavy dish is one of the most famous traditional Lebanese foods.
Hummus (Chickpea Dip)
Hummus is by far one of the most loved foods in Lebanese cuisine. Versatile and delicious, this popular food in Lebanon is good on vegetables, pitas, sandwiches, and meats.
Hummus is made with chickpeas, tahini, garlic, olive oil, and lemon juice. Other ingredients, such as beets, olives, and herbs, can be added to Hummus to change the taste and color.
Served in Lebanese breakfasts, lunch, or dinner, there is never a wrong time to enjoy this traditional Lebanese food. You will likely see Hummus on every mezze plate while eating your way through Lebanon.
Almost no meal in Lebanese cuisine is complete without a side of pita bread. This fluffy, leavened white bread is commonly dipped in hummus or stuffed with grilled meat or falafel.
The split in the pita’s middle makes it versatile in Lebanese dishes. This makes it possible for pitas to be used not only as a wrap but also as a sandwich.
Snacks And Street Food In Lebanon
Falafel (Deep Fried Chickpea Balls)
Falafel is a famous Lebanese street food often eaten on its own or stuffed into pita bread with pickled vegetables. Also commonly found in mezze platters, falafel is a crispy and filling Lebanese food.
Falafel is made from ground chickpeas, fresh herbs, and spices. The mixture is shaped into a ball and deep fried until crispy brown on the outside.
Although Falafel is thought to have originated in Egypt, it has become a well-known dish in Lebanese cuisine. The Egyptian version was instead made with fava beans, giving it a different flavor than the chickpea version of Lebanon.
Shish Kebab (Skewered Chunks of Meat)
Shish kebab is chunks of marinated lamb skewered and then cooked over a grill. It is also known as shish taouk when made with chicken.
This well-favored Lebanese food is easily portable and full of flavor from its marinade. Made with spices, garlic, and sometimes yogurt, the marinade tenderizes the meat before grilling.
Shish kebabs and shish taouk can be eaten alone or with a garlic sauce and are perfect in a sandwich.
Baba Ganoush (Roasted Eggplant Dip)
Baba Ganoush is an eggplant dip famous in traditional Lebanese cuisine. To make an irresistible spread, roasted eggplant combines the common Lebanese ingredients of tahini, garlic, lemon, olive oil, and seasonings.
The roasted eggplant gives the baba ganoush an excellent smoky flavor that perfectly accompanies grilled meats and vegetables. Baba ganoush is also found on mezze platters with pieces of bread and raw vegetables.
This traditional Lebanese food is also made as a spicy version known as Moutabal. Moutabal is topped with crunchy pomegranate seeds that give this Lebanese dip a unique texture.
Sambousek (Meat Stuffed Hand Pie)
Sambousek is a handheld pie filled with ground beef or lamb. A traditional Lebanese street food, it can also be made as a vegetarian version with cheese and spinach.
Sambousek is stuffed, sealed shut, and deep fried or baked before enjoying. Sambousek is similar to an empanada, hand pie, or calzone but with the flavors and spices of Lebanese cuisine.
Shawarma (Vertically Roasted Sliced Meat)
Shawarma is a beloved dish in Lebanese cuisine and all over the world. Meat is cooked on a vertical rotisserie, sliced off, and put into a sandwich.
Shawarma can be made with lamb, beef, or chicken that is marinated before being cooked. Typically shawarma is eaten with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and some yogurt-based sauce.
This delicious Lebanese food is one of the most popular that you will find in the Middle East. It is full of flavor, and the rotating rotisserie makes for an exciting presentation.
Fattoush (Simple Salad with Fried Pita)
This simple yet delectable Lebanese dish is full of flavor and different textures. Fried leftover pitas top a salad with vegetables and simple vinaigrette in this traditional Lebanese meal.
The spice sumac is a crucial element in this salad that traditionally uses leftovers. Sumac is a spice often used in Lebanese cuisines and has a tart flavor, similar to that of lemon juice.
Like most Lebanese dishes, basic ingredients are elevated through their preparation for a scrumptious meal of Fattoush.
Warak Enab (Stuffed Marinated Grape Leaves)
Warak Enab is a stuffed grape leaf made with spices, rice, and sometimes meat. This traditional Lebanese dish is served cold on mezze plates and sometimes warm when there is meat inside.
Like Greek dolmas, Warak Enab is made with marinated grape leaves, giving it extra flavor. Typical ingredients in Lebanese food, like onions, garlic, and parsley, are used to season the rice inside the grape leaf.
In addition, warm spices such as cinnamon, cloves, and cumin, are commonly used as a seasoning in Warak Enab.
Manaquish (Flatbread with Toppings)
Manaquish is a popular flatbread in Lebanese cuisine, topped with spices, meats, cheese, or vegetables. Similar to a pizza, it can also be a side dish or snack served in Lebanon.
Manaquish is often sprinkled with a spice blend known as za’atar. Za’atar is made with sesame seeds, sumac, thyme, oregano, and marjoram, many of the typical spices in Lebanese cuisine.
When Manaquish has heavier toppings such as meat or cheese, it is more likely to be eaten as a meal for lunch or dinner. Za’atar Manaquish is a typical side dish to other Lebanese food on a mezze platter.
Soups And Stews In Lebanese Cuisine
Adas Bil Hamod (Lemon Lentil Soup)
This healthy lentil soup is a well-known and loved part of Lebanese cuisine. Lemony and bright, Adas Bil Hamod translates to “lentils in lemon”.
Like many recipes in traditional Lebanese food, this soup is easy to prepare. Lentils, potatoes, swiss chard, garlic, and onion are among the ingredients in this healthy soup.
Cumin, oregano, mint, and lemon juice give Adas Bil Homad traditional Lebanese flavors. This Lebanese dish is entirely vegetarian and full of nutrients and fiber.
Shorbet Adas (Blended Lentil Soup)
Lentils are a big part of traditional Lebanese cuisine, which is apparent in these soups. Unlike Adas Bil Homad, Shorbet Adas is a smooth blended soup without the textures of chunks of vegetables.
This healthy soup is made with rice, vegetables, onion, and red lentils, all cooked down before being blended together. The spices that give this soup its incredible flavor are cumin and turmeric with a splash of lemon juice and fresh parsley.
Lentils are very common in Lebanese cuisine since they have been a part of the culture for thousands of years. In fact, lentils are considered an ancient grain and touted for their nutrients and health benefits.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Desserts, Pastries And Sweets In Lebanon
Desserts in Lebanon form a big part of the gastronomic experience and here are just some of a long list of delicious Lebanese desserts on offer when you visit the country.
Baklawa (Layered Phyllo Dough with Syrup)
You may have seen it spelled as baklava, but rest assured, this is a similar dessert in Lebanese cuisine as in Greek cuisine. The difference between the two desserts is the syrup that is used.
Baklawa is made with layers of phyllo dough, chopped nuts, lots of butter, and soaked in syrup. The syrup, called attar, is made of cardamom, rose water, and orange blossom and is lighter than the syrup used for baklava.
Commonly, this Lebanese food is made with tree nuts such as walnuts or pistachios. The sheet of sweet desserts is cut into diamond shapes before being served.
Kanafeh (Shredded Phyllo Dough with Cheese)
Also made with phyllo dough, Kanafeh is a traditional Lebanese food that is often served as a dessert or snack. Instead of just layering the phyllo dough, it is shredded, soaked in attar, and then layered with cheese.
This savory dessert is served hot, so the cheese is melted and delicious. This dessert’s flavors are creamy, not overly sweet, and occasionally topped with pistachios. Kanafeh is a must-try in Lebanese cuisine.
Maamoul (Shortbread Cookies Stuffed with Dried Fruit or Nuts)
Maamoul is a shortbread cookie with dates, pistachios, walnuts, or other nuts such as almonds. These cookies are famous around Easter time and are one of the Lebanese food traditions enjoyed at the end of the long fast of Ramadan.
Maamoul cookies are shaped into balls, flattened, or domed. Sometimes, a unique mold is used to shape the cookies. Maamoul cookies are not super sweet and have typical dessert flavors from Lebanese cuisine.
Sampling Delicious Food In Lebanon
One of the best ways to experience Lebanese culture is through its food. Lebanese cuisine is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. Traditional Lebanese food can be found in restaurants, cafes, and street carts all over Lebanon.
Whether you’re looking for a healthy Lebanese dish or a Lebanese dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth, you’ll be able to find something tasty and satisfying in Lebanon. Now that you know some Lebanese foods to try, it’s time to book your trip!