There are many reasons to visit Israel; however, one of the most compelling is the food! Israeli food is known around the globe for its complexity of flavor and unforgettable textures. Come to Israel to lose yourself in a deliciously diverse paradise for food lovers!
What Is Special About Israeli Food
For many, Israel represents a spiritual home, but what if food is your higher power!? Then you are in luck because the culture around food and eating in Israel is one without comparison! Here you will find great food everywhere; from the bustling food-centric markets to some of the best-rated restaurants on the globe!
Israeli food traditions take influence from all of the major religions that consider Israel part of their story, so you can find traditional Jewish, Christian, and Islamic foods prepared here. Additionally, the food is influenced by Middle Eastern food traditions, so you will find a lot of flatbread and dips here.
One very special thing about Israeli cuisine is that there is a place for everyone in this food scene thanks to the wide range of traditional dishes made without meat or dairy.
Most Famous Food In Israel
Hummus was born as an Israeli food but today it is an international icon of deliciousness! Israeli hummus is a simple dish made from mashed chickpeas, tahini, and lemon juice. Boasting a nutty sesame taste, it has a creamy texture and an irresistible earthiness that appeals to everyone!
Hummus has become so popular in part due to the growing plant-based movement, but in Israel, it has always been a staple at breakfast, lunch, and snack time. There are even eateries just focusing on this dish as their signature.
Israeli hummus is served on its own with flatbread or used as spread in wraps and sandwiches. You can also pair it with fries or falafel.
Traditional Israelis Food
Bright, colorful, and delicious Israeli salad is known across the globe for its fresh flavor! It features a light and lovely mixture of diced cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and peppers. The salad is dressed with oil and lemon juice to add a little brightness to the already fresh bite.
Israeli salad can be served with just about everything! It is included in platter-style meals with other dips and flatbread or it is enjoyed as an appetizer. With that extreme versatility, Israeli salad also works as a delectable stand-alone snack or a light lunch in Israel.
Traditional Jewish foods are very popular in Israel so shabbat specialties, like gefilte fish, are easy to find! Gefilte fish is a snack or appetizer made from poached deboned whitefish. Traditionally, this Israeli food is cooked in a loaf shape inside the fish skin and then sliced to serve, but it’s also available ready-made in grocery stores.
Gefilte fish has a mild fishy taste that ranges from mildly sweet to very salty, depending on who is preparing the dish. The fish is a popular home dish and it is a staple food around holidays, but younger visitors might not take to this fishy classic right away!
Lentils are an important piece of Middle Eastern cooking that is fully embraced in Israeli foods. One excellent example of delicious lentil cooking is the local favorite Mujadara. It is a tasty combination of lentils, grains, and onions all cooked into mouth-watering savory tenderness.
This yummy grain dish has humble roots as a peasant-style dish, but today it is beloved as a tasty meat-free side dish. Like many Israeli dishes, this dish has a special place in each of the Abrahamic religions. Muslims enjoy this dish with added meat, Christians will eat it over Lent, and traditionally Jewish shepherds and farmers love mujadara for its easy flavor!
Freekeh (Ancient Grain)
Freekeh is a cereal grain that is popular throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa. It’s an ancient grain that grows abundantly throughout the region. The grains are picked while they are slightly underripe and then they are smoked to remove their shells.
The result of this process is a toasty, smoky, and earthy-flavored grain that locals use in many delicious ways. A common way you will see this grain used here is cooked with onions and herbs to make a nice grainy side or snack.
Israeli Cabbage Salad
Salatim or salad in Israel is more than a dish, it’s a way of dining. Locals love to eat fresh vegetable salads with every meal, so expect to find many natural and flavorful salads here, including Israeli cabbage salad. Some may think of this dish as more of a slaw than a salad, but by any name this cabbage-forward bite is delectable!
Cabbage salad is made with shreds of multi-colored cabbage. The cabbage is dressed with a tangy blend of sour cream or mayonnaise and citrus juice. This makes for an earthy, rich, and mildly tart bite that tastes beautiful with robustly flavored dips or as a topping for sandwiches.
Breakfast Dishes In Israelis Food
Shakshuka is a world-famous Israeli breakfast food, but nothing compares to getting it straight from the source! This hot breakfast meal is made from a thick, well-seasoned, peppery, tomato-based sauce with eggs poached directly in the hot sauce. But truthfully, we are down to enjoy a plate of this gooey goodness any time of the day.
Shakshuka is traditionally served with flatbread so diners can scoop up all the delectable red sauce with their hands. This typical Israeli food is a fun and filling way to experience morning like a local!
The people of Israel take great pride in their local produce and jaffa oranges hold a special place of esteem! This colorful citrus is native to Israel and has a flavor unlike any other orange! They were developed by local farmers and are prized for their low seed count and tangy flavor!
Adored and famous in Israel, Jaffa oranges are perfect for enjoying raw thanks to their lack of seeds. Supremed jaffa oranges are a frequent inclusion in cold breakfast salads. They also make a great grab-and-go morning meal when you can’t wait to hit the streets for sightseeing!
When wandering the markets in Jerusalem you will see baskets and barrels full of dates. Medjool dates are a point of local pride that grows throughout the country. This fruity Israeli food is a popular option at breakfast, snacktime, and more.
Medjool dates are so popular in Israel not just because of their abundance but because of their healthy sweet flavor. They are the perfect way to add a little sugar to your morning without feeling bogged down!
Lox are familiar to Jewish food lovers from around the globe, and they’re especially loved in Israel. These are thin cuts of cured salmon with a decadent smoky and rich flavor.
Traditionally, lox are eaten on bagels or other bread with tomatoes, capers, onions, and cream cheese. Sounds like your smoked salmon bagel? Because they taste just as good if not better.
Typical Bread In Israeli Cuisine
Laffa bread is a traditional Israeli flatbread made with very simple ingredients. It is hearty wheat-based flat bread with an excellent chew. Laffa is enjoyed alongside creamy dips like hummus or chunkier local salads.
This staple Israeli food is often confused with pita bread, but it has a much thicker and sturdier texture. Laffa also lacks the signature pocket of a pita, but it’s great for dipping or building sandwiches on.
Ka’ak Al Quds (Jerusalem Bagel)
These golden brown rings of local deliciousness are known around the world for their amazing taste! Ka’ak al quds, or Jerusalem bagels, are amazingly light and crispy dough rings covered in a rich blend of seeds and spices.
Unlike American-style bagels they are not boiled first, so all the yummy seasonings bake into the dough perfectly. You will find this Israeli food sold by street vendors everywhere. The bagels are best enjoyed while they’re warm dipped in za’atar.
Challah is a popular bread around the world, but Israeli bakers truly put it on the map! It is mildly sweet, enriched bread that is baked into gorgeous braids. Their attractive visuals make them eye-catching and tasty-looking.
The local renditions of this beautiful bread are known as ‘water challah’ because they are made with water and without eggs. Challah is an important element of Jewish celebrations. Jewish home-bakers throughout Israel all have their family recipe for this sensationally soft bread.
Passover is a very important time of year for Jewish residents of Israel and this important holiday has its menu. One essential Passover food in Israel is matzah; it is an unleavened bread that is eaten to commemorate when the Jews escaped Egypt.
Matzah can be enjoyed topped with kosher dips, eggs, or salads. However, they are also another versatile base with which you can do whatever with. We have, rather unorthodoxically, tried spreading Nutella on them as a nice snack, and it works just as well.
When you go exploring amazing Israeli street foods you are bound to find a lot of awesomely delicious flatbreads. One of the most astounding examples is malawach. It’s a flaky flatbread with so much flair!
Malawach consists of tasty thin layers of wheat dough. The irresistible layers are formed by rolling the dough into spirals and then pressing the spiral into a flat disc. It is perfect for dipping in traditional dips like hummus and baba ganoush.
Pitas are well known practically everywhere, but in Israel, they are an essential everyday bread. It is a staple flatbread made with a simple yeast-leavened dough.
When the pita is cooked it puffs full of air giving the flatbread a nice pocket to fill with tasty things like falafel or shawarma. It is almost impossible for you not to have tried pita while trying around Israel, the Middle East, and Europe.
Dairy lovers rejoice at this decadent-filled bread! Khachapuri is a diamond-shaped yeasted bread with a dent in the center. That dent is filled with so much luscious cheese that your mouth will water!
The lovely cheesy bread is baked slightly then an egg is cracked into the very center of the cheese before finishing the bake. This makes for a nice melty, baked cheese texture while preserving the runny egg yolk. Khachapuri makes a great street snack or an indulgent Israeli breakfast.
Jachnun makes for a rather delectable and filling breakfast in Israel. It is a wonderfully layered bread that is traditionally served on the morning of Shabbat in Jewish homes throughout Israel. This originally home-baked bread is so popular that you will find it served with breakfasts throughout the country.
Jachnun is made with a simple wheat flour dough that is leavened with baking soda and flavored with date syrup. The dough is pressed flat and then rolled into lovely layered logs of bready goodness! Enjoy this bread on its own, with fruit, or hard-boiled eggs as a nice Israeli breakfast.
Babka is like challah’s delectably sweet culinary cousin. It is a beautiful braided bread with fun sweet fillings. That makes it a great treat to enjoy with tea or coffee.
Babka is made with a very similar dough to challah. It is a yeasted and enriched dough but before bakers braid the dough they brush it with their choice of delicious fillings. Popular babka fillings include cocoa, cinnamon, and walnuts.
Snacks And Street Food In Israel
Falafel (Fried Chickpea Balls)
Falafel is an unforgettable vegetarian bite that rules the street food scene. These are amazing balls of mashed chickpeas and herbs that are fried into crispy delights! You will find this Israeli food everywhere from restaurants to homes to street vendors.
Falafels can be enjoyed in several ways. Some like to have them in a pita while others will just pop them plain. No matter how you like falafel, it is better with creamy dips and salads! Try falafel dipped in tahini or on a pita topped with Israeli salad!
This is a go-to snack or meal for many vegetarians as they are super filling and can be eaten in multiple ways. You will almost always find falafel at shawarma stalls, which means you don’t get left out while your carnivorous friends get their dose of delicious grilled meat.
Shawarma (Shaved Meat)
That said, shawarma is a Middle Eastern favorite that is enjoyed throughout the region. The Israeli rendition of the dish, in particular, is a delicious standout! And maybe we are biased because that is where we first tried shawarma.
Shawarma is a spit-cooked meat dish where thin slices of meat are stacked into a cone and then deliciously rendered. Since the thin pieces of meat are stacked on the spit, cooks shave off tender shreds of meaty goodness.
Israeli shawarma differs from others because it’s commonly made with turkey, making it a healthier version, yet no less delish. You will find this delectable local favorite on streets throughout Jerusalem. The meat is served on flatbread with tasty salads and sauces to complement it.
Kofta is a delicious tradition throughout the Mediterranean and Middle East, so naturally Israel has their tasty take on the dish! These are flavorful hand-formed meatballs, usually made with lamb. They are seasoned with fresh herbs like coriander and mint giving them a tantalizing savory bite.
Israeli street vendors will skewer the kofta and cook it on the grill. The smell of local kofta kebabs cooking will get your heart racing. They’re perfect with some rich hummus and because they’re handheld, kofta kebabs make a great walking food!
Sabich (Eggplant Sandwich)
For vegetarians in Israel, the options are practically endless, but one sandwich reigns supreme and that is the sabich. It’s a lovely handheld because with every bite you taste a symphony of local flavors.
Sabich is made with pita or laffa bread that is stuffed with roasted eggplant, herbs, and hard-boiled eggs. It’s finished with hummus, tahini, and fresh salad to make a complex and satisfying street meal!
Yebreh (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Stuffed grape leaves are popular throughout the Middle East and every country has its own uniquely tasty take on the dish, including Israel. Yehreb is stuffed grape leaves that are served as a snack or meal in Israel.
This delicious dish is made by filling the grape leaves with a bright mixture of rice, pine nuts, and lemon. That gives it a nice blend of flavor that is fragrant and even slightly addictive. It’s a fresh filling side dish or snack that pairs well with falafel, salad, and flatbread.
Boureka (Phyllo Hand Pies)
This lovely local pastry is a must-have for anyone who loves cheese! Boureka is an airy and flaky hand pie that is stuffed with a luscious cheesy filling. They’re sold by vendors throughout Jerusalem and they make an excellent savory snack!
Boureka is made with lovely layers of phyllo dough so it has a wonderfully flaky texture. The filling is often made of tangy farmer’s cheese, but many variations exist. They are often topped with seeds and they taste amazing with zaatar!
Shish Tawook (Grilled Chicken Skewers)
Locals in Israel loved grilled poultry dishes and one great example is shish tawook. This is a delicious skewered dish made with chicken. You can find these skewers all over and they’re great with some fresh salad or flatbread.
The key to this wonderful chicken dish is marinade. The chicken sits in a mixture of yogurt, lemon juice, tomato paste, and herbs before going on the grill. The marinade gives it a wonderful butter-chicken-like taste that will leave you wanting more!
Spreads, Salads, And Dips In Israeli Food
Masabacha (Whole Chickpea Hummus)
DIps and spreads are so important to Israeli cuisine that many variations and renditions exist. One popular variation of traditional Israeli hummus is masabacha. It is a chunky spread similar to hummus and it tastes great with falafel, flatbread, and more!
Masabacha is made with chickpeas and tahini, like hummus, except rather than mashing the beans they are mostly left intact. This makes for a heartier dip with a very satisfying bite!
Hamutzim (Pickled Vegetables)
Israeli food is all about balanced flavors, so no Israeli meal is complete without a little sourness. That is why you will find hamutzim everywhere! It is a local pickled dish that comes with many traditional Israeli plates.
There are many renditions of hamutzim and the mixtures of the pickling liquid can vary; however, the vegetables tend to include cauliflower, beets, cucumbers, and peppers. You can use this tangy salad as a topping, side dish, or snack.
Tabbouleh (Bulgur Salad)
The flavor and texture of Tabbouleh are second to none! This sensational Israeli food is a fresh and tasty salad that features bulgur – a cereal grain with a distinctly nutty flavor. It’s one of our favorite appetizers to kickstart a feast.
To make Tabbouleh the bulgur is tossed with diced tomatoes, onion, peppers, and herbs like mint and parsley. It’s dressed with fresh lemon juice and makes for a lovely light bite when eaten on its own or paired with other local flavors!
Ful (Fava Bean Stew)
Beans are a common inclusion in many local dishes, like ful. This rich fava bean dish will have you wanting seconds! While ful is a Middle Eastern classic, it takes on new life in Israel.
Ful is made with cooked fava beans that are mashed into a creamy paste. Some versions have tahini, lemon juice, or oil swirled in with the beans for extra flavor. This dish is very similar to chickpea hummus and it pairs wonderfully with flatbreads, falafels, and green salads.
Tahini (Sesame Sauce)
Tahini is familiar to many people around the globe but in Israel, it has special importance. This is a delicious condiment made from sesame seeds. It has a creamy texture and a toasty, nutty flavor.
This aromatic food in Israel is eaten with practically everything. It is mixed into hummus and other dips, used to dress salads, and spread on flatbreads. No matter how you use it, this luscious sauce will take your favorite Israeli food to a flavorful new height!
Baba Ganoush (Eggplant Dip)
For many, Israeli cuisine would simply not be the same without sumptuous baba ganoush. It’s similar to hummus but with a unique savory flavor. This iconic Israeli dip has a luscious vegetarian flavor that cannot be compared!
Baba ganoush is made with roasted eggplant that is mashed into a nice spreadable texture. It’s seasoned similarly to hummus, with tahini, lemon, and olive oil and it can be spread on flatbreads or enjoyed as a dip.
Yogurt is loved around the globe and labneh is Israel’s take on this creamy classic. Labneh is essentially a strained style of yogurt. Straining removes the whey and gives the yogurt a lusciously thick texture and tangy flavor.
Labneh is served topped with olive oil, diced veggies, herbs, and spices. Diners dunk flatbread in the creamy yogurt as a fresh, tart, and creamy snack. That said, we like to use it as a dip for just about anything, the refreshing taste goes well with fried delights.
Popular Main Dishes In Israeli Food
Me’orav Yerushalmi, or Jerusalem mixed grill, is a traditional Israeli food with so much savory flavor your mouth will water! The mixed grill is made at restaurants throughout Jerusalem and chefs take such pride in their recipes for this dish that they would rather go to their grave than share their secret recipe!
Jerusalem mixed grill is a meaty stew that uses chicken organ meat as well as lamb. The meat mixture is combined with stew veggies and delicious spices, like cumin and turmeric. The dish stews into a rustic and comforting stew that would make anyone feel at home in Israel!
Not everyone thinks of Israel when they picture schnitzel, but this German import is a must-try when you visit here! Schnitzel is a breaded meat cutlet that is pan-fried to crisp and juicy perfection. The traditional choice of meat for schnitzel in Israel is chicken or sometimes turkey.
One thing that sets the local version of schnitzel apart from others is that matzah meal is often used in the breading. Look for this local specialty on the streets and in restaurants throughout the country. It is often paired with fried potatoes or cabbage salad to make a filling fusion meal!
Kubbeh adom is a vibrantly colored local Israeli soup that will entice all your senses. It is a bright red beet soup with satisfying beef dumplings. This traditional Israeli dish fuses Middle Eastern flavors with local ingredients and techniques to make the perfect comfort dish.
Kubbeh adom is made with earthy beets, garlic, and paprika which gives it a warm and spicy flavor. The rich soup base is ideally complemented by perfect beef-filled semolina dumplings. It’s a complex and filling local flavor!
For dishes to stay popular in Israel they often need a kosher makeover. That is what happened to the moussaka when Greek immigrants brought this classic dish here. The Israeli rendition of moussaka is similar to the Mediterranean classic with a few delicious local twists.
Moussaka is a baked eggplant casserole with a sensational tomato-based sauce. The ground meat is layered with eggplant and then baked to succulent perfection. For Israeli moussaka, the traditional meat is traded for ground poultry to make a delightful lean and kosher take on a classic!
Vegetarian cuisine reigns in Israel. Hamin is a delicious vegetarian stew that is traditionally made by local home cooks. Recipes for this stew are passed down through generations of Israeli cooks so there are many tasty variations of this local dish.
This satisfying stew is made with a variety of beans, wheat berries, and potatoes. Dried fruits, spices, and seasonings are added to give the tender beans a full flavor. It has a chunk, filling texture, and an unforgettable savory flavor.
Yummy Desserts In Israeli Food
Knafeh (Cheesy Pastry)
Flaky, sweet, and cheesy knafeh is a beloved dessert throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. It is a decadent dessert that checks all the texture and flavor boxes! Knafeh is delicious with warm tea or coffee.
To make this lovely-looking pastry, a phyllo-style dough is shredded and filled with a lusciously creamy cheese filling. The cheese is flavored with rose syrup which makes this Israeli dessert smell amazing! The pastry is baked so the outside becomes light and crispy while the inside gets nice and gooey!
Sfenj (Sweet Fritters)
Some things are simply universal, like the human love of donuts! Sfenj is a popular Israeli food with roots in Morocco. This treat is a fried doughnut that you can find from street vendors everywhere and it tastes positively irresistible!
Sfenj is made with a light yeast-leavened dough, cut into rings, and then fried. They are served with honey or a dusting of sugar. This delicious fried treat is the perfect light and sweet bite in Israel, but good luck eating just one!
Baklava is a baked good with fans around the world. This pastry is flaky, nutty, sweet, and tremendously delicious! Baklava may not have originated in Israel but it has certainly found a home here with many residents loving this treat!
Baklava is made of flaky layers of filled phyllo dough that are soaked in honey syrup. The fillings vary, but the most popular tend to be nuts. You will find baklava for sale at markets everywhere and all it takes is one sweet bite to be hooked!
It is one of our top favorite sweets alongside Knafeh. You will find slightly varying tastes and textures from different vendors; so there is always an excuse to try them.
Hamantashen (Jam-Filled Pastry)
Hamantashen is a traditional Jewish dessert with so much sweet flavor! These treats are made by Jewish families in Israel to celebrate the holiday of Purim. Hamantashen are triangular pastries with a fruity jam filling in the center.
The shape and fruity fillings of these treats are always the same however there is some debate over the dough. The traditional recipe uses yeast as a leavener which makes the treat more bread-like; whereas, others prefer baking soda which results in a short cookie dough. Whatever take on the dough you prefer, the combination of pastry and jam is unbeatable!
Sufganiyot (Filled Donut)
If you like jelly donuts then you need to try sufganiyot! It is an unforgettable Israeli food that resembles a jelly donut or fritter. They are traditionally enjoyed around Hanukkah, but on the streets of Israel, you can find these anywhere!
Sufganiyot is made with a lighter-than-air yeasted dough, cut, and fried to golden brown perfection. After frying they’re filled with strawberry jam or vanilla custard. The final touch is a generous dusting of powdered sugar so you’ll make a mess as you enjoy this amazing Israeli sweet!
Rugelach (Rolled Pastry)
If you want a tiny sweet with your hot coffee or tea then you need rugelach! Rugelach is a traditional treat that was brought to Israel by European Jews. It resembles a hybrid between a cookie and a rolled pastry, but this delectable sweet is in a class all of its own!
Rugelach is made with a rich, buttery dough that is filled with a paste made from dates, walnuts, and sugar. The filled dough is rolled and cut into beautiful bite-sized portions that are the ideal sweet respite from everyday life! You can easily find rugelach at cafes and bakeries throughout Israel.
Halvah (Sesame Confection)
Halvah is a wonderful sweet that is beloved throughout the Middle East. It is made from sweetened sesame paste and flour which gives this Israeli food a dense texture that is similar to fudge.
One of the most special things is that there are many delectable variations of this sweet. You will even find fancy versions with nuts, dried fruits, and coffee. However, we definitely recommend trying the original plain version so you will know the base flavor that is truly no less addictive.
Discovering Traditional Israeli Food In Israel
Israel is a remarkable place that everyone should be lucky enough to see before they die. Its culture of cuisine illustrates how when humans come together to create and sustain each other divine things happen.
From delectable street food to amazing home-cooked meals, the food in Israel is one of a kind and a delicious glimpse into a multifaceted and spectacular country! In addition to the dramatic history, it’s one of the most exciting facts about discovering Israel.