Saudi Arabian cuisine is filled with delicious dishes that reflect the rich history and culture of the country. If you’re a true foodie traveler, you’re in for a treat with the wide range of traditional Saudi Arabia food.
In much of the Middle East, meals are a time for families and friends to come together, share stories and enjoy tasty dishes. So, food serves as the perfect way to interact with the locals, as Saudi people are all about having you in for a meal.
If you’re curious about Saudi Arabian food, get ready to dive in and discover some diverse and delicious fare.
What’s Special About Saudi Arabia Food?
The traditional food of Saudi Arabia features a blend of flavors and ingredients that have been passed down through generations. Like other Middle Eastern cuisines, Saudi Arabian food uses spices like saffron, cardamom and cumin to give the dishes their distinct taste.
Another special feature you are sure to notice when visiting is the emphasis on hospitality. Saudis are known for being warm and welcoming, and sharing meals with family and guests is a cherished tradition. Many dishes are meant to be enjoyed communally, fostering a sense of togetherness.
Of course, Saudi cuisine also makes good use of local ingredients such as dates, camel meat and various types of grains. This not only connects people to their land but also ensures that the food is well-suited to the harsh desert environment.
The country’s modern chefs have developed and perfected many unique methods of cooking from the old days. Traditional Saudi dishes are often slow-cooked in sunken ovens called “tandoors” or prepared using techniques like grilling and barbecuing. These preparation methods enhance the flavors and textures of the food.
Most Famous Food In Saudi Arabia
Kabsa (Spiced Rice And Meat Dish)
Kabsa, which consists of rice and meat, is the national food of Saudi Arabia. It is filled with Arabic spices like cinnamon and cardamom. The tender, succulent, juicy meat along with perfectly cooked basmati rice creates a delightful balance of flavor and texture.
The dish is further garnished with ingredients such as fresh herbs, toasted almonds and raisins. This gives kabsa a fresh, yet sweet and nutty taste. It is an absolute masterpiece among Saudi Arabia food, so don’t forget to try it on your visit.
Breakfast Items In Saudi Arabia Food
Shakshuka (Poached Eggs In Tomato Sauce)
If you like your eggs soft and drenched in tomato sauce during breakfast time, then shakshuka has got you covered. Along with a hot cup of Arabic coffee or tea, shakshuka is typically eaten with pita bread.
The chunky tomato sauce is cooked along with onions, garlic and green bell peppers. It is then seasoned with spices like cumin and paprika which give the dish a bit of a kick. Once the sauce is done, the egg is poached in it to soak up all the flavor and served with a garnish of fresh herbs. Break the runny eggs to make the sauce creamier and enjoy a warm and hearty Saudi Arabian breakfast.
Masoub (Banana Bread Pudding)
This is one of the well-known Saudi Arabia food that locals love having for breakfast. It consists of overripe bananas and bread, with cream or milk and your choice of toppings like dried fruits, nuts and honey.
Masoub is a good choice if you want something on the sweet side or if you need to gain energy to start your day. It can also be a luscious dessert when it comes with more cream and sweet toppings like dates and raisins.
Ful Medames (Fava Bean Stew)
Ful medames is a traditional food in Saudi Arabian that’s popular not only during breakfast but at other times of the day too. Fava beans are cooked and seasoned with spices like cumin and other herbs. The spices provide just enough kick to rouse you in the morning.
Lemon and olive oil are also added for some tang and to increase the creaminess of the dish. Saudis enjoy this breakfast item with warm bread like pita, slices of vegetables, or other dishes like falafel.
Jareesh (Crushed Wheat Porridge)
Wheat, being a staple grain, is a part of a lot of traditional Saudi Arabian foods. Jareesh, or harees, is made from wheat kernels, which are cracked to give a creamy texture. The wheat kernels are then slow-cooked with Middle Eastern spices.
The addition of toppings like tender meat lends intense flavors to this a classic Arabic dish. Jareesh is a food of Saudi Arabia that brings the whole family together at the breakfast table.
Infused with warm spices like cinnamon and cumin, this porridge is perfect for a cold day. It is warm, comforting and perfectly filling. Jareesh is also popular during Ramadan and other special events like weddings.
Regag (Crispy Pancakes)
Regag is a paper-thin, crispy golden pancake that crumbles at the slightest touch, showing the flavorful filling inside. It is one of the most versatile foods in Saudi Arabian cuisine, a creative cook’s dream.
Similar to crepes, the technique used to get that wafer-thin consistency requires effort and skill. Regag can be sweet or savory, depending on the fillings.You can add honey, creams or fruit compote for a sweet take, or meat, cooked veggies or kebabs for that savory kick.
Stuffed Pastries In Saudi Arabia Food
Samboosa (Fried Pastry With Various Fillings)
Samboosa is a crispy pastry that is enjoyed worldwide. Shaped like a triangle, this Saudi Arabia food comes with different fillings. Whether it is meat, vegetables or lentils, the stuffing is usually spicy and flavorful.
A single bite takes you on a journey, starting with the crunch of crispy and flaky pastry, followed by warm, aromatic fillings. You can grab a samboosa as a quick on-the-go snack to curb those mid-day cravings.
Qatayef (Stuffed Pancakes)
Qatayef is a Saudi Arabia food that doesn’t just taste exquisite, but looks cool too. It is a moon-shaped pancake stuffed with a variety of fillings. Popular with children, this semolina-based pastry is a perfect answer to sweet cravings.
Often, these pancakes are cooked on a griddle, giving them a lacey texture. Nuts, cream, sweet cheese and cinnamon are just a few ingredients that are used as stuffing for this delicious treat. The result is a perfectly crumbly crispy shell with a yummy, delectable filling.
Murtabak (Stuffed Flatbread)
The savory counterpart to stuffed pancakes, murtabak is also a popular Saudi Arabian food. A thin, stretchy dough creates crumbly layers of flatbread. Within the bread, minced meat, onions and herbs are the most common filling.
The result is a captivating fusion of textures and flavors. A single bite is made up of a flaky outer layer and a warm, spicy aromatic mixture that is both tasty and satisfying.
Fatayer (Hand Pie)
Among several options for on-the-go food in Saudi Arabia one must-try is fatayer. These charming, delicious miniature pies are cooked until crispy brown to give that perfect flaky crunch.
Imagine biting into one to get that crispy bite along with a savory blast of meat, spinach and aromatic spices. These little parcels encapsulate a lot of important flavors of Saudi Arabia, giving you a look into the country’s cuisine.
Meat-Based Dishes In Saudi Arabia Food
Mandi (Rice And Meat Dish)
Saudi Arabia is famous for its mandi, a biryani-like rice and meat dish that is now enjoyed globally. It is cooked in a tandoor, which is a special type of oven that looks like a cylindrical underground pit.
Mandi is served in a large circular tray and eaten family style. The mountain of aromatic rice is topped with succulent meat. It is usually served with several different sauces and chutneys to create flavor combos to suit everyone’s tastes.
Shawarma (Sliced Roasted Meat)
One of the most loved Saudi Arabian street foods, shawarma is a delicacy made popular in the Arabian peninsula. Many Middle Eastern countries have put their own spin on this dish based on their traditional spices and ingredients.
The marinated protein is placed on a vertical spit that continuously rotates slowly. As it’s cooked on a semi-exposed fire, the meat absorbs a smoky flavor as it retains its own juiciness. Different vegetables and condiments are often added to give it an extra boost.
It is typically wrapped in pita bread or served on top of it. You’ll find it sold as a popular street food in the country and other parts of the Middle East.
Kebabs (Grilled Skewered Meat)
A global culinary masterpiece, kebabs are celebrated worldwide, with each region putting its own twists on it. In Saudi Arabian food culture, the kebab is usually spiced with cumin, paprika and garlic.
The cooking method remains consistent, with the marinated meat threaded onto the skewers and cooked over an open flame. Every morsel is a bit of tender, juicy meat that’s packed full of flavor. It can be eaten alone or paired with naan or salads to enhance the overall experience.
Vegetarian Dishes In Saudi Arabia Food
Fattoush (Bread Salad)
No doubt Saudi Arabian cuisine highlights meat, but it also specializes in vegetarian dishes. One such popular food in Saudi Arabia is fattoush. This delightfully refreshing salad is perfect for Weight Watchers, vegans, clean eaters or simply those looking for a delicious side dish.
As it’s made with fresh vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes and romaine lettuce or purslane leaves tossed with parsley and mint, the flavor is light and fresh. However, the best parts of the salad are small toasted pieces of pita bread that give it that much-needed crunch.
Fattaoush is topped with sumac dressing, which gives it a zesty flavor. Each spoonful is filled with freshness and citrusy taste that is perfect for a warm day.
Tabbouleh (Herb And Bulgur Salad)
Another salad for all veggie lovers, tabbouleh is fresh and tangy. Parsley is the main ingredient, but tomatoes, onions and mint are typical add-ons.
What makes this salad unique is the bulgur wheat, which is soaked in lemon and olive oil. This adds a nutty flavor to the otherwise citrusy and herby salad. It is a perfect side dish or starter for most Saudi Arabian foods.
Mahshi (Stuffed Vegetables)
Mahshi is another one of the traditional foods in Saudi Arabia that features vegetables as the stars of the show.
Zucchinis, bell peppers and eggplants are commonly used to create this culinary delicacy. These vibrant veggies are stuffed with rice, spices, herbs and meat and cooked in tomato broth. This guarantees a flavor punch in each bite.
It’s a filling dish that can be shared as an appetizer or eaten as an entrée. The plating usually highlights the vibrancy of the veggies, making them all the more appetizing.
Bamia (Okra Stew)
Bamia is one of the many comforting Saudi Arabian foods. Slow-cooked in a typical Arabian broth to infuse as many flavors as possible, bamia stands out because of its main ingredient: okra.
The okra is cooked to tender perfection on the inside and crispy on the outside. Yummy, filling and satisfying to the soul, bamia is a must-try for anyone who loves vegetable soups or just okra in general. It can be served on its own or over rice.
Sauces And Dips In Saudi Arabia Food
Tahini (Sesame Paste)
One of the most popular foods in Saudi Arabia, tahini is a base ingredient for many Arabic and global dishes. It is made by grinding roasted sesame seeds for a creamy texture.
Tahini is versatile and is used in multiple different ways throughout the culinary world. You’ll find it as a dip, a base for hummus, a topping and a salad dressing. This delicious, nutty, creamy paste is a must-have in Saudi Arabian cuisine.
Zhug (Spicy Green Sauce)
Zhug is a spicy green sauce that is enjoyed with many of the traditional foods in Saudi Arabia. This herby, peppery, garlicky sauce compliments everything from rice to meat.
Each spoonful is a perfect balance of spice and zest. It is also called mabooj in other countries.
Hummus (Chickpea Dip)
Hummus is a traditional Saudi Arabian food. The classic recipe consists of boiled chickpeas, tahini, lemon and garlic. More modern recipes might include roasted peppers, sun-dried tomotoes and other ingredients.
It’s a common appetizer or accompaniment to breads and other dishes. Saudis enjoy pairing hummus with falafel, pita bread, or with vegetables like carrots and cucumbers.
Desserts In Saudi Arabia Food
Baklava (Sweet Pastry)
Baklava is a timeless Middle Eastern dessert that has become popular in the Saudi Arabian food scene. It is a perfectly golden and flaky pastry made with different fillings. The crunchy, crumbly texture on the outside compliments the creamy, gooey stuffing on the inside.
It is topped with nuts and a fragrant syrup or honey that gives baklava extra sweetness. This dessert is easily one of the most famous foods in Saudi Arabia.
Kunafa (Sweet Semolina Pastry)
Saudi Arabia is famous for one of its very well-known desserts, kunafa. This Saudi Arabian sweet treat has gained global popularity due to its unique texture and flavor. The outer crunchy layer of semolina dough is baked to a perfect golden brown.
Hidden inside is the gooey, sweet cheese with a hint of cardamom. This dessert is often enjoyed warm and topped with rose syrup. Crushed pistachios are a popular garnish for kunafa.
Basbousa (Semolina Cake)
Keeping in theme with the Saudi Arabia desserts drenched in aromatic syrup, basbousa does not disappoint. It’s a semolina cake topped with rose, orange or simple syrup. The texture is similar to a regular cake, only more tender and a little grainy.
The crunchy nuts on top are the perfect contrast to the moist cake. Basbousa is a traditional dessert that you can find in Arabic households on special occasions, whether it be welcoming guests or celebrating a religious festival.
Ma’amoul (Date-Filled Cookies)
Ma’amoul is a butter cookie filled with dates, one of the most important Arabian ingredients. This biscuit has the perfect balance of sweetness and saltiness for your tea time.
The crispy confection is a perfect snack option. It is best served fresh out of the oven when its filling is warm and gooey.
The addition of nutmeg and cinnamon gives an extra layer of flavor. You can find loads of cookies in Saudi Arabia, but ma’amoul is a must-try in the Saudi Arabian desserts selection.
Qamar Al-Deen (Apricot Pudding)
Qamar al-deen is a Saudi Arabian dessert with a creamy texture and floral fragrance. Traditionally, you can make the pudding as sweet as you like. But hints of sourness give it a refreshing kick.
It tastes perfect after you’ve had a heavy meal, as it cuts the richness with a tart punch. You’ll often find this apricot pudding during Ramadan. It is a symbol of festivals and sharing that holds immense importance in Saudi Arabian culture.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Discovering Traditional Food In Saudi Arabia
Traditional Saudi Arabian food is a tasty mix of ingredients like rice, lamb and spices. But the country’s sumptous fare aren’t just about eating. These dishes showcase the country’s cultural heritage and fun facts about Saudi Arabia.Staples like dates and camel milk have been cherished for generations, while spices such as cardamom and saffron add depth to their dishes. Saudi Arabian cuisine combines ancient traditions with modern influences, making Saudi Arabia food unique and delicious.