Bourekas are a popular pastry that can be found in bakeries and markets across Israel. Bourkas are made with puff pastry, and are filled with savory ingredients, such as cheese, spinach, or meats. Bourekas are an excellent snack, and they’re common across the Mediterranean. Different types of bourekas can be found in Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans.
Another staple food here in Israel, falafel is made of a mixture of ground chickpeas and spices, which are then formed into balls that are then deep-fried. This Middle Eastern street food is common across the region, but it’s actually considered the “National Dish” of Israel. This tasty dish is best served in a warm pita bread, where you can fill it with toppings of your choosing (such as pickles, tahini, spicy dips, and even french fries). Falafel is an excellent food to eat while exploring places on our list of the top 20 things to do in Israel.
Unlike the hummus you might be used to at home, hummus here in Israel is rarely bought in a grocery store. This delicious chickpea-based food has been around the Middle East for centuries, and today, there is an entire culture around eating hummus in Israel. That’s because it’s an entire dish in itself. When you sit to eat at a hummus restaurant, you’ll be served a plate of fresh, warm hummus with fluffy pita. Our tip? Enjoy your hummus at one of Israel’s outdoor markets (like Shuk Levinski in Tel Aviv, or Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem), and pair it with a local Israeli beer. Plus, if you’ve ever wanted to make your own hummus, don’t forget to check out Abraham’s Hummus Workshop.
No trip to Israel would be complete without trying authentic Israeli pita bread. While forms of this bread can be found across the world, pita bread originated in the Middle East. Here in Israel it is pillowly, fresh, and typically served warm. It can be opened in the center, and it is typically the base for falafel, shawarma, and sabich sandwiches.
Shawarma is a popular street food here in Israel that originated in the Ottoman Empire. When you go to buy shawarma, you’ll notice first that it’s a pretty impressive sight: this dish consists of thin slices of meat that are stacked high on a rotating metal spit. Shawarma is usually made with lamb, but you can also find it made from chicken. When you order it, thin slices of the meat will be cut off, and you can eat it in a pita or on a plate.
Shakshuka is a dish typically eaten for breakfast, and it features eggs as the main ingredient. This dish can be found all over North Africa and the Middle East, and it’s made by first preparing a flavorful tomato sauce. Then, eggs are cracked right into the pan, which is then covered to let the eggs cook. You’re left with a flavorful simmering dish that might be topped with some local zatar. This dish is best eaten with fresh bread, which you can use to mop up all of that tasty sauce.
Kanafeh is a sweet Middle Eastern dessert that’s made with a crunchy spun pastry and warm melty cheese. It’s a fragrant dish, and might be a bright orange, due to the rose water that it’s typically topped with. Kanafeh is served by the slice, and it arrives piping hot, usually with some pistachios on top. It’s a crunch, cheesy, and sweet dish.
While falafel might technically be the “National Food” of Israel, tahini is definitely a close second. This simple paste resembles peanut butter, except it’s made entirely out of ground sesame seeds. You can find tahini served with just about every meal here in Israel, from breakfast to dessert (tahini-flavored ice cream is a thing). When you buy it in the grocery store, tahini comes as a thick paste, which then is typically prepared at home with hot water, lemon and salt.
Sabich is a delicious sandwich, originally brought to Israel by Iraqi-Jews. This dish includes crisp fried eggplant, hard-boiled egg, pickles, and Israeli salad. An excellent option for vegetarians, sabich is another street food that you can find in markets and restaurants around the country.
True to its name, Israeli salad is a staple dish here in Israel, and you can find it at most meals, even breakfast. It’s simple and fresh, and consists of cucumbers and tomatoes, finely diced and served with parsley, olive oil, and lemon. Israeli salad is excellent to enjoy on the hot summer days here in Israel, and is commonly served as a side dish when eating out at restaurants.
A staple of Jewish food, challah bread originated in Eastern Europe, and is symbolic in modern Jewish traditions. For example, challah bread is typically eaten during Friday night Shabbat dinners, and is also eaten on Jewish holidays. This rich bread gets its unique texture from egg yolks, and it’s moist and flavorful. Challah is usually braided into long ropes, and might have a glazed surface.
Couscous is an interesting type of grain, because it resembles something between rice, quinoa, and pasta (it’s technically considered a pasta). It’s made of tiny little balls of semolina flour, which are then steamed. This dish might be served as a side dish at your next Shabbat dinner with some colorful vegetables.
Where to Eat Israeli Food
Hungry yet? If you’re wondering where to eat Israeli cuisine, there are plenty of places you can visit in order to try these amazing foods. In Jerusalem, be sure to visit the Machane Yehuda market, the most famous market in Israel that is full of restaurants and street food vendors. In Tel Aviv, you can visit Shuk Levinski, Shuk haCarmel, and Sarona Market, all of which have tons of places to eat. In Eilat, you can find many of these dishes along the main promenade, where there are tons of restaurants to choose from. And in Nazareth, the Old City is home to authentic and delicious places to eat. Plus, we offer a traditional cooking workshop in Nazareth.
Don’t forget, while you’re visiting these places and eating your way through Israel, we have your accommodations all figured out. We have locations in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Eilat, and Nazareth, that are waiting to welcome you on your next trip to Israel.