What to Eat in Israel 10 Israeli Foods You Must Try

Revised and Updated - May 2024

  • Israel’s diverse cultural heritage and vibrant culinary scene make it a paradise for food lovers. The fusion of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and various international influences results in a unique and exciting gastronomic landscape. Whether you’re strolling through bustling markets or dining in upscale restaurants, the country offers a rich tapestry of flavors that tell stories of tradition and innovation. Each dish reflects a part of Israel’s history and cultural mosaic, providing a culinary adventure that delights the senses. Here are ten essential foods to try when visiting Israel, each with its unique history and taste.

1. Shawarma

  • Shawarma is a popular Middle Eastern street food made from thinly sliced cuts of meat, typically lamb, chicken, or turkey, cooked on a vertical rotisserie. The meat is marinated in a mixture of spices, then slowly roasted, resulting in tender, flavorful slices. It’s served in pita or laffa bread with various toppings like hummus, tahini, pickles, and fresh vegetables, creating a delicious and portable meal.

  • Tip: Add a splash of spicy zhug or creamy garlic sauce for an extra kick of flavor.

shawarma_stall

2. Falafel

  • Falafel, deep-fried balls of ground chickpeas or fava beans, is a staple of Israeli street food. These crispy delights are often seasoned with herbs and spices, providing a burst of flavor in every bite. Served in pita bread with fresh vegetables, pickles, and tahini sauce, it’s a delicious and satisfying meal.

  • Tip: Look for falafel stands with a steady stream of locals – this usually indicates fresh and tasty fare.

falafel balls in a bowl

3. Jerusalem Mixed Grill (Meorav Yerushalmi)

  • This hearty dish consists of a mix of chicken hearts, livers, and spleens, seasoned with a blend of spices and grilled together. The result is a flavorful and protein-packed meal that reflects Jerusalem’s diverse culinary influences. It’s typically served in a pita or on a plate with fresh vegetables, making it a filling and nutritious option.

  • Tip: For a more adventurous palate, try it with a side of traditional Israeli salad and a dollop of hummus.

meorav yerushalmi jerusalem mixed grill on a plate

4. Hummus

  • This creamy spread made from blended chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic is a cornerstone of Israeli cuisine. Hummus is traditionally served in a large bowl, drizzled with olive oil, and accompanied by warm pita bread. Often garnished with paprika, parsley, and whole chickpeas, it can also be enjoyed as a dip or a base for other dishes.

  • Tip: Try hummus in different variations, such as with whole chickpeas (masabacha) or topped with spiced ground meat.
hummus

5. Shakshuka

  • Shakshuka consists of poached eggs in a spicy tomato and bell pepper sauce, often seasoned with cumin and paprika. This dish is hearty and flavorful, perfect for breakfast but delicious any time of day. The combination of the runny eggs and the rich, tangy sauce is incredibly comforting and satisfying.

  • Tip: Enjoy shakshuka with fresh bread to soak up the flavorful sauce. Some places offer variations with added ingredients like feta cheese or eggplant.

shakshuka

6. Sabich

  • Sabich is a pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hard-boiled eggs, hummus, tahini, and a variety of fresh vegetables and pickles. Originally an Iraqi-Jewish dish, it has become a beloved street food in Israel. The combination of textures and flavors, from the creamy hummus to the crispy eggplant and tangy pickles, makes for a unique and delicious sandwich.

  • Tip: Don’t forget to ask for amba, a tangy mango pickle sauce, which adds a unique flavor to the sabich.

a close up of food

7. Bourekas

  • These flaky pastries, filled with cheese, potatoes, spinach, or mushrooms, are perfect for a quick snack or light meal. Bourekas are often sprinkled with sesame seeds and served hot. The crisp, golden pastry combined with the savory fillings makes them a beloved treat across Israel.

  • Tip: Try different fillings to find your favorite, and pair a boureka with a hard-boiled egg and pickles for a traditional Israeli breakfast.

bourekas

8. Jachnun

  • A Yemenite Jewish delicacy, jachnun is a rolled dough that is slow-cooked overnight. The slow cooking process caramelizes the dough, giving it a sweet, rich flavor and a chewy texture. It’s typically served with a hard-boiled egg, grated tomato sauce, and zhug, a spicy green chili sauce.

  • Tip: Enjoy jachnun for a traditional Israeli breakfast, especially on Shabbat mornings when it’s commonly prepared.

jachnun

9. Malabi

  • Malabi is a silky, milk-based pudding flavored with rose water and topped with various toppings like crushed pistachios, shredded coconut, and sweet syrup. This dessert is both refreshing and indulgent, offering a delicate balance of sweetness and floral notes. It’s a popular treat, especially during the warm summer months.

  • Tip: For a refreshing treat, try malabi with a touch of orange blossom water and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

malabi

10. Kanafeh

  • This Middle Eastern dessert features layers of shredded phyllo dough filled with cheese and soaked in sweet syrup. The contrast between the crispy pastry and the gooey, sweet cheese filling is irresistible. Kanafeh is often garnished with crushed pistachios and a hint of rose or orange blossom water, adding a fragrant touch to the dessert.

  • Tip: Enjoy kanafeh warm to fully appreciate the gooey cheese and crispy pastry textures.

kanafeh

Conclusion

  • Israeli cuisine reflects the country’s rich cultural tapestry and offers a plethora of flavors and textures. From savory street foods to decadent desserts, these ten dishes provide a delicious introduction to the culinary wonders of Israel. Whether you’re a foodie on a gastronomic adventure or just looking to try something new, these must-eat foods are sure to leave a lasting impression.

moshe barak

About The Author

Moshe Barak is a highly knowledgeable and reputable private taxi service operator in Israel, renowned for his professional approach, friendly attitude, and attention to details.
With over 20 years of experience and a long list of satisfied customers he is the trusted choice by many international travelers seeking reliable transportation with a personal touch during their trip to Israel.

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