Top 5 foods you have to taste in Israel

Oh yes, Israel is one heck of a place to come if you’re into eating good food! There is just such a variety of amazingly delicious foods available in Israel (largely due to the huge melting pot of culture and immigrants from, yes, 120 different countries!), you’ll be spoilt for choice. So put that drooling tongue away and wash those hands – there’s no need for knives and forks with this little lot! 

We’ve come up with a list of the five best Israeli foods you have to taste, and which we are almost certain will leave you salivating for more. If you’re feeling peckish, look away now!

1. Falafel

The king of Israeli food, no question, though actually originally from Egypt. A delicious mix of chickpeas and/or fava beans, plus spices liberally applied according to each falafel stand owner’s secret recipe, these little falafel balls are then thrust into a pita, nestling alongside freshly cut salads, hummus, tehina sauce, pickled vegetables and maybe some chips.

You can find falafel on almost every street corner, especially in the larger towns. Prices are very cheap, often as low as 10-15 shekels per portion – and then there’s the unspoken rule of free salad refills (you’ll have to pay for more falafel balls), as long as you have any semblance of a pita left to hold it in! A cheap, very satisfying meal.

2. Hummus

The prince charming of Israeli food, hummus (or humus, hummous, etc), hummus is actually originally Lebanese. Hummus is a kind of dip or spread made from crushed chickpeas and mixed with tehina sauce, lemon, olive oil, salt and garlic.

It can be served in many ways, including as a main dish accompanied by ful (fava beans) and hard boiled egg, as well as a side dish at a big meal. Hummus has also become big business in Israel, where in addition to the many cafes and restaurants that serve it, you can also find an amazing variety of hummus in tubs in every supermarket.

Hummus is also known for its high nutritional value. And it’s also very accepted if you wipe clean your hummus plate with a chunk of pita bread, in fact it takes some style in doing so (just watch those around you).

And no, hummus has absolutely nothing to do with Hamas, but might well play havoc with your intestinal gasses (read: fart city). Check out our beginners guide to hummus for the full picture!

3. Shwarma

You can often find shwarma in exactly the same place as falafel, and if not, it’ll usually be very close by. Another street food extremely popular in Israel, shwarma is typically slices of turkey, chicken or lamb, which are usually shaved off a huge slab of meat rotating (vertically) on a big spit. Similar in style to the Turkish doner kebab.

Eaten in much the same way as falafel, stuffed into a pita with salad, hummus, tehina sauce, pickles and chips, or for the big boys, a lafa, which is an Iraqi-style pita, rolled up around the slices of meat and salad. Costs much the same as a falafel portion, though if you go for the lafa you could be paying around 30 shekels. Personally, I find shwarma a much more satisfying meal than either hummus or falafel.

4. Jachnun

The king of weekend eating, Jachnun is a traditional Yemenite dish usually only served on a Saturday morning (though is available in many hotels and restaurants throughout the week). Jachnun is made of rolled dough made with plenty of unhealthy margerine, which is then cooked overnight for around 10-12 hours.

The best way to eat Jachnun is with grated tomato, spiced up a little with some Yemenite schug (be careful, it can rip your tongue off!), along with a hard-boiled egg, preferably one also cooked in the same overnight pot. Read here for more jachnun delights, including the best places to eat it.

5. Shakshooka

Another fantastic Israeli food that also has its roots in the Arabic world. This concoction of tomatoes, onions, plenty of garlic, as well as some crucial spices such as sweet paprika, is usually a fairly liquidy mess that is then topped off with a poached egg in the same frying pan.

If you order shakshooka anywhere, such as at the great Dr Shakshooka in Yafo, don’t be alarmed to see the frying pan placed in front of you, still piping hot. Usually a cheap and satisfying meal, as long as you get enough bread to soak up all those frying pan juices.

19 Comments

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  7. Shem Tov Sasson

    August 9, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Great foods! However, you forgot to mention that falafel is deep-fried before being stuffed into a pita. Also, have you ever seen lamb schwarma? I’ve been here 3 years now and have yet to see it…

    • Ashley

      August 9, 2012 at 11:16 am

      The bigger joints sometimes have lamb available, most places seem to go with turkey/chicken.

  8. Jawaher

    July 13, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    To the editor,
    All of these foods are a great must-trys! However, being an arab, all of thee foods are originally Lebanese or middle eastern.
    I hope people don’t mistake this being “Israeli food”.

    Cheers

    • Ashley

      July 13, 2013 at 2:32 pm

      Hi Jawaher,
      Don’t think I was trying to suggest they were “Israeli origin”, this article simply refers to five foods that you can find almost everywhere in Israel…and that are tastttty!

  9. layla

    October 10, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    they shouldnt say its a must try in israel, as the true foods can be found anyplace in middleeast lol give 5 israeli dishes.. would be nice to see if theyre as good.

    • Stuart

      January 31, 2014 at 11:22 am

      I think the idea is to give 120 countries the credit for their influence in the food eaten, particularly in Jerusalem,Israel. I do not believe anyone would refer to the food being explicitly Jewish but particularly very popular dishes found in one small place named Israel. I live in South Africa and have found places that sell falafel, schwarma’s and even shakshuka. Blessings.

  10. Cindyzee

    February 4, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    Burekas…. Cheese filled in a lovely flakey dough. Shakshuka has to be served with Malawah bread! The best pita is made in Yaffo!

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  12. Dullkm

    June 8, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    u have to read about Palestinian cuisine before assign these foods to Israel and other Arabic countries!! cuz all of these are Palestinian foods,, YOU KNOW THE FACT BUT YOU CAN’T SAY PALESTINE.

    • Umyisraelchai

      June 17, 2014 at 7:11 pm

      Food from Palestine = make believe food for a make believe country.

      The food is middle eastern but trust the Palestinian to lay claim to something which is not his.

      • sarah janmick

        July 22, 2014 at 3:29 pm

        If anything the only make believe people are those who label themselves as Israeli. ‘Israeli’ is an artificial ethnicity and ‘Israel’ is a made up country. There is no genuine culture for Israelis, for the exception of the culture emulated from the Palestinian Arabs. The phrase ‘go back to YOUR country’ applies to every Jew in the state of Israel except for those of Palestinian descent.

  13. Mel Cownzowfsky

    June 30, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    In my opinion, other than the turkey Shwarma (which IS good,if not especially healthy) none of the remaining top 4 items listed here are in any wise worth eating unless one has no other choices. Hummus is not especially healthy (if fairly tasty) but it causes severe gas problems for me. I’ll stick to more classical Asian styled foods.

  14. jackie

    July 5, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    Love the food in Israel, lived there many years.

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