Whether looking to taste something new, or stock up on your favorite seasoning, here are some of the best spices to buy in Israel. Known as the land of milk and honey, Israel is also popular for its unique offering of spices and herbs. Often included in Mediterranean styles of cooking, spices are a vital part of cooking and eating in Israel. Given the geographical location, certain herbs grow in the region, while other spices are brought in from North Africa, Europe, and surrounding countries. From the Shuk Levinsky Spice Market to Shuk Hacarmel in Tel Aviv to Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem, spices in Israel are often piled high, showcasing towering displays of color and smell, a party for the senses!
Za’atar does not refer to one specific herb, rather a mixture of several herbs that are used together and popular in Israeli food. Za’atar is often used in baked goods and bread, but also in salads, and often used on top of hummus or tahini. While the herb mixture can vary, it most often contains a blend of hyssop, sumac, sesame seeds, and salt, although it may sometimes include basil, oregano or thyme. Za’atar can be purchased in outdoor markets or in supermarkets but is best eaten when it is fresh and the smell is hard to miss. It is also best to taste Za’atar, often eaten together with a “Jerusalem bagel” or sprinkled over fresh bread, pita or laffa out of a taboon or added to olive oil and eaten with goat cheese. Without a doubt, when purchasing herbs, Za’atar is one of the best spices to buy in Israel and part of many must-eat foods in the Carmel Market.
The purple-reddish powder that has an herbal yet lemony taste is popular in Mediterranean cooking and Israeli dishes. Often used to spice meat, fish, chicken, and salads, sumac is native to the Middle East and easy to incorporate. Sumac comes from a sumac bush which grows red berries, which are then dried and ground into powder, and part of where the vibrant color comes from. The tart, lemony flavor is slightly milder than lemon juice but adds brightness and tang to dishes. When looking for an item to pack up in your suitcase, Sumac is one of the best spices to buy in Israel and a perfect gift idea, either to give away or keep for yourself.
Carob trees are indigenous to Israel and grow along the Mediterranean Sea. From the trees, a carob pod grows which can be dried, roasted and ground into a fine pulp. This pulp is known as carob powder which can be used in place of cocoa powder or used to make hot chocolate. Carob powder is often used by vegans or those who cannot digest lactose as it still gives a chocolatey taste.
Hawaij is a Yemeni spice mixture that is predominantly used in soups and Yemeni coffee. For those who enjoy drinking “golden milk”, the latest trend or chai lattes purchasing Hawaij will make this even tastier and is definitely one of the best spices to buy in Israel. Be careful, as there are two kinds of common blends, one which is savory for soups, stews, rice and curry type dishes and the other which is used for coffee. Hawaij often includes cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and clove, as well as black pepper, fennel, anise along with many other variations. Some recommend using Hawaij to spice meat or as a BBQ rub, this is a very versatile and flavorful spice.
Baharat refers to a mixture of Middle Eastern spices, which are also often used in Greek cooking. The blend of spices often combines any mixture of black peppercorns, cardamom, cloves, cumin, allspice, turmeric, saffron, ginger, paprika, chili, and coriander. Often used to spice meat such as lamb or beef, Baharat is also used in soups, stews and as a condiment.
One of the best spices to buy in Israel, Baharat is commonly used in Israeli cuisine and is a great seasoning to bring home to recreate the flavors of Israel.
Dead Sea Salt
Although it is salt, Dead Sea Salt is not ideal for eating, in fact, it is much better for the skin. There are many more essential minerals in Dead Sea salt including Magnesium, Bromide, Iodine, Potassium, Sulfur, Calcium, Sodium and Zinc. Dead Sea salt can be used as a scrub for the skin or added to a bath, ideal for soothing skin and sore muscles. While in Israel, it is also a must to float in the famous Dead Sea. Check out our daily tours which visit the Dead Sea.
Want to sample some market treats and buy some of the best spices? Join our Tel Aviv Food Tour of the Carmel Market or our Tel Aviv Urban Tour – Architecture, Food and Street Art both which visit the Carmel Market. Check out other Israeli souvenirs worth bringing home.