Taking advantage of the great fast food and street food in Israel is not only great for your wallet, but also a tasty and, in some cases, healthy way to eat whilst visiting Israel. As well as the traditional Western fast foods and fast food chains (McDonalds being the most prevalent of course), Israel’s traditional street foods haven’t faded away, and falafel, shawarma, schnitzel, and bourekas, four of the most common Israeli fast foods are still readily available across the country. Here we’ll introduce you to some of the most common elements of Israeli street and fast food. Meanwhile, if you are interested in a guided introduction to Israel’s food culture, check out our Israel food tours, for different ways to explore and taste the country for a couple of hours or even a couple of days – for example this Tel Aviv food tour exploring Carmel Market with a guide.
Falafel in Israel
Typical falafel stall in Israel – serving falafel, shawarma, schnitzel, and more by rbarenblat, on Flickr
Falafel is Israel’s top street food and in many ways, national dish. Found across the country, multiple times on many markets in Tel Aviv or markets in Jerusalem and in pretty well every shopping street falafel sellers, ranging from kiosks and stalls to proper restaurants (but usually smaller shops or kiosks) serve the Israeli public with their falafel fix. Falafel is a chickpea based fried delicacy which is typically served inside pitta bread with hummus and a range of salads (you get to choose). It is cheap, fast, and simple, whilst at the same time being incredibly tasty. The price varies dramatically, but tends to fall in the range of 6nis to 15nis depending on where you are.
Shawarma and Schnitzel in Israel
Schnitzel, served in pitta with salads by calebdzahnd, on Flickr
Two very different dishes with very different origins, shawarma and schnitzel are also very common street foods in Israel. Shwarama originates from Middle Eastern countries and is meat sliced off a spit where it has been grilling for up to a day. The meat varies but is commonly chicken, lamb, and turkey, and is served, like falafel, in pitta bread with salads. Schnitzel is a dish of European heritage which is thin meat, coated in breadcrumbs, and fried – most commonly this is chicken but sometimes is veal, and is also usually served in pitta bread with salad. Shawarma and schnitzel will be found alongside falafel in most kiosks across the country, however, you’ll also find schnitzel on the menu of many proper restaurants.
Bourekas and other pastries in Israel
Bourekas in the Carmel Market, Tel Aviv by Katherine Martinelli, on Flickr
Bourekas are pastries filled with a range of savory fillings – commonly potato, spinach, cheese, or mushroom which were brought to Israel from the kitchens of Jews in slavic lands – places like Bosnia, Serbia, and Slovenia. They are immensely popular and prepared in most bakeries and supermarkets. Alongside them, you might find a range of other savory pastries, some of which are Arabic in nature (there is such a diverse range of possibilities), and, of course, great sweet pastries which are usually cheap and very tasty!
Hummus in Israel
Hummus, as served in Israel, with Fuul (fava beans) by Katherine Martinelli, on Flickr
Hummus is a very important part of Israeli culture and cuisine and the ‘best hummus’ is a term that is thrown about all the time. Everybody has their favorite hummus restaurant which is also the ‘best hummus’ restaurant! There are a number, however, which are particularly well regarded across the country. To many, the idea of hummus being a meal or a dish in itself might be a little confusing, however, hummus restaurants in Israel will serve hummus in a dish, with a range of toppings, and pitta bread. It is a traditional food, affordable, and very tasty.
McDonald’s in Israel
McDonalds at Masada by Jack Zalium, on Flickr
McDonald’s in Israel is a strange fusion of the traditional McDonald’s burgers, chicken nuggets, and french fries, with local recipes such as McKebab and Chicken in traditional laffa bread. Some McDonald’s in Israel are even kosher to cater for the clientele of their locality, however most of the ingredients are sourced locally meaning that they are kosher, even if the actual restaurant serving it is not.
McDonald’s has a number of local rivals, the largest of which is called Burger Ranch. As well as the burger chains, other familiar western fast food restaurants will be found around Israel, including Pizza Hut, Dominos, and Sbarro.