Wherever you go in Israel, you are sure to come across streets and markets filled with Israel’s best foods. In a region renowned for fantastic street food, local vendors and hole-in-the-wall eateries, you’ll be served up national favorites like hummus, falafel, shawarma, and shakshuka. Food is at the epicenter of Israeli identity and a force that unites so many nationalities. Finding something delicious for all tastes is easy, and whatever you order, you’ll be in for a taste sensation. Of course, it’s easier if you know what’s on the menu. Keep reading to find out what the best Israeli dishes are.
Hummus has been around for centuries, and the hummus trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. If anything, there seems to be a new “hummusia” opening weekly. If you aren’t on the hummus bandwagon, it’s time to get on it. Hummus is one of the most affordable dishes to try in Israel and one of Israel’s best foods. While in many countries it may be dip or condiment, in Israel it is a whole meal. It is served hot with whole chickpeas, a drizzle of olive oil, and a sprinkling of paprika. Scoop it out with some warm pita bread or eat it with a fork. Hey, we aren’t judging.
The word shawarma means ‘turning’ in Arabic and refers to the actual process through which the meat is cooked. You can’t miss the many shawarma stands which line practically every street in Israel. Cuts of meat or a mix of meats (lamb, turkey, beef, chicken) are stacked onto the shawarma roasting skewer and cooked low and slow. Servings are shaved off to order and served in a pita or a laffa (Levantine flatbread cooked in a tandoor, similar to Indian naan bread). While Shawarma is delicious throughout the land, one of our absolute favorite off-the-beaten-track shawarma spots is in Akko’s old town. You can try it yourself on this day tour to Akko and Israel’s coast.
Everybody has their favorite falafel which they claim to be the best in the country – we personally like traditional Falafel in Jerusalem. As with all the other dishes on this list, the true origin of falafel is controversial and unconfirmed. Falafel is made from ground chickpeas which are deep-fried into yummy crispy balls of heaven. A falafel sandwich stuffed with chopped salad, hummus, tahini, pickles, and amba sauce is sure to hold you over until tomorrow’s breakfast.
Shakshuka is a breakfast staple in Israel. The poached eggs are served in a pan of steaming hot, rich tomato, chili, and garlic sauce. You may have tried the dish before, but every country does it a little bit differently. In Israel, the dish is served with an Israeli salad, tahini, and a piece of bread for ultimate dipping purposes. You can taste this mouth-watering dish at any breakfast joint in the country. Saturday morning in Tel Aviv is the perfect time to go out for a late breakfast to try shakshuka.
Knafeh is a Middle Eastern dessert made with a soft cheese base topped with a thin noodle-like pastry that has been soaked in a sweet syrup and rose water. If that sounds like a mouth full, that’s because it literally is. Knafeh is made in large batches in shallow dishes, and the final product is often topped with chopped pistachios. The best Knafeh in Israel is, hands down, in Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market. Try out this local sweet delicacy on this Carmel Market food tour.
The bureka is not one to be missed. These mouth-watering baked pastries are stuffed with your filling of choice. Potatoes, mushrooms, and cheese are some of the most beloved fillings. Burekas can be found all across Israel at a very affordable price in coffee shops, bakeries, and marketplaces, like Carmel Market in Tel Aviv and Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem. They can be bought from any convenience store or bakery as a snack, while larger ones are often served with a hardboiled egg and crushed tomatoes as a meal. They should definitely go on your list of foods to try while visiting, especially if you are traveling on a budget!
One of the best ways to fully immerse yourself in local food culture is by joining a food tour. You will get to try many of Israel’s best foods and live like a local.