Anyone coming to Israel has one question that’s at the top of their list: how’s the food? Let’s keep the answer simple: you’re going to eat very, very well in Israel. The food in Israel is made with the freshest domestic-grown ingredients and extra servings of love (and olive oil). Israelis are natural-born world travelers, which means they’ve tried and perfected almost every international cuisine. But when asked where the best food in the world can be found, most Israelis will point to the small hole-in-the-wall shawarma joint and say, “right there.” From street hummus and falafel to sit-down eateries by world-renowned chefs and everything in between, Israel has something delicious to taste for every palette. We’ve put together this guide of what to eat in Israel to truly feel like a local.
Bite into Israeli street food
One thing you’ll notice about Israel is that there is no lack of street food. Israel has many bustling cities, like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and it’s easy to catch the perfect midday snack. You can never go wrong with Israel’s national dish, hummus and falafel, and you will likely find a spot to grab a pita wherever you are. To find the best hummus in the area, ask any local and you will get a bunch of different answers. Yet almost every opinion is true, because Israel’s street hummus and falafel are just *that* good!
Some note-worthy must-try hummus spots are Humus Abu Hassan in Jaffa, for the creamiest hummus. ‘Shlomo & Doron’, for their mouthwatering hummus shakshuka, and ‘Hummus HaCarmel,’ nestled deep in Carmel Market. You can catch one or more of these delicious street food spots during this Carmel Market food tasting tour experience.
Sip the best coffee in Israel
Israel doesn’t have a Starbucks or a Dunkin but that doesn’t matter. Israel’s coffee scene is next level. You’ll see locals grabbing a cup or two at any time of day. If your usual coffee order is midday, pick me up, then you gotta try cafe shachor or Turkish coffee. Most Israelis will admit their love (and perhaps addiction) for cafe shachor began during army duty, but this coffee stays with them. It’s pungent and bitter, but each sip feels comfortingly home-cooked, even when bought at a gas station.
If you’re into artisanal coffee brews, Israel has also got you covered. Picturesque coffee shops with homey aesthetics fill every neighborhood of Tel Aviv. Mae Coffee Roasters is a top pick, with several locations throughout Tel Aviv, including one in Carmel Market. Pick up one of their in-house roasted beaned coffees for a truly delectable taste. Plus, Israel’s coffee shops always have the best side foods like pastries and mini sandwiches for a delicious snack. An easy way to catch a coffee break or two (or three) while on your next food-experience tour because there’s always time for coffee.
Dine in Israel’s top-rated restaurants
Israel’s food scene is a melting pot of perfectly seasoned cultures, and its line of upscale restaurants showcases it. There’s no need to look further than Tel Aviv or Jerusalem for Israel’s best fine dining. Starting with Machneyuda, located close to the iconic Machane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. All the ingredients for their distinct Mediterranean dishes come fresh from the market and are prepared in front of diners in an open kitchen design. In Tel Aviv, check out Ha’Achim restuarant. Their food focuses on Israeli dishes cooked on a top charcoal grill and served for the whole table to share. If you’re sitting down for dinner, you’ll likely catch a mesiba (Hebrew word for party) with their in-house DJ. For more best dining options in the big cities check out the best restaurants in Tel Aviv and the best restaurants in Jerusalem.
Suppose you are looking to branch out from the main cuisines. In that case, Israel hosts some of the best Ethiopian, Thai, Indian, and Arabic food. The Bedouins, a nomadic tribe in Israel’s desert, are known for their hospitality, which always includes a home-cooked meal. You can eat authentic Bedouin cuisine of excellent meat and rice dishes while sitting on traditional floor cushions and mats. It’s worth a venture to the desert just for the food alone. You can easily catch a guided tour of the desert, leaving from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Lastly, try a vegan food tour through Israel, even if you’re not vegan. Tel Aviv is the world’s vegan capital and the food doesn’t disappoint.
Bite into an Israeli winter snack
If you’re in Israel during the winter, then you’re in luck. Israel’s food cuisine is seasonal, and some delicious items are only available during the chilly season. Hanukkah, the festival of lights, is usually mid-December. Still, Hannukka’s prized sufganiyot, or Hebrew for filled doughnuts, begin adorning bakery shelves starting late October.
Forget what you know about donuts, cronuts, and more because sufganiyot have them all beat. The flavors melt into the fried, doughy delicacy, and there are many options to choose from. How do raspberry lemon, pistachio chocolate, mascarpone, feta chocolate, and vanilla cookie cream sound? If you are in Carmel Market, you must try a sfinge, a Moroccan doughnut. Sfenj is a simple fried doughnut dessert from Morocco that will melt your taste buds. You may miss the lone sfenj vendor amidst the bustling shuk, but a shuk tour experience will ensure you can’t!
Catch one of these hot summer Israeli treats
If you are in Israel during the summer, you are in luck too. Israel has got some hottest summer treats, starting with its ice cream stores. Golda takes the cake for the best ice cream sprinkled throughout Tel Aviv and surrounding cities. Their 36-flavored ice cream menu is a dream– flavors like salted caramel, white chocolate and pistachio, mascarpone ricotta and raspberry, watermelon and mint, and limoncello.
Tamara is another refreshing option for refreshing under the Middle Eastern sun. Nestled in the main intersections of Dizengoff street and Ben Gurion boulevard in Tel Aviv, Tamara has the best smoothies, shakes, acai bowls, and ice pops around. Their flavors are dictated by seasonal fruits, and summer has mango, passionfruit, pineapple, papaya, and date. The refreshment bar is only for takeout, but you can sit along the boulevard’s benches or on the grassy patches for a picnic. Catch these refreshing summer treats (available all year long) on a Saturday walking tour in Tel Aviv.
Now that you’ve got a glimpse of Israel’s buzzing food scene, are you ready to join locals and tourists and check out the best foods Israel offers? As we say here in Israel – Bete’avon (dig in)!
For all those TL/DR types, here’s what you need to know:
- Best market food experience: Check out the bustling markets Shuk HaCarmel, Shuk Levinsky and Shuk Machane Yehuda for hummus, falafel, sfinge, coffee and cultural cuisines
- Best dining experience: See our picks of the best restaurants in Tel Aviv and the best restaurants in Jerusalem, Machneyuda, and Ha’achim make the lists.
- Best authentic food experiences in Israel: Bedouin hospitality and dining, sufganiyot in winter, and creamy ice cream all year-long on a Tel Aviv walking tour
- Best vegan food experience in Israel: Tel Aviv is the world’s vegan capital, and a vegan food tour can’t be missed. The foods you taste will make you forget you’re eating vegan.