Best Arabic Food Recipes From Across the Middle East
One of my favorite things about Middle Eastern culture is the food. Every bite is perfectly spiced and has a distinct flavor profile. What I love even more is the fact that there is so much diversity in the cuisine: Each country has its own signature dishes, or its own special twist on even the most common Arab meals.
With that being said, I’d like to share some recipes that family and friends have given me from across the Arab world. They’re all extremely delicious in their own way, and I hope you’re able to give at least one of them a try!
Savory Arabic Dishes:
The first recipe I’d like to share with you is actually one of my favorites. One day, I was invited to Iftar for the month of Ramadan at my friend’s house, and as soon as I stepped inside, I knew I was bound to end up in a food coma by the end of the night.
My intuition was right. My friend and her mother have this amazing palate, and everything that they had cooked was simply made to perfection. But, in my opinion, the star of the show was the fatteh that they made (and I couldn’t get enough).
1. Fatteh Eggplant (Palestinian/Jordanian Cuisine)
Fatteh literally means “crumble” in arabic. It has many different variations made with various ingredients. This specific recipe is an eggplant based dish, and is commonly made in the Levant. Some other familiar names of this dish are fattet makdous, fatteh betanjan (meaning eggplant), etc.. This dish is made of many different layers, and most can be prepared ahead of time. The yogurt layer can be placed back in the fridge; the garnishes can be put away to the side; but the eggplant in tomato sauce and ground beef are best served hot.
Eggplant in tomato sauce
2 large eggplants
Canola oil for frying
1 8 oz tomato sauce
2 garlic cloves (chopped or paste)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 packet Maggie powder (chicken bouillon) (optional)
1 tsp powdered garlic powder
1/2 cup tahini (sesame) paste
2 cups of plain yogurt
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper
Ground beef topping (optional)(but extremely delicious, so I would recommend trying it)
1/2 pound ground beef
1 chopped small onion
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
2 pita bread
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cups slivered almonds
1/4 chopped parsley
Eggplant in tomato sauce:
Cube the eggplant with the skin on.
Heat canola oil in a shallow pan on high heat. Fry the eggplant and let it cool in a strainer.
In a pot add the tomato sauce, garlic paste, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, Maggie powder, garlic powder, and the eggplant. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Keep warm until layering.
Place in a blender the plain yogurt, tahini paste, garlic cloves, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Blend on high until combined.
Place in the fridge until ready for layering.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add cooking oil and the chopped onions. Cook until translucent and add the ground beef. Break the beef up with a wooden spoon while cooking. Add all the seasonings and cook the ground beef fully, until browned and no longer pink.
Keep warm until layering.
Cut up pita bread into small squares and fry, bake, or air fry them to your liking until crispy. Allow to cool.
Toast pine nuts and almonds. (Tip: pine nuts take less time than the almonds)
Put garnishes off to the side until layering.
In a dish, layer the ingredients as listed:
1. Eggplant in tomato sauce
2. Pita chips
3. Yogurt sauce
4. Ground beef
5. Garnish with the fried nuts and parsley
2. Kibbeh Silac (Syrian cuisine)
This dish is also known as Kibbeh with chard. Kibbeh is frequently eaten in the Levant and is a national dish in Syria and Lebanon. It is typically made by pounding bulgur wheat and meat until it turns into a paste, and then forming it into balls. These balls are filled with pine nuts, walnuts, meat, and spices. After the dough forms around the filling, the balls are either fried or baked. There are many variations to the dish, and this recipe is an example of one. It is a vegetarian form of Kibbeh, with chard as a filling and a red pepper paste on top
3 cups fine Bulgur
1.5 cups of flour
Pinch of salt
Around 2 kg swiss chard
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cumin
Pinch of sumac
Red pepper paste
Head of garlic
Spicy red pepper paste
Take your fine bulgur and soak it in water for a few hours.
Remove it from the water and place it into a mixer with 1.5 cups of flour and a pinch of salt. Allow dough to form in the mixture. If dough does not form after a while, remove from the mixture and knead dough. You can add flour as needed.
Take your swiss chard and cut it with salt to extract water from it.
Saute your onion and add the cut chard (with water removed).
Add a pinch of salt, sumac, cumin, and red pepper paste to the onion and chard.
Make balls with the dough you made initially, and fill them with the onion-chard filling. Form the dough around the filling.
Boil the balls in water for 15 minutes, and strain.
Finely crush the garlic and mix olive oil, lemon juice, and hot red pepper paste together until it forms a sauce.
Dip the formed kibbeh into the sauce, and they’re ready to eat!
3. Falafel (Syrian cuisine)
Falafel is another dish that has different versions. It is a common Arabic street food. There are two main types of falafel: one from the Levant made from chickpeas, and the other from Egypt made from fava beans. In Egypt, it’s called ta’ameya. Although falafel and ta’ameya are both delicious, they vary in density, texture, and flavor. The recipe I share with you today is a traditional “syrian” falafel.
2 cups of dry Chickpeas
3 cups Fava beans
2 tsp Coriander
Salt to taste
2 tsp baking soda
Oil to fry
Head of garlic
Soak the chickpeas in water for 6 hours
Soak the fava in water for 6 hours and peel them.
Place the garlic and onion in a mixer/food processor and mix.
Place the soaked chickpeas fava beans in with the garlic and onion and process them together until they become a smooth paste. Add the coriander and salt and process until fully combined.
Chill the falafel mixture to allow for better shaping/molding.
Stir in your baking soda thoroughly (approx. 30 minutes before you want to fry them).
Shape your falafel, either with a falafel mold or with a spoon and make small oval shaped balls.
Let the falafel rest for 15 minutes before deep frying.
Allow falafel to fry until golden brown and crunchy (around 3-5 minutes). Do not overcrowd the falafel in the oil, cook in batched
Middle Eastern Desserts:
1. Maamoul (Cuisine from all over the Arab world)
Maamoul is a common arab dessert made during holidays like Eid or Easter. It is a “cookie” filled with pistachio, walnuts, dates, etc. There are many different combinations of fillings for Mamool.
2 cups fine semolina
Pinch of baking powder
2 Tbsp milk powder
Half a cup of ghee or butter, melted
Two tbsp sugar
Half a can of cream (“ashta”)
For this recipe, all you have to do is place all the ingredients together and mix/knead well!
Now, you have the maamoul dough. You can make/choose whatever fillings you desire. You form the dough into balls, and place the filling in the center. Then, you form the dough around the filling. After, you can bake the maamoul and sprinkle with powdered sugar!
2. Kaak (Cuisine from all over the Arab world)
Kaak is another arab dessert, similar to a cookie. It is also served during holidays.
2.5 kg flour
1 tbsp yeast
2 tbsp mahlab (also known as wild cherry pit, found in arab stores)
2 tbsp anise seed
1 kg butter
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp black seeds
1 tbsp sesame
3 cups of sugar
Take 3 cups of sugar, and dissolve them in ½ a cup of hot water
Let the water cool until warm, and mix in the yeast. Let sit for a few minutes until frothy.
Mix flour, mahlab, anise, melted butter, oil, black seeds, and sesame until a dough forms.
After mixing, add ¼ a cup of water to the dough and mix until combined.
Cut the dough into whatever shapes you desire, at about ½ inch thick
Bake and enjoy!
3. Helbeh, also known as fenugreek cake (Jordanian cuisine)
2 cups semolina
½ cup flour
½ cup olive oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp yeast
¼ tsp salt
¼ helbeh (fenugreek seeds)
Roasted sesame seeds and/or walnuts/almonds (optional)
3 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 tsp lemon juice
Boil helbeh/fenugreek seeds in 2.5 cups of water, until there is around 1.25 cups of water left in the pot.
Save the remaining water, and drain the fenugreek seeds.
Mix all the ingredients for the cake together with 2 cups of water total (including the fenugreek water).
Place the mixture in a baking dish, and garnish with almonds.
Let rest for 2 hours.
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden.
Mix together the sugar, water, and lemon juice and let boil into a syrup.
Let the syrup cool.
While the cake is still hot, pour cold syrup over the cake.
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