Speaking as a foodie, believe me when I say food in Israel is amazing. Even the fruit and veggies taste better!
Israel also has the best kosher food culture in the world – Jerusalem in particular.
The cafes are great, the street food is delicious, and the restaurants will are incredible.
While you can pizza, waffles, bagels, burgers and other foods you are probably used to eating back home, much of the food in Israel you may have never had before.
This guide is a complete list of must try foods during your visit.
Most of these foods can be found at the Mahane Yehuda Market but none of them will be hard to find no matter where you are.
Shawarma a popular street food in Israel. It is type of meat, usually turkey but often lamb (the original version), chicken, and even goat piled up on a rotisserie.
The meat is cut or shaved off into thin slices and put in bread. Either lafa or a pita. Then you pick from a large selection of options of what to add to it.
The the purist version of shawarma has hummus, chips (fries), Israeli salad, and maybe a little bit of techina (tehini).
However, at you will usually find a large selection of fresh, fried, and picked vegetables, as well as gamba (a savory mango sauce).
Falafel is another national popular street food in Israel. It is made from chickpeas and herbs shaped into a ball and deep fried. Needless to say it isn’t the healthiest meal but it is delicious.
You can either order a whole order which is falafel in a full pita or a half order which is half a pita. Like shawarma it is commenly eaten with hummus, chips (fries), and techina (tehini).
Also like shawarma you can add choose from a selection of fresh, fried, and pickled vegetables.
Hummus is made from ground chickpeas smoothed out with techina (tahini). It is often served with chickpeas or fried meat in the middle and paprika for garnish.
Hummus is such a popular food in Israel that there are hummus joints. In these restaurants you can order a plate of hummus You eat it by wiping it with ripped off pieces of pita bread.
P.S. it pains me to write hummus because that is not how it properly pronounced. Check out this post to learn how to say hummus like an Israeli.
An Israeli Breakfast isn’t so much a food but rather a traditional kibbutz breakfast. Today however, it is served at just about every cafe, restaurant, resort, kibbutz in the country.
Where at a kibbutz or a place that puts out breakfast it will be a buffet of veggies, cheeses, yogurts, and spreads. At a cafe or a restaurant it will be a one or two person meal option.
At a cafe it you will get a platter of vegitables, cheeses, dips, and spreads along with bread (usually multigrained whole wheat sourdough bread).
It also comes with eggs made to your liking, a hot drink and cold drink of your choice. Some cafes it also comes with yogurt topped with honey and muesli.
Pretty much any time I go out for breakfast this is what I get and as a foodie I’m in heaven.
You can find shakshuka offered on the menu of most cafes. It’s typically eaten for breakfast, brunch, or lunch in Israel but can be eaten any time of day or night.
It is is essentially sunny side up eggs poached in a tomato sauce. It is usually served with pita for dipping and scooping.
However, sometimes it is served with another kind of bread; multi-grained whole wheat sourdough bread is very popular in Israeli cafes nowadays – and for good reason.
Here is a recipe to make shakshuka at home before or after your trip.
Sabich is an Israeli street food based traditional Iraqi Jewish dish prepared for Shabbat. It consists of pita stuffed with fried eggplant, hard boiled eggs, Israeli salad, parsley, amba and tahini sauce.
Halva is dense sweet teat originating in the Middle East. Israeli halva is made from sesame using sesame butter or techina (tahini).
Today you can find all kinds of gourmet halvas including chocolate and coffee flavors.
In Israel rugelach tend to be tender and gooey. One bite into a chocolate rugelach will quite likely cause your eyes to roll into the back of your head. At least it does for me!
Borekas are stuffed pastries made with filo dough or puff pastry. Usually they will be filled with cheese or mashed potatoes. You can easily tell the difference between the two based on their shapes.
Potato borekas (which are dairy free) are square or rectangular shaped. Cheese is usually triangular shaped but I’ve also see in in a half moon shape.
The different cheese shapes usually are when there are different types of cheese filling.
Kubbeh originated with Iraqi and Kurdish Jewish but is now extremely popular in Israel.
Once almost exclusively made at home by members of the Iraqi and Kurdish Jewish community, today is and is commonly served in restaurants across the country and eaten by all.
Being part kurdish, I’ve had at least four different made by my great-aunt and all are wonderfully delicious.
Shoko be’sakit or chocolate milk in a bag is the taste of childhood for many Israelis.
Growing up, a chocolate milk in a bag and a lachmania (challah roll) are your breakfast on pretty much group any trip.
When I was in 3rd grade, the whole class of about 30 girls had a sleepover at our teaches house. In the morning, her husband came in from a trip to the mini market caring a bag of shoko be’sakit in one hand and a bag of lachmaniot in the other.
Sachlav (sahlav) winter favorite in Israel right along with hot chocolate. In fact, it has been popular in Israel dating back to when it was a part of the Ottoman Empire.
Essentially, it is hot flavored milk typically topped with peanuts or pestacios, coconut shavings, and cinnamon.
Originally it made a flour made from the tubers of a type of orchid called an Orchis. Today it is more commonly made with powder made to taste like it or with a little rose water.
Malabi is a milk pudding that’s origins dating to Neo-Persian Empire. It is topped with a rose water syrup. Then it is garnished with coconut shavings and often nuts as well.
Baklava is a rich, sweet dessert pastry made of layers of or wrapped in filo dough. It is filled with chopped nuts, usually almonds or pestacios, covered in syrup or honey.
This dessert is believed to have origenated in the Saltans Ottoman Empire’s imperial kitchens.
However, there is great debate on where the insperation for baklava came from. Some say it is from Ancient Rome. Others, claim that it is from Bizintine Greece.
Kanafeh is a traditional Middle Eastern dessert made with thin noodle-like pastry, filled with cheese, and soaked in a sugar syrup. In Israel it is often made with goat cheese and topped with nuts.
It’s become popular in the Machane Yehudah market where you can get it as street food. A few places even make it right in front of you and serve it hot.
Kababs are commonly found in Israeli meat resturants. You can get them with pargiot (boneless chicken thigh), meat, and organs… including hearts, liver, and more.
It may sound gross but they are actually really tasty and certainly worth a try.
Jerusalem Mix Grill
In New York this is often used refer to shawarma mixed with chicken and meat. In Israel, where it origenated in the Machane Yehuda Market, it is very different.
Essentially it s a mixture of chicken (maybe turkey or lamb instead) with chicken hearts, liver, spleen, cooked with onions and spices.
Again, it may sound gross, but it’s actually quite delicious. In fact, it doesn’t taste all that different from shawarma.
If you’re feeling brave you should definite eat this while in Israel.
Date honey, or silan in Hebrew, is a popular food in the Middle East and has been used since biblical times.
In fact, the is the opinion that “The Land of Milk and Honey” was referring to date honey.