The region each dish comes from influences its flavor, but almost all of them are full of bold, exotic flavors, often featuring parsley, garlic powder, tahini sauce, or chickpeas.
Some of these are dishes you’ve probably heard of and enjoyed before, such as hummus, couscous, and falafel. Others, like Shakshuka, Zhoug, and Koshari, may be new to you.
I urge you to give some of the more exotic, lesser-known dishes and sauces a try.
They’re delicious, and many of them are also incredibly healthy and full of ingredients that are good for you.
A plate full of Turkish breakfast foods is one of the prettiest, most colorful, and most well-balanced breakfast plates you’ll ever see.
While there’s nothing specific you must include in a Turkish breakfast, it usually consists of meat, veggies, cheeses, and fruits.
It does a great job of walking that sweet vs. savory line.
This particular recipe includes hard-boiled eggs, cucumbers, black and green olives, salami, green peppers, grape leaves, apricots, and more. You’ll love it!
Although shakshuka originated in North Africa, it’s become very popular in the Middle East. It’s gluten-free, vegetarian-friendly, and you can enjoy it pretty much any time of day.
It’s a spicy, garlicky egg dish that brings together the intense flavors of chili powder, paprika, tomato paste, parsley, cayenne pepper, and cumin.
It’s even better with a thick, crusty bread on the side.
For this three-ingredient side dish, all you’ll need is rice, vermicelli, and olive oil.
It’s light and filling, and you can add things like cinnamon, almonds, parsley, or salt to tweak the flavor.
You can whip it up in about 15 minutes and serve it with a wide variety of proteins and main dishes.
Whether you cook it on the grill or in the oven, shawarma is a low-carb, high-protein meal absolutely exploding with spice and flavor.
It’s especially good when served with homemade toum or tahini sauce and a side salad.
In case you wanted to serve your shawarma with tahini sauce, I thought I’d give you the recipe for that, too.
It’s mostly mixing, whisking, and adding water, and all you need is tahini paste, salt, garlic cloves, and lemon juice.
Add water until you reach your desired consistency.
This baked rice dish looks more like a sweet, single cake layer than rice, especially after it’s topped in rosewater and dozens of adorable red barberries.
Once you cut into it, though, you’ll see the rice layered above and below another thin layer of barberries.
The dish has a light, delicate flavor that’s the perfect backdrop for the barberries’ sour tang.
If you can’t find barberries, use sour cherries or cranberries instead.
I love my salads crunchy and zesty, which is why fattoush salad is one of my favorite salads of all time.
It has plenty of crunch, thanks to the radishes, green onions, lettuce, crunchy pita croutons, and cucumbers.
Plus, the homemade lime-vinaigrette dressing adds all the zesty kick you could want.
If you’re looking for a Paleo-friendly, Whole 30-compliant snack, these Lebanese meatballs are perfect.
They feature all kinds of great herbs and spices, including parsley, mint, onions, coriander, cinnamon, ginger, red pepper flakes, garlic, and more!
They, too, taste great when served with tahini sauce, or you can serve them with rice, couscous, or tabbouleh for a complete meal.
The consistency of Israeli salad is almost more like salsa than salad. It’s dense and full of chunky goodness. Best of all, it only takes about 15 minutes to make.
It contains Persian cucumbers, which are sweeter than the cucumbers we’re used to eating, onions, parsley, tomatoes, lemon juice, and olive oil.
It’s kosher and vegan-friendly.
Chickpea salad is another chunky, dense salad that’s a complete meal in and of itself. If you top it off with Greek yogurt, it’s even tastier.
Like many Middle Eastern recipes, it’s vegan-friendly, low-calorie, and quick to come together, taking only 10 minutes.
The dressing is slightly zesty but much milder than many lemon vinaigrettes.
Altogether, the salad and dressing combine to make a spicy, tangy, slightly sweet meal that’s perfect for dipping with pita bread.
I love hummus, but it’s always been hard for me to find a recipe that tastes good and has a consistency that I like. This one, though, is a winner.
The recipe makes the smoothest, creamiest, most luxurious hummus, and the flavor profile is a captivating mixture of nuts, garlic, and citrus.
To top it all off, it’s pretty, too!
Including only seven ingredients and taking only five minutes to make, this recipe is a lazy chef’s dream.
Simply mix your ingredients – yogurt, olive oil, garlic, salt, cucumbers, and water – and serve with pita bread for an instant appetizer.
*Note: This sauce is usually used more as a condiment than a dipping sauce, but it tastes great either way.
This is a thick, soothing soup that’s perfect for a cold night. It’s high in fiber and protein and rich in zinc, potassium, vitamin B, and calcium.
It’s a super-soup if such a thing exists. The most prevalent flavors are garlic and allspice, but the lemon juice gives it that well-rounded Middle Eastern flair.
If you’ve never had couscous smothered in parmesan cheese and butter, then you’ve never had couscous.
Trust me on this. The butter makes it soft and creamy, and cheese makes everything better.
It has the typical earthy flavor that couscous is known for, but the lemon mellows that out some.
This dish is just a bunch of flavors that shouldn’t work well together, yet somehow, they do.
When you read the phrase “chicken kebabs” on a Middle Eastern menu, you won’t get a bunch of veggies with the dish.
Their chicken kebabs are filled from end to end with chicken, with a few slices of red onion between them for flavor.
The secret to these kebabs isn’t in all the meat, though.
It’s in the marinade. It’s made from yogurt, spices, garlic, and lemon, and it’s delightfully sharp and tart.
Although it takes a little bit of time to make, lavash is worth it. It’s like a very thin, light tortilla, and it’s the perfect wrap.
It’s also supremely convenient to make. You can make it in the oven, on a pizza stone, in a hot pan, or on a griddle.
Falafel is good, and falafel salad is even better. This salad features a hearty, filling mix of parsley, cilantro, chickpeas, tomatoes, and bulgar wheat.
The dressing is a tangy tahini dressing.
It takes about 40 minutes to make all-in-all, and the recipe makes enough to feed at least four people.
This wholesome, comforting stew is another vegan-friendly Middle Eastern dish that takes only a half-hour to cook.
It’s low in calories, has a decent amount of fiber, and is a good source of potassium, calcium, and vitamins A and C.
It’s spicy and smells incredible. The za’atar may present a bit of a challenge, but if you can’t find it locally, you should be able to get it from Amazon.
Stuffed with spicy, herby falafel, arugula, and tabouli salad and dripping with lemon juice and tahini sauce, this is the best falafel sandwich you’ll ever eat.
It’s a refreshing, cool meal that’s almost like a salad wrapped in pita bread. It’s yummy.
This light, tasty salad only features three ingredients – tomatoes, cucumbers, and parsley.
The dressing is just as simple, requiring only tahini paste, lemon juice, water, salt, and pepper. Despite its simplicity, however, this salad is delicious.
You can serve it alone, on pita bread, or as a topping for some other sandwich or dish.
This is Egypt’s national dish, so even though I was a little hesitant, I had to give it a try.
I was very pleasantly surprised. It combines rice, lentils, garbanzo beans, tomato sauce, and macaroni.
I know; it sounds odd and like it has too much going on. In actuality, it has just enough going on.
Somehow all of those ingredients, combined with herbs and spices, blend to make something that’s unique and full of flavor.
One-pot chicken and rice is a commonly served meal in Lebanon, and there are plenty of variations on how to fix it.
This recipe is a fairly straightforward one, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t tasty. It has everything you need for a complete meal.
It also has a lot of spice to it, and I’m not sure which is better, its taste or its smell. They’re both pretty fantastic. Serve it alone or with a side salad.
This is pizza on a flatbread. It may have a jazzy, health-conscious name, but it’s absolutely delicious pizza on a flatbread. It’s incredible, even without any tomato sauce.
As a bonus, it’s actually pretty healthy.
This spicy, cilantro-based sauce has a lot of heat to it. You can make it in 5 minutes, and you can use it on practically anything.
Swap out the jalapenos for hotter peppers to add even more of a bite.
If you’re looking for the perfect vegan dish for any meal, Zatarain’s has nothing on this herby rice.
Start with two cups of basmati rice. Then slice up all your veggies and extras – eggplant, carrots, chickpeas, cilantro, and pine nuts – and mix them in along with your spices.
It takes some time to make, but the nutrition value alone is worth it, and that’s not even taking into account its terrific taste.
Most of the rice will be soft and fluffy, but a few will crisp up and fall to the bottom. Don’t get rid of them.
They add an unexpected crunch that makes the whole dish better.
Although this recipe calls for specific vegetables, you can use whatever veggies you’d like.
In fact, this is an excellent dish for making if you end up with a lot of leftover veggies that are about to go bad.
Cut them all into roughly the same size, and drizzle them with olive oil and salt and pepper.
Bake them for about half an hour. Then plate them, cover them with tahini sauce, and a dash of za’atar and coriander.
Eat them with pita bread for an authentic Middle Eastern experience.
Basically, this is just a raw onion salad, and I love it. Throw your chopped and peeled onions in a bowl and add some red pepper flakes, salt, and sumac. Mix them well.
Then add pomegranate molasses, olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley to the mix.
It’s meant as a garnish, sandwich topping, or side dish, but I could eat it by itself all day long.
More commonly known as “Aryan,” this drink is salty and tart. All you need to make it is sparkling water, yogurt, and salt.
Somehow, those three ingredients taste fantastic together.
It’s the perfect refreshing drink for a hot summer’s day.
Making good baklava is an art form, especially when it has 30 – yes, 30, and no, that’s not a typo – layers. This baklava is flaky, crispy, and supremely buttery.
The green pistachios add a lovely touch of color to this traditional dessert, and the syrup made of orange blossom water adds an unmatchable sweetness.
Despite the 30 layers, the recipe only requires nine ingredients, and you can have the whole pan of baklava baked and cooling in less than 2 hours.
*Note: It needs to sit for at least another 8 hours before you serve it to reach its optimal texture and flavor.
These simple butter cookies are crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, and require only four ingredients to make (five if you want to top them in powdered sugar).
They’re also just sweet enough to be perfect for dessert, but aren’t so sweet that they give you a sugar rush. They taste great when paired with hot tea.