Israeli food ignites all of your senses. It is sumptuous, intimate, lively, vibrant, fresh, and comforting all at once. Israel is the true melting pot, since Jews and citizens of the world have made this small sliver of land their home for years. You’ll find influences from a number of cultures, from Lebanese to North African, Eastern European and beyond. This melting pot brings both a truly unique culture as well as recipes that have spanned the globe and evolved over the years to create what we now know as modern Israeli cuisine.
When you visit Israel, you’ll be tempted by glimmering pomegranates, perfect plump tomatoes and strawberries, smoky fire-roasted eggplants, fragrant spices, and the most tender dates you’ve ever eaten.
Let’s explore some must-eat foods in Israel.
10 Foods You Have to Try in Israel (A Foodie's Bucket List!) #israel #food #foodie #travel… Click To Tweet
1. Hummus (of course!)
When I think back on my time in Israel, and when I am craving comforting Israeli food to remind me of magical months spent in Tel Aviv, hummus is always first to come to mind. Abu Hassan in Jaffa is an establishment – a hummus destination. Although there were hummus spots closer to my apartment, once I discovered Abu Hassan, I always made the trek.
Masabacha, creamy hummus topped with spiced chickpeas and tahini, is a dish I will never forget. Served with fresh pita and raw onion slices for dipping, and a spicy lemon-chili sauce, it’s truly an experience to be had. Don’t miss out on this Israeli food staple.
Dubbed the national snack of Israel, they’ve perfected the art of falafel. Fluffy pita stuffed with Israeli salad, tahini, and made-to-order falafel is truly a delight at any time of day. The best falafel has a crispy outer shell that gives way to the soft, flavorful, and fluffy inside.
Palm trees and plumeria trees line the sidewalk on Bograshov, a street that held my favorite 6-shekel falafel shop in Tel Aviv. I’d stroll over and fill a falafel pita with their vibrant array of fresh salads and pickles, and then make my way to the beach. You can find falafel stands all over the country, and each one has their own signature recipe.
3. Israeli Dairy
I’ve been to Italy, France, and Switzerland, and yet, Israeli dairy stands out as some of the best cheese, milk, and yogurt I’ve ever had. Shoko was my first experience with Israeli dairy, a bit of a rite of passage during my first birthright trip. Luscious chocolate milk in a plastic bag; you bite the corner off of the bag and carefully sip. It’s sold in larger containers at the grocery, but you can find individual bags of shoko in most mini markets and even gas stations, they’re that popular.
Bulgarit cheese, similar to feta, is absolutely divine. Creamy, with the perfect amount of salt, I loved to combine bulgarit with an herb, cucumber, and greens salad on freshly baked bread from the bakery next door. You can find bulgarit cheese at many hotel breakfasts.
If you’re staying a while, stock your Airbnb with sheep’s milk yogurt to enjoy for breakfast; topped with pecans and silan (date syrup), this was our breakfast staple, and a treat I often crave now that I’m back home.
Crispy, savory, buttery bourekas are one of my absolute favorite foods in Israel. Comfort food at its finest, bourekas consist of flaky dough stuffed with a savory filling like bulgarit cheese, potato, or mushrooms. You can find them in most shuks (open-air markets), and they’re typically an inexpensive snack or a fabulous addition to breakfast.
5. Shuk Picnic
One of my favorite memories of my time in Israel was an afternoon spent in the shuk and then enjoying a market picnic with friends. We noshed on freshly baked pillows of pita, cured olives, succulent ripe tomatoes, sweet dates, pomegranate jewels, and creamy hummus.
Visiting the shuk is a pure delight to me, and I loved the experience of perusing through the bustling market, meeting growers and makers and people passionate about their craft. You’ll experience some of the highest quality food this way.
Israel is rich with fantastic beverages to sip as you wander its streets. Limonana and fruit shakes tie as the most refreshing drink to sip on a hot day in Israel – although some may argue in favor of the popular blended coffee drinks.
Limonana, lemonade blended with mint and ice, is the ultimate way to cool down – sweet, minty, and refreshing, this icy beverage has it all. You’ll find limonana stands all over, just waiting to serve you on a hot day.
You’ve probably heard of shakshuka, the tomato-based egg dish that won the hearts of food bloggers everywhere over the last few years. It’s simple to make, easy to enjoy, and perfect for a meal any time of day.
A rich tomato sauce, dimpled with eggs, simmers just until the eggs are set. Some restaurants sprinkle feta cheese, or fresh parsley, or a drizzle of pesto on top. You can find classic shakshuka, shakshuka with sausage, and many other variations. It’s also something you can take home with you, since once you’ve experienced it, it’s simple to replicate.
Put basically, sabich is a pita sandwich stuffed with eggplant and boiled eggs. But it’s not just a pita sandwich, it’s one of the most popular foods in Israel, and packs a combination of complex flavors that you have to try for yourself.
Fried eggplant, hard boiled egg, hummus, tahini, Israeli salad, and pickles play together in a fluffy pita alongside amba, a preserved mango sauce. It’s a sight to behold, and beloved by many.
I’ll crave shwarma forever, until I visit again. Spiced meat is layered on a rotating spit and then slow-roasted, and eventually cut into thin slices to be packed into a pita or laffa along with tahini, salads, hummus, skhug (spicy sauce), and fries. Eaten as a fast food, schwarma is a staple all across Israel, and one of the best foods to grab on-the-go.
10. Marzipan’s Rugelach
Marzipan, a bakery in the Machane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem, serves the best rugelach (a chocolatey pastry) I’ve ever had in my life. They are impossibly moist, with the perfect amount of chocolate. As they say, one taste is all it takes – you’ll be hooked. You can find them in some stores in the US, but nothing compares to one fresh from the bakery.
11. BONUS! Winter Wonders: Sufganiyot and Sachlav
If you’re visiting in the winter, you may not be into the idea of an ice-cold limonana. However, you’ll be glad to know that there are winter delights you can only find during the cooler months.
Sufganiyot, traditional Hanukkah jelly donuts, can be found in the shuk and just about every café before and during Hanukkah. Sachlav, a truly unique treat, is only served during the winter in Israel. A rich, milk-based, creamy treat with the flavors of orchid tubers, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, and sometimes coconut, sachlav quickly made its mark on me. Most places top your cup of this creamy drink with chopped nuts and raisins.
Israel is filled with incredible food; this list is just the tip of the iceberg. I hope you’ll take the time to seek these edible delights during your visit to Israel. Enjoy!
This foodie bucket list was written by Nicole Small. Nicole Small is a food and lifestyle blogger at Nourishing Wild. She’s an “Eat Real Food” advocate, and enjoys nothing more than spending the day creating a healthy feast for family and friends. Check out her blog for tips on living well and nourishing your body and soul. You can also find her on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest!