The road to understanding a culture is through the stomach. Each culture has its own foods that perfectly embody the people, and Israel is no different. Israelis have a fierce pride in their dishes. Whether you are a tourist wanting to understand the country or an American who wants to replicate the dishes in your own home, Israel’s top cultural foods are powerhouses of flavor, nutrition, and spice.
While hummus, a chickpea puree, has become a worldwide favorite, the international community tends to use it as a spread, or dressing. In Israel, hummus can range from being an appetizer to a side dish to the entire main course. Try a typical Israeli meal: a plate smothered with a huge amount of hummus, with pulled beef or ground meat with Hawaj spice on top, served with pita to scoop up the creamy deliciousness. Hummus can also be served with roasted eggplant or any other roasted vegetables on top. In some places, the flavor-infused hummus served with soft, hot pitas is the dish in its entirety! Whether you eat the protein-packed, creamy deliciousness on its own, with meat, vegetables, or in a falafel, hummus in Israel is next-level awesome!
Nothing beats homemade hummus. The hummus making genius is James Beard award winner Michael Solomonov of “Zahav.” Zahav’s recipe for hummus is available in his cookbook or online. Beware: After making and eating his recipe, you will never be able to eat anyone else’s hummus again!
This dish, typically served for breakfast, has a base of tomato sauce and sauteed vegetables. The dish is then baked with perfectly poached eggs on top and is served with bread to dip it all into one incredible bite. Shakshuka is usually a spicy combination of red pepper, tomatoes, and spice, with the runny yolk on top providing another element of creaminess. There are many variations to shakshuka, some more vegetable-heavy than others. We’ve even seen some goat cheese/ spinach or beet variations. These tend to be more artisanal. The die-hard Israeli shakshuka eaters claim that if it does not include red pepper, tomatoes, sauce, and a whole lot of spice, it cannot be called shakshuka.
Sautee any vegetables (onion, jalapeno, pepper, zucchini, mushroom, carrot) in a pan, add tons of chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce or salsa, and a lot of fresh garlic, powdered garlic, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, chili flakes, or any other spice that you enjoy. Let that simmer for a bit, pour eggs straight on top of the pan, making sure not to crack your yolks. Sprinkle some salt on top of the yolks, cover, and let cook until the eggs are cooked to your liking. Serve with fresh bread.
Falafel is the quintessential Israeli food. Falafel and the state of Israel go hand in hand- and will never let go. In case you have never had falafel, go get one now! Falafel is a pita bread stuffed with Israeli salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions), pickles, hot peppers, fried eggplant, french fries, fried falafel balls (chickpea and parsley balls), hummus, techina, and schug (an extremely spicy puree). Taking a bite out of falafel is like a wild party in your mouth- you get a bit of spice, a bit of cream, a bit of crunch, and a whole lot of flavor. Just walk on any street in Israel and will surely find a shop that seems too small to be true, along with a man making falafels at incredible speeds. Tell him that you want to try a falafel for the first time, and his face will light up with the inexplicable joy of sharing a part of his soul with you.
For a cultural dinner, serve falafel. Buy or make falafel balls, chop up an Israeli salad, bake or fry some eggplant, and stuff up your pita. Don’t forget to buy or make some hummus and tahini!
Although schnitzel is originally a Viennese dish, it has been adapted and adopted by the Israelis. Schnitzel is a coated and fried piece of chicken breast. The Israelis use it in the famous Schnitzel Sandwich. A long baguette or laffa, stuffed with schnitzel, pickles, tomatoes, fried eggplant, hot peppers, any other fillings of your choice, doused with sauce after sauce. The schnitzel sandwich is a fun and satisfying way to finish off your long day.
Bake or fry your schnitzel, add the fillings you want, and go for the sauces! This is a super easy but delicious dinner that is a win-win for everyone.
Shwarma is a vertical slow-roasting spit covered in thinly sliced pieces of meat (chicken, turkey, beef, lamb). Shwarma is served by shaving pieces of the meat off the spit. Shwarma can be served in a laffa, baguette, or served on a plate with salad and hummus. Shwarma is a very middle eastern type of dish and is absolutely delicious. This is a definite must-have: the melt- in your- mouth pieces of meat, covered in a delicious “shwarma spice”, and served with hummus is an experience in itself.
Sautee pieces of chicken, onion, and add a bit of shwarma spice (found at your local grocery store.) Serve this with hummus and salad or in a sandwich. Delicious!