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Israel: 12 Foods to Try During Your Trip to Israel



Walking into the Old City of Israel, you are immediately brought to the heart of the country. Sectioned off into different faith quarters, each street leads to new markets with different colors, smells, and sounds. The Old City is just a small section of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem is just a small section of Israel. But, it is bustling and filled with history and stories. I fell in love with the food while visiting Israel. Here is a list of some of the dishes I made sure to try...



1. Hummus

What is it? A dip consisting of mashed chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and seasoning

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If you are anything like me, fresh hummus and pita are a weakness. Here in Israel, you will find some of the freshest, most authentic hummus in the world, as one of the primary traditional dishes of the country. I suggest trying it either as an appetizer or by adding it to dishes. It is a rich, delicious dip, high in protein, and a perfect snack to get you through your days wandering around the city.



2. Falafel

What is it? A deep fried ball that is a mixture of chickpeas and fava beans

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I was always wary of falafel until I gave it a real chance in my 20’s. Not a huge fan of beans and not a vegetarian, I was never drawn to chickpeas. But I’ve watched it become more and more popular in the US, easy to find at any grocery store, dried or otherwise. I actually tried my first fresh falafel while living abroad in eastern Europe. Trust me when I say, if done correctly, deep fried chickpeas are difficult to say no to. You can easily find falafel all around the country, in a variety of different dishes. And don’t hesitate to simply stop at a cart on the street and purchase some fresh from locals.



3. Bourekas

What is it? Layers of thin, baked, flaky dough that can be stuffed with a variety of delicious fillings, such as cheese, potatoes, spinach, or meats, and are often sprinkled with seeds

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Walk into the right cafe and you will be greeted with a display full of bourekas of different varieties. I made sure to try some traditional versions - with potatoes and cheese - and a few less traditional, like the ones made to taste like pizza. Definitely a yummy snack while sitting down for an afternoon coffee.



4. Spices, Nuts, & Candies

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Wandering through the markets, you will be surrounded by stalls full of bins and trays of spices, nuts, and different treats. I suggest bargaining for as many as look appetizing. Definitely try the different nutty candies and buy some teas to take home!



5. Shakshouka

What is it? Eggs poached directly in a savory tomato sauce with a variety of spices

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Every time I ate this dish, I devoured it before thinking of taking a photo. If you try one dish, make it shakshouka. Go ahead, pull it up on Google images, your mouth will water. This is a wonderfully fresh and warm dish to eat in the morning if you want something rich and filling. Try it with some bread and share a skillet with the table!



6. Traditional Israeli Breakfast

What is it? Salmon, tuna, cream cheese, tahini, cheese, tzatziki, hummus, bread, egg, tomato & cucumber salad, olives, baba ghanoush

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If it seems like a dream-like feast, then you are getting the right idea. This is such a wonderful and refreshing way to start the day, it is no wonder that when researching Israeli foods, time and time again I was told to try a traditional Israeli breakfast. Expect fish, breads, all the spreads your heart could desire, eggs, and a traditional Israeli salad (which is usually tomato and cucumber). What I loved the most about starting the day off this way is how filling yet light the meal is. You are ready to take on the day without feeling an ounce of sluggishness that typically comes with American brunch.



7. Baklava

What is it? Layers of phyllo (unleavened dough) stuffed with nuts, honey, syrup, and spices

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Like so many countries around this area, baklava has become an art form in Israel. Layered dough with honey, spices, and sometimes nuts, it is hard to go wrong with this sticky, crisp, dessert. You can easily find this in the street markets around the city. Make sure to make it a sweet stop as you see some historical sites.



8. Sabich and Shawarma

What is it? Sabich is pita filled with fried eggplant, egg, hummus, Israeli salad, and sauces. Shawarma is pita filled with thinly sliced meat, vegetables, and sauces.

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Both of these lunch sandwiches are made in a variety of different ways, with toppings and vegetables changing depending on what you like (like any American sandwich place, really). This makes it a great foodie stop to take if you want a quick lunch on the street in between tour stops. Sabich has become an increasingly popular street food in Tel Aviv, so keep an eye out for some carts!




9. Israeli Coffee

What is it? Aromatic and dark, with the grounds traditionally kept in the cup

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Like “Turkish” or “Greek” coffee in the area, Israel is known for strong black coffee that is unfiltered. Lovingly also called “mud coffee,” this is when the grounds are simply steeped in hot water and then allowed to sit at the bottom of the cup.



10. Kebab, Meatballs, & Schnitzel

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Pork and lamb kebabs and meatballs are quite popular around the country. We were able to find a wonderful shop while wandering through the markets. If after all of the hummus and vegetables you start to crave some meat, this is a great traditional option to search for. In addition, schnitzel is a surprisingly popular dish that can be found in Israel. Because of the migration of Europeans to the area in the mid-20th century, the traditional Austrian and German dish has also been perfected in Israel.




11. Kataif

What is it? Folded sweet dough, filled with creams and nuts

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This is a delicious dessert traditionally served during the month of Ramadan. I was lucky enough to visit during this time of year, so I had the opportunity to try some, both while wandering the Muslim markets of the Old City and again in Bethlehem. In the picture above, you will see me holding just the dough portion of a traditional Kataif, but typically it is folded and filled. I only managed to take one photo of this and sadly, this one didn't have filling! All of the filled kataif I tried were given to me on the streets by locals, who I then ate and shared the desserts with while chatting. Sometimes, folks, there is simply no time for photos when good food is involved.



12. Pomegranate

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Not only is fresh pomegranate, pomegranate juice, and pomegranate seeds a must-try while visiting the area, it is also steeped in tradition. In the Jewish faith in particular, and especially in this region, pomegranates have an important meaning, which is why you will find pomegranate statues, art, jewelry, and symbols scattered around the country. Not only is this fruit referenced in the Torah multiple times, it is also thought to have 613 seeds, corresponding with the 613 mitzvot in the Torah. It has become more customary to share pomegranate during Rosh Hashanah and is typically associated with wisdom and learning. While visiting, I was also told by younger Israelis that it represents a sense of feminist strength to them: fruitful, strong, wise, and fertile with seeds.


Any other suggestions? Let us know!


Written & Photographed by Emi Lungmus

Editing by Anna McCarthy

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