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18 Traditional Lebanese Foods You’ll Love

Lebanese food is hearty, with spice, sugar, and all things nice.

It’s incredibly versatile because Lebanon used to be the center of many civilizations throughout history.

Each of them has brought its own recipes and unique way of preparing food, creating an exquisite cuisine rich in flavorful dishes.

Here are some of the most delicious Lebanese foods you should try if you ever visit Lebanon or if you’re eating out at a Lebanese restaurant near you.

1. Manakish

Manakish is this country’s version of pizza made of flatbread covered with different toppings.

It’s usually eaten for breakfast or lunch, but the fragrant, zingy blend of spices makes it a lovely snack and appetizer.

The Lebanon pizza contains different cheeses and meats, just like the regular one you order in your town.

But, one popular variety of manakish includes zaatar. This is a mix of wild thyme, olive oil, sesame seeds, and culinary sumac, which is added is added before baking.

Another variety includes a cracked wheat paste called kishik. Lebanese people serve this food with tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and fresh mint leaves. Many bakeries across the country specialize in manakish.

It’s one of the most popular Lebanese foods that locals eat on a regular basis. It’s definitely a different kind of pizza you should try.

2. Shish Taouk

If you ever go to Lebanon you must try Shish Kebabs.

The meat is marinated overnight in lemon juice, yoghurt, a bit of tomato paste, and paprika, so it’s incredibly tender and juicy.

Shish Taouk is usually served with plenty of pita on the side so you can make a sandwich, or wrapped in pita bread with garlic sauce on the side. Even though this sandwich may remind you of the ones in your country, the taste is different and more than delicious.

You’ll be surprised how popular are these sandwiches with marinated chicken in Lebanon. You can also find this dish in Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Israel, and Iraq.

3. Baba Ghanoush

Baba Ganoush without Tahini

Baba Ghanoush is a dip made with eggplant and tahini.

It’s similar to hummus, except that it’s made from eggplant and not chickpeas, so if you’re a fan of hummus, you’ll probably love Baba Ghanoush as well.

Although the flavours of these two dips are extremely different, you can actually enjoy them both at the same time.

You can eat it the same way you eat hummus. It’s usually served with pita bread and drizzled with some olive oil, but you can also find it topped with pomegranate.

You can enjoy this creamy dip as a snack or appetizer. It’s also perfect for people who are vegan or gluten-free.

Looking to make your own? Check out our Baba Ghanoush recipe here.

4. Tabbouleh

This wholesome vegetarian salad is made with tomatoes, parsley, bulgur, and onions mixed in a sauce of lemon juice, olive oil, and salt.

It’s usually eaten wrapped in pita or lettuce.

Tabbouleh is a popular Lebanese food representing their culture, although it was initially served as part of the traditional mezze palate.

Lebanese people eat this healthy and super-green salad for dinner.  A gluten-free version of Tabbouleh includes quinoa instead of bulgur.

Some versions include green onions and fresh mint leaves. Still, the traditional salad is made with plenty of tomatoes, parsley and onions, and less bulgur.

In fact, the secret to the real Tabbouleh recipe is not the bulgur. It’s the huge amount of finely chopped parsley combined with a little bit of bulgur. Parsley holds well against the lime juice in the dressing.

You can eat this green salad with French fries. 

5. Kibbe Nayeh

This dish is similar to steak tartare.

However, it’s made with raw lamb or beef. It also includes spices, pureed onions, and a little bit of the popular wheat grain in Lebanon called bulgur.

Everything is kneaded together with a bit of ice water. Kibbe Nayeh is usually served with fresh vegetables and pita, and it’s eaten immediately after preparing it because it contains raw meat.

Wondering whether it’s safe to eat raw meat? The Lebanese butchers say it’s fine to eat raw meat as long as its ground to order on clean blades.

6. Falafel

This dish is made with fried chickpeas and spices like garlic, parsley, coriander, and cumin.

You can often find it served on a salad as an appetizer or wrapped in pita bread as a sandwich. It’s usually accompanied with some hot sauce, French fries, tomatoes, pickles, or cucumbers.

Falafel often comes with tahini which is also found in hummus and Baba Ghanoush.

This is a popular fast food sold in the street corners in Lebanon and other countries in the Middle East such as Egypt, Israel, and Syria.

Vegetarians love this traditional food that’s abundant in nutrients like folate, protein, and fibre. It’s a really great source of protein for vegetarians and quite filling if combined with vegetables in a pita. 

7. Shawarma

This food may remind you of gyro as the meat is roasted on a rotating skewer at a high temperature for hours, and shaved off in thin, wide strips.

Shawarma is a traditional Lebanon food that’s combined with fresh vegetables and tahini sauce, all wrapped in pita bread.

It’s usually served with fattoush or tabbouleh. The meat is usually turkey, lamb, or chicken, and the seasoning is based on cardamom, turmeric, cloves, and cinnamon.

The garnish consists of generous amounts of pickled carrots, lettuce, purple cabbage, pickles, eggplant, raw onion, tahini, hummus, and sometimes even pickled mangoes.

Still, the secret to the best Shawarma is not adding anything unnecessary to the main ingredient, which is the meat.

8. Kofta

Kofta is minced meat balls served on their own or with potatoes and tomato sauce.

They are made with minced meat, onions, parsley, and spices.

There are numbers of varieties of kofta, or kofte, some of them made with red meat, and others with fish.

There is even some kofta mixed with rice, soaked bread, or bulgur before being formed into balls.

The basic kofta is made with finely ground meat and spices like onions and parsley, and then it’s grilled, fried, baked, or roasted.

Vegetarian varieties can be made from green beans, potatoes, peas, corn, cauliflower, carrots, beetroot, cabbage, and ginger. However, these are not traditional within Lebanon and are more popular in India and Southeast Asia.

9. Hummus

Hummus is a traditional creamy dip that’s both delicious and healthful. It’s made with tahini, chickpeas, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic.

You can smear it on pita or combine it with lots of fresh vegetables like carrots and eat it as an appetizer. You can also find it combined together with grilled chicken, fish, eggplant, or falafel.

It’s an essential part of the Lebanese mezze. It’s served either plain, with ground meat and pine nuts or shawarma meat slices on it.

In fact, you can find it in many supermarkets around the world, but it’s always a better idea to make your own hummus at home.

All you need is a good food processor or a high-speed blender, the ingredients, a bit of patience, and a lot of love. The garlicky and lemony taste will linger in your mouth long after the dip is gone.

Get an easy hummus recipe here.

10. Kanafeh

Kanafeh is eaten as a breakfast or dessert in Lebanon.

It’s a pastry made with cheese and topped with pistachios and sugar syrup, but you can find it in millions of varieties. Served on bread makes an excellent sandwich for breakfast.

It’s a traditional food in countries like Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, and Jordan.

It’s crunchy with a top and bottom crust, but there are varieties with only one layer of crust on top.

In between the crusts, there’s a delicious layer of gooey, unsalted cheese.

The whole thing is topped with sugar syrup and sprinkled with ground pistachios for a wonderful salty-sweet flavour.

Every place makes Kanafeh in a different way, but if you go to Lebanon or at least a Lebanese restaurant, you’ll have the chance to taste the real Kanafeh.

11. Baklava

Baklava is a sweet dessert pastry typically found in Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, and the Balkans.

It has a rich flavour thanks to the sugar syrup and chopped nuts that fill the light layers of filo dough.

There are many varieties of baklava based on the filling. Some people use honey and nuts, others chocolate and coconut, and pretty much anything you can think of as long as it’s something sweet.

The main ingredient, however, is the flaky filo dough. The sugar syrup that can be a bit overwhelming for those who are not a fan of too-sweet desserts.

Mainly, the layers of filo dough filled with nuts and honey are baked and then soaked in sugar syrup for hours.

People in Lebanon usually prepare it on special occasions and holidays.

12. Sfeeha

Sfeeha, or sfiha, are basically Lebanese savoury meat pies without a top. The fact that they lack covering makes them even more rich and meaty.

It’s a pastry made with ground lamb or beef, parsley, onion, tomatoes, some chilli pepper, and sometimes labneh, pomegranate molasses, and tahini.

The meat is not cooked previously but baked together with the dough.

Sfeeha is best eaten warm, fresh out of the oven. They can be eaten alone as a snack, as part of the Lebanese mezze, as a main dish, or as a quick dinner with some yoghurt.

You can even freeze them and reheat them in the oven for unexpected guests.

You can find these small, open meat pies in almost every bakery in Lebanon.

13. Fattoush

This is a traditional Lebanese salad that’s made of vegetables like lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, radish, purslane and other vegetables.

It’s combined with baked or fried bits of pita bread crushed up and added in the salad.

It’s then soaked in a flavorful dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and garlic.

Fattoush is served with grilled meat dishes because it’s really light and fresh.

It’s one of the most popular salads in the Middle East and belongs to the type of dishes called fattat.

These dishes use flatbread as the base.

People in Lebanon eat it along with hummus as an appetizer or combined with any grilled meat for lunch or dinner.

This is a wonderful vegan salad that’s packed with nutrients and different flavours. 

14. Ful Meddamas

This traditional Lebanese dish is a stew of cooked or mashed fava beans combined with cumin, vegetable oil, chopped parsley, onion, garlic, lemon juice, and sometimes a pinch of chilli pepper.

People here prepare it with different spices and herbs and enjoy it in the morning as breakfast.

Ful Meddamas used to be considered peasant food, but now it’s a popular food found everywhere, from the street corners in Lebanon to the restaurants served as part of the Lebanese mezze.

The fava beans are flavorful and filling and make excellent pita bread.

Lebanese people love the taste of ful meddamas, so you can see them eating it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and even the pre-dawn meal before Ramadan.

Some people even eat it a few times a day because the dish is part of their tradition.

There are many variations of this popular dish, so you’ll surely find one that’s best for your taste.

15. Kibeh

This national dish consists of a dough made of bulgur, meat, mint leaves, and onions, shaped in the form of a football.

The dough is filled with more meat, pine nuts, onions, and spices.

The football-shaped croquettes are deep-fried until they get a delicious crispy exterior.

On the inside, the spicy minced meat is ideally soft. They are best served hot, fresh out of the oven with some sour cream or yoghurt.

Kibeh also goes great with hummus, pita bread, baba ganoush, and tabbouleh.

16. Arak

It’s time for Lebanese drinks, and we’ll start with the distilled alcoholic beverage called Arak that’s used in social settings.

This colourless, unsweetened beverage is made of grapes and aniseed.

It’s known for its strength that falls between 50 and 60%, and the ability to turn white when combined with water. In fact, that’s the traditional way people drink it, mixed with water in ice-filled cups.

This alcoholic drink aids digestion and cleanses the palate due to its freshness.

Arak is usually served as an aperitif together with some Lebanese mezze that includes cheese, meat, olives, and spices.

Today, you can find many arak cocktails made of this alcohol and orange juice, ginger ale, grapefruit juice, green tea, etc. 

17. Laban Ayran

This yoghurt drink is really refreshing and soothing.

It’s not only common in Lebanon, but in Turkey as well. It’s made of fresh curd combined with milk, salt, and finely chopped garlic. Aryan is cool and salty and free from sugar or aspartame.

Aryan has a special place in Lebanese cuisine. It’s served with eggs for breakfast, mixed with chopped cucumber for an appetizer, and added to different sauces and soups. 

18. Jallab

This is a type of fruit syrup made with dates, carob, rose water, and grape molasses.

You can find it with crushed ice and floating raisins and pine nuts. People usually drink this refreshingly sweet drink during summer in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine.

Jallab is the drink of choice for iftars during Ramadan because it’s made with dates.