National Dishes of the Arab World

Food and culture are inextricably linked, and it’s no secret that food is a huge part of Arab culture. After all, with so much mouth-watering cuisine in the region, how can it not be? We regularly gather with friends and family around delicious dishes of all kinds and it’s a true moment of bonding for us. While this is true of all Arab speaking countries, we each have our own unique local dishes. Check out our list of the national dishes in these 12 Middle East and North African countries.


Saudi Arabia


National Dishes In Arab Countries Middle East - Kabsa

It’s no surprise why this flavorful meal is the main dish in Saudi Arabia. The rice-based delicacy is spiced with an entire array of herbs such as cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, nutmeg and so many more. And because you’ve got to have your protein, the whole thing is topped with chicken, nuts and dried fruits.

Kuwait and Bahrain


National Dishes In Arab Countries Middle East - Machboos

The national dish of both Kuwait and Bahrain, there is no doubt Machboos is loved in the region. Packed to the brim with rich flavors such as turmeric, cumin and cardamom, it can be described as anything but plain. Offering many possibilities, Machboos can be prepared with either meat or fish.



With the UAE having operated as a port for the region, there has been a lot of mixing of flavors from other regions into the local cuisine. A dish found almost solely in the UAE, Harees is a delicious combination of wheat and meat cooked together in a pot. The result is porridge-like and totally melts in your mouth.



National Dishes In Arab Countries Middle East - Couscous

Unlike the other rice-based national dishes, this North African country favours semolina, which is prepared in the form of a couscous. A wholesome meal, couscous also features an array of vegetables from carrots, to potatoes or even parsnip prepared with, you guessed it – a ton of herbs and spices!



National Dishes In Arab Countries Middle East - Dolma

Found in one form or another in almost all countries in the Middle East, Dolma, Mahshi, or stuffed vegetables are a region favourite. The Iraqi version, however, differs slightly in ingredients. With the addition of meat, specifically lamb, the stuffed zucchini, eggplants, vine leaves or even potato become a well-rounded dish. Tamarind in the stuffing is also another almost-exclusively Iraqi touch.

Lebanon and Syria


National Dishes In Arab Countries Middle East - Kibbeh

If you’ve ever been to a Lebanese restaurant then you must know what Kibbeh is, it’s one of those national dishes that’s loved by almost the entire Arab region. However, this dish is not to be confused with its raw counterpart, Kibbeh Nayyeh (also a popular dish in the Levantine region). Both crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside, Kibbeh is the perfect start to any meal.  It features a mixture of lamb and bulgur, aromatized with spices and deep fried – yum!



koshary Egyptian Dishes

Both a street food and a comfort food, this typical Egyptian dish also happens to be vegetarian! Think of all the carbs you know love (aka rice and 2 kinds of pasta), mix those with legumes like chickpeas and lentils, add a generous helping of delicious tomato sauce and top the whole with crispy fried onions – voila, Koshary! To go all the way on this packed plate, add the vinegary-garlic sauce found only in Egypt, Dakka and a generous helping of chili.



National Dishes In Arab Countries Middle East - Shuwa

With its complex preparation, original Shuwa is one of those national dishes that you can only find done right in Oman. So get this, first marinate your meat with all kinds of herbs and spices. Then, you wrap that baby up in banana leaves, followed by a bag made out of palm leaves. The whole is sealed up and placed in an underground clay oven, closed over, and left to cook for a day or two. Simple, right?



National Dishes In Arab Countries Middle East - Mansaf

It might be obvious by now that the Middle East is a big fan of lamb, and Jordan is no exception. A traditional Jordanian Mansaf makes lamb in its own unique way by cooking it in a rich sauce made out of fermented yoghurt (jameed) and ghee, all topped with a generous sprinkling of smoked almonds.  Serve that up with a side of rice and bulgur and prepare to doze off into a nap of pure food-coma satisfaction.



National Dishes In Arab Countries Middle East - Tagine

Last but certainly not least, on the westernmost end of the MENA region, Morocco’s culinary portfolio certainly does not disappoint. Taking its name after the dish in which it’s cooked, a Tagine is a mouthful of delicious flavors. The slow-cooked stew can be made with anything from chicken to lamb or even beef, your pick of vegetables dried fruits and nuts and left to simmer in its aromatic sauce. Hello, deliciousness!

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