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Traditional Middle Eastern Recipes

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In this Lesson you will Learn

  1. What is Middle Eastern cuisine?
  2. What are typical Middle Eastern ingredients?
  3. What are traditional Middle Eastern dishes?


Middle Eastern cuisine encompasses the cuisines of numerous countries, including Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The cuisines of Europe have been influenced by Middle Eastern cuisine throughout history, starting in the Middle Ages with the Crusades and the Arab occupation of Spain and Sicily and the Ottoman occupation of the Balkans.1


Though there are some differences among the cuisines of different Middle Eastern countries, many ingredients can be found in most (if not all) of them.

Common vegetables include artichokes, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, okra, onions, sweet peppers, spinach, and zucchini. Tomatoes, though not native to the region, are also popular today. Fruit native to the Middle East include apples, apricots, cherries, dates, figs, and pomegranates.

Along with fresh produce, bread, rice, bulgur, and thin pastry doughs (e.g. filo dough) are a major component of Middle Eastern cuisine. Many dishes also feature beans and legumes, including fava beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils. Nuts, too, are used in a variety of ways, whether to thicken soups or add texture to desserts. Almonds, pine nuts, and walnuts are among the most popular. As for dairy, yogurt is used for salad dressing, dips, sauces, drinks, and more.2

Lamb is the most popular meat in Middle Eastern cooking, but chicken and beef are also eaten. Pork is generally not eaten due to Islam's dietary laws.1

To add flavor to the food, cooks use garlic, lemons, limes, rose and orange-blossom water, pomegranate molasses, tahini, harissa, honey, and various herbs and spices (e.g. cardamom, fresh coriander/cilantro, cinnamon, coriander seeds, cumin, spearmint, sumac, and saffron).3

Traditional Middle Eastern Recipes

Dip: Baba Ghanoush
Dip: Hummus
Appetizer: Falafel
Main Dish: Kibbeh
Main Dish: Lamb kebabs
Main Dish: Chicken Shawarma
Side Dish: Tabbouleh
Side Dish: Rice Pilaf
Side Dish: Pita Bread
Dessert: Milk Pudding
Dessert: Baklava

Recommended Read

The New Book of Middle Eastern Food

This updated version of a classic cookbook boasts 800 Middle Eastern recipes, from North African tagines to Turkish kebabs to Lebanese desserts.

check it out ยป


  1. The New Book of Middle Eastern Food
  2. Food Culture in the Near East, Middle East, and North Africa
  3. Middle Eastern Cooking


  1. Middle Eastern cuisine encompasses the cuisines of countries like Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.
  2. Typical Middle Eastern ingredients: artichokes, cucumbers, eggplant, dates, figs, pomegranates, chickpeas, lentils, nuts, yogurt, lamb, tahini, rosewater, honey, and harissa.
  3. Traditional Middle Eastern dishes: baba ghanoush, hummus, falafel, kibbeh, kebabs, chicken shawarma, tabbouleh, pilaf, pita, milk pudding, and baklava.
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