In the Middle East by the Mediterranean Sea sits the small nation of Lebanon. The capital, Beirut, is a charming melting pot, garnering such affections as the “Paris of the Middle East” because it is rich with culture and beauty, not to mention some truly spectacular cuisine. If you have the chance to visit Lebanon, or you’re thinking of trying the new Lebanese restaurant down the street, here are 15 Lebanese foods you must try!
1. Baba Ghanoush
If you’ve ever had hummus before, then you should try this dip. It’s made with tahini and eggplant and is eaten in much the same way as hummus. The flavors are different though in the most astronomical way. You may in fact have a hard time deciding which you prefer – baba ghanoush or hummus, but the good news is you don’t have to choose. You can have both!
2. Shish Taouk
Chicken kebabs in Lebanon are a must. The spices are a pure sensory overload of heavenly perfections. The meat is juicy and tender thanks to being marinated overnight in yogurt, lemon juice, garlic, paprika and a little tomato paste. You’ll find it served on a platter with plenty of pita on the side to make your own sandwich. In Lebanon, sandwiches are almost as popular in the states. While they seem a bit familiar, they’re distinctive and incredibly delicious.
3. Kibbe Nayeh
Want to try something more adventurous? Then you need kibbe nayeh in your life. Basically, it’s like steak tartare. Raw beef or lamb is blended with pureed onions, spices and a bit of bulgur, a type of wheat grain that you’ll see in tabbouleh. As is the case with most dishes of Lebanon, you’ll be served pita and fresh vegetables to accompany it.
If you love pizza, this is the Lebanese version of it. You’ll love it. Just like the pizza you know and love, manakeesh is diverse with meats and cheeses. It also has zaatar, a type of thyme. It’s usually served with cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh mint leaves, and olives.
What could be better than deep fried balls of deliciousness? These are called falafel and chances are, you’re heard of it. But if you haven’t tried it, now is the time. It’s made from fried chickpeas and often is wrapped up in sandwich-form with pita bread and a host of fresh vegetables. It’s also served with tahini. These are amazing and if you’re going to try something new and go out for Lebanese food, don’t miss these.
This heart-healthy salad is also amazingly delicious. It’s parsley, tomatoes, onions, and bulgur mixed in a sauce of olive oil and lemon juice. You can wrap it in lettuce, or it’s also amazing in pita, pretty much just like anything else in Lebanon.
Meat is roasted on a spit and then shaved off. It’s flavorful and you’ll find it reminds you of a gyro. It’s served with pita bread and vegetables plus tahini sauce to make it extra incredible. You’ll usually see it served with tabbouleh or fattoush.
These minced meat balls are blended with parsley, onions and spices and served in many ways. You’ll find them served on their own or in a tomato sauce with potatoes. You’ll find it in Turkish cuisine too, but there, they dip it in yogurt.
This Lebanese pastry is a must-try! It is made from cheese and topped with sugar syrup and pistachios. Like donuts in the states, this is ideal as a breakfast but can also make for a dessert any time. Every place makes it different so try it everywhere you go to find your favorite.
People often mistake this dessert pastry for something of Greek origin but it comes from Lebanon. The light and flaky layers of filo dough filled with honey and nuts are pure perfection. You’ve probably tried this dessert, but in Lebanon, it’s better than anything you’ve ever had.
It’s the Lebanese food most people have tried. Hummus is the best dip you can get anywhere because it is so healthful and delicious. Eating it with plenty of fresh-cut vegetables like carrots or smeared on pita is absolutely divine.
Another traditional salad, this one includes fried or baked bits of pita bread crushed up and mixed in with a dressing of olive juice, lemon, garlic and salt. It will have you wondering why you ever wasted time eating other salads.
Savory meat pies are always fun to eat, but in Lebanon, they make them without a top. It’s like an open-faced meat tart of sorts. Without a covering to impede it, that means it’s bursting with meaty goodness.
Something that goes great with all of these Lebanese dishes is arak. It’s an alcoholic drink that is made from the anise seed and it’s very strong with a whopping 63% alcohol content.
Even big wine drinkers are often surprised to find out that Lebanon is a great place for wine production. In fact, it rivals as one of the oldest places for wine production in the world. If you have the chance to travel to Lebanon, checking out the vineyards is a beautiful and delightful way to spend your time.
But if airfare is your concern, you can find Lebanese food somewhere near you. Try out your local Lebanese restaurant to taste what you’ve been missing with these flavorful and healthful dishes!