48 Essential Middle Eastern Recipes | SAVEUR

48 Essential Middle Eastern Recipes

Bust out the spices and ready the chickpeas—here are our best recipes from the Middle East

You may know hummus and baba ghannouj but have you heard of torshi seer? Spanning the vast region east of the Mediterranean, the Middle East's cuisine include those of Israel, Iraq, and Azerbaijan, which some call the world's last great undiscovered cuisine. Try your hand at the region's greatest dishes, including spiced chicken kebabs—food is always more fun on a stick—and a Persian tamarind-stuffed fish.

For a sweet cap-off to your Middle Eastern feast, learn how to make baklava and a Persian cantaloupe drink that can easily be converted into the perfect summer cocktail. From Azeri lamb stew to Persian roast chicken, our best Middle Eastern recipes are bursting with flavor appropriate for any season.

Beef Dolmas with Apricots and Tamarind

Beef Dolmas with Apricots and Tamarind

Beef Dolmas with Apricots and Tamarind

Matt Taylor-Gross

In the Syrian Jewish kitchen, this Middle Eastern basic gets a sweet-and-sour spin. In the warmer months, try to find and use fresh grape leaves; they are more tender and flavorful than the jarred types. Out of season, jarred leaves are a fine substitute (we prefer the Orlando brand). Get the recipe for Beef Dolmas with Apricots and Tamarind »

Cauliflower Shawarma Berber

Cauliflower Shawarma Berber

Cauliflower Shawarma Berber

Matt Taylor-Gross

This dish will make you dust off the grill in preparation for spring, and the taste of pomegranate will remind you of warm days on the way. Get the recipe for Cauliflower Shawarma Berber »

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Roast Chicken with Sumac Flatbread (M'sakhan)

Roast Chicken with Sumac Flatbread

Roast Chicken with Sumac Flatbread

Ariana Lindquist

Tart sumac balances sweet caramelized onions in a roast chicken and flatbread dish traditionally baked in a wood-fired oven. Get the recipe for Roast Chicken with Sumac Flatbread (M'sakhan) »

Stuffed Meatballs and Chestnuts in Saffron Broth (Küfta Bozbash)

stuffed meatballs and chestnuts in saffron broth (küfta bozbash)

Stuffed Meatballs and Chestnuts in Saffron Broth (Küfta Bozbash)

Jason Lang

Made with a simple broth steeped with saffron and fresh mint, this traditional Azeri soup has delicate flavors. Chickpeas, chestnuts, and tender lamb-and-rice meatballs filled with dried fruit give it heartiness, and garnishes of radishes, scallions, and red onion add texture and crunch. Get the recipe for Stuffed Meatballs and Chestnuts in Saffron Broth (Küfta Bozbash) »

Persian Kuku Sabzi

Persian kuku sabzi

Persian Kuku Sabzi

Matt Taylor-Gross

This classic frittata gets loaded with herbs for a fresh, springy dish perfect for Nowruz, the Persian new year, in March. Get the recipe for Persian Kuku Sabzi »

Smoky Baba Ghannouj with Oil-Cured Black Olives

Smoky Baba Ghannouj with Oil-Cured Black Olives

Smoky Baba Ghannouj with Oil-Cured Black Olives

William Hereford

Mayonnaise ensures a creamy, smooth texture in this Midwestern riff on the classic Mediterranean dip. Chopped cumin seeds add spice and a little crunch to the smoky eggplant. Get the recipe for Smoky Baba Ghannouj with Oil-Cured Black Olives »

Herbed Lamb Stew (Sabzi Govurma)

herbed lamb stew (sabzi govurma)

Herbed Lamb Stew (Sabzi Govurma)

Jason Lang

Garlic chives, which taste similar to scallions but with a faintly spicy raw garlic flavor, are common in Azeri stews. In this one, the butter-stewed greens feature as prominently as the lamb, if not more so. A bit of verjus (unripened grape juice) or lemon juice brings lift and acidity to the stew's deep flavors. Get the recipe for Herbed Lamb Stew (Sabzi Govurma) »

Persian Tamarind-Stuffed Fish

Tamarind-stuffed fish

Persian Tamarind-Stuffed Fish

Matt Taylor-Gross

A luxurious whole fish preparation flavored with tangy tamarind and fragrant barberries, perfect for Nowruz, the Persian new year. Get the recipe for Persian Tamarind-Stuffed Fish »

Galilean-Style Hummus (Hummus Maushaushe)

Galilean-Style Hummus (Hummus Maushaushe)

Galilean-Style Hummus (Hummus Maushaushe)

Eilon Paz

Generous spice, a good dose of olive oil, and chickpeas piled high are the hallmarks of this Galilean-style hummus. Get the recipe for Galilean-Style Hummus (Hummus Maushaushe) »

Tahini-Beet Dip

Egypt, recipe, beet, tahini

Tahini-Beet Dip

Helen Cathcart

Tahini's nutty, luxurious properties don't stop at hummus. Keep the sesame paste flowing with this bright red purée of boiled beets, lemon, and garlic. Get the recipe for Tahini-Beet Dip »

Fried Eggplant with Tahini and Pomegranate Seeds

Fried Eggplant with Tahini and Pomegranate Seeds

Fried Eggplant with Tahini and Pomegranate Seeds

Matt Taylor-Gross

This eggplant dish from Michael Solomonov's Zahav restaurant in Philadelphia highlights classic Middle Eastern ingredients: carob molasses, tahini, and pomegranate. Get the recipe for Fried Eggplant with Tahini and Pomegranate Seeds »

Almond-Cardamom Pakhlava

almond-cardamom pakhlava

Almond-Cardamom Pakhlava

Jason Lang

At Zulya Kazimova's bakery in Baku, pakhlava—the Azeri version of baklava, which she cuts into a diamond shape—is made using 14 layers of a dense yeasted dough rolled out so thinly and painstakingly that it becomes translucent. For home cooks, prepared phyllo dough produces a wonderfully crisp, lighter, and flakier version. To defrost frozen phyllo quickly, set it in a microwave (still wrapped in its plastic packaging) on the defrost setting for about 30 seconds, then rotate the package and repeat. Get the recipe for Almond-Cardamom Pakhlava »

Persian Rice

Persian Rice

Persian Rice

Farideh Sadeghin

Rice is a staple at most meals in Iran; tahdig, the crust of crispy rice that forms on the bottom, is the most prized part. Soaking the rice before cooking for 15 minutes helps to elongate the grains, resulting in a fluffier rice, while the towel on the lid helps to pull the moisture away during the longer cook time. Get the recipe for Persian Rice »

Mashed Eggplant Dip (Baba Ghannouj)

Mashed Eggplant Dip (Baba Ghannouj)

Mashed Eggplant Dip (Baba Ghannouj)

James Oseland

Across the Levant, eggplants are grilled and mashed to make baba ghannouj, a silky, delicious dip for flatbreads and vegetables. Get the recipe for Mashed Eggplant Dip (Baba Ghannouj) »

Eggplant and Walnut Frittata (Badimjan Kükü)

eggplant and walnut frittata (badimjan kükü)

Eggplant and Walnut Frittata (Badimjan Kükü)

Jason Lang

This hearty Azeri egg dish—which can be served in small pieces as an appetizer or side, or cut into larger wedges as a main—is loaded with ground walnuts, onions, and eggplant, giving it a nutty, meaty consistency and color. Get the recipe for Eggplant and Walnut Frittata (Badimjan Kükü) »

Torshi Seer

Torshi Seer Persian Pickled Garlic

Torshi Seer

Romulo Yanes

For this sweet-tart Persian pickle, whole heads of garlic are fermented in a vinegar solution until the cloves are very soft. Get the recipe for Torshi Seer »

Fried Artichoke Hearts

Fried Artichoke Hearts

Fried Artichoke Hearts

Helen Rosner

Tender artichoke bottoms get cooked until crisp, then served with an intense tahini sauce. Get the recipe for Fried Artichoke Hearts »

Charred Eggplant with Chile Sauce & Tahini

Charred Eggplant with Chile Sauce & Tahini

Charred Eggplant with Chile Sauce & Tahini

Todd Coleman

Charring young eggplant over an open flame lends a smoky flavor to this dish from the Galilee. Get the recipe Charred Eggplant with Chile Sauce & Tahini »

Spiced Chicken Kebabs with Garlic Yogurt Sauce (Shish Taouk)

Spiced Chicken Kebabs with Garlic Yogurt Sauce (Shish Taouk)

Spiced Chicken Kebabs with Garlic Yogurt Sauce (Shish Taouk)

Dylan + Jeni

Redolent of garlic, cumin, and mint, these Middle eastern chicken kebabs can be served with basmati rice or flatbread. Get the recipe for Spiced Chicken Kebabs with Garlic Yogurt Sauce (Shish Taouk) »

Sweet Walnut-Cardamom Cookies (Mutaki)

sweet walnut-cardamom cookies (mutaki)

Sweet Walnut-Cardamom Cookies (Mutaki)

Jason Lang

These raisin-and-nut-filled cookies bear similarities to rugelach, but the dough is finer, crumblier, and shortbreadlike. They are great right out of the oven, but even better the next day. For the most intense, perfumy spice, use freshly ground cardamom. Get the recipe for Sweet Walnut-Cardamom Cookies (Mutaki) »

Kibbeh (Lamb and Bulgur Wheat Croquettes)

Kibbeh

Kibbeh (Lamb and Bulgur Wheat Croquettes)

Todd Coleman

Rich ground lamb and fine grain bulgur wheat are used to form a shell around sauteed beef and earthy pine nuts. Generously seasoned with cumin, coriander, allspice, and cinnamon, these Middle Eastern-style croquettes offer an inviting aroma and tantalizing flavor. Get the recipe Kibbeh (Lamb and Bulgur Wheat Croquettes) »

Hummus with Pan-Seared Duck, Leeks, and Tapenade

Hummus with Pan-Seared Duck, Leeks, and Tapenade

Hummus with Pan-Seared Duck, Leeks, and Tapenade

Farideh Sadeghin

Alon Shaya, chef at New Orleans' Shaya, tops hummus with baroque toppings like fried eggplant, romanesco, and dates; here, he opts for serving the creamy spread with duck, leeks, and tapenade. Get the recipe for Hummus with Pan-Seared Duck, Leeks, and Tapenade »

Khan Plov (Chicken Pilaf in a Lavash Crust)

khan plov (chicken pilaf in a lavash crust)

Khan Plov (Chicken Pilaf in a Lavash Crust)

Jason Lang

Like many rice pilafs from the region, this one is spattered with saffron-infused water to create patches of fragrant yellow rice. The whole pilaf is wrapped in butter-saturated lavash to create a crispy, golden-brown casing that's cracker thin. Any shape of lavash will work—just trim the pieces as needed into strips, rectangles, or ovals to fit the pot. Get the recipe for Khan Plov (Chicken Pilaf in a Lavash Crust) »

Cashew Baklava

Cashew Baklava

Cashew Baklava

Neal Santos

Brown sugar, cinnamon and nutty, rich cashews are rolled into tight baklava cigars in this eminently snackable dessert. Get the recipe for Cashew Baklava »

Persian Cantaloupe Drink

Persian Cantaloupe Drink

Persian Cantaloupe Drink

Farideh Sadeghin

Test kitchen director Farideh Sadeghin got the recipe for this refreshing melon drink from her Iranian-born father, who makes it by grating fresh cantaloupe and combining it with water, sugar, and fresh mint. You can add a little gin for a cooling summer cocktail. Get the recipe for Persian Cantaloupe Drink »

Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh

James Oseland

Finely chopped fresh parsley and mint are bathed in fruity extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice in this classic Middle Eastern appetizer, adapted from Moorish by Greg and Lucy Malouf (Hardie Grant Books, 2014). Bulgur wheat, a common ingredient in tabbouleh, is omitted here for a dish that focuses on the flavor of the fresh herbs. This recipe first appeared in our October 2014 issue with the story Home for the Harvest. Get the recipe for Tabbouleh »

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce

Roasted Cauliflower and Tahini Sauce

Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce

Matt Taylor-Gross

Roasting cauliflower at a high heat results in a crisp-tender texture and toasty flavor that pairs perfectly with tart tahini dipping sauce. Get the recipe for Roasted Cauliflower with Tahini Sauce »

Herb Meatballs in Tomato-Plum Sauce (Kufteh)

Herb Meatballs in Tomato-Plum Sauce (Kufteh)

Herb Meatballs in Tomato-Plum Sauce (Kufteh)

Todd Coleman

These tender meatballs are simmered in a sweet-tart tomato and dried plum sauce. Get the recipe for Herb Meatballs in Tomato-Plum Sauce (Kufteh) »

Red Lentil and Squash Soup (Shorabit Jarjir)

Red Lentil and Squash Soup (Shorabit Jarjir)

Red Lentil and Squash Soup (Shorabit Jarjir)

Penny De Los Santos

Protein-rich red lentils and hearty butternut squash are transformed into a smooth, fragrant soup that's a perfect, simple meal served with flatbread. Get the recipe for Red Lentil and Squash Soup (Shorabit Jarjir) »

Beet Stew with Lamb Meatballs

Beet Stew With Lamb Meatballs

Beet Stew With Lamb Meatballs

SAVEUR Editors

For this traditional Iraqi-Jewish dish, ground-lamb meatballs are braised in a vibrant beet stew. Get the recipe for Beet Stew with Lamb Meatballs »

Emirati Lamb Stew (Tharid)

Emirati Lamb Stew (Tharid)

Emirati Lamb Stew (Tharid)

Todd Coleman

Often referred to as the Prophet Muhammad's favorite dish, this satisfying lamb and vegetable stew is served over thin, cracker-like bread called regag to soak up the rich juices. Get the recipe for Emirati Lamb Stew (Tharid) »

Shish Kebabs

Shish Kebabs

Shish Kebabs

Farideh Sadeghin

The classics done right. Get the recipe for Shish Kebabs »

Falafel

Falafel

Falafel

Todd Coleman

There is nothing like falafel's first bite: the crisp-fried exterior giving way to a creamy center of seasoned mashed beans, garlic, and parsley. Get the recipe for Falafel »

Iraqi Eggs with Lamb and Tomatoes (Makhlama Lahm)

Iraqi Eggs with Lamb and Tomatoes (Makhlama Lahm)

Iraqi Eggs with Lamb and Tomatoes (Makhlama Lahm)

Ingalls Photography

For this rich, spicy Iraqi breakfast dish, ground lamb is sautéed with onions, tomatoes, and parsley, seasoned to the hilt with bahar asfar, yellow curry powder, and then topped with soft-baked eggs. Get the recipe for Iraqi Eggs with Lamb and Tomatoes (Makhlama Lahm) »

Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce (Shakshuka)

EGGS POACHED IN TOMATO SAUCE

Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce (Shakshuka)

Matt Taylor-Gross

The classic Israeli breakfast, shakshuka, a dish of Libyan origin, can be served as a main course for any meal of the day. Get the recipe for Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce (Shakshuka) »

Lamb and Cauliflower Stew with Harissa

Lamb and Cauliflower Stew

Lamb and Cauliflower Stew

SAVEUR Editors

For this Middle Eastern–spiced stew, cauliflower stems are minced and sautéed in the mirepoix to add flavor, while the florets are broiled and added at the end of cooking to offer crunch and body. Get the recipe for Lamb and Cauliflower Stew with Harissa »

Iraqi Yellow Spice-Rubbed Chicken (Djaj Bil-Bahar Il-Asfar)

Iraqi Yellow Spice-Rubbed Chicken (Djaj Bil-Bahar Il-Asfar)

Iraqi Yellow Spice-Rubbed Chicken (Djaj Bil-Bahar Il-Asfar)

Todd Coleman

This fragrant spice-rubbed grilled chicken was a favorite of former SAVEUR Assistant Editor Felicia Campbell when she was deployed to Iraq. Get the recipe for Iraqi Yellow Spice-Rubbed Chicken (Djaj Bil-Bahar Il-Asfar) »

Sweet Vermicelli and Eggs (Balaleet)

Sweet Vermicelli and Eggs (Balaleet)

Sweet Vermicelli and Eggs (Balaleet)

Jason Lowe

Served as a breakfast dish and also for dessert, this Indian-influenced sweet pasta is fried and topped with a saffron omelette, making it crunchy, sweet, tender, and savory all at once. Get the recipe for Sweet Vermicelli and Eggs (Balaleet) »

Lebanese Lamb-Stuffed Eggplant (Batenjen Mehchi)

Lebanese Lamb-Stuffed Eggplant (Batenjen Mehchi)

Lebanese Lamb-Stuffed Eggplant (Batenjen Mehchi)

James Oseland

Eggplants are stuffed with a mixture of spiced lamb and rice, then simmered in tomato sauce in a rustic, cinnamon-scented dish from Lebanese author Fouad Kassab's mother, Isabelle. Get the recipe for Lebanese Lamb-Stuffed Eggplant (Batenjen Mehchi) »

Spiced Lamb Patties with Tomato and Onion (Kefta bil Sayniyeh)

Spiced Lamb Patties with Tomato and Onion (Kefta bil Sayniyeh)

Spiced Lamb Patties with Tomato and Onion (Kefta bil Sayniyeh)

James Oseland

Lebanese seven-spice powder—a mix of allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, fenugreek, ginger, and nutmeg known as baharat—flavors the lamb patties as well as the tomatoes in this richly spiced dish. Get the recipe for Spiced Lamb Patties with Tomato and Onion (Kefta bil Sayniyeh) »

Loubieh bil Zeit (Romano Beans with Tomatoes)

Loubieh bil Zeit

Loubieh bil Zeit (Romano Beans with Tomatoes)

James Oseland

Lebanon has an ancient tradition of producing high-quality olive oil, which is used to braise vegetables in a number of traditional dishes. One of the most popular is loubieh b zeit, literally "green beans in oil," a traditional Lebanese mezze in which romano beans are braised until tender with tomatoes in olive oil. Get the recipe for Loubieh bil Zeit (Romano Beans with Tomatoes) »

Tah Chin (Baked Rice with Barberries)

Tah Chin

Tah Chin (Baked Rice with Barberries)

Todd Coleman

This northern Iranian specialty is topped with dried barberries, a tart local fruit. Get the recipe for Tah Chin (Baked Rice with Barberries) »

Cucumber Yogurt

Yogurt Sauce, Farideh's Father

Cucumber Yogurt

Farideh Sadeghin

Similar to Indian raita, this Iranian sauce differs with the addition of minced fresh yellow onion. Make it a day ahead to allow the flavors to really marry before serving. Get the recipe for Cucumber Yogurt »

Moroccan Charmoula

Moroccan Charmoula

Moroccan Charmoula

Marcus Nilsson

Vibrant, verdant, and refreshing, this Moroccan condiment is an exceptional marinade for most meat and seafood and addictive enough to eat with a spoon. Get the recipe for Moroccan Charmoula »

Ka'ak bil Ma'amoul (Date-Stuffed Ring Cookies)

Palestinian date cookies

Ka'ak bil Ma'amoul (Date-Stuffed Ring Cookies)

Ariana Lindquist

These holiday cookies are flavored with orange blossom water and stuffed with a sweet date filling. Get the recipe for Ka'ak bil Ma'amoul (Date-Stuffed Ring Cookies) »

Baklava

Baklava

Baklava

Todd Coleman

Though baklava varies throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean, like this one with an almond-cinnamon-bread crumb-filling, it's always a sweet treat. Get the recipe for Baklava »

Israeli Cous Cous with Ras el Hanout, Fennel and Carrot

Israeli Cous Cous with Ras el Hanout, Fennel and Carrot

Israeli Cous Cous with Ras el Hanout, Fennel and Carrot

Farideh Sadeghin

Ras el hanout, the North African spice blend, along with fresh orange zest and juice, mint, and cilantro, give Israeli cous cous a fresh feel and flavor in this simple weeknight meal. Get the recipe for Israeli Cous Cous with Ras el Hanout, Fennel and Carrot »

Omani Coconut Cookies

Omani Coconut Cookies

Omani Coconut Cookies

SAVEUR Editors

A simple combination of sugar syrup and unsweetened coconut cools and hardens into sweet, crunchy treats that are perfect served alongside tea or coffee. Get the recipe for Omani Coconut Cookies »

Spiced Chicken and Wheat Porridge (H'riss)

Spiced Chicken and Wheat Porridge

Spiced Chicken and Wheat Porridge

Jason Lowe

This deeply satisfying dish of spiced meat and creamy wheat berries is most often made with lamb, but it's particularly delicious when made with chicken. Get the recipe for Spiced Chicken and Wheat Porridge (H'riss) »

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