Middle Eastern Food FAQ's

Ever wonder what a Middle Eastern breakfast looks like? Or, what about the difference between Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food? 

September 10, 2019
Middle Eastern Food FAQ's

Ever wonder what a Middle Eastern breakfast looks like? Or, what about the difference between Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food? Below, we’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions about Middle Eastern cuisine. Satisfy your culinary curiosity and get reading! 


Where is Middle Eastern food from?

Middle Eastern food comes from the different people and countries that make up the Middle East. The cuisine includes Arab, Cypriot, Israeli/Jewish, Assyrian, Iranian/Persian, Kurdish, and Turkish cuisine.


What is Middle Eastern food?

Middle Eastern food features olives, lentils, beans, veggies, and chickpeas paired with rich, flavorful spices. You’ll find meat in Middle Eastern cuisine too, usually in the form of lamb, beef, and chicken skewers. Pork is a big no-no as it’s not halal or kosher.

Examples of popular Middle Eastern foods include hummus, shawarma, kofta kebabs, baba ghanoush, and pita bread.


What are Middle Eastern spices?

Popular Middle Eastern spices include: zaatar, sumac, Baharat, Ras el Hanout, turmeric, cardamom, coriander, and cumin. Other Middle Eastern pantry staples include harissa, tahini, and pomegranate molasses. Shop Now.


Is Middle Eastern food spicy?

Not really. Middle Eastern cuisine relies heavily on spices, but the food overall isn’t what you’d call “spicy.” Hot spices are typically only found in condiments like hot sauce or harissa (a spicy chili paste that adds a kick to any meal…learn how to make it here). Batata Harra is another spicy option, pairing potatoes with red chilies, cayenne pepper, coriander, lemon, and garlic.

If you’re a fan of bold but not-spicy flavor, Middle Eastern cuisine is for you.


Is there healthy Middle Eastern Food?

Of course! Middle Eastern cuisine offers plenty of healthy choices.

Hummus lovers rejoice! This garbanzo-bean-based dip is packed full of essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, proteins, and heart-healthy fats. It might be hard but try to eat hummus in moderation and with veggies. That way you won’t pack on too many extra calories.

Other healthy favorites include:

  • Tabbouleh: side dish full of vitamins and minerals, high in dietary fiber, and low in saturated fats
  • Labneh: soft cheese that’s full of healthy bacteria, high in protein, and low in calories
  • Baba ghanoush: creamy dip made of eggplant, tahini, and olive oil that’s rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats


Is there vegan Middle Eastern food?

Yes! Traditionally, the Middle Eastern cuisine strays from using dairy products and eggs, and you can find meat-free options. It’s a safe bet that you’ll find vegan options if you dine out. Of course, in a restaurant setting, there are a few things to look out for:

  • Rice – Make sure it’s not cooked in chicken stock
  • Beans—Make sure they’re not cooked with lard
  • Potatoes—Make sure they’re not cooked with butter
  • Tahini—Make sure it’s free from yogurt and cheese
  • Dolmas—Make sure they weren’t soaked in meat broth

When cooking at home, you can easily create delicious vegan-friendly Middle Eastern dishes like:

  • Falafel: Deep-friend garbanzo beans, garlic, and parsley often paired with pickled veggies, cabbage, and creamy tahini dressing
  • Hummus: Cooked garbanzo beans blended smooth and mixed with garlic, tahini, lemon juice, and salt
  • Baba ganoush: Blended baked eggplant with garlic, tahini, salt, and lemon juice
  • Tabbouleh: Filling salad of ground wholegrain bulger, wheat berries, parsley, olive oil, tomatoes, raw onions, lemon juice, salt, and black pepper


Is Middle Eastern food Keto?

Middle Eastern recipes and restaurants are perfect if you’re following a Keto diet. You can make simple adjustments and choices that let you enjoy the bold flavors without the extra carbs.

Best Middle Eastern Keto options:

  • Kebab meat
  • Grilled meats
  • Salads

What to avoid:

  • Couscous
  • Tabbouleh
  • Potatoes
  • Foods wrapped in filo pastry

Just a warning, you’ll miss out on tons of delicious flavor if you forgo the sauce that accompanies your dish. Make up for it at home by adding extra spices to your meal.


What is the difference between Middle Eastern food and Mediterranean food?

It’s common to confuse Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, but they’re actually quite different!

Middle Eastern cuisine comes from Arab, Cypriot, Israeli/Jewish, Assyrian, Iranian/Persian, Kurdish, and Turkish cuisine.

Mediterranean food represents the cuisine of countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. Think Greece, Italy, Spain, Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey.

Middle Eastern cuisine differentiates itself with falafel, shawarma, baba ghanoush, hummus, unique sauces (like harissa), and warm, earthy spice combinations. You’ll find lamb, beef, and chicken on the menu, but never pork. Why’s that? Pork isn’t halal or kosher.

Traditional Mediterranean cuisine is built around three main ingredients: olives, wheat, and grapes. You’ll find the components in olive oil, breads, pastas, wines, and more. Tomatoes, beans, aromatic herbs like rosemary, basil, and marjoram, and stews with meat and veggies are common too. Fish and shellfish are another staple of Mediterranean cuisine but aren’t used as widely in Middle Eastern cuisine. 


What are some easy Middle Eastern food recipes?

Ready to dabble in Middle Eastern cuisine? Get started with some easy beginner dishes:

  • Hummus: Dip of blended chickpeas, garlic, salt, lemon juice, and tahini served with pita chips
  • Kofta kebabs: Spiced ground beef or lamb served on a kebab
  • Pita bread: It takes a while for the bread to rise, but you can’t lose with homemade pita bread
  • Lamb burgers: Spiced ground lamb meat topped with diced tomatoes and lettuce
  • Fasulia: A simple yet flavorful stew of chopped beef, tomato sauce, allspice, ground cumin, coriander, and green beans


What is a typical Middle Eastern breakfast?

No eggs and bacon here. A typical Middle Eastern breakfast includes fool (fava bean dip), falafel, pita bread, and tea. Try Saffron tea for a refreshing start to your morning!

In place of pita bread, you might see Kaek on the breakfast table. Kaek, a sesame topped bread popular in Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, is usually filled with zaatar or a Lebanese cheese spread. 


Have Other Questions?

Did we miss anything? Comment below with your questions about Middle Eastern cuisine!

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