Finding the best Middle Eastern recipes online might seem as simple as a web search. But the first thing you will discover is that the Middle East is a big place! This geopolitical region spans nearly two continents, from Algeria in North Africa to Afghanistan in Asia. The land in-between contains over 20 countries with incredibly diverse and rich cultural traditions, including their favorite foods. This means an opportunity to experience different flavors and cooking methods, while also discovering the types of foods that unite these nations in shared cultural memory.
What are the Most Important Ingredients in the Middle East?
Bon Appétit Magazine identified five essential Middle Eastern seasonings and sauces that every nation in this region celebrates:
- Tahini: This sesame-seed paste is not just used in dressings, sauces, and dips, but can even be baked into flatbreads and cakes.
- Pomegranate Molasses: This sweet-but-tart syrup adds layers of flavor to meat dishes, desserts, and more.
- Aleppo Pepper: The coarse flakes of this spice bring mild, fruity heat to every dish where they are included.
- Rose & Orange Flower Waters: A few drops of these fragrant distillations goes a long way, but they add authenticity to the flavors of your recipes.
- Ras-El-Hanout: The name of this spice means “top shelf” in Arabic, revealing just how important it is to many recipes. It is a blend of cinnamon, peppers, coriander, ginger, turmeric, and more.
These ingredients, as well as other traditional Middle Eastern spices like mint, saffron, and baharat, bring flavor to the party! As for Middle Eastern pantry staples, Blue Apron shares insights:
- Bulgur: This dried, cracked whole wheat is a healthy and yummy grain you can substitute for rice in almost any dish.
- Couscous: This tiny pasta comes ground into small pieces or shaped into larger pearls, and each is traditional to different Middle Eastern regions.
- Yogurt: Middle Eastern yogurt is thick and unsweetened, making it a perfect thickener for rich sauces, dips, and marinades.
- Lemon: Both fresh and preserved lemons are common ingredients in Middle Eastern cooking.
- Olive Oil: Olive oil’s common use in the Middle East reflects how the food cultures of this region and the Mediterranean have merged and influenced each other.
Does this list of ingredients have you ready to cook, or wondering what to do with these products? Either way, good news—it’s time to talk about recipes.
What are the Most Popular Middle Eastern Dishes?
We’ve collected this list of some of the most popular Middle Eastern dishes so you can prepare for a quiet dinner at home, or to host a great party.
Middle Eastern Food Recipes Main Dishes
Traditional Shish Kebabs: Made with lamb, these flavorful skewers make an easy weeknight meal you can start the night before.
Lebanese Falafel Recipe: This recipe description also describes the Middle Eastern debate between using chickpeas, fava beans, or both. Try this recipe several times and decide for yourself!
Chicken Shawarma: The instructions in this recipe can be applied to any kind of meat you want to cook. Once it’s thinly-sliced, stacked, and cooked, eat it on a pita or by itself for a memorable main dish!
Middle Eastern Side Dishes
Couscous Salad with Feta and Mint: You can add whatever veggies, dried fruits, and nuts you like to this salad to make it your own, or follow the traditional recipe.
Tabbouleh: This lemony, herbaceous salad can be a lunch all on its own or eaten with other dishes as part of a meal.
Olive Oil Skillet Flatbread: This recipe includes vegan and non-vegan instructions so those with all types of diets can enjoy this delicious side dish.
Middle Eastern Party Food
Chicken Samosas: Though samosas today are known as an Indian food, they originated in the Middle East. Follow this recipe and add the spices you and your guests like best!
Authentic Middle Eastern Hummus: This recipe is lighter and more delicate than most hummus you buy at the store. You can even make a larger batch, freeze, and defrost for the next party!
Pear and Pomegranate Shrub: No party is complete without a cocktail (or mocktail). Mix this drink with champagne or club soda for the perfect accompaniment to your Middle Eastern party spread.
Middle Eastern Desserts
Tahini Halva: This delicious sesame fudge is naturally vegan, and you can add mix-ins like nuts or chocolate chips to really make it special.
Kataifi: Kataifi is very similar to another Middle Eastern dessert, baklava. Use pre-made phyllo to create this beautiful dessert with ease.
Sahlab: This warm, creamy dessert beverage is perfect after a winter’s meal. This recipe comes with great tips to change up the flavors and find one you love!
Arabic Food Recipes for Ramadan
Since Ramadan is observed by fasting during the day, traditional recipes for this festival are light, yet filling.
Shorba Lentil Soup: This mildly flavored yet hearty soup is full of aromatics and warming spices.
Fattoush Salad: This fresh salad incorporates fried pita bread as a delicious treat to soak up the zesty sumac dressing.
Atayef: This delicate dessert pancake is traditionally filled with clotted cream, but ricotta is a recommended substitute in this recipe.
Find Middle Eastern Groceries in Chicago Through OjaExpress!
If you’re ready to unleash Middle Eastern flavors across Chicago, call on OjaExpress to bring the supplies right to your door. We partner with Al-Amal Supermarket in Bridgeview to deliver Middle Eastern spices, meats, grains, pantry items, snacks, beverages, and more. Make a shopping list from the recipes above, or just browse the options and see what you’d like to try. It’s our mission to help you eat global while shopping local in Chicago.