Meals begin with appetizers and salads – known as Mezza. Salads such as Fattoush and Tabbouleh are common at the start of each meal. Pita bread is often served with Hummus (a spread made from chickpeas blended with tahini and olive oil) or Baba ghanoush (dip of seasoned, baked eggplant). Dolma is a popular mezza of ground meat and rice stuffed in grape leaves with tomato sauce. Mahshi is another popular dolma with ground meat stuffed in cooked courgettes, which originated in Syria. In Mosul, dolma is very popular. In Mosul they include courgettes, tomatoes, onions, peppers and grape leaves. They are occasionally smoked. The most notable appetizers in Iraq include Burek (deep fried egg roll with minced meat), Falafel (fried chickpea patties served with amba and salad in pita), Kubbah (rice patties stuffed with cooked minced meat with onion and sautéed pine nuts), Lahmacun (savory pizza with ground meat, chopped onions and tomato paste) and Turshi (vegetables pickled in garlic and vinegar).
Iraq is home to many Middle Eastern specialties. Dishes such as Kebab (grilled chunks of meat marinated with garlic, lemon and spices) and Shawarma (grilled meat sandwich wrap with lettuce, tomato and onion wrapped in pita) are often marinated on a spit and served with salad over rice or pita. Iraqi cuisine is famous for its extremely tender kebab, either made with ground meat or are made with chunks of meat grilled on a skewer. Masgûf (grilled fish with pepper and tamarind), is considered the national dish of Iraq, and originates back to the days of ancient Mesopotamia. Masgouf often is made of fish from the Tigris river, and it is most common in Baghdad as well as cities along the Tigris.
Most dishes are served with rice, usually basmati. Rice dishes, especially Biryani (basmati rice cooked with peas, almonds, raisins, noodles, fried potatoes and a variety of spices) are very common. It was brought to India by Persian Muslim travellers and merchants, and is collectively popular in Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and among Muslims in Sri Lanka. The most notable meat entrees served over rice are Kabsa (chicken with rice, vegetables, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg), Maqluba (a rice, lamb, tomato, aubergine and potato casserole) and Quzi (lamb with rice, almonds, raisins and spices).
Stews such as Bamieh (lamb, okra and tomato stew), Loubieh (stew with beef with green beans in tomato sauce), Tashrib (a soup eaten with meat (lamb or chicken), chickpeas and bread), and Tepsi (stew with eggplant, ground meat, potato, tomato sauce) are common. Pacha is a broth made from lamb tripe and stomach. Stews are normally served over rice, which is a common factor of Persian cuisine.
Archaeologists have found evidence from excavations at Jarmo in northeastern Iraq, that pistachio nuts were a common food as early as 6750 BC.
Among the ancient texts discovered in Iraq is a Sumerian-Akkadianbilingual dictionary, recorded in cuneiform script on 24 stone tablets about 1900 BC. It lists terms in the two ancient Iraqi languages for over 800 different items of food and drink. Included are 20 different kinds of cheese, over 100 varieties of soup and 300 types of bread – each with different ingredients, filling, shape or size.
A salad dish, often used as part of a mezze. Its primary ingredients are finely chopped parsley, bulgur, mint, tomato, scallion, and other herbs with lemon juice, olive oil and various seasonings, generally including black pepper and sometimes cinnamon and allspice.
An appetizer of Ottoman cuisine origin, also used as a sauce for souvlaki and gyros. Tzatziki (known as jajeek in Iraq), is made of strained yogurt (usually sheep's-milk or goat's-milk in Greece and Turkey) with cucumbers, garlic, salt, usually olive oil, pepper, dill, sometimes lemon juice and parsley, or mint added. The cucumbers are either pureed and strained, or seeded and finely diced. Olive oil, olives, and herbs are often used as garnishes.
An upside-down rice and aubergine casserole, hence the name which is literally translated as "upside-down". It is sometimes made with fried cauliflower instead of aubergine and usually includes meat - often braised lamb.
A traditional Mesopotamian dish made with fish from the Tigris. It is an open cut freshwater fish roasted for hours after being marinated with olive oil, salt, curcuma and tamarind while keeping the skin on. Traditional garnishes for the masgouf include lime, chopped onions and tomatoes, as well as the clay-oven flatbreads common to Iraq and much of the Middle East.
An Iraqi casserole. The main ingredient of the dish is aubergine, which are sliced and fried before placing in a baking dish, accompanied with chunks of either lamb/beef/veal or meatballs, tomatoes, onions and garlic. On top of the aubergine, potato slices are placed on top of the mixture, and the dish is baked. Like many other Iraqi dishes it is usually served with rice, along with salad and pickles.
A dish made of rice, chopped meat, and spices. The best-known variety is a torpedo-shaped burghul shell stuffed with chopped meat and fried. Other varieties are baked, poached, or even served raw as famously done by the Lebanese. They may be shaped into balls, patties, or flat.
A family of meatball or meatloaf dishes in Middle Eastern, Indian, and Balkan cuisines. In the simplest form, koftas consist of balls of minced or ground meat — usually beef or lamb — mixed with spices or onions. Vegetarian varieties include lauki kofta, shahi aloo kofta, and malai kofta.
Long-grain rice is a staple in Iraqi cookery. The Iraqi word for rice, timman, is unique to Iraq and is of Akkadian origin.
Iraqi rice cooking is similar to the method used for Persianchelow, a multistep process intended to produce just-tender, fluffy grains. A prominent aspect of Iraqi rice cooking is the hkaka, a crisp bottom crust. It differs slightly from the Persian tahdig, which is a single thick piece; the hkaka contains some loose rice as well. Before serving, the hkaka is broken into pieces so that everyone is provided with some along with the fluffy rice.
A set of rice-based foods made with spices, rice (usually basmati), and meat/vegetables. It was brought to India by Persian Muslim travellers and merchants, and is collectively popular in Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and among Muslims in Sri Lanka.
The mixture of ground lamb or beef with rice is usually made with many fillings in the same preparing pot, as well as pomegranate juice, prominently used by North Iraqis to give it a unique taste. The Assyrians of Iraq may either call it dolma or yaprekh which is the Syriac term for stuffed grape leaves. Iraqi Arabs usually served dolma without yoghurt. Often chicken or beef ribs are added to the cooking pot, and sometimes served with the dolma instead of masta or khalwah. Iraqi dolma is usually cooked and served in a tomato-based sauce. In Mosul, dolma is very popular. In Mosul they include courgettes, tomatoes, onions, peppers and grape leaves. They are occasionally smoked.
A Middle Eastern Arabic-style sandwich-like wrap usually composed of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef, or a mixture of meats. Shawarma is a popular dish and fast-food staple across the Middle East and North Africa.
a creamy dairy product, similar to clotted cream, made in the Balkans, Turkey, Iran, other Middle Eastern nations, and Central Asia. It is made from the milk of water buffalos in the East or of cows in the West.
a type of baked or fried filled pastry. It is made of a thin flaky dough known as phyllo dough (or yufka dough), and are filled with salty cheese (often feta), minced meat, potatoes or other vegetables.
a pizza-like dish traditionally made with ground mutton rather than the more modern addition of lamb, or beef in Brazil. They are "open faced" meat pies with no top dough. Sfiha were much like dolma; simply ground lamb, lightly spiced, wrapped in brined grape leaves.
a national cookie of Iraq. Kleicha comes in several traditional shapes and fillings, the most popular being the molded ones filled with dates (kleichat tamur). The sweet discs (khfefiyyat) are also favoured along with the half moons filled with nuts and sugar (kleichat joz).
also known as Chai, is widely consumed throughout the day, especially in the mornings, after meals, and during social settings. It is prepared in a special way involving boiling tea in hot water, then placing it over a second tea pot with boiling water to let the tea infuse. Iraqi tea is renowned for being considerably weaker, richer and sweeter than those found in neighbouring countries, and is usually brewed with cardamom (heil).