Levantine cuisine

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A spread of classic Levantine meze dishes, including, from top, clockwise: hummus, fried haloumi, baba ganouj, makdous and salad

Levantine cuisine is the traditional cuisine of the Levant, in the sense of the rough area of former Ottoman Syria. The cuisine has similarities with Egyptian cuisine, North African cuisine and Ottoman cuisine. It is particularly known for its meze spreads of hot and cold dishes, most notably among them ful medames, hummus, tabbouleh and baba ghanoush, accompanied by bread.[1]


The history of Levantine cuisine can be traced back to the early civilizations that flourished in the region, such as the Canaanites, Israelites, Phoenicians, and Hittites. These ancient cultures developed complex agricultural systems, producing grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables that would become staples of the Levantine diet. Bread, olive oil, and wine were integral to the cuisine from the very beginning, and remain so today.[2]

Levantine dishes


Baba ghanoush

Mezes or small dishes

  • Falafel[4] (فلافل)—spiced mashed chickpeas formed into balls or fritters and deep fried, usually eaten with or in pita bread with hummus
Fattoush is a Levantine pita bread salad that includes mixed greens and other vegetables.[5]
  • Fattoush (فتوش)—a salad of chopped cucumber, radish, tomato and other vegetables, with fried or toasted pita bread
  • Ful medames[1] (فول مدمس)—ground fava beans and olive oil also prepared in Syria as a salad with fava beans, chopped tomatoes, onion, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, pepper and salt
  • Hummus[1] (حمّص)—a thick paste or spread made from ground chickpeas and olive oil, lemon, and garlic; also common in Egypt
  • Kibbeh (كبة)—a dumpling-like dish of ground lamb with bulgur wheat or rice and seasonings, eaten cooked or raw
  • Kibbeh nayyeh (كبة نيئة)—a mezze of minced raw meat mixed with fine bulgur and various seasonings
  • Labneh (لبنة)—yogurt that has been strained to remove its whey; most popular as a breakfast food
  • Lentil soup (شوربة عدس)—may be vegetarian or include meat, using brown, red, yellow or black lentils, with or without the husk
  • Makanek—Arabic sausage made from ground meat spiced with pine nuts, cumin, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg and served with pomegranate molasses.
  • Makdous (مكدوس)—stuffed oil-cured baby aubergines

Main dishes

  • Bamia (بامية)—a stew prepared with chunks of lamb meat with okra in a tomato-based sauce, served over rice
  • Dolma (محشي)—vegetables, typically aubergines, courgettes, onions, peppers or tomatoes, stuffed with minced meat and rice
  • Fasoulia (فاصوليا)—a stew prepared with white beans and meat served over rice
  • Fatteh (فتّة)—chicken over rice, topped with yogurt and pita bread
Freekeh: Green durmum wheat cooked with lamb fat with vegetables
  • Freekeh (فريكة)—a cereal food made from green durum wheat that is roasted and rubbed to create its flavour, then served with cumin, cinnamon, and fresh lamb-tail fat
  • Harees–Cracked wheat and meat porridge or gruel with seasoning
  • Kabsa (كبسة)—a rice-based dish commonly eaten with meat, lamb or chicken, cooked in a variety of spices and topped with nuts over rice and prepared in Syria and Gaza[7][8]
  • Kebab (كباب)—a dish of ground beef or lamb, grilled or roasted on a skewer
  • Kebab karaz (كباب كرز)—a type of kebab made of lamb meatballs in a cherry-based broth with pine nuts and sour cherries over pita bread
  • Kousa mahshi (كوسا محشي)—courgettes baked and stuffed with minced meat and rice in a tomato-based sauce
  • Malfouf (ملفوف)–rolled cabbage leaves stuffed with rice, meat and spices[9]
Jordanian lamb mansaf
  • Mansaf (منسف)—lamb or chicken cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt and served over rice
  • Maqluba (مقلوبة)—a rice-based casserole with meat, rice, and fried vegetables in a pot, which is flipped upside down when served, hence the name, which literally translates as "upside-down"
  • Mujaddara (مجدرة)—cooked lentils with groats, generally rice, garnished with sautéed onions
  • Mulukhiyah (ملوخية)—a stew cooked with mallow leaves, mucillagenous like okra, eaten with chicken in a thick broth
Classic musakhan – roasted chicken on a bed of bread, pine nuts, onions and spices
  • Musakhan (مسخّن)—a classic Palestinian dish, a whole roasted chicken baked with onions, sumac, allspice, saffron, and fried pine nuts served over taboon bread
  • Qarymutah (القريموطة), a simple way to prepare bulgur in rural areas of Homs, Hama and Salamiyah. Bulgur is cooked with vegetables and wrapped in grape leaves
  • Qidreh (قدرة)—a lamb stew with chickpeas, garlic and spices, commonly served over rice
  • Quzi (قوزي)—a hearty dish of roasted lamb with raisins, nuts and spices over rice or wrapped in taboon bread
  • Shish kebab (شيش كباب)—grilled or roasted chunks of meat on a skewer, commonly served over flatbread or rice
  • Sumaghiyyeh (سماقية)—ground sumac is soaked in water then mixed with tahina (sesame-seed paste), water and flour, added to sautéed chopped chard, pieces of slow-stewed beef, and garbanzo beans
  • Zibdieh (زبدية)—a clay-pot dish of shrimp baked in a stew of olive oil, garlic, hot peppers, and peeled tomatoes


  • Ka'ak (كعك)—a type of biscuit/cookie shaped into a ring, occasionally sprinkled with sesame seeds
  • Markook (مرقوق)—a thin, unleavened flatbread baked on an iron griddle known as saj
  • Pita (خبز عربي)—a soft, slightly leavened flatbread baked from wheat flour


Tahina as a condiment along with lemon and garlic
  • Tahini (طحينة)—condiment made of ground and hulled sesame seeds, primary ingredient baba ghanoush and hummus
  • Toum (توم)—a paste containing garlic, olive oil and salt, typically used as a dip
  • Za'atar (زَعْتَر)—a condiment of dried herbs mixed with sesame seeds, dried sumac, and often salt, as well as other spices


Knafeh or layered sweetened cheese on spun pastry
  • Kanafeh (كنافة)—a dessert made with shredded filo and melted cheese soaked in a sugary syrup
  • Ma'amoul (معمول)—semolina shortbread cookies filled with dates or walnuts, commonly sprinkled with sugar
  • Meghli (مغلي)–a floured rice pudding spiced with anise, caraway and cinnamon and garnished with coconut flakes and nuts
  • Qatayef (قطايف)—a dessert commonly served during the month of Ramadan, a sweet dumpling filled with cream or nuts
  • Warbat (وربات)—a sweet pastry with thin layers of phyllo pastry filled with custard, popularly eaten during Ramadan
  • Zalabia (زلابية)—a fried dough pastry shaped as balls or discs, often dipped in a sweet syrup


  • Limonana (ليمون نعناع)—lemonade made from freshly-squeezed lemon juice and mint leaves
  • Qamar al-Din (قمر الدين)—a thick, cold apricot drink typically served during the month of Ramadan


Geographical varieties of Levantine cuisine

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Bissonnette, D. (2022). Mediterranean: The Ultimate Cookbook. Simon and Schuster. pp. 24. ISBN 9781646432882. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  2. ^ Gaul, Anny; Pitts, Graham Auman; Valosik, Vicki, eds. (2021-12-08), "Making Levantine Cuisine: Modern Foodways of the Eastern Mediterranean", Making Levantine Cuisine, University of Texas Press, doi:10.7560/324578, ISBN 978-1-4773-2458-5, S2CID 240091537, retrieved 2023-04-27
  3. ^ Shavit, E. (2008). "Truffles roasting in the evening fires: Pages from the history of desert truffles" (PDF). Fungi. 1 (3): 18–23.
  4. ^ Raviv, Yael (2003). "Falafel: A National Icon". Gastronomica. 3 (3): 20–25. doi:10.1525/gfc.2003.3.3.20.
  5. ^ Wright, 2003, p. 241
  6. ^ Philip Mattar (2004). Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East & North Africa: D-K. Macmillan Reference USA. p. 840. ISBN 978-0-02-865771-4. Archived from the original on 2023-04-21. Retrieved 2015-11-14. Shawarma is a popular Levantine Arab specialty.
  7. ^ Klema, M. (2020). A Crisis within a Crisis: Investigating the Economic Domino Effects of COVID-19 on the Food Security of Displaced Syrians (Thesis). p. 32.
  8. ^ Helou, Anissa (2018). Feast: Food of the Islamic World. Bloomsbury. pp. 389. ISBN 9781526605566.
  9. ^ "Malfouf". Middle East Monitor. 9 July 2017.


  • Wright, Clifford A. (2003). Little foods of the Mediterranean: 500 fabulous recipes for antipasti, tapas, hors d'oeuvre, meze, and more (Illustrated ed.). Harvard Common Press. ISBN 1-55832-227-2.

Further reading

  • Anny Gaul, Graham Auman Pitts, Vicki Valosik, eds., Making Levantine cuisine: modern foodways of the Eastern Mediterranean, University of Texas Press, 2022, ISBN 978-1-4773-2457-8, OCLC 1243014864
  • Sami Zubaida, "National, Communal and Global Dimensions in Middle Eastern Food Cultures" in Sami Zubaida and Richard Tapper, A Taste of Thyme: Culinary Cultures of the Middle East, London and New York, 1994 and 2000, ISBN 1-86064-603-4, p. 35.
  • Jean Bottéro, The Oldest Cuisine in the World: Cooking in Mesopotamia, University of Chicago Press, 2004, ISBN 0226067343

External links