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Israeli Spices, Sauces, and Dips!

Updated: May 7, 2023

Israel, often known as the country of milk and honey, is well-known for its unique spices and herbs. Spices are frequently used in Mediterranean-style cooking and are an integral element of cooking and dining in Israel. Certain plants grow naturally in the region, while others are imported from North Africa, North Africa, Europe, and neighboring nations. Several fundamental elements run through the majority of these cuisines.


One of the most critical ingredients is tahini, the base for hummus, one of Israel's most recognized meals. Tahini is produced by grinding sesame seeds until smooth paste forms. It is also a significant component of baba ghanoush and halva and can be used to create a variety of sauces to accompany roasted eggplant, cauliflower, and other vegetables.


Labneh, a creamy, yogurt-like cheese, is another of Solomonov's recommended components. As with tahini, labneh serves as a basis for a variety of meals and dips. Labneh can also be cooked and served as a dessert or eaten straight from the container with olive oil and spices. If you cannot locate labneh, you can substitute plain Greek yogurt and strain it using a cheesecloth for a day. The longer the labneh is strained, the thicker it will get.


Additionally, having a well-stocked spice cupboard is necessary when cooking in an Israeli kitchen. Since the existence of the Incense Route in the third century B.C. through the second century A.D., the spice has been a part of the region's tradition. The Nabateans transported spice from the Arabian Peninsula to the Mediterranean ports via the Negev desert (now part of southern Israel), leaving behind a path of earthy and aromatic spices that have found their way into Israeli and Middle Eastern cuisines.

The diversity of spices available can be bewildering. Not only are individual spices used, but spice blends are an integral part of Israeli cuisine. The most widely used spice blend is za'atar, a mixture of herbs from the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Oregano, thyme, marjoram, sumac, sesame seeds, salt, and cumin are all possible ingredients in Za'atar.


Yemen is world-renowned for its exotic flavours and spices, but nowhere more than in Israel. Although it is a small country it has made a massive impact on the middle eastern culinary scene, with a crowd favroutie being a delicious sauce called Skhug. Also, known as Zhug, Shug or Zhoug, this fabulous condiment is made from fresh hot peppers, fresh herbs such as parsley and cilantro, and is seasoned with garlic, coriander, and cumin. You will want to drizzle this spicy middle easter gem on everything!


This tangy mango pickle sauce is a popular condiment in that was brought to the country by the Iraqi Jews. Originally from India, Amba is used as a hot fruity sauce to add some zing to any dish, no matter how sweet or savoury. Typically, it is made of pickled green mangoes, vinegar, salt, turmeric, chili and fenugreek, and can present thick or thin, in a bright yellow colour.


Hawaij is an exotic spicy that is predominately used in Yemeni and Israeli cuisine. It offers a savory mixture that is used to add a unique flavour to soups and curries, along with marinating and rubbing on meat before grilling. The spice is made up of black peppercorns, cumin seeds, cardamom seeds (from green cardamom pods), coriander seeds, and ground turmeric.

Ras el Hanout

The flavour of Originating in North Africa, and brought to Israel by the Moroccan Jews, Ras el Hanout literally translates to “head of the shop,” but in Arabic, it actually means “top shelf.” This vibrant mixture of flavour usually consists of over a dozen earthy spices, all in different proportions, which combine to offer a woody, pungent, and bitter spice. Ras el Hanout is also sweet because of the nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.

It makes a fantastic marinade or spice rub for meats, and in North Africa, it is traditionally used in tajines and stews. In India, Garam Masala closely resembles the flavour of the Mococcan spice of Ras el Hanout because it contains a mixture of coriander, cumin, cloves, and cinnamon, although cayenne powder is also added to spice it up.


Baharat, another popular spice blend in Middle Eastern cuisine, is a combination of black pepper, coriander, paprika, cardamom, nutmeg, cumin, cloves, paprika, and cinnamon. Baharat is particularly well-known in rice, lentil, and pilaf recipes and can be used to marinate lamb chops and ground beef.

Additional spice combinations

We have covered most of the standout herbs and spices used in Israeli cuisine, now we have a few more little combinations that you may also encounter in your Israeli experience. Solomonov is a Yemenite spice blend that is excellent for soups. Sumac and cardamom are frequently used in spice blends but are equally delicious on their own. Cardamom is the secret ingredient in Arabic coffee, which is extremely popular in Israel, particularly among the country's Arabic communities.

Your Israeli kitchen is incomplete without the components necessary to create salatim. Salatim, which translates as "salad," refers to the plethora of tiny plates accompanying an Israeli meal.

Israeli cuisine may be imprecisely defined, but its identity is a fluid synthesis of cultures from the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia. With a combined history of thousands of years, you will find flavors from all over the world and the best part is that it is continually evolving. So, head out and channel your inner foodie in Tel Aviv's amazing culinary scene!

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Typic Israel appropriating foods from countries and claiming it as theirs. Zaatar is Palestinian. Not Israeli.

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