Arabic snacks have been enticing taste buds across the world with their rich flavours and aromatic spices. In this article, you’ll discover some of the most popular and delicious snacks that originate from the Arab world.
These treats are not only delicious but also often healthy and budget-friendly, making them a perfect choice for those seeking a culinary adventure.
As you explore the world of Arabic snacks, you’ll encounter a fascinating blend of flavours and textures. Many of these snacks showcase the use of exotic spices and herbs, such as baharat, that give dishes an intoxicating aroma.
From traditional sweet fritters like sabboosa to protein-packed balila, there’s an Arabic snack to suit everyone’s preference.
In the following sections, we’ll dive deeper into some of the most-loved Arabic snacks, offering insights into their preparation and ingredients. With this information at hand, you’ll be well-equipped to embark on your tantalising journey through the captivating world of Arabic cuisine.
History of Arabic Snacks
Arabic snacks have a rich history that dates back to the early days of Middle Eastern civilisations. During these times, the focus was on using ingredients that were readily available in the region.
For instance, mutton, lamb, and goat were traditional meats in the Middle East, and vegetables such as cucumbers and tomatoes grew easily in fertile soils. This practical approach to ingredients paved the way for the Arabic snacks we enjoy today.
Some popular Arabic snacks have their roots in ancient civilisations. Baklava, a dessert that features thin layers of pastry filled with nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey, is believed to have originated in the Ottoman Empire.
While others suggest that the Assyrians in the 8th century may have popularised this delicious confection.
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in ancient recipes from medieval Arabic cookbooks. This has led to the rediscovery and revival of many traditional Arabic snacks that have been enjoyed throughout the Middle East for centuries.
As Arabic snacks made their way to different parts of the world, they have also evolved to cater to different tastes and preferences. For example, in the United States, Labneh, a yoghurt-based snack with origins in Iraq, has become a popular addition to a variety of dishes.
Similarly, our appreciation for traditional Emirati cuisine has grown, and we now enjoy a variety of snacks that rely on locally grown ingredients, such as dried lemons or loomi, and mangos.
The widespread popularity of Arabic snacks also speaks volumes about their timeless appeal and adaptability. So next time you find yourself savouring Arabic snacks, take a moment to appreciate their long-standing history and the journey they have taken to reach your plate.
Popular Arabic Snacks
Here is the list.
Falafel is a popular Arabic snack that originated in Egypt over 1,000 years ago. This delicious, protein-packed dish has become popular not only in the Middle East but also in Europe and the Americas.
Made from fava beans or chickpeas, these deep-fried balls or patties are often served with a hummus dip or in salads and sandwiches. With their distinct flavour and crispy texture, they make for a satisfying and healthy snack.
Hummus is a creamy, garlicky, lemony, protein-packed dish that has become the most ubiquitous Arabic food in both the UK and the US. This tasty spread is created from mashed chickpeas and blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and spices.
You can enjoy hummus as a dip with pita bread or raw vegetables, or use it as a spread on wraps and sandwiches, making it a versatile and nutritious snack option.
Manakeesh is an Arabic flatbread that is often eaten for breakfast or as a snack. The dough is typically topped with za’atar (a mix of thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds), cheese, minced meat, or other toppings before being baked until crispy.
This savoury snack can be enjoyed warm or at room temperature and provides a great way to taste the flavours of the Middle East in a casual and convenient format.
Sambousek, also known as ‘sabboosa’, is a traditional Middle Eastern fried pastry, similar to a fritter. These pastries are usually filled with ingredients such as meat, cheese, or vegetables and then deep-fried to achieve a golden brown and crispy texture.
Sambousek offers you a great snack option that can be both savoury and sweet, depending on the chosen filling, and it showcases the simplicity and versatility of Arabic cuisine.
Ingredients in Arabic Snacks
Arabic snacks have a diverse range of ingredients that give them unique flavours and textures. In this section, we will look at the most commonly used ingredients in Arabic snacks, focusing on spices, grains, and meat and dairy.
Arabic cuisine is well-known for its aromatic and flavourful spices. Here are some common spices used in Arabic snacks:
- Baharat: This is a blend of seven spices, often including cinnamon, cumin, coriander, black pepper, cloves, allspice, and paprika. It gives dishes a warm and earthy flavour.
- Za’atar: A combination of thyme, sesame seeds, sumac, and salt. It’s used in snacks such as manakeesh and sprinkled on labneh.
- Sumac: A tangy, lemon-like spice that adds a burst of flavour to snacks like fattoush salad and grilled corn on the cob.
Grains are a staple ingredient in Arabic snacks and can be found in both sweet and savoury dishes. Some common grains used include:
- Flour: Used to make dough for snacks like sabboosa (sweet fritters) and fatayer (filled pastries).
- Bulgur wheat: A whole grain that’s used in salads like tabbouleh and kibbeh, a popular stuffed snack.
- Rice: Often used in stuffings for snacks like mahshi (stuffed vegetables) or to create a filling for vine leaves.
Meat and Dairy
Meat and dairy products add richness and depth to Arabic snacks. Some of the most common ingredients in this category include:
- Lamb: A popular meat in Arabic cuisine, often used as a filling for pastries, such as sfiha and kibbeh.
- Chicken: Used in various snacks, including shawarma sandwiches, grilled skewers, and pastries.
- Labneh: A strained yoghurt that’s popular throughout the Middle East. It’s served as a dip or spread and is often enjoyed with za’atar, olive oil, and bread.
- Cheese: Varieties such as feta, halloumi, and akkawi are frequently used in snacks like manakeesh, cheese rolls, and grilled cheese sandwiches.
By combining these ingredients, you can create a wide range of tasty, flavourful, and authentic Arabic snacks to enjoy at home or share with friends and family.
Health Benefits of Arabic Snacks
Arabic snacks have a variety of health benefits that make them both delicious and nutritious choices for your daily diet. These snacks are mostly made from wholesome ingredients, like chickpeas, dates, and olive oil, offering you heart-healthy nutrients and many other advantages.
Arabic snacks like Kdaameh are made from chickpeas, which are a good source of protein, dietary fibre, and other essential nutrients. Consuming chickpea-based snacks can improve digestion and maintain a healthy weight, making them a great choice for those looking to maintain a balanced diet.
Widely used in Arabic cuisine, dates are an excellent source of dietary fibre, natural sugars, and essential minerals like potassium and magnesium. Including dates in your diet can help in improving digestion, stabilising blood sugar levels, and preventing constipation.
Many Arabic snacks, such as Sabboosa, use healthy oils like sunflower oil and extra-virgin olive oil in their preparation. These oils contain monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, which can help maintain a healthy heart, decrease blood pressure, and reduce your risk of hypertension.
Some Arabic snacks, like qahwa, are packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients that have anti-inflammatory properties. Consuming these snacks can help protect your cells from damage caused by free radicals, support your immune system, and promote overall well-being.
As you enjoy these Arabic snacks, you can feel confident in the numerous health benefits they provide. Incorporating them into your daily diet is an effortless and tasty way to nourish your body and contribute to a balanced, nutritious lifestyle.
Arabic Snacks in Global Cuisine
Integration with Western Cuisine
Arabic snacks are increasingly finding their way into Western cuisine, offering a blend of flavours and textures that can expand your palate.
For example, Labneh, a strained yoghurt from Iraq, has gained popularity as a substitute for sour cream or cream cheese. With its creamy texture and tangy taste, it pairs well with various dishes and can even be used in dips.
Another delightful Arabic snack you might be familiar with is Baklava, a classic dessert that hails from the Ottoman Empire, Turkey, Greece, and several Middle Eastern countries.
This flaky, sweet pastry often contains walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, or pistachios. Its layers of fine phyllo dough, combined with the honey and nut filling, create a distinctive taste that is well-loved by many across the globe.
Arabic Food Chains
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of Arabic food chains catering to the growing demand for Arabic snacks and cuisines worldwide. One such example is Just Falafel, an Arabic restaurant chain that grew from four stores in 2010 to over 650 franchises.
These food chains offer a variety of Arabic snacks that have been adapted to cater to international taste buds, making it easier for you to indulge in these delights no matter where you are.
Some popular Arabic snacks that you can find at these food chains include:
- Sabboosa: A traditional Middle Eastern sweet fritter made with flour, sugar, and water, then fried in oil. This golden brown treat is both healthy and cheap.
- Warak Dawali: Made from grape leaves stuffed with rice, ground beef or lamb, and a traditional seven-spice mix.
- Lupini Beans: A nutritious and delicious snack that can be eaten on its own or included in salads for extra texture and taste.
As you explore the world of Arabic snacks, you’ll discover a fascinating tapestry of flavours, textures, and aromas that reflect centuries of trade, conquest, and cultural exchange. With their integration into Western cuisine and the growth of Arabic food chains, your palate is in for a treat as you indulge in these exotic delights.
Making Arabic Snacks at Home
Arabic snacks are both delicious and often healthy, making them a great choice for an afternoon treat or a gathering with friends and family.
In this section, we will guide you through the process of making Arabic snacks at home, with easy recipes for beginners as well as more advanced recipes for those looking to challenge their culinary skills.
- Balila Balila is a simple, healthy snack packed with proteins and fibres. To make Balila, combine boiled chickpeas with lemon juice, cumin, and salt. Add garlic, olive oil, and a dash of Tabasco sauce for an extra kick. This recipe is perfect for a quick, nutritious snack that can be enjoyed at any time.
- Sabboosa Sabboosa, a traditional Middle Eastern sweet fritter, is both easy to make and inexpensive. To prepare, mix flour, sugar, and water into a batter. Fry spoonfuls of the mixture in oil until golden brown. Enjoy these sweet treats with a cup of tea or coffee.
- Almond Butter Hummus For a twist on the classic hummus recipe, try making almond butter hummus. Just blend almond butter, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, and salt until smooth. Serve with pita chips or sliced vegetables for a delicious and healthy snack.
- Kunafa Kunafa is a popular Middle Eastern dessert that features various fillings, such as cheese, cream, nuts, and fruits. To make Kunafa, start by making dough from semolina, cornstarch, sugar, and melted butter. Spread a layer of dough on a baking tray, followed by your chosen filling, and then cover with another layer of dough. Bake until golden brown, and then drizzle with a sugar syrup before serving.
- Muhammara (Spicy Red Pepper Dip) This delicious, flavourful dip is perfect for serving with pita bread or as an accompaniment to grilled meats. To make Muhammara, you’ll need roasted red peppers, walnuts, breadcrumbs, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Blend all the ingredients until smooth, and then season to taste with salt and black pepper.
- Lebanese Moutabel (Spicy Eggplant Dip) For a more advanced and exotic Arabic snack, try making Lebanese Moutabel. Begin by roasting eggplants until tender and then scooping out the flesh. Blend the eggplant with tahini, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes. Adjust the seasoning to your taste and serve with pita bread as a delightful appetiser.
Once you have mastered these Arabic snack recipes, you can impress your family and friends with a delicious array of exotic, homemade treats.
Arabic Snacks – Conclusion
In summing up your gastronomic journey through Arabic snacks, you’ve experienced an array of delightful flavours, textures, and cultural influences. You’ve discovered that many of these treats are both healthy and affordable, making them perfect options for those looking for nutritious, budget-friendly options.
You’ve learned about traditional favourites such as Sabboosa, a sweet Middle Eastern fritter made from simple ingredients and the tantalising tastes of loz akhdar (green almonds). These snacks illustrate the versatility and rich culinary traditions present in Arabic-speaking countries.
Arabic snacks offer a captivating adventure into the unique tastes and traditions of the Middle East. As you continue to explore this wonderful cuisine, your understanding and enjoyment of these diverse foods will only deepen. So, don’t hold back; go ahead and savour the richness and depth of flavours that Arabic snacks have to offer.