Israeli cuisine is indeed a product of history and geography  


Israeli Cuisine





Israel, land of the Bible and the historic homeland of the Jewish people, only 290 miles (470 km.) in length from north to south , bordered by Lebanon in the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east, Egypt to the southwest and the Mediterranean Sea to the west.

So small in size, Israel encompasses the varied topographical features and climates of a continent. In the north, the forested highlands of Galilee merge with fertile green valleys,  sand dunes and farmland mark the coastal plain bordering the Mediterranean shoreline

The rocky peaks of the Samarian and Judean mountain ranges in the center of the country descend sharply to the semi-tropical Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth. Mountainous deserts, stretching southward through the Negev and Arava, end at the Gulf of Eilat, the northernmost tip of the Red Sea.


Over six million people forms a mosaic of different religions, cultures and  traditions. Jews, Muslims, Christians , Arab Christians, Bedouin and Druze .

Ethnic groups , Jewish heritage, immigrants from more than eighty nations and culinary influences of neighboring countries helped to develope an Israeli cuisine that reflects authenticity of its own and create a true melting pot.

Israeli cuisine reflects the various communities in the country . The Israeli kitchen is a home to the multitude of foods and recipes which have accompanied the Jewish immigrants return and their recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation, and are now part of Israeli cuisine.  

Israeli cuisine is indeed a product of history and geography.      


The Israeli table today no longer has "Jewish" food.                         

To say that gefilte fish is a "Jewish" dish is like saying that couscous is a "Morrocan" one, that the use of curry is exclusive to India or that cheesecakes are favored only by New Yorkers. 

All of these dishes have their roots in other countries, but have been brought to Israel by Jews returning from the Diaspora and have been adopted into Israel's cuisine .

Jews used local cooking elements and available products, absorbed various traditions from their non-Jewish neighbors and interpreted them creatively in keeping with their own traditions. 


Sometimes the term "Jewish food" is mistakenly understood as referring to the cooking traditions of Eastern European Jews. However, the cuisine of the Ashkenazi Jews, which in itself composed of many regional culinary forms, is only one of several Jewish cooking styles.                 

To mention a few examples, Jews from Iraq and Iran brought with them the love for Fruited Beef combinations, turshi, a mixture of pickled vegetables, rice and cracked wheat , fruits and nuts, cardamom, cinnamon . 

Eastern European Jews brought sweet and heavy dishes while from the Balkan region arrived those lemon-flavored soups and grilled meats.

Jewish communities of Northern Africa have a tremendously rich culinary tradition and they share hot savory pastries , candied almonds , stuffed prunes,  tagines , couscous and hot & spicy food.  Jews from Greece and Turkey are using lots of onions, garlic, yogurt and eggplant, rice, vegetables and stuffed vegetables. 



According to Kashrut laws , only certain types of meat and fish may be eaten. Pork and rabbit, for example, are excluded, as are shellfish. However, not all Israelis are keeping Kosher so pork can be found in lots of reastaurants. There is also, a pork products factory in Israel, called Ma'adanei Mizra . (ma'adanei = deli).

According to Kashrut laws , dairy dishes must be cooked and eaten separately from meat dishes. Foods such as fish, eggs, fruits and vegetables may be eaten with either meat or milk. As I mentioned above, not all Israelis are keeping kosher and religious practice is a matter of personal choice.


The two main branches of the Jewish faith, the Sephardic and Ashkenazic table is different as each developed its own variations to their traditional dishes due to regional separation of cultures, backgrounds and countries conditions over several centuries. 



Ashkenazic cooks prefer seasonings that emphasize the tastes of foods rather than the use of herbs and spices. Avoided sauces, except for natural cooking juices augmented by water or a simple meat or vegetable stock. Sweet and sour stews of meat and vegetables are authenticity of Ashkenazic cooking.  The food is tasty , not spicy but not bland either.


Sephardic cuisine is healthy and very similar to the Mediterranean diet. Fruits, vegetables, spices and grains were plentiful in the Mediterranean climate, and in this fashion , foods figured heavily into Sephardic cuisine. Lemon, garlic, tomatoes, and olive oil are its favorite flavors and their dishes are quite hot.


Burekas - Sephardic


1/2 lb. margarine
1 tsp. salt
3 cups self-rising flour
warm water


1/2 cup cheese (feta)
1 cup cooked spinach
3 egg yolks


1 egg yolk
4 cups sesame seeds

Melt the margarine and mix with flour and salt. Add warm water until able to roll dough. Roll it, cut a leaf, and cut circles with a cup. Mix all the ingredients. Put one teaspoon of stuffing on each dough circle. Fold in half. On top, spread yolk and sprinkle sesame seeds. Place on a well-greased cookie tray and bake at 3500 until golden (approx. 15-20 min.). Serve hot.


Malawach  ("ch" as in Scottish "loch") - Yemen

4 cups flour 1-1/4 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick margarine
tomato sauce 

Mix flour, water, and salt until dough becomes soft. Add more flour if dough is sticky. Cut dough into two sections. Knead and roll each section into a 20x20 inch sheet. Spread margarine on the sheets. Fold each sheet like an envelope with ends meeting at center. Repeat folding process to get two layers of folds. Cover with a paper towel, let sit for 1/2 hour. Cut each sheet into 10 parts. Form each piece of dough to the shape of your frying pan and fry until golden brown on both sides. Serve with tomato sauce


Meat borscht - Russia

3 quarts water
2 lbs. brisket
beef bones
8 beets, grated
2 onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbs. salt
3 tbs. brown sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice
1/2-15oz. can tomato puree
2 eggs
1/2 cabbage, shredded

Combine water, meat and bones in a deep saucepan. Bring to a boil and skim. Add beets, cabbage, tomato puree, onions, garlic and salt. Cover and cook over medium heat for 2 hours. Add brown sugar and lemon juice. Cook for an additional 30 minutes.



Recipes Index



Israeli Cuisine - part II