Lebanese cuisine is full of flavor and tradition. Cooking is a family affair in Lebanon, and for Lebanese families around the world. As with other Middle Eastern foods, Lebanese dishes make vegetables the star of the meal and builds on flavors, whole grains and meats around it. Here is the ultimate guide to Lebanese food.
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What is Lebanese Food?
Lebanese food is the traditional food originating from the country of Lebanon and consists of fresh vegetables, fish, poultry, whole grains like bulgar (cracked wheat) and red meats of lamb and beef. Typically, spices like mint and cinnamon are used in savory dishes, and there is no lack of lemons and heart healthy olive oils, and also pine nuts and pistachios.
Traditional Lebanese food if full of garlic, onions, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), and tahini (sesame paste) which are all nearly every day staples.
A savory Lebanese meal is not complete without Lebnah.
What is Lebnah?
Lebnah is a very thick cow’s milk yogurt served with meats and traditional Lebanese dishes. Many Lebanese foods and meats are dipped or cooked in to Lebnah and serve as a digestive aid.
Are Lebnah and Greek yogurt the same thing?
Both Greek yogurt and Lebnah are thick yogurts, however Lebnah is even thicker and more dense than Greek yogurt, and has more of a tangy flavor.
What are traditional Lebanese dishes and popular Lebanese food?
9 of the most delicious and famous Lebanese foods are…
- Tabbouleh– Tabbouleh is a delicious vegan salad made with loads of parsley, green onions, tomatoes and bulgar or cracked wheat. Another famous Lebanese salad is called fattoush and is made with fried pita chips instead of cracked wheat.
- Hummus – Hummus has gained traction in the US over the last decade or so. It is a creamy bean dip made with tahini (sesame paste), garlic, lemon juice and olive oil. It is one of the most popular Lebanese side dishes and is a vegan Lebanese food as well.
- Baklava– Baklava is a Lebanese dessert made with flaky layers of buttered puff pastry, ground walnuts or pistachios and topped with syrup or honey.
- Kibbeh– This is a Lebanese staple! It is basically the Lebanese version of meatloaf, and is either made with ground lamb or lean ground beef. Kibbeh is usually stuffed with a sautéed mixture of ground beef or lamb, onions, pine nuts, and spiced with cinnamon. It can be served raw (kibbeh nayeh), baked, or it can be shaped into balls and fried.
- Manakish– Is a traditional Middle Eastern bread topped with za’atar spices, olive oil and lemon juice.
- Meat Pies (sfeehas)– Meat pies are a savory bread dough pastry filled with ground lamb or beef and typical Lebanese spices. In my opinion, meat pies are the best Lebanese food Fatayer is also a stuffed bread dough pastry but is filled with cheese or spinach.
- Stuffed Vegetables– Lebanese cuisine, as well as foods from around the Middle East, are well known for stuffed vegetables. Traditionally, vegetables are stuffed with ground beef or lamb and rice and seasoned with cinnamon. The stuffed vegetables are then cooked in tomato sauce or oil and lemon juice. Some popular vegetables to stuff are cabbage leaves, zuchini, squash, eggplant and grape leaves, or even Swiss chard.
- Falafel– I can’t talk about Lebanese food without mentioning falafel! Falafel is made of soaked and ground chickpeas (and sometimes fava beans) mixed with cumin, cilantro, and parsley. This bean mixture is then made into balls and deep fried. It is usually served with fresh pita bread, pickled veggies and tahini sauce or Lebanese garlic sauce.
- Shawarma– Shawarma is a very common street food of grilled meat (lamb, beef or chicken) and served in fresh pita bread. Other grilled meats like Kafta (ground meat, skewered and grilled) and shish kabob are also famously Lebanese.
- Baba Ghanoush– What is baba ghanoush? It is a creamy dip that is very similar to hummus, however it is made with roasted eggplant instead of garbanzo beans
Is Lebanese food healthy?
Lebanese food is considered extremely healthy due to its use of heart healthy oils like olive oil and its use of nuts and fish, high in omega 3 fatty acids.
Lebanese cooking relies heavily on whole grains, lean meats, healthy oils, legumes, and a load of fresh fruits and vegetables, which is why it is considered a very healthy diet.
Can I eat Lebanese food on the Mediterranean diet?
Yes! In fact, Lebanese food IS compliant with the Mediterranean diet, and Lebanon may as well have invented it! The Mediterranean diet is scientifically approved by many large sources and doctors as one of the best diets to follow (read link above from Mayo Clinic), and has been on many of the “most popular” lists for the last 5 years.
Let’s get real here, Lebanon is located on the Mediterranean Sea and in the heart of Mediterranean cuisine, so YES it is compliant with the Mediterranean Diet. Check out this infographic comparing the Mediterranean Diet to the Lebanese diet.
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Is Lebanese food similar to Greek food?
There are many similarities between Greek food and Lebanese food however each has it’s own unique foods that make them stand apart. Greek food has several staples that Lebanese food does not, like spanakopita. And unique to Lebanon is the use of za’atar spices and sumac as well as more tahini, and whole grains like bulgar.
Some similarities between the 2 countries are baklava and gyros (however we Lebanese refer to it shawarma).
Is Lebanese food spicy?
In general, Lebanese cuisine is not spicy, in terms of heat from hot peppers, however they are used on occasion. Lebanese food IS full of spices like cinnamon, za’atar (roasted thyme, oregano, and sumac blend), cumin, mint and garlic. In my opinion, there is no lack of flavor!
Are there Lebanese Vegetarian or Vegan dishes?
YES! In fact, there are quite a few vegetarian and vegan options in Middle Eastern cuisine. One of my favorites is Mujaddara (Lentils and rice with caramelized onions) which actually means “Poor man’s stew”. Don’t let the name fool you! It is delicious!
There are many ways to prepare this Lebanese Vegan recipe. one of the most popular ways is to make the rice and lentils together, and then add crispy caramelized onions on the top.
What is the national dish of Lebanon?
I think most Middle Eastern foodies would agree that the dish that is uniquely Lebanese is KIBBEH. Kibbeh is a Lebanese traditional food of lean ground lamb or beef, processed together with bulgar, onions and spices and either served raw, baked or fried.
Is Lebanese food good?
YES! Of course Lebanese food is completely delicious!! I wouldn’t have written this entire article and spent hours of my life cooking Lebanese food if it wasn’t divine! Now, go cook yourself one the the recipes I linked in this article, or go find a Middle Eastern restaurant and try something new!