Due to the desert-like climate, Saudi Arabia has a distinct and flavorful cuisine. The Saudi Arabia food culture inculcates the essence of the past nomadic and tribal lifestyle of people in the kingdom. Therefore, traditional food in Saudi Arabia includes basic ingredients such as meat, milk, spices, rice, dates, and fruits. With evolving times the Saudi Arabian cuisine has found a modern twist, but its authenticity is still preserved by the locals. Further, food in Saudi Arabia is a sign of hospitality; hence, tourists visiting Saudi Arabia can find an array of flavorful dishes served with love and respect.
Typical food in Saudi Arabia
Traditionally breakfast in Saudi Arabia is often simple. People consume qahwa, bread with cheese, dates, fruits, camel milk, etc. in the morning. They start their day with light breakfast and eat heavy lunch. Generally, Saudi Arabians eat Kabsa, grilled meat, roasted chicken, tangy salsa or a fish delicacy with rice for the lunch. For dinner, people often choose a light chopped salad, a sumptuous bowl of soup, and Saudi platter. The top preferred beverages in Saudi Arabia include fresh mango and orange juice, different types of tea, and coffee.
Traditional food in Saudi Arabia
There are delicious dishes made with meat, rice, lamb, vegetables, and dates in traditional Saudi cuisine! Since meat and rice are two common local favorites in Saudi Arabia, these two ingredients are frequently found in regional cuisine.
1. Tharid – Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) favorite
Popularly known as a spicy lamb stew, Tharid is consumed with thick barley flatbread. Many teachings in the Hadith and legends say that Tharid was among the top favorite dishes of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). The dish finds its origination in pre-Islamic times. These days many prepare Tharid with different kinds of halal meats and seasonal vegetables. It is one of the most enjoyed dishes after Muslims break their daily Ramadan fast in the evening.
2. Harees – Delicious wheat and meat dish
A plate of Harees is a staple and most popular dish in Saudi Arabia among Muslims fasting during the month of Ramadan. The dish consists of meat and coarse wheat. The dish originated in Saudi Arabia and spread widely in Middle East and rest parts of the world. Over the time people have experimented with the authentic ingredients and recipe, cooking it in a few different ways and giving it various names.
Suggested Read: 10 Ramadan Food Ideas For Sehri And Iftar Meals
3. Kabsa – National dish of Saudi Arabia
Kabsa is a rice dish that has been influenced by Indian and Persian biryanis. It requires making stock by cooking fish or meat along with rice and spices in water. People often use lamb, shrimps, chicken, camel and fish meat to prepare the dish. The dish is served piping hot on a large platter with salad.
4. Dajaj mashwi – Saudi Chicken barbeque
Made with boneless chicken breasts, this is a popular barbeque dish in Saudi Arabia. The thin slices of meat are marinated with spices and grilled on a barbeque. The marinating mixture includes salt, paprika powder, ginger, lime juice, onion, garlic, black pepper and oil. Arabians serve it with a side mixed salad and tasty garlic dipping sauce.
5. Ma’amoul – Dome shaped cookies
It is a sweet dish consisting juicy fruits and nuts like pistachios, dates and walnuts. These cookies are made in the shape of domes and prepared while celebrating special occasions and festivals. People often top them with powdered sugar served with coffee and tea in many households.
6. Gursan – Thick meat soup
Renowned as one of the national dishes of Saudi Arabia, Gursan is made using paper-thin sheets of bread, vegetables and meat chunks. Its broth has the goodness of multiple flavors of spices and juices. Served in a big bowl, the soupy dish is enjoyed by locals and Muslims worldwide alike.
7. Hanith – Authentic Abha dish
Local dish of Abha, Hanith is famous not only for its flavors but also for the unique preparation method. While preparing the dish, mutton is put into a pit layered with charcoal and Marakh tree leaves. The meat is left to cook for two to three hours with the pit being covered by a thick cloth. Nuts and resins serves as the garnishing for this local delicacy.
8. Kozi Samak – Yoghurt Jeddawi fish delicacy
Kozi Samak is a popular Jeddawi dish made of Hamour fish. The fish gets its flavor from the tomatoes, yoghurt, onions and saffron. The mix is then served with a rice or pasta platter, garnished with nuts, boiled eggs and raisins. To add on to the flavors local spices are also mixed during the preparation of the fish.
9. Shawarma – Ottoman meat dish
Originating from the Ottoman Empire era, Shwarma is greatly famous in the Middle East and nearby countries. It uses skewers to cook meat to perfection. Depending on the preference, people use chicken, lamb, beef, turkey, or other kinds of meats. The dish gets its flavors from the slow cooking process, where the meat is cooked in its fat and juices.
Factors influencing Saudi Arabian cuisine
In the past, spices and basmati rice were the most convenient to transport on a long journey. Similarly, dried dates and musky dried black limes were easy to store because of their long shelf life. Due to dunes all around the kingdom, camels were among the popular modes of transportation and the most found animals. This made camel milk a part of the widely consumed diet in Saudi Arabia. Additionally, dietary laws regulate the food items in the kingdom. For example, there is a ban on the consumption of alcohol and pork throughout the country. People prefer the practice of halal, which is a way of butchering an animal and requires blessings before its meat can be consumed.
To understand the culture of Saudi Arabia, one must experience the local dishes of Saudi Arabia. The kingdom offers numerous delicacies with authentic flavors and tastes.
Traditional Food In Saudi Arabia FAQs
What is the famous dish of Saudi Arabia?
Kabsa is the most popular dish among Saudi Arabians.
What includes in the staple food of Saudi Arabia?
The staple meal of Saudi Arabia often includes a mix of white rice, potatoes, dates, different kinds of meats (most popular are lamb and chicken), yoghurt and seafood.
Which is the common dinner in Saudi Arabia?
Lamb stew, a bowl of soup or a dish from Arabian cuisine are popular options for dinner among Saudi Arabians.
What are famous drinks in Saudi Arabia?
Camel milk, Arabian coffee, mango and orange juices, different kinds of tea, soft drinks, Saudi champagne and lemontia.
Is there any prohibition on types of meat in Saudi Arabia?
Lamb and chicken dishes are famous among Saudi Arabians. Beef is available, but it is rare. There is a prohibition on pork.
What are some common ingredients used in Saudi Arabian cuisine?
Common ingredients used in Saudi Arabian cuisine include rice, wheat, lamb, chicken, beef, dates, vegetables, and a variety of spices, such as cumin, cardamom, saffron, and turmeric.
Is Saudi Arabian food spicy?
Yes, Saudi Arabian food can be spicy, but it depends on the dish and the level of spiciness can vary from mild to very hot. Some popular spices used in Saudi Arabian cuisine, such as cumin and cardamom, can add a mild flavor, while others, such as red pepper flakes, can add a fiery kick.