Essential ingredients in an Israeli pantry
Israel is a perfect blend of eclectic cuisines and culture, and a country well-known for its lively and delicious food. Israeli cuisine is the culmination of the gastronomic traditions and national cuisines of the countries the Jews migrated from to Israel - Yemen, Syria and Iraq, Morocco and Georgia, France, Ukraine and Poland, and the like.
Some of our favorite Israeli dishes are Shawarma, falafel, shakshouka, hummus, and tabouleh. In order to make these, an Israeli pantry must have some essential items, So what are these essentials? Read on to find out!
Stock up on some of the basics like cinnamon, cumin, cardamom, coriander, ginger, paprika, turmeric and sumac– but don’t forget to add some lesser-known varieties of herbs and spices such as za’atar and Aleppo pepper for an extra kick of flavor whenever needed! These can be used to season meats, prepare marinades or just liven up pre-made sauces.
Parsley, cilantro, dill, and mint are a must in any Israeli kitchen (unless you’re Meirav of course who can’t stand cilantro, more on that another time) - they go into salatim (salads) or used as a garnish in pretty much everything.
Legumes & Grains
Used in so many stews, soups, and dips, make sure you have plenty of legumes such as chickpeas and lentils in your pantry at all times. Grains such as bulgur wheat and couscous are staples in most kitchens so don't forget to pick those up as well. Basmati rice and quinoa are also very popular and often used for salads and rice dishes.
Classic Mediterranean cheese such as feta cheese adds a salty tang to salads and is very popular.
Labneh cheese is essentially thick strained yogurt that comes as balls packed in its liquid form often seen on mezze platters across Israel popularly known for its consistency softer than ricotta cheese but firmer than Greek yogurt. If you have Greek Yogurt you can easily make it at home yourself.
Onions & Garlic
The foundation of any dish, make sure you always have lots of onions and garlic around! Most grocery stores have frozen garlic cubes I always have on hand in an emergency. Not having garlic in the house is definitely an emergency!
As essential for me just as much as kosher salt and olive oil, I always have lemons on hand. I used them in salad dressings, tahini and hummus, and to brighten up salads and fish. You can also make preserved lemons or buy this one which we are obsessed with.
Tahini is sesame paste made from ground-up sesame seeds (think Israeli peanut butter). It's a key ingredient in many Middle Eastern dishes – like hummus or baba ganoush – and adds a nutty, earthy taste to a variety of recipes. It’s also used as an ingredient in many salad dressings and desserts like halva.
Our favorite tahini as everyone probably knows by now is Soom!
Schug (pronounced skoog, sometimes spelled zhug) is a Yemenite hot sauce made from fresh parsley, garlic, cumin, chilies, cardamom and other spices. It’s popular throughout the Middle East and is used to flavor soups and stews or as a topping on falafel or shawarma sandwiches. Here is a good recipe for you'd like to make it.
Rose water is used in the popular dessert you'll see in Israel called Malabi (think rosewater pudding), as well as baked goods.
What's your must-have pantry items for making your favorite Israeli food?