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Ultimate Guide to Saudi Cuisine

Ultimate Guide to Saudi Cuisine: Traditional, Street Foods & Gourmet Delights (2024)

Saudi Arabia, a country with vast deserts, ancient traditions, and bustling modern cities, is not just rich in its history and culture but also in its culinary repertoire. Saudi cuisine, often overshadowed by its Middle Eastern neighbors, is a treasure trove of flavors, techniques, and traditions waiting to be explored. Whether you’re wandering the streets or dining in a luxurious setting, the country’s food landscape promises a delightful gastronomic journey. Let’s embark on a culinary tour through the heart of Saudi Arabia. 

1. Traditional Dishes

Mandi: A must-try, Mandi is a traditional dish made of rice, meat (usually lamb or chicken), and a mixture of spices. Originally from Yemen, it found its way to Saudi kitchens and hearts. The meat is slow-cooked to perfection, making it tender and flavorful, and served over aromatic rice.

Kabsa: Similar to Mandi, Kabsa uses a unique blend of spices and is often garnished with raisins and almonds. It can be made with chicken, lamb, or even camel meat.

Harees: A Ramadan staple, Harees is made with just three ingredients – wheat, meat, and a pinch of salt. It’s cooked until all ingredients are completely integrated, resulting in a porridge-like consistency.

Jareesh: A form of crushed wheat, Jareesh is often cooked with meat, resembling a wheat risotto. It’s a traditional Bedouin dish and is an acquired taste for many.

2. Street Foods

Shawarma: While Shawarma is popular across the Middle East, the Saudi version is unique with its choice of spices and garnishes. Thin slices of marinated chicken or beef are stacked on a vertical rotisserie and shaved off as they cook.

Mutabbaq: A savory pastry, Mutabbaq is stuffed with ground meat and a mixture of spices. It’s then deep-fried until golden and crispy.

Falafel: Made from ground chickpeas, these deep-fried balls are crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. They’re best enjoyed with tahini sauce or stuffed inside a pita pocket.

Koshary: This dish is made with rice, lentils, macaroni noodles, and a tomato sauce. It is typically topped with fried onions and chickpeas.

Ful medames: This dish is made with mashed fava beans, olive oil, lemon juice, and spices. It is typically served with pita bread and vegetables.

Luqaimat: These sweet dumplings are fried and then drizzled with honey or date syrup. They are a popular dessert in Saudi Arabia.

3. Gourmet Experiences

Saudi Arabia’s culinary scene is evolving, with many chefs modernizing traditional recipes and creating fusion dishes.

Najd Village: Located in Riyadh, Najd Village offers traditional Saudi dishes in an authentic setting. The mud-built interior gives diners the feeling of stepping back in time. While the food is traditional, the presentation and attention to detail offer a gourmet touch.

Nozomi: Situated in Riyadh, Nozomi offers a Japanese menu with a Saudi twist. From sushi to sashimi, each dish is curated using local ingredients, creating a perfect blend of Japanese techniques and Saudi flavors.

The Globe: Located within Al Faisaliah Tower in Riyadh, The Globe is a culinary marvel offering panoramic views of the city. The menu boasts international dishes, but with the availability of traditional Saudi ingredients, there’s a hint of local flavor in every bite.

4. Desserts and Beverages

Kunafa: A popular dessert made from thin noodle-like pastry soaked in syrup, it’s often layered with cheese or cream.

Qahwa (Arabian Coffee): Light and aromatic, it’s traditionally served in small cups alongside dates.

Jallab: A popular drink made from dates, grape molasses, and rose water, then topped with pine nuts.

Tips For Planning A Saudi Cuisine Tour

Here are a few tips for planning a Saudi cuisine tour:

  • Do your research: Before you go, take some time to learn about the different types of Saudi food that are available. This will help you to decide what dishes you want to try and where you want to eat them.
  • Be adventurous: Don’t be afraid to try new things. Saudi cuisine has a lot to offer, so be open to trying new dishes and flavors.
  • Be prepared for a variety of prices: Saudi cuisine offers a wide range of prices, from affordable street food to expensive gourmet meals. Be prepared to spend a variety of amounts on food, depending on your budget and preferences.
  • Be respectful: Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country, so be respectful of the local customs and traditions when it comes to food. For example, avoid eating pork or drinking alcohol.


Saudi Arabian cuisine is a blend of old and new, traditional and modern. From age-old recipes passed down through generations to modern fusion dishes, there’s something to tickle every palate. As Saudi Arabia opens its doors to tourists, its culinary landscape promises to be a key attraction, narrating tales of its heritage, culture, and evolution. So, on your next trip to this Arabian gem, ensure you indulge in its vast and varied gastronomic delights.

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