Traveling can be expensive. This is especially true in Israel, where the cost of living is very high. So, to save money, many travelers opt to cook a few meals at their temporary residence. Not only can eating at “home” be more cost-effective but if your group is prone to hunger, it can help keep everyone in good spirits. There is, however, no need to sacrifice local flavor in favor of easy and effective meals. These are some of the best and easiest Israeli eats that you can cook while traveling.
If you wake up hungry, the quest for food in the morning can turn into an ordeal quickly. In Israel, this is less of a problem thanks to the furious love for Israeli breakfast. Hostels and Hotels often offer this as a free benefit of staying there. If this not an option for you, fear not. There are plenty of ways to get the full experience. Most breakfasts consist of both sweet and savory options, and you can mix and match as you please. The savory aspects make up the most uniquely Israeli breakfast: chopped tomato and cucumber salad with tahini, pita, and labneh with za’atar. The sweet spread is equally delicious though: challah, chocolate spread (Israelis frequently use Hashachar Ha’ole,) seasonal fruit, yogurt, honey, and granola.
For those who are up for a little more cooking in the morning, shakshuka is a great option. It is eggs cooked in tomato sauce. The dish is best served with Israeli chop salad and tahini. Check out the full shakshuka recipe, and be sure to buy plenty of pita so you can use it to scoop up every bit. If you’re pumped about Israeli breakfast but also like the sound of shakshuka, have no fear; shakshuka makes a great dinner too.
Whether you prefer to have snacks on hand in your room or on the street, it can be helpful to know some local ones. Fruit, dried or fresh, and nuts are great options. Middle Eastern dates are unique, so you should buy some from street vendors. Just make sure to eat them in odd numbers as Muslim tradition suggests. If you prefer apricots, congrats, they are also fantastic. More importantly the word for apricot in Hebrew and Arabic is adorable: mishmish. Israelis often snack on peanut treats instead of these fruits though. Sababah peanuts are a classic. Markets offer a similar fried peanut product. Both are, confusingly, called “American peanuts.” However, no American is quite sure why, since, much to this American’s chagrin, you cannot find them in the states.
Dinners can be harder to replicate in limited kitchens. Therefore, it is frequently more fun and comfortable to stop by falafel stands instead of cooking dinner. The best falafel is also frequently some of the cheapest in the city. In some cities, like Haifa, the best falafel comes from the poorer Arab neighborhoods (Wadi Nisnas) and costs around NIS 8 or USD 2. And if you are in Tel Aviv, check our food guide to the Florentin District to find the coolest foodie spots. Nonetheless, if you’re set on eating at home though, grab a tub of hummus, a thing of pita and whatever dips and veggies look appetizing to you.
There are plenty of markets in Israel, which are a great places to buy produce.
TAKEAWAY: But the best thing of Israeli markets is that you can sample the food! It is not uncommon to taste the fruit, nuts, or candy. In fact, if you ask, the vendor will likely be more confused than not. What’s more, if you speak Hebrew, Arabic, or Russian, the vendor will practically force these samples on you so be prepared.
There aren’t bread samples, but the market is still a good place to find pita. There is plenty of pita in the many grocery stores of Tel Aviv too though. Many of these stores are even open on Shabbat. AM/PM is the best bet for grocery stores at odd hours. Moreover, Super cofix is generally cheaper but doesn’t always have the same selection.
It can be helpful to go to Israel armed with cooking tips for a few reasons: Tel Aviv is expensive, many places are closed on Shabbat, camping requires you pack food, etc. So whether you’re simply trying to save money in one of the worlds most expensive cities or preparing to hike Masada at sunrise, there is no reason to miss out on the local flavors with this Israeli eats. Just add a sprinkle of za’atar and enjoy.