A Complete Guide to Traditional Food of UAE

Traditional food in UAE, called the Emirati cuisine, reflects the region’s climate, culture, and traditions. The traditional food of the UAE shares similarities with neighboring countries like Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Asia. The ancestors were Bedouins, people who traveled across the desert. Because of this reason, the meals incorporated the use of complex carbohydrates to provide them with the energy required. Traditionally the Emiratis prepared dishes out of meat (lamb and mutton being their favored), grains, and dairy. Camels have great importance in the Middle East culture and cuisine. The camel meat is reserved for special occasions like marriage, considering the importance of their milk and transporting ability.

Due to the prevalent marine history of the UAE, the sea was the source of food, with fish like Hamour and Shaari Eshkeli caught from the Arabian Sea. Before the oil boom, the ancient Emiratis would cook indigenous birds such as the Houbara bustards. Today, traditional dishes are prepared using chicken. The Emirati cuisine has a delicate flavoring of spices like saffron, cardamom, cinnamon, and turmeric. Sometimes the dishes are seasoned with the leaves of the ghaf trees. Dates growing in abundance in the UAE are used a lot in desserts and flavoring salads. As for drinks, a special tea called Karak chai and Arabic coffee served along with the main meal is an integral part of Emirati culture and hospitality. Take a look at the traditional food of UAE that will take you on a cultural tour of the country.

Also Read: Most Beautiful Places in Manali


Chabab is a thin, crisp, sweet bread that looks like an American pancake. The main ingredients of Chabab bread are egg, flour, melted butter, and yeast. It is usually served with Chami (a salted cheese made from buttermilk) and garnished with sesame seeds.

Khameer Bread

Khameer bread is a soft, puffy, round flat bread with separate two layers. Dates are used instead of sugar to sweeten this bread. Fennel, cardamom, and saffron are used for adding flavor to the Khameer bread. In earlier days, Arabs used coal ovens to bake this bread.


Shakshuka or Beidh Wa Tomat is a simple dish made of scrambled eggs with delicious chunky tomato and bell pepper sauce garnished with thyme and coriander. You can make shakshuka with poached eggs too. 


Harees or Harissa is a Ramadan special dish made with chicken or lamb and boiled barley with a few spices. The wheat grains are soaked overnight, seasoned, and simmered to cook. It is served hot with olive oil or butter on top.


Thereed is a popular iftar dish and preferred for breaking fast as it is light on the stomach. It is a meat stew that combines the rich flavors of meat and vegetables with potatoes. Thereed tastes best when accompanied by Raqaq bread.


Khuzi or Ghuzi is the national dish of the United Arab Emirates. This meal is made from roasted lamb or mutton and served on kebab skewers along with vegetables, rice, and hazelnuts. It is a complete meal in itself.


Shuwaa is a meal prepared by slow roasting the whole lamb with vegetables, spices, nuts, and raisins wrapped in date leaves cooked in a closed or submerged oven and served on rice.

Al Machboos

Al Machboos is a main course meal prepared using shrimp, chicken, or red meat. The meat of your choice is arranged in layers with vegetables, rice, dried lime powder, and traditional spices. The addition of lime gives this dish a tangy flavor. Machboos is an Emirati adoption of Indian biryani.

Samak Mashwi

Samak Mashwi is a spicy Arabian grilled fish wherein the fish is marinated with date paste mixed with Arabic spices and then baked in a large tray and garnished with lemon slices and parsley. It is a much-loved fish, especially at the time of Ramadan.


Luqaimat, also called Lugaimat, Lokma, or Awameh, is a favorite Emirati sweet dish. It is a deep-fried dough ball that is crunchy on the outside and fluffy inside. It is coated in sweet date syrup known as Dibbs and served with sweet dipping sauces. 


Balaleet is a sweet-salty dish made using vermicelli noodles and eggs spiced with cinnamon, saffron, cardamom, rose water, orange blossoms, and pistachios. Though it is a breakfast dish, some restaurants serve it as a dessert.

People of all nationalities like Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and Europe flock to this country for work or business, making it their home. Due to this influx of expats in the UAE, cuisines from every part of the globe are found here. The national dish of the Emirates, Kabsa, which was heavy on spices, has become less spicy, and lamb fat used in recipes like Harees is replaced with butter to suit the taste of the new customer base. People mistake Levantine dishes like Kunafa, Hummus, Falafel, and Shwarma for Emirati dishes. The traditional Emirati cuisine has lasted the test of time and survived the country’s rapid modernization. Indulge in the mouth-watering food and drinks of the UAE on your visit to this country and satisfy your taste buds with these authentic food items.

Leave a Reply