Traditional Food in the UAE: 10 Aromatic Delicacy

By Fatma Humayun -- Wednesday, 22 Mar, 2023
Traditional food in the UAE

UAE or United Arab Emirates is the land of desert and bedouin or beduin people. They have their own rich culture, tradition, and heritage that represents their lifestyle, climate, and history. Traditional food in the UAE provides not only delicious tastes but also offers insights into the rich cultural heritage of the region. Historically, Emirati cuisine has been shaped by the trading and nomadic lifestyle of its people, emphasizing resourcefulness and hospitality. Emirati cuisine is a blend of Middle Eastern, African, and Asian flavors, showcasing the finest local ingredients and spices. 

Traditional food in the UAE reflects the country's rich cultural heritage, diverse influences, and historical trading connections. These dishes not only serve as a delicious and wholesome treat for the taste buds, but they also carry significance in Emirati culture and traditions. In this article, we will explore the unique aspects of traditional Emirati food and its role in the United Arab Emirate's identity. As well as introduce some of the most popular dishes that have stood the test of time.

Traditional Food in the UAE (Emirati cuisines)

Traditional Emirati cuisines in the UAE

The United Arab Emirates boasts a rich culinary heritage that dates back centuries, reflecting the region's vibrant culture and diverse influences. Traditional Emirati food is a delightful fusion of flavors, textures, and aromas that evoke a sense of warmth and hospitality. Rooted in Bedouin traditions, these dishes have evolved to include influences from Indian, Persian, and North African cuisine, making for a unique and exotic dining experience. 

If you are planning to visit any country in the United Arab Emirates like Dubai, you should add trying traditional UAE food to your checklist. You will be able to try most of the traditional dishes in many fine dining restaurants in Dubai. Let’s hunt through some iconic dishes showcasing the United Arab Emirate's gastronomic prowess. And offer insights into the culture and history of this captivating region.

1. Al Jabab Bread

Al Jabab Bread

Al Jabab Bread is a traditional food in the UAE. It is commonly known as Chabab or Chebab. It is a bread that looks a lot like an American pancake. It is the Emirati version of the American pancake. Emirati pancake is prepared with wheat or flour, yeast, egg, butter, turmeric, fennel, cardamom, and saffron. It is cooked until both sides are golden yellow or light brown. That is where the name Chabab came from. Then garnished with sesame seeds. It is served hot.

Chabab bread is served with honey, date syrup, and Chami cheese or cream cheese. Chami cheese is a type of traditional Emirati cheese. It is prepared from the buttermilk. It tastes salty. Al Jabab Bread is a popular breakfast in the United Arab Emirates. 

2. Khamir Bread

Khamir or Khameer Bread is another traditional food in the UAE. It is a type of breakfast. It is prepared in two different shapes. In some Arabic regions, it is prepared as a flatbread. And in other Arabic regions is shaped like an American burger bun. It is sweetened with date syrup instead of sugar and milk powder is used instead of liquid milk to boost the taste. 

Spices like cardamom and fennel are added to enhance flavor. And turmeric and saffron are used as the coloring agent. Khamir bread is topped or garnished with sesame seeds and prepared in a coal oven.

3. Khubz Regag

Khubz Regag

Khubz Regag or Rigag is a very famous traditional food in the UAE. It is a type of paper like thin crispy bread. It is made with whole wheat, water, and salt. Sometimes it is topped with egg, cheese, date paste or syrup, honey, and many other ingredients while cooking and served as a stand-alone dish. Sometimes it is served as an accompaniment dish with other main dishes.  

4. Balaleet

Balaleet is also known as Baleelat. It is a traditional sweet and savory or salty dish. The main ingredient of this dish is vermicelli which is a type of thing and long pasta or noodles. First vermicelli boiled. Then it is cooked with sugar, cardamom, saffron, and rose water or orange blossom. Finally, it is topped with either a flat egg omelet or scrambled egg and garnished with pistachio. 

Occasionally, it is served with sauteed potatoes or onions. At times, garbanzo beans which means chickpea and black-eyed beans are added to this dish. Balaleet is served as dessert as well as breakfast. It is eaten cold as dessert and served hot as breakfast.

Balaleet is served as the first meal of the Eid day, especially in Eid-Ul-Fitr in some Arabic regions. It is popular or commonly eaten in Bahrain, Iran (especially in Southern Iran), Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia which is the Eastern Province of the United Arab Emirates.

5. Shakshuka



Shakshuka is a traditional food in the UAE that is widely consumed as breakfast in Arabian regions. It is a simple but nutritious dish. The main ingredients of this dish are egg and tomato. There are two ways to prepare Shakshuka. It can be made like a scrambled egg. And also like a poached egg with spices like onion, garlic, pepper, thyme, coriander, bell peppers, etc is sauteed in olive oil with tomato. 

When the base is cooked, the egg is cracked into the mixture. Then the frying pan is covered and cooked in mild heat. Or the egg is scrambled into the mixture to prepare the dish. Finally, basil leaf is used to garnish the dish before serving.

6. Harees

Harees is a traditional food in the UAE also known as Al Harees and Hareeth. It is a dish that has some simple ingredients but it takes a lot of time and effort to prepare this dish. First wheat cracked and turned into a smooth powder. Then it is soaked in water for several hours. Wheat must be soaked for more than five hours. 

In some cases overnight. After that, the wheat is boiled for 3 to 4 hours in a pot with a generous amount of water and salt to taste. When it turns into a thick porridge or gruel-like consistency chunks of meat or minced meat are added and again cooked for another couple of hours. 

Usually, chicken, lamb, mutton, and veal which is the meat of a young cow or calf are used to prepare this dish. It is constantly stirred to avoid sticking on the cooking pot and getting burned. Furthermore, spices like chopped onion, garlic, ground cumin, pepper, cinnamon, sugar, and ingredients like coconut milk and ghee or butter are added. Finally, when the dish is ready it is garnished with pistachio and raisins.

Harees take a great deal of time, skill, and labor to be cooked. But it is effortless to digest and easy on the stomach. So it is mostly eaten on Iftar during Ramadan. It is prepared and served at festivals like Ramadans, Eids, wedding functions, etc.

7. Madroob

Madroob is another traditional food in the UAE that is a lot similar to Harees. It is also another porridge dish like Harees but instead of wheat, this dish is prepared with rice. Another main ingredient of Madroob apart from rice is meat. Emirati people love to eat lamb, mutton, and camel meat more than goat, beef, and chicken. But in order to prepare Madroob chicken is widely used. Other ingredients of this dish are vegetables and Emirati spices.

Firstly, rice is boiled with water and different spices. Secondly, meat is prepared in another pot with Emirati spices. Thirdly, when the meat is half cooked vegetables are added to the meat curry and cooked until everything is well cooked. Finally, when rice comes to a boil, the meat and vegetable curry are added to the boiled rice. Then the whole dish is beaten with a wooden spoon. And turned into a smooth paste. It takes a lot of time and hard work to be prepared. This is the reason Madroob is not easily found in restaurants.

Madroob is nutritious and delicious at the same time. This dish is consumed during Ramadan as Iftar widely. Because it gives strength after a long day of fasting and also it tastes very good.     

8. Tharid



Tharid is another famous traditional food in the UAE that is used to break fast during the holy month of Ramadan. It is a complete food that has wheat, meat, and vegetable. It is a stew made with meat like chicken, goat, lamb, or sheep. And roasted vegetables like marrow, potato, pumpkin, tomatoes, etc. Sometimes it is cooked without any meat. Only with vegetables. 

Tharid is a stew that is slowly cooked for more than an hour. Cooking slowly for a long time makes the whole dish very soft. So it melts instantly after putting it inside the mouth. It is very rich in spice and is very flavourful. At the same time, this dish is rich in vitamins and protein. It helps the body gain energy after a long day of fasting. That is the reason it is consumed widely on Iftar during Ramadan. This dish is served with Regag bread.

9. Machboos


Machboos is a traditional food in the UAE that is prepared with rice. This dish is also known as Kabsa. It is a biryani-like Emirati dish. It is very rich in spice and flavor. This dish is prepared with basmati rice and meat. Chicken, goat, sheep or lamp, etc. In some cases, fish or shrimp is also used to prepare this dish. 

A special type of spice called Loomi which is dried lime powder is used to prepare this dish. Other spices like bay leaves, nutmeg, saffron, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, garlic, cumin, chili powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, fried chopped onions, etc are used to make this dish flavourful and tasty.

This dish is cooked in a single pot. First meat is cooked and when the meat becomes tender, it is removed and rice is added. After that when rice is almost cooked meat is added and cooked in slow heat for at least two hours. Finally, the dish is garnished with coriander leaves and green chilies.

It is a very delicious meal. This dish is prepared for wedding ceremonies and festivals like Eid and Ramadan. Machboos or Kabsa originated in Saudi Arabia. People of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Yemen have this dish in their special events. 

10. Quzi

Traditional food in the UAE made with whole lamb or mutton is named Quzi. It is also another dish prepared with rice. And served during family gatherings and festivals. Rice and meat are separately prepared but served together. First meat is marinated with spices for 24 hours. Meat must be marinated for not less than 8 hours. Then this marinated meat is cooked in low heat for hours. After that meat is removed and the rice is cooked in the same pot into the beef stew. 

Finally cooking process is completed when the rice is fully cooked. And the moisture is dried completely. Now the meat is served in a bed of rice and the whole dish is garnished with nuts and raisins. Quzi is a very delicious dish. You must try this dish if you get the chance to visit Dubai. Restaurants in Dubai are very fancy and they always effectively maintain food safety.   

-- Bonus: Samak Mashwi

Samak Mashwi is a traditional food in the UAE made with fish. It is a grilled fish made with date paste, spices, and herbs. Date paste gives the grilled fish a unique taste. Big and fat fish is used to prepare this dish. First, the fish is marinated for a while and then grilled in an oven made with clay. The oven is filled with burning coal. Then the fish is attached or nailed in a stick unscaled and put inside the oven on the burning coal. Finally, when the fish is cooked, the scales are removed before serving.

This dish has a very unique taste. This dish is easily found in most of the seafood restaurants in Dubai. When visiting Dubai, don’t forget to try this dish if you are a seafood lover. 


The United Arab Emirates boasts a rich and diverse culinary landscape that reflects its deep cultural roots and centuries-old traditions. As a melting pot of various cultures, the traditional food in the UAE is an exquisite blend of indigenous ingredients and flavors. Influenced by Arabian, Persian, and Indian culinary styles. Traditional Emirati food is centered around the unique use of spices, local produce, and time-honored cooking methods. These maintained their essence over generations. Dishes from this culinary tradition include simple yet flavorful ingredients. Such as dates, rice, meat, fish or seafood. These items keep striking a balance between satisfying and also nutritional needs. And indulging in the warm flavors of the desert. This flavorful and aromatic world of Emirati cuisine continues to flourish amidst the constantly evolving global food scene.