Traditional Meals in the UAE You Should Try

Traditional Meals in the UAE

The UAE is known to serve international flavors and traditional Emirati cuisine.

These cities are known not only for their skyscrapers and luxurious lifestyle but also for their diverse and mouthwatering dishes that cater to every palate.

Let’s discover Emirati cuisine and discover some must-try dishes that you shouldn’t miss during your visit.

What Is Traditional Emirati Cuisine?

Traditional Emirati cuisine is a reflection of the region’s culture, history, and natural resources.

Over time, Emirati food has evolved due to factors such as urbanization, the discovery of oil, and the influence of expatriate communities.

Despite these changes, there are still authentic Emirati dishes that have stood the test of time and continue to be an integral part of the local food culture.

Traditional Emirati Breakfast Dishes

Start your day in Dubai and Abu Dhabi with a taste of authentic Emirati breakfast dishes that are sure to tantalize your taste buds and provide you with the energy to explore these vibrant cities.

#1. Baleelat

One of the most intriguing breakfast options is “Baleelat.” This dish beautifully combines sweet and savory elements to create a unique flavor profile.

An omelet and vermicelli are the foundation of Baleelat. To enhance the taste, sugar, cinnamon, saffron, cardamom, orange blossom, or rose water are added.

The sweetened vermicelli is adorned with spices, and a delicate egg omelet is placed on top, creating a harmonious blend of textures and flavors.

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Baleelat is not only enjoyed during breakfast but is also a part of festive celebrations, making it a must-try dish that showcases the richness of Emirati culinary traditions.

#2. Shakshuka

For a simpler yet equally satisfying option, consider indulging in “Beidh Wa Tomat” or Shakshuka.

This dish features scrambled eggs cooked with tomatoes and peppers, infused with thyme and coriander.

The result is a nutritious and flavorful breakfast that highlights the use of everyday ingredients.

Whether enjoyed with traditional Emirati bread or as a standalone dish, Beidh Wa Tomat is a testament to the simplicity and elegance of Emirati cuisine.

#3. Chabab Bread

Delve into the world of Emirati pancakes with “Chabab Bread.” This thin, crisp, and slightly sweet bread shares similarities with American pancakes but boasts its distinctive characteristics.

Made from a combination of flour, eggs, melted butter, and yeast, Chabab Bread is a canvas for flavor experimentation.

Fennel and a touch of turmeric elevate the taste, while toppings like Chami cheese (a salty buttermilk cheese) and date syrup add layers of indulgence.

Whether served hot for breakfast or as a delightful snack, Chabab Bread embodies the essence of Emirati comfort food. 

Traditional Lunch Dishes

After experiencing the delectable breakfast options, let’s move on to exploring the mouthwatering traditional lunch dishes that grace the tables of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

#1. Hareeth

If you’re seeking a dish that embodies both tradition and heartiness, “Hareeth” should be on your list.

This ancient dish holds a significant place in ceremonies and gatherings. The preparation of Hareeth is a labor of love, requiring at least three hours of continuous boiling.

The process involves cooking wheat in salted water until it becomes tender and fluffy.

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Meat is then added to create a thick and flavorful porridge. Whether enjoyed plain, with a touch of sugar, or garnished with chopped onions, Hareeth is a true Emirati comfort food that reflects the essence of the cuisine.

#2. Samak Mashwi

For seafood enthusiasts, “Samak Mashwi” is a dish that showcases the coastal influence on Emirati cuisine. 

Traditionally, fish is cooked on a dome-like barbecue made of clay, resulting in a unique flavor.

The fish is pinned on a stick, and one end is placed in the barbecue with the other end fixed to the coal bed at an angle. 

What sets Samak Mashwi apart is the addition of date paste to the marinade, lending it a distinctive taste.

The fish is left unscaled, allowing the scales to protect the flesh from breaking apart during cooking. 

Samak Mashwi presents a delightful blend of flavors that pays homage to the region’s maritime heritage.

#3. Thereed

A dish closely associated with the iftar (breaking of the fast) during Ramadan, “Thereed” is a light and flavorful meat stew with large chunks of potatoes.

While chicken and lamb are popular meat choices, the dish can also be made with vegetables. Thereed’s rich flavors and combination of meat, potatoes, and vegetables evoke a sense of comfort and satisfaction. 

Similar to the Tagine in Moroccan cuisine, Thereed showcases the art of combining ingredients to create a harmonious and delightful meal.

Traditional Desserts of UAE

No culinary exploration of Dubai and Abu Dhabi is complete without indulging in the delectable traditional desserts that bring a sweet ending to your meal.

#1. Luqaimat

The highlight of Emirati desserts, “Luqaimat” are sweet fried dumplings that boast a perfect balance of flavors and textures.

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Made from a blend of milk, sugar, butter, and flour, these bite-sized treats are drenched in date syrup and garnished with sesame seeds. 

The combination of the crunchy exterior and soft interior, along with the hints of cardamom and saffron, creates a truly memorable dessert experience.

#2. Aseeda

For those who appreciate simple yet soul-satisfying desserts, “Aseeda” is a classic choice.

This pudding, crafted from pumpkin, flour, cardamom, saffron, and sugar, captures the essence of Emirati comfort food.

Aseeda’s mild sweetness and warm flavors make it a comforting treat that resonates with the culture and traditions of the UAE.

#3. Al Batheetha

Indulge in the delightful flavors of “Al Batheetha,” a dessert made of dates, wheat flour, nuts, and a blend of spices.

Baked to perfection, Al Batheetha presents itself in various shapes, each offering a unique texture and taste.

Whether enjoyed in the form of a cookie or a ball, this dessert highlights the versatility of dates in Emirati sweets.



Some cuisine is traditionally meat-centric, but there are vegetarian options available. Dishes like Thereed (vegetable stew) and Aseeda (pumpkin pudding) cater to vegetarians.

While some dishes are associated with celebrations, many Emirati dishes are enjoyed as everyday meals. You can find them in local restaurants and homes.

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