What is Emirati Food?

What Is Emirati Food? Examples & Hidden Gems

The Emirati region is famous for many things, such as the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. However, an often-overlooked gem the Emirati has to offer is the delicious cuisine. Emirati food is a testament to the history and culture of the Emirates. You will surely regret not trying one of the many local Emirati dishes available when visiting Dubai or the Emirates! So, what is Emirati food?

Emirati food primarily consists of stews and flatbreads. What makes this food unique is the combination of spices and cooking methods used in Emirati cooking. In addition, dates, chickpeas, and starches are often used in Emirati cuisine to create delicious, warming, and filling food.

Emirati food is so wonderful that it definitely deserves its own article. Therefore, we have written this one dedicated to explaining the intricacies of Emirati food and guiding you to the best Emirati foods to try when you next visit the UAE. In addition, this article discusses the history of Emirati foods. Finally, it lists some of the most popular, traditional Emirati foods to try.

History Of Emirati Food

Emirati Food History

Although many chefs have tried their best to turn Emirati food into delicate, fine-dining cuisine, the roots of Emirati food are much humbler than this. Emirati food was cooked initially to fill the bellies of the Bedouins who traveled through the Emirati. In those days, Emirati food had to be simple and filling.

In addition, Emirati food was made with the ingredients people had available. Meats, such as lamb and goat, were often used in cooking. Fish, specifically kingfish and grouper, were also often used in cooking. Vegetables, wheat, rice, and beans are added to the meat to create delicious, heartwarming dishes.

Although camel has recently increased in popularity, it wasn’t traditionally served as Emirati food. This is because camels were used for transport and milk rather than meat. Camel was historically only served on special occasions, for wedding celebrations, or when special guests visited.

As trade with India and Asia increased in later years, spices such as saffron, cardamom, and cinnamon were introduced to Emirati cuisine. From there, the Emirati food we know today developed. So now you can find a unique blend of ingredients, spices, and cooking techniques in Emirati cuisine.

What Is Emirati Food?

Now that we have covered the history of Emirati food and how it came to be what it is today, we can explore some of the most famous traditional Emirati food worth trying when you next visit the UAE. Some of the dishes discussed are vegetarian, making Emirati food more accessible.

These are some must-try Emirati dishes:

1. Hummus Dip

Cold Emirati Hummus Dip

Hummus isn’t technically a dish, but the Emirati has enjoyed this Lebanese dip for many years. Hummus is made from chickpeas, tahini (sesame seeds), and various spices and is an excellent dip for flatbread. It is also added to multiple other Emirati dishes.

2. Shawarmas

Traditional Emirati Shawarmas

Shawarmas are a traditional Emirati type of wrap made with slow-roasted meat, vegetables, and hummus. Shawarmas are delicious Emirati street food and can also be found in nearly every Emirati-inspired restaurant worldwide. Shawarmas can also be spicy depending on the ingredients used by the chef.

3. Al Harees

Al Harees Emirati Food

Al Harees is a prevalent Emirati dish. This dish resembles the authentic Emirati way of cooking best and is often served during Eid and at weddings. Al Harees is made by cooking flour and meat for several hours. The result is a thick, porridge-like dish. It can also be served sweet with cinnamon and sugar.

4. Kousa Mahshi

Stuffed Emirati Zucchini Kousa Mahshi

This is another vegetarian staple in the Emirati. Kousa Mahshi is a zucchini stuffed with rice and several delicious spices. This technical dish is a determiner of the worth of an Emirati restaurant abroad. The zucchini can be stuffed with or without meat and is usually covered with a tomato-based sauce.

5. Stuffed Camel

Stuffed Emirati Whole Camel Platter

As mentioned, camel wasn’t always used for its meat property. However, nowadays, camel dishes have gained popularity. Stuffed camel is one of the most popular, and the camel is stuffed with lamb and other ingredients. However, this dish isn’t often served, as it takes a long time to prepare and is also expensive. Therefore, it is mostly at high-end weddings that you will find stuffed camels on the menu.

6. Balaleet

Emirati Balaleet Breakfast Foods

Balaleat is a popular Emirati breakfast dish. It can be served as a sweet or savory dish and also as a dessert on some occasions. Balaleat consists of vermicelli and eggs that are topped with cardamon, cinnamon, and orange blossoms. The dish is also topped with saffron and pistachios.

7. Khuzi

Mouth-Watering Emirati Khuzi Dish

Khuzi (also known as Ghuzi or Ghouzi) is another authentic Emirati dish. This is a stew made with slow-roasted meat, rice, and vegetables. The dish is then also topped with nuts and served hot. Khuzi is a delicious, comforting Emirati dish that has been passed down for generations. Different districts in the UAE will also prepare Khuzi slightly differently.

8. Al Machboos

Emirati Chicken Al Machboos

Al Machboos is another Emirati dish you cannot miss. It is made with slow-roasted meat or fish topped with various spices and lime powder. When the mead is tender, it is removed from the pot, and the rice is then cooked in the same stock. Al Machboos takes a long time to prepare, but the result is well worth the effort.

9. Fattoush

Fattoush Mixed Emirati Salad

Fattoush is a Emirati type salad. This vegetarian dish is the perfect accompaniment for any main meal. This salad is made with tomato, cucumber, mint, oregano, onion, garlic, and olive oil. It is served on traditional flatbread and is the perfect snack after a long day in the desert.

10. Thereed

Vegetable Thereed Emirati Dish

Thereed is another type of Emirati stew. However, this spiced stew is served on flatbread rather than rice. Thereed is made with slow-cooked chicken or goat. Thereed can also be prepared as a vegetarian dish and is genuinely comforting Emirati food.

11. Mahalabia

Creamy Emirati Mahalabia Desserts

Until now, we have mainly discussed savory dishes. However, the Emirati has no shortage of delicious desserts, and Mahalabia is one of them. This pudding is made using rice flour and is served cold. It is sprinkled with rosewater and pistachios and is the best way to end an authentic Emirati meal.

12. Luquaimat

Sweet Emirati Luquaimat Dessert

The final dish on our list is another dessert, known as Luquaimat. This dessert looks like donut holes and is fried little dumplings dipped in date syrup. Cinnamon, cardamom and butter is also added to the mixture to create a mouthwatering dessert.


Emirati food consists of local ingredients prepared in delicious ways. This cuisine developed from the Bedouins who traveled the area and Lebanese, Asian, and Indian spices. As a result, Emirati cuisine is unique and delicious and has a long history.

In this article, we discussed twelve traditional Emirati dishes worth trying. However, this is not a comprehensive list, and there are many other wonderful Emirati foods to try.


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