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Traditional Emirati Food: 15 Dishes You Need To Try in Dubai

UAE has plenty of delicious typical dishes, so make sure to try some of the traditional Emirati food on your trip to Dubai. Don’t know what your choices are? Find out here! 

Dubai, and the United Arab Emirates as a whole, have a very rich history and heritage, and the traditional cuisine doesn’t escape its important role in the country’s culture. 

From camel burgers to stews for Ramadan month, spices-infused dishes, and the ever-present cup of Arabic coffee, you’re in for a treat with Emirati cuisine. Trying traditional food should definitely be on your list of things to do in Dubai!

Check out the most traditional Emirati food and add your favorites to the list, so you’re ready to order as soon as you land in Dubai.   

Dubai Food Tours and Experiences 

 One of the best ways to experience the traditional food in Dubai is to join a food tour. You’ll be accompanied by a local guide who’ll be able to give you advice, take you to the most popular eateries, and give you insights into the culinary culture of the country.

➤ The Private Food Tour takes you and your group around Dubai, enjoying 10 different tastings of local delicacies, both sweet and savory, and drinks. You’ll even get to see some city highlights on the go! ➥ BOOK IT HERE

➤ The Emirati Cultural Breakfast Experience is ideal to learn about the country’s culture and customs, the impact of Islam, and Arabic greetings, as you enjoy a tasty traditional breakfast. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

➤ The Walking Tour with Souks, Museum & Street Food is very comprehensive, and it takes you to some of Dubai’s landmarks with a knowledgeable guide. You’ll also get to sample some delicious street food and learn about Arabic cuisine. ➥ BOOK IT HERE

15 Best Traditional Emirati Food

Shawarma

Photo of Shawarma, a staple of the Emirati cuisine.

Shawarma is probably the most classic traditional food of UAE. This popular street food dish consists of a large flatbread that’s presented in a cone-like shape and filled with thinly sliced meat that’s slowly roasted on a vertical rotisserie, vegetables, and spices, as well as hummus or tahini. 

Depending on the place you buy it, it can contain additional ingredients, and different types of meat, from beef to chicken or lamb.  

Balaleet

Photo of Balaleet, a Dubai traditional food mostly eaten at breakfast.

Balaleet is a UAE traditional food that may be controversial for conservative palates, as it’s both sweet and savory. 

This popular Emirati breakfast dish can be served either cold or hot, and consists of vermicelli that is sweetened by rose water, saffron, and cardamom, topped with an egg omelet and sometimes even pistachios. 

Tharid (or Thereed)

Photo of Tharid, a UAE traditional food.

This slow-cooked, heavily spiced stew is made up of vegetables and meat, or just the vegetables if you want the veggie variant, and placed on a flat, crispy flatbread called rigag

Tharid is a traditional Arab food especially consumed during the month of Ramadan; considered ‘‘the best among all dishes’’ by the prophet Muhammad, it’s one of the favorites to break the fast at the end of the day.  

Manousheh

Manousheh - a sort of Arabic pizza, a traditional Emirati food.

Manousheh is a sort of Arab pizza, originally from Lebanon. It’s generally eaten at breakfast, and it basically is a flatbread topped with a wide variety of ingredients, from sweet treats (although not the most common) to eggs, veggies, meat, cheese, and spices.  

Chabab

Chabab could be labeled as the Emirati version of pancakes, and why it’s usually referred to as such for its pancake shape, it has a bread-like taste which makes it a breakfast favorite in the cuisine of Dubai.

The batter is heavily infused with spices, especially cardamom and turmeric, and yeast, and it’s enjoyed with Chami cheese or date syrup. 

Arabic coffee and dates

Photo of Arabic coffee and dates, traditional food of Dubai.

The absolutely favorite snack in Dubai, and one you’ll be offered constantly on either tours or visits, is the combination of Arabic coffee with dates. 

Coffee is a very important part of the culture in the UAE, and it’s offered to guests as a symbol of Arabic hospitality. Arabic coffee is usually bitter (hence the sweet dates that accompany it) and can be mixed with spices such as cloves, cardamom, or saffron. 

Al Harees

One of the famous foods in Dubai is Al Harees. This dish, which has the consistency of porridge, is made with cracked wheat and meat. 

Al Harees is mostly served at weddings or other special occasions, as its preparation takes several hours; the wheat is cooked for a long time, and after the meat is added, another few hours pass before the mixture is beaten and seasoned. 

Al Machboos

Al Machboos is among the most popular Emirati dishes, and it’s prepared with rice, meat (it can be either lamb, chicken, or fish), which is cooked in broth for a more intense flavor and presented in big chunks, and traditional spices. 

Camel Meat

Hamburger made of camel meat at Dukkan Burger in Al Seef, Dubai.

While it may sound weird and even unappealing the idea of eating camel meat, in Dubai is pretty common. What’s more, the stuffed camel is listed as the largest item on any menu on the Guinness World Records. 

Stuffed camel is a traditional Bedouin dish made for weddings, and stuffed with lamb, chicken, rice, and eggs. While it’s not likely that you’ll find this gigantic dish in restaurants, you can taste the meat by ordering camel burgers, which are usual enough. 

EXTRA TIP: If camel meat doesn’t entice you, try camel milk ice creams!

Ghuzi

Ghuzi is also prepared with rice and roasted lamb, but it also includes vegetables and crushed nuts sprinkled on top. 

Ghuzi is not only considered one of the most delicious meals in the Dubai food culture, but it’s also the UAE national dish, so make sure you try it! 

Luqaimat

Photo of Luqaimat, a UAE traditional food.

Luqaimat are sweet, crunchy dumplings with a soft interior that resemble doughnuts in taste and texture. 

These dumplings are presented in a small-ball shape and soaked in date syrup or honey, with sesame seeds sprinkled on top. Often served as a dessert, it’s a Dubai traditional food. 

Knafeh

Photo of Knafeh, a dish originally from Palestine that's become one of the most famous Emirati dishes.

Although this dish is originally from Palestine, it has become a staple in UAE cuisine. Knafeh is a sweet pastry made with sour cheese, soaked in a sugar-based syrup, and topped with pistachios, and a complete mouth-watering experience for everyone who tries it. 

Knafeh is traditionally eaten during Ramadan as the preferred dessert for the evening meal, but it can be found pretty much everywhere all year long. 

Batheet

For those with a sweet tooth, there’s yet another traditional dessert you can try: the batheet. 

This sweet treat is made from dates, flour, a mix of species that includes ginger and cardamom, and nuts. It’s completely sugar-free and can be enjoyed with Arabic coffee as a mid-morning or afternoon snack. 

Tabbouleh 

Photo of Tabbouleh, a traditional Emirati food.

Most of the traditional food of Dubai includes meat of some kind, but there are some traditional vegetarian dishes as well, so if you are one, don’t be worried!

Tabbouleh is among the most popular veggie meals, and it’s basically a salad made of tomatoes, parsley, cucumber, and green onions, and seasoned with lemon juice, mint, and sweet pepper. Originally from Lebanon, it is widely served in the UAE. 

Samboosa

Photo of Samboosa, a traditional food of Dubai with Indian origins.

Samboosa is a traditional triangular-shaped hot pastry filled with cheese, meat or vegetables, and seasoned with spices.

These savory treats are served as appetizers or snacks, and they’re incredibly tasty. They’re best eaten as soon as they’re made and can be found mostly in Indian restaurants, but generally anywhere in the UAE. 

Best Emirati Restaurants in Dubai  

Now, where can you enjoy all that delicious traditional food? Below are some of the best Emirati restaurants in Dubai (although there are plenty more, so don’t be shy to try others as well!)

Arabian Tea House is a chain of restaurants that you can find in several areas of Dubai, and which features an authentic decoration and great outdoor seating where you can enjoy anything from breakfast, appetizers, sandwiches and desserts, besides main dishes, all celebrating traditional Emirati cuisine.

Address: Al Fahidi Street, Bur Dubai, Bastakiya
Opening Hours: Daily from 8 AM to 2 AM

Al Fanar Restaurant has the goal not only of bringing traditional Emirati food to the table, but also to recreate an authentic Arabic ambiance in its restaurants, which are designed in a 1960s Dubai style. They have a wide seafood menu, typical Emirati dishes, and also contemporary classics. 

While the most popular restaurant is in Al Seef, you can also find it in Time Out Market and in Al Barsha Pond Park. 

Address: Al Seef Street, Al Hamriya   
Opening Hours: Daily from 10 AM to 11 PM 

Al Iwan is located inside the Burj Al Arab hotel and serves a traditional Arabic buffet that includes many local delicacies on the menu, such as Tabbouleh, Chicken Shawarma, and Baba Ganoush.     

Address: Burj Al Arab 
Opening Hours: Daily from 7 PM to 12 AM

Asil Restaurant offers an Oriental fusion menu that combines flavors from Lebanon, Morocco, and Turkey, as well as featuring many Emirati traditional dishes in a dining room decorated in authentic Arabian style. 

Address: Rixos Premium Dubai (JBR)
Opening Hours: Daily from 1 PM to 2 AM

Al Hkayma Heritage Restaurant is all about tradition, from the setting of the venue, which includes Arabic music playing in the background, to the flavors of the dishes. Here you’ll get to taste from the traditional coffee to chabab (pancakes), seafood dishes, and the both sweet and savory balaleet.  

Address: Al Fahidi Historical District Building 54 & 55
Opening Hours: Daily from 9 AM to 11 PM

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