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Must-Try Traditional Emirati Foods in Dubai and Abu Dhabi

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Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the bright gemstones of the United Arab Emirates, are known for their spectacular skylines, top-notch shopping, and beautiful coastlines. But underneath the facade of luxury and elegance, a deep heritage and culture is waiting to be discovered. One of the most genuine approaches to enjoying this legacy is via traditional Emirati foods, which combine Arabian, African, and Indian elements to create a distinct and flavorful mixture.

Explore beyond the amazing beauty of Abu Dhabi’s Grand Mosque and Dubai’s tall skyscrapers. Discover the hidden treasure hidden back among the crowded souks, where the fragrance of stews and freshly baked bread fills the air. Emirati families may be seen sitting around tables in these traditional restaurants, enjoying a meal and creating relationships that go beyond words.

Here is a list of 15 meals that are a must-try for any genuine foodie who wants to explore beyond the traditional Emirati foods of Dubai and Abu Dhabi. These delights are certain to delight your taste senses and take you to the core of Emirati culture.

1. Luqaimat


Lugaimat are deep-fried, fluffy donuts dipped in syrup made from dates or honey, ideal for lunchtime refresher or sweet treats. These crispy, soft pancakes are covered with syrup or honey and topped with sesame seeds, creating an appealing sweet experience.

2. Machboos


This fragrant national dish features slow-cooked meat (usually lamb or chicken) with rice, spices, and vegetables. Packed with flavor and is a true comfort food. Machboos is a versatile dish that can be customized with different types of meat, vegetables, and spices.  You might also find it spelled as Machbous.

3. khabeesa


A hearty Emirati breakfast dish, khabeesa is a porridge made with wheat flour, milk, butter, and cardamom. Often enjoyed with dates or honey for a touch of sweetness, khabeesa is a traditional Emirati favorite that offers a warm and filling start to your day.

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4. Balaleet


Thin vermicelli noodles caramelized with sugar, saffron, and rose water, then layered with a savory meat and egg mixture. Each taste is a flurry of spicy and sweet flavors!  Balaleet is a unique and flavorful dish that is sure to tantalize your taste buds. The sweetness of the noodles contrasts perfectly with the savory meat and egg mixture.

5. Al Harees

Al Harees

A luxuriously smooth dish made from cracked wheat and meat (lamb or chicken) simmered for hours until it reaches a porridge-like consistency. It is intense in flavor and an ideal dish for the winter season.  Harees is a hearty and comforting Abu Dhabi Traditional Emirati food dish that is perfect for a cold winter day. It’s certainly an appealing option for Ramadan.

6. Samboosa


These savory pastries, known as ‘Sambosa,’ are a popular street food found throughout the UAE. They’re ideal for a quick snack when filled with spicy meat or veggies.  Sambosa’ is a delicious and affordable way to try Emirati cuisine, offering a taste of Dubai’s traditional Emirati foods. They are offered in a range of toppings, so you may select one that suits your preferences.

7. Majbus


Fish Machboos is a delicious rice dish made with locally caught fish and fragrant spices, a staple of coastal Emirati cuisine. Majbus, a lighter version, uses fish or shrimp instead of meat and is cooked with rice, spices, and vegetables for a healthy and flavorful meal.

8. Arabic Bread (Khameer)

Arabic Bread (Khameer)

Khameer, a popular Emirati dough made from wheat flour, yeast, and spices, is a versatile addition to savory meals and serves as a sandwich base, providing a cozy foundation for meats and cheeses, contrasting the powerful spices and rich flavors of Emirati cuisine.

9. Fattoush


A refreshing salad made with toasted or fried bread pieces, chopped vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions, drizzled with a tangy lemon-olive oil dressing. A perfect accompaniment to any meal. Fattoush is a light and refreshing salad that is perfect as a starter or side dish.

10. Ghuzi


Ghuzi, a Dubai specialty, is a slow-roasted lamb filled with aromatic rice, almonds, and spices. The luscious and tender flesh falls off the bone, making it a show-stopping meal that embodies celebration and hospitality. The dish has a striking appearance that demands attention, making it a must-try for any culinary enthusiast in Dubai.

11. Shawarma


A trip to Dubai wouldn’t be complete without enjoying a mouthwatering Shawarma. This well-known street dish consists of thinly sliced meat, generally lamb or chicken, covered in warm pita bread and served with veggies, pickles, and tahini sauce.

12. Madrouba


Madrouba, a traditional Emirati food in Dubai, is made by mashing fish with aromatic spices to create a thick, savory texture. Its smooth, creamy texture is complemented by Arabic bread, making it a must-try for those seeking a taste of Dubai’s Traditional Emirati Foods.

13. Arabic Coffee (Gahwa)

Arabic Coffee (Gahwa)

Emirati hospitality is highlighted by the offering of Arabic coffee, Gahwa, a strong and fragrant beverage that is strongly ingrained in the region’s social structure. Offered in tiny glasses, the cardamom taste promotes personal conversation and fellowship among visitors.

14. Jareesh


Jareesh is a traditional Emirati comfort dish prepared from crushed wheat, meat, and spices. It soothes the body and the soul and has a thick, porridge-like flavor. It’s a popular meal during gatherings, evoking reminiscence and pleasure among family and friends.

Dates – Dates, a natural sweetener in Emirati cuisine, are a popular choice in open-air markets, offering a variety of dry to wet dates at affordable prices, originating from Arab nations. They can be eaten either raw or dried, or mixed into meals.


Every bite of traditional Emirati cuisine, whether you are checking it in a crowded marketplace, a quaint cafe, or an opulent restaurant, tells a story of Emirati culture, heritage, and hospitality. So, do not miss the opportunity to make a new move toward a culinary journey through Dubai and Abu Dhabi and discover the rich assortments of flavors that define traditional Emirati cuisine. From savory dishes to indulgent sweets, traditional Emirati foods present an interesting array of flavors and textures that are sure to delight your taste buds. 

Also Read: Complete Guide to UAE Visa Information 2024