Discovering new tastes is one of the best parts of travel. Every traveller has to eat, no? The delicious cuisine of Jordan is similar to many of its Middle Eastern neighbours. It features fresh vegetables, roasted and grilled meats, and a variety of mezze – small, tasting plates of dips, salads and olives that are shared. From Abud to Zarb, I’m delighted to share a guide to the best food in Jordan. These fabulous Jordanian cuisine options are ‘must eats’ on your next trip to the warm and hospitable desert kingdom.
A Guide to the Best Food in Jordan
Small plates for sharing in groups, similar to tapas. Mezze can consist of olives, salads, dips, and various appetizers, and are always accompanied by pita bread or shrak (flat bread).
You will find delicious hummus on every table in Jordan. This healthy, blended spread includes ground chickpeas, tahini paste, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice, and is the perfect dip for pita bread or falafels. Adding pomegranate seeds, pine nuts, sesame seeds or a sprinkle of za atar is a nice touch.
Fried balls of chickpea flour and local spices. The best falafels and falafel sandwiches that I enjoyed during my time in Jordan were in the busy al fresco atmosphere of the legendary Hashem restaurant in downtown Amman. It’s a quick sit-down version of delicious Jordanian street food. You can watch and admire the falafel production in the restaurant’s open-air kitchen while you enjoy your lunch.
My kingdom for a tasty labaneh! This thick, creamy yoghurt is usually eaten at breakfast. It is amazing mixed with honey and used as a dip for flat bread, or hotel buffet croissants.
My favorite Jordanian mezze! This super-fresh cucumber, radish and tomato salad with toasted pita pieces is something I could – and did – eat every day in Jordan. Many of the mezze featured here appear at every meal, so expect to eat them often. While some of my fellow travellers became a bit tired of the repetative menu, I confess that the absolutely loved the healthy Levantine cuisine that highlights vegetables above any other food group. I’ve included an easy recipe, courtesy of my cooking lesson at Petra Kitchen, for you to try making fatoosh at home.
A mezze salad of tomatoes, chopped parsley, bulgar wheat, lemon juice, mint, garlic and onion.
Jordanian Main Dishes
An unleavened Bedouin bread baked in ash. How a simple dough of flour, water and salt baked in such a unique way can be so incredibly delicious is a desert miracle.
Ful (or Foul) Medammas
Popular in Egypt as part of a filling breakfast, pots of ful can found at many Jordanian hotel buffets and roadside stalls. This hearty fava bean and chickpea stew is topped with myriad spices and toppings, such as olive oil, lemon juice, za’atar or chili pepper. It’s perfect for dipping with some shrak flatbread.
Mansaf is the national dish of Jordan. In this traditional Jordanian dinner menu, meat, usually lamb or goat is simmered for hours along with dehydrated, salted yoghurt balls and water. It’s served on rice and often eaten along with shrak.
This flat bread is perfect for dipping into hummus or babba ghanoush. Or try slathering it with thick labaneh. Yum!
This Jordanian dish is basically the Bedouin version of a pit barbecue. Meat (often goat) and vegetables are cooked in large underground pit. Enjoying a meal of zarb is very popular on overnight Wadi Rum desert excursions.
A plate of sweet dates is a perfect way to end a meal in Jordan. There are so many varieties of dates to choose from, as a walk in any local souk will demonstrate. Jordanian markets carry dates from all over the Middle East, and one vendor shared that his personal favorites come from Iraq. Don’t leave the Queen Alia airport in Amman without a box or two of dates as gifts. They travel very well.
Sweet and decadent dessert of white cheese, semolina bits and covered in sweet syrup and pistachios. A visit to Habibah in Amman is a go-to dessert stop while in the capital. A little knafeh goes a long way!
Sweet, minty and delicious. I loved it so much that I couldn’t leave Jordan without buying a pound of mint tea leaves at the souk in Aqaba to take home. Every time I open the container to smell the fragrant tea leaves, it takes me right back to Aqaba.
Coffee is a ritual in Jordan, especially with the Bedouin. Their Arabic (or Turkish) coffee ceremony involves grinding fire-roasted coffee beans and cardamom, then serving the brew in small espresso-sized cups. Aromatic and strong. Drink three cups at least to honour your host and show gratitude for their generous hospitality. You can experience an authentic Bedouin coffee ceremony at Feynan Ecolodge in the Dana Biosphere Preserve north of Petra.
Lime and Mint Juice
A refreshing, cool drink to enjoy after a hot outing. You’ll wonder why we don’t find this at home!
While alcohol is uncommon in Jordan, you can tour and taste local Saint George wines at the Zumot Wine Academy or Vineyards of Omar Zumot.
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All photos C. Laroye.
Have you been to Jordan? What foods did you enjoy, or not enjoy, during your travels? Share your food experiences below.