Middle Eastern cuisine is a complex and rich tradition that spans from Northern Africa to the Arabian Gulf. The food has been shared and replicated across the world, made famous by travellers and migrants who opened restaurants and shared their favourite dishes with the uninitiated. While shawarma and tagines are now part of our global vernacular, Arabic breakfasts are much less well-known outside of the region, perhaps due to their relative simplicity.
Instead of heavy and processed food that constitutes breakfast in some areas, Middle Eastern breakfasts are known for using lots of light, fresh ingredients like vegetables, herbs and fresh dairy products. A common spread may include small bowls of olives, yogurt, thyme, sliced tomatoes, hummus, fuul, and fresh cheese – a refreshing departure from greasy breakfast meats, Pop-Tarts and pancakes.
Learning how to make healthy Arabic breakfasts when you're rushing out the door in the morning is easy: just take inspiration from the region's naturally-delicious flavours – pickles, tahini, cardamom, cumin, thyme, yogurt, etc. Feel free to go the traditional route with a Middle Eastern dish, or customise your recipe by using classic ingredients but with a contemporary twist, like a wrap sandwich or smoothie. Want to learn how to make your own nutritious Arabic breakfasts on the go? Try these easy-to-make recipes.
Hummus veggie dip
Perhaps one of the most iconic Middle Eastern dishes, hummus is a versatile and protein- and fiber-rich treat that can be enjoyed by vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike. Combine a can of chickpeas, a clove of garlic, ¼ cup of olive oil, and two tablespoons of tahini in a blender or food processor, then add in cumin, lemon juice and paprika to taste. Instead of bread, try dipping in sliced veggies, such as carrots, celery and bell peppers, for a portable and sharable snack that you can take anywhere.
This hearty dish is popular across North Africa and the Levant, but would fit in just as easily in Italy. Rather than the slow-cooked version of shakshuka, which requires a lot of time spent over the stove, simply place half a can of low-sodium stewed tomatoes in a pan with half of a small, sliced onion and a crushed clove of garlic, then stir in a tablespoon each of cumin, paprika and cinnamon. Crack an egg or two over the top and let it cook a few minutes until the egg whites become opaque. If you're taking your breakfast to go, spoon the mixture into a pita pocket or whole wheat bread wrap for a satisfying sandwich.
and cardamom smoothie
Instead of a traditional sit-down meal, this breakfast is inspired by two iconic Middle Eastern ingredients but is easy to pour into a to-go bottle for your commute. Mix half a cup of non-fat yogurt and non-fat milk into a blender, half teaspoon of vanilla extract and ¼ teaspoon of ground cardamom. Remove the pits from a cup of soft dates, which are naturally rich in vitamins and fiber, and puree all ingredients in a blender. Blend a few ice cubes in for a cool, sweet and aromatic meal that feels like a treat.
This widely-enjoyed Arabic dish is one of the most fun dishes to customise according to your mood and taste, and is packed with fiber, folates and meatless protein. Just heat a can of fava beans, then mash the beans thoroughly with a fork or pestle. Mix in lemon juice and cumin to taste, and drizzle with a bit of fresh olive oil. Try topping your fuul with a diced tomato, a bit of diced chili pepper, a finely-chopped onion, a sprinkling of feta cheese, thinly-sliced radishes, or even half of a leftover grilled chicken breast.
This classic Arabic breakfast dish is rich and indulgent-tasting, but packed with healthy probiotic bacteria, protein and calcium for an energy-filled start to your day. Just finely chop a large handful of fresh or dried mint (or mince in a food processor) and four cloves of garlic, then stir into a container of labneh yogurt. Drizzle with fresh olive oil and dip in sliced radishes, cucumbers or tomatoes for a refreshing and satisfying meal that tastes as delicious as it looks.
Get your calcium, phosphorus and protein for lots of morning energy with a mouthwatering cheese wrap. Select some akkawi or other local cheese like halloumi, and cut into thin slices. Arrange in half of a piece of a pita pocket and then layer on sliced tomato, cucumber and ribbons of onion. Toast lightly in a pan or toaster oven and you're ready to go. For an additional regional touch, add a handful of sliced mukhalal (local pickles) or a generously-sized sprig of fresh mint.