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An Insider’s Guide to the Flavors of Israel

From the spicy condiment zhoug, to the fudge-like sweet halva, these are the must-try ingredients and dishes in Israel.

Exclusive Resorts’ 11-day Holy Land Immersion journey is inspired by the region’s peace-building efforts. An extraordinary travel experience, Members will have the opportunity to sit down with locals to hear their thoughts on topics such as the future of the Middle East. Like in most cultures, food is the conduit for great conversations. A home-cooked Palestinian meal, dinner in the home of a Jewish family, and a Bedouin-style lunch in Bethlehem promise fascinating insights into the culture as well as its cuisine. Israel’s food traditions reflect the country’s melting pot of cultures as well as its optimal growing climate. Here’s a primer on staple ingredients and must-try dishes.


In his cookbook, Zahav, Philadelphia chef Michael Solomonov says that Israelis love tahini “unconditionally and a little bit irrationally.” A paste made from sesame seeds, tahini is drizzled on grilled vegetables and kebabs and used as a dip for dunking pita bread.


A super thick, spreadable cultured dairy product, labneh resembles Greek-style yogurt in terms of texture and flavor. Eat it topped with fruit or use it as a spread topped with honey on toast — or a substitute for mayo on sandwiches.


The Israeli version of salsa verde, this fiery condiment is made from a blend of garlic, green chiles, salt, coriander, cloves, and either cilantro, parsley, or basil. Use it in place of hot sauce to give dishes like falafel or eggs a kick or add it to marinades to use on grilled meat.

Labneh topped with persimmon, apple, walnuts, and pomegranates
Zhoug sauce


An ubiquitous Israeli treat with a unique crumbly, fluffy texture, halva is made from heated sesame paste, sugar, and spices. The sesame candy has a nutty texture and melts right in your mouth. Eat it as a dessert or melt it into coffee in place of sugar.


An Israeli pantry staple, this popular spice blend has dozens of variations but typically includes oregano, thyme, hyssop, sumac, sesame, and salt. Think of it as Israel’s version of everything bagel seasoning. A dash or two will transform salads, dips, and meat dishes.


Though it originated in North Africa, shakshouka has become the quintessential Israeli breakfast food. A riff on huevos rancheros, the dish is prepared by simmering eggs in a flavorful sauce of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and spices. Use pita or toast to sop up the extra sauce.


Learn trip dates, in-depth itinerary details, and costs with the official OIAL Journeys announcement on March 16, 2022. Reservation requests will be accepted from March 16 – 29, 2022.

Learn more about our 2023 Once-in-a-Lifetime Journeys and their not-to-be-missed moments here.