Global Pantry: An Israeli Ingredient Primer

Liz Grossman

It takes just one visit to an Israeli market to be forever struck by the sights, sounds and smells wafting from endless rows of vendor carts. Locals pay regular visits to stock up on spices, rice and grain blends, sauces, coffee, syrups and more. Here’s a list of what you need to recreate an Israeli market in your pantry.

Photo by Chris Cassidy


Photo by Chris Cassidy


Photo by Chris Cassidy


Photo by Chris Cassidy


Photo by Chris Cassidy


  • Silan — A sweet Middle Eastern pure date syrup similar to honey or molasses.
  • Orange flower water — This bright distillation of orange blossoms and peels can be used in both sweet and savory applications.
  • Zhug — Also known as skhug, this Yemenite condiment is made from fresh red or green peppers and is seasoned with coriander, garlic and other spices. The spicy sauce is often served with falafel, shawarma and hummus.
  • Amba — A spiced pickled mango paste often served as a condiment for falafel and shawarma.
  • Za’Atar — A general term for a varying spice blend of Middle Eastern dried herbs like oregano, thyme, sumac, roasted sesame seeds and marjoram. It can be sprinkled over meats or mixed with olive oil and served with bread. Za’atar is also the name of an herb (thymbra spicata) with a flavor similar to thyme. It has long green leaves and can be sprinkled over salads.
  • Baharat — Arabic for “spice,” this Middle Eastern spice mix is used to season lamb, beef, chicken and soups. While blends vary by region, black pepper, cinnamon and cloves are the predominate spices.
  • Chermoula — A pungent North African herb sauce flavored with coriander, cumin and chilies popular with grilled meats and fish. North Africa was the ancestral home of the Mizrahi Jews, who have strongly influenced modern Israeli cooking.
  • Pomegranate molasses — This tangy, thick pomegranate juice reduction can be used as a sauce, dressing or marinade.
  • Hawaij — A pungent Yemenite curry used to spice up soups, stews and rice.
  • Freekeh — A grain similar to barley in texture and flavor and made from green wheat. It’s harvested while young and roasted, giving it a somewhat smoky flavor.
  • Maftoul — This hand-rolled Palestinian couscous is larger, heartier and firmer then traditional couscous.

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