Lebanese cuisine is a Levantine style of cooking that includes an abundance of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, starches, fresh fish and seafood; animal fats are consumed sparingly. Poultry is eaten more often than red meat, and when red meat is eaten, it is usually lamb on the coast, and goat meat in the mountain regions. It also includes copious amounts of garlic and olive oil, often seasoned by lemon juice. Chickpeas and parsley are also staples of the Lebanese diet.
Well known savoury dishes include baba ghanouj, a dip made of char-grilled eggplant; falafel, small deep-fried patties made of highly spiced ground chickpeas, fava beans, or a combination of the two; and shawarma, a sandwich with marinated meat skewered and cooked on large rods. An important component of many Lebanese meals is hummus, a dip or spread made of blended chickpeas, sesame tahini, lemon juice, and garlic, typically eaten with pita bread. A well known dessert is baklava, which is made of layered filo pastry filled with nuts and steeped in date syrup or honey. Some desserts are specifically prepared on special occasions: the meghli, for instance, is served to celebrate a newborn baby in the family.
The Lebanese cuisine is an ancient one and part of the Levantine cuisine. Many dishes in the Lebanese cuisine can be traced back thousands of years to eras of Roman and Phoenician rule. More recently, Lebanese cuisine was influenced by the different foreign civilizations that held power. From 1516 to 1918, the Ottoman Turks controlled Lebanon and introduced a variety of foods that have become staples in the Lebanese diet, such as cooking with lamb. After the Ottomans were defeated in World War I (1914–1918), France took control of Lebanon until 1943, when the country achieved its independence. The French introduced foods such as flan, a caramel custard dessert dating back to the 16th century AD, and croissants.
Most often foods are grilled, baked or sautéed in olive oil; butter or cream is rarely used other than in a few desserts. Vegetables are often eaten raw, pickled, or cooked. Like most Mediterranean countries, much of what the Lebanese eat is dictated by the seasons and what is available. Lebanese cuisine also varies by region.
In Lebanon, very rarely are drinks served without being accompanied by food. Similar to the tapas of Spain, mezeluri of Romania and aperitivo of Italy, mezze is an array of small dishes placed before the guests creating an array of colors, flavors, textures and aromas. This style of serving food is less a part of family life than it is of entertaining and cafés. Mezze may be as simple as raw or pickled vegetables, hummus, baba ghanouj and bread, or it may become an entire meal consisting of grilled marinated seafood, skewered meats, a variety of cooked and raw salads and an arrangement of desserts. Although simple fresh fruits are often served towards the end of a Lebanese meal, there is also dessert, such as baklava and coffee. Although baklava is the most internationally known dessert, there is a great variety of Lebanese desserts.
A typical mezze will consist of an elaborate variety of thirty hot and cold dishes and may include:
- Salads such as tabbouleh and fattoush, together with dip such as hummus, baba ghanoush or moutabal, and kebbeh.
- Some patties such as the sambusac.
- Stuffed grape leaves
These recipes are attributed to these regions in Lebanon, although you find them now as main dishes at most Lebanese homes across the country with local variations.
- Ain-Zibdeh: Hareeseh (wheat and beef)
- Ajaltoun: Maakroun bi Thineh (Pastry boiled to which is added lemon and Thineh)
- Aley: Tabbouleh bi Dehn (cooked tabouleh with lentils with beef ghee)
- Baalbek: Safiha Baalbakieh (meat-stuffed puff pastry)
- Baino: Kebbe and Lahme bil-khal (meat mixed with crushed wheat and meat soaked in vinegar)
- Baskinta: Makhlouta (meat, rice, and nuts)
- Beirut: Samkeh Harra and Akhtabout (spicy fish and octopus), Roastuts
- Beit Chabab: Riz bi-Djaj (chicken with rice)
- Beit Mery: Kebbe Lakteen (pumpkin-flavoured meat)
- Beiteddine: Kafta Bithine (spiced meat with sesame concentrate)
- Broummana: Deleh Mehshi (stuffed rib cage of lamb)
- Bsharri: Koussa bil-Laban (meat and rice-stuffed zucchini cooked in yoghurt)
- Dhour El Choueir: Shish Barak (dough balls stuffed with ground beef and cooked in yoghurt)
- Douma: Laban Immo (cooked yoghurt and lamb with rice)
- Ehden: Kebbe Zghartweih (oven-cooked meat and crushed wheat blend)
- El Koura: Abu Shoushe (topinambur and lentils stew)
- Ferzol: Freikeh (cooked wheat with meat)
- Hammana: Fasoulya Hammanieh (kidney bean stew)
- Ihmej: Ghameh (stuffed cow intestines)
- Jbeil: Koussa and Wark Inab bil-Kastaletah (stuffed zucchini, grape vines and steak)
- Kifar meshki: Kebbe bil-Kishk (meat mixed with wheat and yoghurt)
- Marjayoun: Vine leaves with squash and grilled chicken
- Nabatieh: Sfiha (open-faced meat pies made with ground mutton
- Qalamoun: Fresh Carrot juice with ice cream inside
- Ras El Matn: Fatet (yoghurt, fried bread and nuts)
- Rashana: Mjadrat Fasoulya (lentils and kidney beans)
- Rashaya Al Wadi: Kebbe Heeleh (meatballs)
- Saghbeen and Machghara: Zinkoul bil-Laban (meat filled pastry and yoghurt)
- Shouf: Fatet Batinjan (yoghurt, fried bread and aubergine) and mate
- Sidon: Riz bil-Foul (Rice and fava beans)
- Tripoli, Lebanon: Mjadrah and Fattoush (crushed lentils and salad)
- Tyre: Saiyadit al-Samak (rice and fish)
- Zahlé: Kebbe Zahleweieh (meat and crushed wheat blend)
Dishes and ingredients
- Ackawi – white cheese salty or not depending on choice. Usually used in Manaeesh (Lebanese-style pies)
- Adas Bil Hamod - Soup made out of lentils and lemon juice.
- Baba ghanouj – a dip made of char-grilled aubergine (eggplant), tahina, olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic puree.
- Baklava – a dessert of layered filo pastry filled with nuts and steeped in attar syrup (orange or rose water and sugar) or honey, usually cut in a triangular or diamond shape.
- Roasted nuts – a mix of more than 20 types, mostly dry roasted.
- Balila – known as cumin chickpeas.
- Barout del batata – spicy lamb served with potatoes
- Batata harra – literally "spicy potatoes".
- Burghul Banadoura – bulgur and tomato
- Daoud Bacha – meatballs with tomato sauce
- Djaj Mechwi – grilled chicken with peas
- Fattoush – "peasant"-style salad of tossed greens with pita bread, cucumbers, tomatoes, chickweed, and mint.
- Falafel – small deep-fried patties made of highly spiced ground chickpeas.
- Fried cauliflower
- Fried eggplant
- Fatayer – a turnover pastry, often made with sbanegh (spinach)
- Fuul (vicia faba) slow cooked mash of brown beans and red lentils dressed with lemon, olive oil and cumin.
- Halva – a sweet sesame paste, usually formed into a slab and studded with fruit and nuts. Slices of the slab are served.
- Hummus – dip or spread made of blended chickpeas, sesame tahini, lemon juice, and garlic, and typically eaten with pita bread.
- Kunafi – either shoelace pastry dessert stuffed with sweet white cheese, nuts and syrup, or more commonly the version with semolina pastry served on a sesame seed bun with sweet sugar syrup (very popular for breakfast) made with rice vermicelli, butter, and pistachios or other nuts. Often found in sweet shops and bakeries.
- Kibbeh – Finely minced meat mixed with bulgur (cracked wheat) that can be made in different forms including stuffed with ground meat/onions: layered, pan baked, fried balls/patties, and/or cooked in yogurt, or eaten raw.
- Kibbeh nayyeh – raw kibbeh: finely minced meat mixed with bulgur (cracked wheat) and eaten like steak tartare.
- Kafta – Paties, fingers, stars or a flat cake of minced meat, onions, parsly, and spices that can be baked or charcoal-grilled on skewers.
- Kousa Mahshi – zucchini (many varieties are used) stuffed with meat and rice.
- Kubideh – ground lamb or chicken threaded on a stick and grilled, served with pivaz (a mix of minced parsley, onions, ground cumin and sumac).
- Labneh – strained yogurt cheese, spreadable and garnished with good olive oil and sea salt.
- Lahm bil ajĩn – a pastry covered with minced meat, onions, and nuts.
- Ma'amoul – stuffed cookies made from semolina with ground date, pistachio or walnut filling. Shaped in a wooden mould called a tabi, and made specially for Christian and Muslim holidays (such as Easter or Ramadan).
- Mfaraket Koussa – spicy zucchini.
- Makdous – stuffed pickled eggplant (usually with nuts) preserved in olive oil.
- Manaeesh – Mini pizzas (usually folded) that are made in bakeries, traditionally garnished with cheese, Za'atar, spicy diced tomatoes, Lebanese kashk, or minced meat and onions.
- Mujaddara (imjaddarra) – cooked lentils combined with wheat or rice, garnished with onions that have been sautéed in vegetable oil.
- Mulukhiyah – A stew with made with leaves of the Nalta/Tossa Jute plant, chicken, beef, and garnished with raw chopped onions soaked in vinegar, served over rice. Sometimes, toasted pita chips are placed under the rice.
- Mutabbel – a mix of slow cooked eggplant and tahini.
- Pastirma – Tender cooked meat, usually served with vegetables.
- Qatayef – a sort of sweet dumpling filled with cream or nuts.
- Qawarma – chopped lamb, salted and kept in the grease of the animal
- Samkeh Harra – grilled fish that has been marinated with chili, citrus, and cilantro
- Shanklish – aged cheese balls
- Shawarma – a sandwich with marinated meat (either lamb or chicken) that is skewered on big rods and cooked slowly, then shaved and placed in a 10-inch pita with pickles, tomatoes, and other tangy condiments.
- Shish taouk – grilled chicken skewers that utilize only white meat, marinated in olive oil, lemon, parsley, and sumac.
- Siyyadiyeh – Fish cooked in saffron and served on rice with onions, sumac, and a tahini sauce (the most important part of the dish) and served on rice, which originated in the southern areas of Lebanon.
- Tabbouleh – minced/chopped parsley salad with burghul (cracked wheat), tomatoes, onions, and mint.
- Tahini – sesame paste
- Toum – garlic sauce
- Wara' Enab – grape leaves stuffed normally with meat and rice or made lenten style with just rice with lemon sauce.
- Za'atar – dried ground thyme, sesame seeds and sumac that can differ from region to region and from family to family. Most are made in house, but can be bought at Lebanese larders.
- Znood Es-sett – filo pastry cigars with various fillings.
- Lebanese "Seven Spice" Blend – a mixture of equal parts of allspice, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, fenugreek, nutmeg and ginger. It is commonly used to flavor many Lebanese dishes.
- Arabic coffee
- Beer, alcoholic beverage
- Arak, alcoholic beverage
- Ayran, yogurt
- Black coffee
- Château Musar, Lebanese winery in Ghazir, Lebanon
- Château Ksara, famous wine from Beqaa Valley, founded in 1857 by Jesuit Priests
- Le caroubier, non-alcoholic beverage made from carob
- Jallab, sweet drink
- Lebanese wine
- Mate in Shouf and Aley
- Turkish coffee
List of Lebanese wines
- Domaine de Baal
- Domaine Wardy
- Château Ksara
- Château Musar
- Château Kefraya
- Château Héritage
- Château Faqra
- Château Nakad in Jdita
- Domaine des Tourelles
- Château St Thomas
- Cave Kouroum
- Clos de Cana
- Nabise Mont Liban
- Château Qanafar
- Château Khoury
- Couvent St. Sauveur
- Château Marsyas
- IXSIR Winery