The majestic land of Jordan has been a crossroads for travel and culture for centuries. The planes of this country display the many historic events and traces of great civilization like pages in a book. From ancient Roman theatres to castles from the Islamic Empire, the diversity in the country’s history keeps drawing thousands of tourists annually.
After you’ve had your fill of history, you make your way across the red-toned capital city of Amman. Here, you might hear conversations flowing with Arabic, Syria, Egyptian, and Iraqi accents. If you venture across the Desert Highway, you’ll come across the Bedouin tribes living in communities called Beit Al-Sha’ar or ‘house of hair’.
All this history gives root to an incredibly diverse and rich culture. As a result, Jordan is blessed with a delectable cuisine that immerses many cultures and decorates the tables across the country. From fragrant teas to savoury meats, falafel or baked delights, trying Jordanian cuisine is a crucial part of the country’s travel experience.
Discover the Top 10 Flavours of Jordan: A Culinary Journey
North Africa, the Middle East, Persia, and the Mediterranean all influence Jordan’s cuisine. This is why olives, garlic, onions, pickles, sage, mint, yoghurt, tahini, bread, rice, lamb and olive oil are flavours that are associated with Jordanian cuisine. While not every dish here has originated in Jordan, here are the top 10 foods commonly found throughout the country:
Mansaf is a traditional family dish that every Jordanian takes pleasure in cooking and eating. This is a large-portioned dish consisting of white rice, paper-thin bread called “Shrak,” pull-apart lamb chops, and a special sauce called Jameed made from dried yoghurt. Mansaf combines all the homey and hearty flavours. It’s also available at the majority of traditional Jordanian restaurants. You can readily find Mansaf in places in Amman, Kerak, Madaba, Al-Salt, Jerash, Ajloun, Aqaba, Petra, and Wadi Rum.
Makloubeh is also another hearty dish that includes rice, vegetables, and chops of well-seasoned lamb or chicken. Although the veggies in the dish can vary depending on the cook or taste, the most common ones are potatoes, cauliflower, and eggplants. Makloubeh is a more spicy option in Jordanian cuisine. The dish has a long history in the Levant and originated in medieval Baghdad. It’s traditionally served with a side salad made from yoghurt to balance the spice and offer a refreshing, creamy flavour. Makloubeh is commonly found in Madaba and Amman.
3. Hummus and Falafel
Falafel and Hummus are some of the most famous foods you can find across the Middle East. Hummus is a Middle Eastern savoury dish made with cooked, mashed chickpeas combined with tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. Falafel is a deep-fried ball or patty-shaped Arab fritter made from wide beans, crushed chickpeas or both. Both are affordable vegetarian treats and come in a variety of forms, including sandwiches, salads, or platters. When you’re having Hummus or Falafel in Jordan, you get to enjoy them to their original tastes. If you have time, take a seat and mix up the flavours by dipping with freshly baked bread. You can find both across all food stops and restaurants throughout Jordan.
Shawarma is a Middle Eastern and North African dish that originated in the Ottoman Empire and consists of thinly sliced meat layered in an inverted cone and roasted on a slowly rotating vertical rotisserie or spit. The meat traditionally consists of lamb or mutton, but it can also be made from chicken, turkey, beef, or veal. The spice mixes that go in the meat rub can modify the flavours of the Shawarma. It’s commonly served with pickles or onions and tangy sauces and can be eaten wrapped, open-faced, stuffed, or served on plates. Since it’s more of a street food, you can easily find Shawarma throughout the country. However, to try it at its best, head over to the food streets in Amman.
Musakhan is a dish from Palestinian cuisine that consists of roasted chicken baked with onions, sumac, allspice, saffron and fried pine nuts. This chicken dish is famous for the distinct flavour that it gets from the high-quality native olive oil used in the marinade. Musakhan is served with traditional Taboun bread, which is baked in stone-lined ovens and serves as an excellent side for absorbing the meaty and hearty flavours of the dish. Since the dish is from the Levant region, it’s readily available in all major restaurants in Amman
While Jordanian cuisine may seem more on the savoury side, it does justice to the deserts it offers too. One of the most popular dessert dishes in Jordan is Knafeh, which is a rich and sweet pastry. The crispy baked pastry is made of semolina or vermicelli noodles that are baked and covered with layered white cheese. After it reaches a crisp golden brown hue, it is topped with a sugar-based syrup called attar and clotted cream, pistachios or almonds. This is one of the hallmark dishes in Jordan, which you can find in every city.
Offering more rich and exotic tastes, the Bedouin foods are the pride of Jordanian cuisine. Zarb is a Bedouin dish that is slow-cooked in an underground pit for several hours, giving it a distinct earthy and smoky flavour from the hardwood. Most Zarb variations have entire lamb, whole chicken, or parts of both, seasoned and marinated and served over vegetables and rice. This is typically found in camps near Wadi Rum, where it can be enjoyed best along the scenic valley’s landscape.
For all the seafood lovers, this is the one. Sayadieh is a fish and rice dish seasoned with cumin, cardamom and fried onions. It originates from Lebanon and is extremely popular in Jordan since the country’s cuisine focuses more on lamb, chicken and beef. The spotlight of Sayadieh is the fried fish, which can be served whole or cut. It’s served over a platter of hot rice and topped with crispy caramelised onions and a special spicy sauce to blend the flavours together. Head to Aqaba if you wish to try Sayadieh with freshly caught fish from the ports.
Mezze is a popular eating style throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, the Balkans, Western Asia, and the Middle East. It includes small plates of bite-sized dishes and dips like hummus and baba ghanoush, flatbreads, salads, and finger foods like stuffed olives, hard cheeses, and meats. While mezzes appear in many regional cuisines, each culture adds its own variations, specialties and ingredients. Of course, mezze in Jordan is unique and a must-try experience if you’re visiting the country for the first time.
Ka’ek is an Arabic word for biscuit, which is commonly used to refer to various baked goods. In Jordanian cuisine, Ka’ek are sesame buns, baked round or oval and served fresh. While this is just thin bread, it is a popular bread choice for most of the sandwich options in Jordan. Since the taste is so simple, it allows the taste of the meats, sauces and vegetables to stand out more. When you buy a Ka’ek in Amman, you get to choose your own sandwich ingredients, which can be boiled eggs, cheese, fresh salads or Zaatar, which is a blend of wild oregano.
Jordanian Cuisine Delights: A Food Lover’s Paradise
Jordan is a land rich in culture and legacy, and where cultures collide, amazing culinary delights are born. While some dishes in the top picks can be found in many countries in the Middle East, Jordanians have developed their own distinct flavours and delicacies.
For all the foodie travellers who enjoy trying hearty and filling cuisine topped with great landscapes and historic landmarks, Jordan is your next destination. Do you want to explore the country’s unique beauty? All with pre-booked accommodations, guided tours, and the opportunity to skip the lines?
If the answer is yes, then you’re in the right place.