6 Easy Vegan Recipes from the Middle East

Running a cooking school for 11 years has made me realize that Arabic food has got to be one of the easiest foods to translate to vegan recipes.

This by no means qualifies me as a local guide, but let’s consider it a recommendation from a local friend. First, let’s begin with vegan breakfast options. 

A typical Jordanian breakfast consists of a whole range of vegan dishes, most notably falafel, hummus, and foul; they are hearty, healthy, full of nutrients, and definitely give you a bang for your buck. For not more than 2 dollars, you will be able to scratch your itching craving for falafel along with the traditional company dishes of hummus and foul, not to mention free Arabic bread, tea, and pickles to go with it.

My favorite falafel and hummus street stalls in Amman:

  • Falafel Al Quds: This place in Rainbow street offers, what I like to call, the ultimate falafel sandwich, with your option of sesame bread or just plain, the owner specializes only in making addictive falafel sandwiches. Forget the foul and hummus, after this sandwich you will be too full for them.
  • Al Kalha: The cleanest of the falafel vendors, this place is like the 5-star version of street food with their rebranding. They are more of a luxury falafel, hummus, and foul shop… let’s call it a suave street stall.
  • Hashem: Downtown Amman is not my favorite in terms of taste, but it is in terms of atmosphere, it definitely wins. The whole vibe is ‘Ammani’ downtown and if you want to eat like a local, head there for breakfast.  
  • Abu Jbara: You will find this place on many street corners, just google it and you will find the closest one to you! Savour the best falafel, hummos, and foul combo.
  • Abu Mahjoob: This is where we used to go when we skipped school. Well worth the Bs Cs and Ds.

If you’re not in Jordan (or even if you are), try our homemade falafel recipe for a flavor to make you feel like you are on the streets of Amman.

Homemade Falafel Recipe:

2 cups chickpeas (pre-soaked overnight)

4 cloves garlic

1 bunch coriander 

1 hot pepper 

(as many extra herbs as you want and you can also add an onion) 

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp black pepper

1 bunch coriander

1/2 tsp allspice

1 bunch parsley 

1 tsp sodium bicarbonate

Directions

  1. Soak 250 grams of dried chickpeas in water overnight.
  2. In a food processor or meat grinder, add garlic, coriander, and parsley.
  3. Once the texture is a paste, add cumin, black pepper, and allspice. 
  4. Preheat oil in a pot to fry the falafel in.
  5. Grab a small amount of paste and roll it in the shape of a ball using your hands or put water on a spoon and using another spoon form an oval-shaped ball and then dip it into the hot oil to fry.
  6. Once the falafel ball starts turning brown at the edges, turn it around so that it cooks on the other side.
  7. Leave to fry for another 1 minute and place on a paper towel to cool.  

You can eat it with some hummus and pita bread for a great vegan meal. Enjoy!

Hummus recipe:

Hummos and foul are available almost everywhere in Jordan. If you’re not here and want to feel like you are, try recreating this globally popular vegan dish at home.

For the perfect hummus, all you need is:

1 cup of boiled or canned chickpeas

Lemon to taste (I would go for 2 lemons)

1 tsp of salt 

1/cup of tahini 

Crushed garlic

Foul recipe:

The same applies to the foul recipe. This recipe is one I learned from a food stall owner who specialized in a foul for more than 36 years in Lebanon, and yes you guessed it, his name is Tony and his appetite for foul supersedes his passion. Let’s just say he knows this Middle Eastern vegan dish inside out. 

Follow this simple recipe for a delicious vegan meal.

1 can of fava beans

Garlic

Salt

Lemon

Tahini

Directions

  1.  Wash the beans and put in a pot to cook on low heat until warmed. 
  2. Smash the garlic using a pestle and mortar with salt and add some lemon. 
  3. Mix together well, add your fava beans and gently mash together.
  4. Finish off with a bit more salt and tahini.

The second topic at hand is vegan main courses that are packed with flavors and nutrients.

Lentil Soup:

Almost anywhere in Amman, you will find vendors who sell hot lentil soup on winter nights. They sell it like coffee on the side of the street when it’s cold and it tastes superb. Don’t forget to add some sumac and lemon juice, along with fried croutons to make it hearty and filling.

For a great lentil soup recipe, follow this recipe:

 

Mujadara Recipe:

The vegan lunch dish that takes the cake and honestly tastes superb is Mujadara. This delicious lentil, rice and caramelized onion dish is made to tantalize all your senses, served with a side of tangy farmer’s salad. Nothing says home like this dish.

2 cups brown lentils

2 cups Calrose rice

1-kilo onions 

½ cup vermicelli noodles 

½ tsp salt

Vegetable oil

Directions

  1. Cut 3 onions into thin slices and fry until golden, then place on a paper towel covered plate.
  2. Saute a finely chopped onion in olive oil until translucent then add 1 cup brown lentils (presoaked in cold water). After you saute the brown lentils, add water and bring to a ½ boil.
  3. Pre-soak the rice for 30 minutes in hot water and then add it to the pot along with the brown lentils.
  4. Add  1 tsp of each: salt, black pepper, and cumin.
  5. Leave on low heat until the rice is cooked and ready.
  6. Plate the rice neatly on the serving dish and sprinkle the deep-fried onions on top.

Arabic terrain calls for olive oil, tomatoes, and beans (green beans, white beans, or okra) cooked in a lovely tomato sauce.

Some main courses that could be considered vegan are galayet bandora, fasolia bi zeit, and bamyeh bi zeit. We eat these vegan meals with either pilaf rice or with pita bread. Follow my recipes below for a quick vegan stew that will surely tantalize your taste buds. 

Galayet Bandora Recipe:

Makes 5 portions.

3 cloves garlic

5 ripe tomatoes

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

½ tsp sugar

Olive oil

2 hot pepper

Directions

  1. Sauté finely chopped garlic in olive oil in a large frying pan.
  2. Add hot pepper and let sweat to get juices out.
  3. Peel and dice tomatoes and add to the pan, bring to a boil, then let simmer.
  4. Salt and black pepper to taste.
  5. Top with freshly chopped parsley for garnish. 

 This dish can be made with diced meat and tastes great as a side to freekeh  

Fasoulia bi Zeit and Bamyeh bi Zeit (Green Beans and Okra):

 3 cloves garlic

2 Cups green beans cleaned and cut into quarters / or okra cleaned and washed (whole)

5 ripe tomatoes

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

olive oil

Directions

  1. Sauté finely chopped garlic in olive oil in a large frying pan.
  2. Add green beans or okra and let sweat to get juices out.
  3. Peel and dice tomatoes and add to the pan. Bring to a boil and let simmer.
  4. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
  5. Top with freshly chopped parsley for garnish.

Jordanian food is the ultimate comfort food, whether it is for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. One of our staple ingredients for anything vegan is zaatar. It can be eaten with a piece of fresh pita bread dipped in olive oil followed by zaatar or with our sumac topped on a salad.

When it comes to Arabic dessert, get ready for some vegan galore. Baklava from any shop downtown, especially my personal recommendation, “Tamriyet Omar”, will satisfy any sweet-lover’s cravings. Their vegan doughnut is one for the books (Thank me later).

Halaweh (tahini mousse) and Asabe’ Zeinab (fried dough with simple syrup) and Awameh, are also found in most of the dessert shops downtown. 

Finally, my favorite dessert of all time is one that will shock you. Mughli (check out our Mughli post to learn more about it).

Sahtain!

Easy Chicken Recipes: Marinades & Arabic Dishes

Our basic cooking method course has a whole class dedicated to chicken recipes and I thought why not share my favourite snippets from that class for a list of easy chicken recipes to get you started.

Chicken can be cured, roasted, boiled, smoked, slow-cooked, grilled and baked. You can cook this versatile protein bone-in, or boneless, whole or minced, the possibilities are endless!

Let’s start with the basics…

Boiling Chicken The Arabic Way Vs. The French Way 🙂 

What you need:

1 chicken either whole or cut into 2/4/6/8 pieces
1 litre Water warm
2 tbsp salt
4 peeled garlic cloves
1 onion, cut in half
2 bay leaves
4 cardamom pods
2 allspice (whole)
2 cinnamon sticks
To wash your chicken, you’ll need:
Salt
Lemon
Flour

  • Wash chicken thoroughly with salt, lemon and flour by scrubbing the flour all over the chicken, then toss a handful of salt onto it and start scrubbing with a lemon cut in half (Salt acts as an abrasive that effectively cleans the chicken)
  • Rinse with cold water and pat dry with a single-use paper towel
  • In a pot, add a bit of olive oil and add your spices. Then add the chicken to sear, and follow by adding half an onion, bay leaves and garlic
  • After the chicken has been slightly cooked and browned from the outside, add some boiling water just enough to cover the chicken and bring it to a boil for 5 minutes
  •  Add salt and pepper, and let it simmer for 45 minutes while skimming the froth from the top until the liquid is clear
  • Drain the chicken and reserve the delicious stock for other dishes
  • If you have our Beit Sitti stock mix on hand, make sure to add a teaspoon for an extra flavour kick

Interesting Foodie Fact!

The French use something called mirepoix, a mix of vegetables used to add to the flavour of the stock, including carrots, celery, and zucchini – in addition to a bouquet garni, which consists of dried herbs wrapped in wire, to be removed later. 

We Arabs don’t do that. We usually prefer the flavour of plain chicken stock. Also, our spices are very fragrant so they add intense flavour to the stock. After boiling chicken, you can use the stock to make stews like Mulukhiyah and Fattet Djaj. 

Fattet Djaj Recipe

The rice:

  • Wash the rice 3 times until the water is no longer milky 
  • Soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes (or hot water for 10 minutes)
  • In a pot, boil 1 ¼ cup of water (or chicken stock) for each cup of rice and add some oil and ½ a tsp of salt
  • Place the pot on high heat for 5 minutes until the water starts to evaporate, then lower the temperature to very low and let it simmer for another 15 minutes. Serve hot.

The pita bread:

4 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 tbsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt

  • In a cup, mix half of the warm water with the sugar and yeast and let the mixture rise
  •  Mix the flour and the salt together then add the wet ingredients gradually and start kneading
  • After the texture of the dough becomes soft, leave it in a warm place for around 20 minutes to rise
  • After the dough has risen, form small balls and press slowly down on them to flatten
  • Preheat your oven to a high temperature
  • Put the bread in the oven and wait for it  to rise, then let it boil for 2 minutes

Putting it all together:

  • Cut up small pieces of bread and deep fry them until golden brown (don’t use olive oil when frying)
  • Place the fried pita croutons on a paper towel to drain the oil 
  • Line a deep bowl with pita bread then add some chicken stock (just enough to make the bread moist)
  • Add a layer of rice (you can add some garlic for extra flavour)

mix some crushed garlic with salt and yoghurt and layer it on top, then add some roasted pine nuts on top for garnish

After learning how to boil chicken and how to actually implement a recipe using boiled chicken, here’s a list of healthy, easy chicken breast recipes.  You can grill it or bake it. Or both. 

Quick Chicken Breast Recipes

Chicken breast can be cooked either boneless or bone-in, either way, the trick is to marinate it ahead of time for the most flavour. Leaving the chicken breast to soak in the marinade overnight will give you moist, flavorful pieces that will leave everyone asking for seconds.

These are quick easy chicken recipes that have been tried and tested many times, of course, feel free to add your touch whenever you feel the need.

Shish Tawouq Marinade:

4 tbsp yoghurt
2 tbsp ketchup/tomato paste
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp allspice

Asian Marinade:

4 tbsp Soy Sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp honey

Grandmother’s Chicken Marinade:

4 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp dried thyme leaves
2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1 tsp yoghurt
1 tsp sumac

Mustard Balsamic Chicken Marinade:

2 tbsp mustard
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp paprika

  • Marinate the chicken overnight in a ziplock bag or airtight container then season with a little bit of salt and pepper. If you can’t marinate it overnight, leave it in the mixture for as long as possible. 
  • Drain the juice and sear the chicken in a pan for 2 minutes until a caramelized crust forms. Finish it off in the oven for 15-20 minutes on medium heat.

And now for the grand finale, Djaj Mahshi. Stuffed chicken (Djaj Mahshi)  is the Jordanian version of stuffed turkey and no Christmas is complete without this dish on the table.

Follow this recipe for a Mediterranean Christmas from the region where the actual birthday boy himself was born.

Djaj Mahshi Recipe:

1 whole chicken
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp black pepper
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp mixed spice
Onions
1⁄4 kilo ground meat
Rosemary
2 cups rice (1 cup medium grain and rice 1 cup American rice)

  • Soak both kinds of rice in cold water for 30 minutes
  • Clean whole chicken with vinegar, water, lemon and flour and scrub 2 times until fully clean and rinse, then pat dry with a single use paper towel, and place in the fridge
  • Finely chop onions and sauté in oil until transparent
  • Add the ground meat to the onions and let them cook
  •  Add cinnamon, black pepper, salt and mixed spices to the meat and keep stirring on low heat until the meat is cooked
  • Add pre-soaked rice to the meat and mix well
  • Immerse in chicken stock put on high heat until the water evaporates from the surface, then lower the heat and let the rice cook slowly for around 20 minutes until half cooked 
  • Season chicken with salt, pepper, olive oil, and lemon, then rub with a clove of garlic and stuff with onion, bay leaves and a portion of the half-cooked rice (Cook the other portion separately)
  •  Put the chicken in an oven bag or tray and cover (if you are going to cover with foil, make sure you put oil on the foil so that it doesn’t stick to the chicken) 
  • Leave the chicken in the oven for an hour, then remove and brown
  • Use the stock/chicken pan drippings as your sauce and add the rest of the cooked rice around the chicken
  • Top the dish with almonds and pine nuts
  • Serve it with a side of yoghurt and cucumber salad

A little tip: you can use ghee or butter instead of olive oil, but I prefer olive oil to keep it light for my kids

Sahtain!