Written By Ishani Roy.
Year after year Arabic treats has been constantly marking their presence in our hearts. A huge galore of choices to choose from Arabic desserts will definitely give your taste buds a redefined experience from the traditional cakes and pies.
Food has become global along with the economy and therefore it’s now time to get addicted to the most exotic range of desserts the Arabic cuisine has in store for you.
Read on to know more about the Arabic desserts that you must have.
Did you know that sometimes in Arabic loved ones are called “Basbousa”? Try calling out your little child not as “My sweet little child” but as “Mu Basbousa”. This name is used as an adjective definitely accounts for how loved this dessert is in the Middle East.
Basbousa is also known as Hereessa is a very sweet, syrup-soaked semolina sort of cake with yoghurt. Basbousa originated from Egypt and now is popular across many countries. Basbousa is sold in almost every corner of Egypt.
Knafeh pronounced as (Ku-Na-Fah) is made with kataifi or shredded spun pastry or shredded phyllo layers with a creamy soft milk pudding on the inside, drenched in sugary syrup and layered with cheese or clotted cream, topped up with pistachio or nuts.
This traditional Arabic dessert has many variations spread across the Arab countries and had originated many many years ago.
3. Umm Ali
This mouth-watering dessert having roots in Egypt dates back to around the 12th century. The word “Umm Ali” means “Ali’s Mother”.
According to legend, it is believed that Umm Ali or Om Ali is named after Sultan Ezz El Din Aybak’s wife who asked her cooks to create the most delicious dessert in order to celebrate one of the victories of her husband.
Umm Ali is a traditional Arabic bread pudding dish made of phyllo dough or puff pastry which is divided into smaller pieces, soaked in thickened milk and then blended with pistachios, raisins, coconut and almond flakes. Spices like cinnamon, saffron and cardamom are also used occasionally.
The dish is baked at the end which gives the dessert a crusty feel and appearance. Rosewater or orange blossom water is added to add a unique aroma to the dessert.
Baklava has its roots in Turkey and the Ottoman Empire. This dessert is made from rich and sweet filo pastry which is then filled with various chopped nuts, ranging from walnuts, almonds, pistachios, peanuts and more which is all then held together by a dense sugary syrup made from honey.
5. Aish El-Saraya
Aish El-Saraya is a famous Lebanese bread pudding dessert that is made from bread rusks dipped in lemon sugar syrup and then layered with rose water and deliciously flavoured orange blossom cream custard which is also known as ashta cream.
The literal meaning of the word Aish El-Saraya is “Palace Bread” in Arabic. This dessert dish is very light, one of the go-to no-bake desserts and is eggless.
It goes well with Indian cuisine as well along with the traditional Lebanese cuisine. This bread pudding trifle is perfect comfort food and a classic Middle Eastern dessert.
6. Sawabe Zainab
Sawabe Zainab also widely known as Zainab Fingers are made of flour mixed with semolina in the shape of fingers. They are crunchy on the outside but very soft on the inside. The Zainab fingers are dipped in sugar syrup to bring a sweet taste to them.
There are two popular stories behind this popular traditional sweet dish, one being this dish was first made by a little girl and the guests who first tasted it liked it so much that they said: “Teslam Sawabe Zainab” which means “May God bless Zainab’s hands”.
Another popular story is that this dish was made by Ms Zainab and all the people liked this dish so much that they named it after her. Zainab fingers are a popular dish during Ramadan and also can be had during other special occasions.
7. Balah El Sham
Incredibly soft on the inside and delightfully crunchy on the outside, these Middle Eastern desserts are a treat for the soul. The word Balah El Sham means Levant dates, although the recipe of this dessert has no sign of dates although by looks they are very close to them.
It originated in the Levant area of the Arab world and hence was called Levant dates. Balah El Sham is a fluffy choux pastry that is fried and then dunked in heavy syrup.
The stuffing can be made with custard, whipping cream, mascarpone cheese and then drizzled with honey with some pistachios on the top.
8. Luqmat El Qadi
Luqmat El Qadi also known as Lokma dates back to the 13th century and also was found to be mentioned in many cookbooks of medieval times.
This dessert originated in Iraq and is famous all throughout the Middle Eastern countries and is known across various names.
Lokma is simply a spherical shaped dessert that is crunchy on the outside, made from leavened dough fried in oil and then flavoured with orange blossom water, lemon juice and rose water. It is very much similar to the famous dessert in India called Gulab Jamun.
9. Roz Bel Laban
Roz Bel Laban simply means Rice Pudding which is also famous throughout many cuisines. This dish consists of rice, milk, sugar, cream, infused with vanilla, cinnamon, cloves and is garnished with cinnamon.
Qatayef, also known as Lebanese filled pancakes, is a form of Arabic dumplings. They can be soft, crunchy, fried or baked from the outside and on the inside, it is filled with cream, nuts or fruits.
For the outside pancake-like covering, flour, baking powder, water and yeast. During Ramadan, Qatayef is sold widely across almost all supermarkets and bakeries and is the whole stock is sold off by iftar, which is breakfast time.
11. Feteer Meshaltet
If you ever had food dreams, then you haven’t had the best one yet. Lay your eyes upon Feteer and you will set forth upon a different world of desserts that actually exists.
Layers and layers of pastry dough are set upon each other with loads of ghee or butter in between. This dessert recipe during the time of pharaohs of Egypt used to be served to the Gods and was known as “feteer maltoot”.
It slowly became part of all happy occasions such as holidays, weddings, etc. The word Feteer translates into “a cushion-like pie”. Feteer is a symbol of hospitality in Egypt.
12. Halawat El Jibn
Sweet and creamy cheese rolls of Syrian origin is a traditional dessert of the Middle Eastern countries. It is made up of semolina dough and cheese, layered with ice cream and sugar syrup.
The name Halawet El Jibn in Arabic means sweet confection. Halawet El Jibn literally melts in the mouth and bursts of flavours such as rose water, orange blossom water, pistachios and rose petals simmer down the taste buds.
Kahk cookies are traditional cookies usually eaten after the end of Ramadan during Eid-ul-Fitr and therefore are also known as Kahk-el-Eid cookies. The origin of Kahk dates back to Ancient Egypt where even carvings of people making kahk were found in the temples of Memphis and Thebes.
Kahk is a form of buttery sugar cookie and then sprinkled with powdered sugar. The outer covering is made by using flour and the inner filling is made by cooking ghee, honey, sesame seeds and nuts.
Ghorayeba or Ghoraiba are shortbread cookies also known as “sand cookies” which have a crumbly texture and directly melt in the mouth. This dessert is again a famous choice during Eid and other special occasions. Ghorayeba is a very easy to make cookie that is egg-free made from flour, ghee and powdered sugar. Ghorayeba is garnished with pistachios, almonds and other forms of dry fruits.
15. Lebanon Maamouls
Lebanese pastries may have stolen your hearts but Lebanese Maamoul cookies will leave you indulging in more and more. A delectable treat for every occasion, these soft date-filled shortbread cookies will crunch in your mouth and melt away your heart.
Maamouls cookies can be made from dates, nuts, pistachios, walnuts and also with chocolate. These cookies can be had with coffee and tea.
16. Layali Lubnan
Layali Lubnan is a semolina pudding that is very popular across Lebanon and the entire Middle East. It is easy to make a no-bake dessert. Layali Lubnan which means Lebanese nights has two layers.
The first layer is the semolina pudding and the second layer is ashta cream layer, topped over the semolina pudding.
Before serving the dessert is topped with pistachios and orange blossom water is poured over it. It requires very minimal time to prepare this dish and is very convenient for Ramadan.
Halva is almost everyone’s favourite in the Middle East and this dessert has mainly two variants. One is the flour-based halva and the other is the nut and seed-based halva. Halva has a very prominent history attached to it and is known across various regions in different names.
Halva is quite different from Halwa as Halva is made from nut butter, peanut butter, tahini and has a crunchy consistency with a toasty flavor while the South Asian variant i.e Halwa is made with rice or semolina which is more like a pudding.
18. Lokma- Turkish Delight
A little square soft chewy treat, Turkish Delight or traditionally known as Lokma/Lokum in Turkish is a perfect sweet confectionery with fascinating flavours like lemon, rosewater, etc. This dessert’s exotic flavours and chewy texture will definitely have you immediately taken.
This dessert’s base ingredients are gel, starch and sugar. Premium quality dates, pistachios, hazelnuts and walnuts are bound together in a gel form and then added with other flavours.
The sweet is then divided into smaller squares and dusted with icing sugar, copra or cream of Tatar. This absolutely vegan, gluten-free, classic candy is very easy to make at home also. The most favoured and popular Turkish Delight is rose flavoured lokum.
19. Qara’ ‘Asali
Qara’ ‘Asali is a Middle Eastern pumpkin pie with a twist. Does that seem like a hoax? Well although this dessert does not have the elements of a pumpkin pie but still is no less than one. The base ingredients of this recipe are pumpkin, butter, mlik, flour and sugar.
All these ingredients are mixed together and then baked. The first layer of the pie is warm and custardy flavoured with cinnamon, ginger and other various Middle Eastren spices.
It is then topped with whipped cream and chocolate. The taste is delicious even without the crust that a pie usually has.
20. Sweet Dates
Dates have claimed a very special place in the Middle Eastern and North African cultures. Also, they are considered to be superfoods worldwide. They are a symbol of abundance, power, triumph and faith.
Dates are a sacred fruit and a staple on the iftar tables during Ramadan and are eaten to break the fast. Therefore sweetened dates are a very important aspect of any Middle Eastern occasion. They are consumed plain and also sometimes stuffed with nuts, pistachios and goat cheese.
Fakhfakhina is a Middle Eastern fruit salad or non-alcoholic cocktail drink which is relished during a hot summer day to cool off the body.
This drink is popular street food. Fakhfakhina has layers upon layers of seasonal fruits, dried fruits, fresh fruit juices and then topped with ice cream.
The toppings and fruit layering can consist of fruits of your choice. Fakhfakhina is often termed as “The Mother of all fruit salads”. Natural and fresh Fakhfakhina will surely lift up your spirits and instantly refresh your mood.
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