If there is one thing we can guarantee you’ll taste in Israel, it’s olive oil. From salads to sauces to whole plump olives, Israel’s olive trees are the delicious backbone of its cuisine. The country has some of the world’s most ancient olive presses, and there are tons of olive mills around the country extracting the fragrant liquid green gold. Make sure you buy a bottle of the cold-pressed, extra-virgin unfiltered variety, which has bold flavors and health benefits. These styles of olive oil are ideal for finishing dishes, drizzling onto salads and vegetables, or using to marinate fresh blocks of feta.
Though the Levant has been producing wine for thousands of years, you’ll be hard-pressed to find Israeli wine on a restaurant menu back home or in your neighborhood bottle shop. And that’s precisely what makes Israeli wine such a unique souvenir and an even more exceptional gift. Luckily, there are hundreds of wineries around Israel, from large-scale producers to fun boutique brands that are making a name for themselves by producing some truly vibrant wines. If you’re staying in a city, you can head north and go for a winery tour and tasting, or check out some wine shops in town. Wines in Israel are often kosher and can even be made from fruits like pomegranates and currants. So when it comes time to buy, you can even go beyond the traditional grape.
Often called the “bread of the desert” in the Middle East, dates are a common delicacy in Israel. Naturally sweet and fiber-packed, they’re a healthy snack and the perfect after-dinner treat. There are nine varieties of commercially grown dates in Israel and each has its own unique flavor. Because dates are so plentiful in this region, they cost less than in most Western countries. Medjoul dates are some of the most prized — harvested individually by hand, their plump caramelly texture practically melts in your mouth. Bonus: dates travel well and last for quite a while. Load up your suitcase and throw a few in your carry-on for a sweet and nutritious pick-me-up on your flight home!
Sticky-sweet date syrup, or silan, is made by cooking local dates slowly in water, straining them, and reducing the liquid into a thick, honey-like syrup as dark as molasses. Silan is vitamin-packed and considered a delicious superfood alternative to sugar. Snag a jar or two and use it to make cakes, stir into teas, or add to salad dressings or grilled meats and other savory dishes. Just be sure to check the ingredient list before you tuck one into your suitcase – true silan should not contain any additives or added sugars, just dates and water.
Israel’s supermarket shelves are loaded with tons of fun sweet and savory snacks, and one of the best is undoubtedly Bamba. Locals go crazy for this peanut corn puff snack that resembles a cheese puff. Simple peanut flavor is the most common (and is terribly addicting), but look for other funky combos like caraway or nougat cream-filled Bamba. It’s super light for packing and makes for stellar plane snacking or a great nibble to keep around the house.
Spices abound in Israel, wafting up from the fragrant grilled meats on the street and the mounds of za’atar and sumac at the open-air markets. You may be able to find some of these spices at home, but they’re nowhere near as potent as what you’ll get from a freshly ground sumac berry, for example. Many international varieties will also mix spices like za’atar with preservatives, or spices outside of the traditional blend of dried hyssop, sesame, sumac, and salt. In other words, when you’re looking to recreate Israel flavors at home, get them straight from the source and stock your spice cabinet with the good stuff.
One of Israel’s must-try sweets may be the perfect edible souvenir. Made from tahini paste and sugar or honey, halva comes in enough flavors to satisfy the sugar cravings of any palate. Try a few — think rose petals, chocolate, or pistachio — and bring your favorites back for friends, family, or those moments when you’re craving the flavors of travel. Halva is easy to pack, keeps well, and makes for a beautiful gift… as long as you can restrain yourself from eating every bite on the way home.
Served throughout the Middle East, arak is an anise-flavored liqueur made from grapes or figs that you’re sure to taste while in Israel. The high-proof spirit is served chilled or at room temperature at practically any point during a meal. The highest quality araks are meant to be savored and sipped slowly, but you can also find them swapped into classic cocktail recipes or whirred into easy-to-drink mint lemonade slushies. Bring a bottle back home to add some Israeli flare to your bar cart
Israelis love their chocolate, and once you get a taste of some of the unique, locally made bars, you’ll understand why. One of the most memorable bars is filled with pop rocks, a surprisingly delicious combo people fawn over. Don’t miss out on filling your suitecause with the slew of other tasty chocolate bars too, like the crispy Kif Kef (similar to a Kit Kat), the folded chocolatey layers of Mekupelet (which means “folded” in Hebrew), Krembo marshmallow treats, and the many flavors (malted milk, pretzel, cornflake) of Klik (“Kleek”) chocolates. You can find Israeli chocolates practically everywhere, from the outdoor markets to the corner stores.
While tahini is available across the globe, not all versions are created equal, and Israel’s may surpass the rest. There are toasted tahinis, unhulled nutrient-dense tahinis, and even black sesame tahinis available all over the country, just begging to be taken home. Each seems to be richer, more refined and far creamier than any tahini you’ll find outside of the region. A big jar may weigh down your bag, but once you taste Israel’s tahini, you’ll insist on making room.
Coffee & Tea
Israelis are very serious about their coffee. Often thick and caffeine-loaded like Turkish styles, Israeli brews are frequently laden with spices like floral cardamom pods. Adding spices to coffee while it roasts is common practice in the country, and you don’t want to miss it.
Coffee not your cup of tea? Loose-leaf herbal teas abound in Israel’s markets. Mix up a hibiscus tea with rose and chamomile for a punchy floral brew packed with antioxidants and numerous health benefits.
Take Home the Experience of Cultivated Meat
Cutting-edge technology in the field of cultivated meat is making waves across Israel. With pioneering scientists, chefs and research institutions at the forefront, it’s no wonder that Israel is leading the way in creating a more sustainable and ethical food system.
Whether you’re a well-traveled foodie or an adventurous tech enthusiast, reach out to us about taking a tour of Aleph Farms’ headquarters in central Israel to learn about the future of cultivated meat.