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What Are the Characteristics of Lebanese Foods?

Lebanese cuisine is a rich tapestry of flavors, blending fresh ingredients with aromatic spices. It's known for its variety of mezze—small, savory dishes—and the use of olive oil, garlic, and lemon. From the smoky baba ghanoush to the hearty kibbeh, each dish offers a taste of Lebanon's culinary heritage. Curious about the spices that give these dishes their distinctive flavors?
Amanda R. Bell
Amanda R. Bell

Lebanon, located on the Mediterranean Sea, is world-famous for its fresh, simple variations of Middle Eastern cuisine. Lebanese foods are primarily characterized by their inclusion of fresh produce, which makes up the largest part of most meals. When it comes to meats, seafood and poultry are the most common, and the only red meat consumed is typically lamb or goat. Most food is cooked in or seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and a variety of warm spices. Meals are usually a collection of smaller dishes, and it is highly common for flat bread to be used in place of a fork or other eating utensil.

As with most Mediterranean cuisines, Lebanese foods are centered on fresh produce. Vegetables are part of nearly every meal, and most people in this area opt for in-season produce that was purchased or picked that day. Although baked goods are popular in this area as well, fresh fruit is served at the end of almost every meal prior to any actual dessert, and is incorporated into savory dishes as well. Oftentimes, various vegetable or fruit dishes are served on their own without any type of animal product.

Spice-rubbed grilled chicken is a staple in Lebanese cuisine.
Spice-rubbed grilled chicken is a staple in Lebanese cuisine.

When meats are consumed, seafood and poultry are most common. Due to the proximity of Lebanon to the Mediterranean Sea, seafood is often available in abundance, and is purchased or caught the day that it is prepared. In addition, chickens are a common livestock and usually consumed at least once a week. When it comes to red meats, beef is not widely used in Lebanese foods and dishes. In its place, lamb, which is often slow-cooked with a variety of spices, is most popular, especially for special occasion meals. Goat is also eaten, although less so than other meats.

In Lebanese cuisine, the only red meat is typically lamb or goat.
In Lebanese cuisine, the only red meat is typically lamb or goat.

Lebanese foods are often considered to be highly-flavorful, and this is primarily due to the wide array of seasonings used in the cuisine. Nearly every hot food is cooked in olive oil, cold foods are often dressed in this heart-healthy fat, and everything from savory to sweet dishes contain a fair amount of garlic. Spices that are usually considered to be warm or strongly-flavored are most commonly used in Lebanese foods, and give dishes the distinctive flavor of this region. Ground chilies, cumin, and saffron are incredibly popular, as are mint, sesame seeds, and cilantro.

Many types of Lebanese food are either cooked in olive oil or seasoned with it.
Many types of Lebanese food are either cooked in olive oil or seasoned with it.

Outside of flavor, the manner in which Lebanese foods are served is also a major component of this type of cuisine. Rather than one main dish and a few sides, many meals often consist of three or four smaller dishes, which are often similar to appetizers, or one large dish with several appetizers alongside. Although forks, knives, and spoons are used regularly, most meals are served with flat bread, which is often used in place of an eating utensil.

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    • Spice-rubbed grilled chicken is a staple in Lebanese cuisine.
      By: Andrey Starostin
      Spice-rubbed grilled chicken is a staple in Lebanese cuisine.
    • In Lebanese cuisine, the only red meat is typically lamb or goat.
      By: LittleSteven65
      In Lebanese cuisine, the only red meat is typically lamb or goat.
    • Many types of Lebanese food are either cooked in olive oil or seasoned with it.
      By: tycoon101
      Many types of Lebanese food are either cooked in olive oil or seasoned with it.
    • Most of the time, Lebanese meals are centered on fresh produce.
      By: Lsantilli
      Most of the time, Lebanese meals are centered on fresh produce.