Arabic food is surely one of the most celebrated cuisines in the world. With 22 Arab nations, you will come across a plethora of diverse dishes that are bound to leave a lasting impression on you. The same goes for Arabic desserts.
Arabic desserts come in such a variety because various nations and regions are known for each producing their special masterpiece. Whether the delicacy contains cheese or cream, is decked with nuts or drowned in sugary syrup, you are unlikely to find something that won’t suit your tastebuds.
The list of Arabic desserts is endless but we’ve rounded up some of the most delicious Arabic sweets and desserts you must try.
Arabic sweets & desserts
When it comes to Arabic desserts, Kunafah seems to top it all.
This dessert is one of the most famous and possibly most loved desserts amongst Arab nations. In fact, it is often caught in an ownership battle between Arabs as they all claim to be the rightful owner.
The original Kunafah is made of shredded pastry with either a cheese or cream filling. Once baked, it is drenched in syrup and topped with crushed pistachios.
Many places offer a spin with additional toppings such as Nutella, ice cream, fruits, and sauces – but we’re adamant that nothing beats the original Kunafah.
Basbousah may not ring a bell as it goes by a different name in each region, but every Arab is familiar with this sweet cake. After all, it’s hard to miss the golden-colored diamonds paired with the evening tea.
Basbousah is made primarily with semolina and coconut flakes. When combined with ghee and honey, it produces a sweet and spongey cake that will have you drooling.
The final touches include pouring the sweet syrup on the cake and garnishing it with nuts.
Even though Baklava originated in Turkey, it easily falls under one of the most cherished Arabic desserts.
If we had to sum it up, we believe that Baklava’s taste, appeal, and variety are what make it a household name. We completely understand if you cannot resist a tray full of assorted Baklava!
The general structure of Baklava consists of multiple layered phyllo sheets and crushed nuts in between. The variety in assorted Baklava lies in the folding technique of the phyllo sheets. It takes precision and concentration to craft the diamonds, nests, and rolls you see on the trays.
Luqaimat, pronounced as Lagaimat, is a famous Middle Eastern dessert served at festivals, gatherings, or any function, really. In fact, the longest line at any of these events will surely lead you to a warm plate of Luqaimat.
A sticky batter is required to prepare the bite-sized dough balls. Once the dumplings are ready, they are deep-fried until they turn into a golden brown. The dough balls alone are pretty plain which is why date syrup is generously poured followed by a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
Like many desserts, Luqaimat has variations. Sometimes, you can opt for chocolate sauce instead of date syrup or even ask for cheese-stuffed Luqaimat instead of the standard ones.
Fateer (or Feteer) is a dessert that falls under both breakfast and dessert. Most Arab restaurants serve this dish, but Levantine and North African restaurants arguably serve the best of its kind.
Some consider Fateer to be the Arabic version of pie as it can be either savory or sweet. The general structure of this dessert comprises phyllo sheets; however, the filling varies.
For those with a sweet tooth, Fateer with honey or cream is a classic. You can even customize your pie with Nutella, ice cream, or select from a wide array of cheeses. Or if you want something savory, you can have your Fateer with chicken, minced meat, vegetables, and so on.
But for those looking for a middle ground, Fateer Meshaltet is perfect. This Egyptian delicacy keeps it simple by serving Fateer with just ghee.
To sum up Qatayef, simply think of it as Middle Eastern pancakes.
However, it may be too sweet to be served for breakfast given its sweet cream filling, nutty outer layer, and the many coatings of sugary syrup.
Its folded structure makes it a great bite-sized dessert that you just can’t stop popping into your mouth.
7. Warbat or Shaabiyat
Warbat, also known as Shaabiyat, is an Arabic and Turkish dessert similar to Baklava.
Phyllo sheets are layered in a triangular shape to hold the filling, which ranges from custard to cheese to cream. Given this, you may find Warbat to be heavier than Baklava.
The dessert is complete with a sprinkling of crushed pistachios and a dousing of syrup.
8. Halawet Al-Jibn
The Syrians take credit for Halawet Al-Jibn, which literally translates to sweet cheese.
Served as mini rolls of cheese dough and semolina with a cream filling, Halawet Al-Jibn make an excellent bite-size dessert.
A sprinkle of nuts and rose petals along with a drizzle of rose or orange blossom syrup not only complete the dessert but also give it a very grand look.
Arabic biscuits & cookies
A great option for those looking to control their sugar intake is Ma’amool.
If you are visiting the Middle East, Ma’amool will be difficult to miss. Most supermarkets offer Ma’amool in individual packs but you can always purchase them freshly made at any local bakery.
You will find the date filling in these biscuits to be very light but also delicious. This is what makes Ma’amool a healthier dessert option compared to other Arabic desserts.
Another type of biscuit that falls under Arabic desserts is Barazik. Like Ma’amool, it is a light snack and the perfect partner for your tea.
The Levant region in particular take pride in this dessert.
The real taste of Barazik lies on the surface. Sesame seeds and crushed nuts thoroughly coat the biscuits once it is out of the oven.
For those who like their biscuits on the sweeter side, Barazik also comes soaked in sugary syrup.
The list doesn’t stop here. Ghraybeh is another savory dessert that is very delicious. You can consider this delicacy as the Arabic version of shortbread cookies.
The best part of Ghraybeh is that it requires ingredients that are likely already lying around in your kitchen. Plus, the preparations hardly take any time or hassle. These cookies will have you wondering how a five-ingredient recipe tastes so good.
We’re not exaggerating when we say these cookies melt in your mouth! Maybe it’s the dollop of jam or the sprinkle of nuts and powdered sugar that does the trick.
Religious occasions such as Eid and Easter call for a special dessert in Egypt – Kahk.
These cookies resemble Ma’amool and Ghraybeh, except instead of a date filling, it has Ajamiyah which is a mixture of honey and nuts.
You can distinguish Kahk from other cookies by the intricate patterns on the surface made by a designated mold press. However, it may be difficult to spot through the layers of powdered sugar!
13. Umm Ali
Translated to “Mother of Ali”, this Arabic dessert is famous in the Middle East for its taste and simplicity. While you can purchase the prepared mixes, making this dessert from scratch ensures a more genuine taste.
Overall, Umm Ali requires little to no hassle. If you’re running short on time in the kitchen, Umm Ali may be your best pick.
Baked puff pastry sits at the base and soaks in a mixture of milk, cream, and sugar. Once complete, all that’s left is to garnish the Arabic dessert with coconut flakes and nuts.
14. Layali Lubnan
Hot summer days and Ramadan nights call for the traditional Lebanese pudding better known known as Layali Lubnan. This decadent dessert is easy to prepare and perfect to serve at both casual and formal events.
Layali Lubnan is divided into three parts. A semolina mixture sits at the base to support the second layer of heavy cream. Then, crushed pistachios and dried rose petals cover the surface to complete the third layer.
Of course, an Arabic dessert cannot be served until the sugary syrup is poured – and Layali Lubnan is no exception.
Like most Arab regions, the Middle East has its own version of pudding known as Mahlabiya.
This dessert may go by a different spelling and pronunciation depending on the country, but as long as you can recognize the sweet milk pudding, you’re good to go!
The main ingredients that go into Mahlabiya are milk, corn starch, sugar, and cream. The rest of the items depend on your preference, whether you like it served with nuts, rose petals, cardamom, vanilla, and so on.
16. Aish Al Saraya
Another famous Arabic pudding in the Middle East is Aish Al Saraya. It shares similarities with Umm Ali as the ingredients are nearly identical. However, the preparation style of each dish brings out a completely different taste.
Bread rusks cover the base of the pan for the custard to set – sort of like a cheesecake. Interestingly though, the sugary syrup is poured on each layer to make the pudding really sweet.
And as always, a generous sprinkle of nuts complete this Arabic dessert.
A popular drink in the Middle Eastern, Levantine, and Turkish region is Sahlab, a sweet milk pudding.
The genuine Sahlab requires wild orchids, an ancient secret that is what truly makes the drink a sensation. However, this is no longer in practice due to the decline of the plant.
Sahlab resembles Mahlabiyah as it includes milk, corn starch, and sugar. However, it is to be consumed as a drink with toppings that include cinnamon, nuts, and in some regions, ground coffee.
Truthfully, the list of Arabic desserts is endless, but this list is a good start. From Middle Eastern puddings to Egyptian biscuits to Levantine pastries, there is something for every acquired taste!