There’s such a thing as “breakfast of the champions.” Here’s one thing about Israeli breakfast, for sure – it is devoid of any meat products. But that doesn’t make it less of a “power” breakfast.
If you’ve ever been to Israel, you can bet that an Israeli breakfast is one of the most fabulous ways to start a day.
What’s so different, unique, or distinctive about Israeli breakfast from the other breakfast types around the world, apart from the absence of meat products? And what will you expect from it?
From a kibbutz fare to a well-loved hotel and restaurant fixture
During the early years of Israel’s statehood, residents of a kibbutz (a communal settlement, typically a collective farm or factory) took their meals in a communal dining room. It was typical for the kibbutznikim (kibbutz residents) to eat a light meal early in the morning before going to work in the fields. Then they returned to the dining room to eat a hearty mid-morning buffet meal, similar to a brunch.
During the 1950s, hotels across Israel began to promote the Israeli breakfast in a style similar to the kibbutz meals. In the late 1970s, an association of hotels in Jerusalem attempted to phase out the Israeli breakfast and replace it with the more modest Continental breakfast. But this move proved unsuccessful, so the tradition of a hearty Israeli breakfast buffet has stuck ever since.
If you’ve stayed at any decent hotel or eaten in large restaurants in Israel, the buffet-style breakfast is the common fixture, which is usually presented in a self-service buffet style. The menu may be more streamlined in smaller restaurants.
No meat, please!
If you’ve eaten an Israeli breakfast, you may have noticed that there’s no ham, bacon, sausage, or beef jerky in it. These meat products are common in other breakfast menus, but not in an Israeli breakfast.
In accordance to the Jewish dietary laws (kashrut), meat and dairy products are neither served together in one meal nor included together as ingredients in any dish. In addition, pork is forbidden in Judaism.
Considering these restrictions, the Israeli breakfast is mostly a dairy-and-eggs meal. Fish is permitted to be served alongside dairy, so it’s not uncommon to see some grilled fish on an Israeli breakfast table.
What to expect in an Israeli breakfast spread?
Shakshouka (also spelled shakshuka) – Egg dishes are universal in an Israeli breakfast, but the most famous of them all is shakshouka. In Israel, breakfast would not be complete without this dish, which was first introduced in Israel by Jewish immigrants from North Africa during the 1950s and 1960s. Shakshouka consists of eggs poached in tomato sauce. It is best served with slices of challah bread, which you dip to sop up the sauce.
Hummus – The beloved hummus is a vital part of cuisine throughout Israel and the rest of the Middle East. It’s a chickpea dip usually served with pita.
Pita bread – Pita bread is the common partner for hummus, falafel, and shawarma. It can be enjoyed in many other ways, such as the pita bread in Druze cuisine which is dressed with labneh, spices, and olive oil. You can buy pita bread from the store or make one yourself – freshly baked pita bread is the best.
Israeli salad – Compared to other breakfast menus around the world, Israeli breakfast is balanced and healthful because it usually includes some vegetables. Israeli salad consists of finely chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, bell peppers, or chili peppers. This simple salad, which is of Levant origin, is considered an iconic dish in Israel. It’s virtually impossible to imagine eating some freshly baked pita or stuffing your falafel sandwich without it.
Baba ghanoush – This dip or appetizer consists of finely chopped roasted eggplants, olive oil, lemon juice, tahini, and various seasonings. It is usually served with pita or raw vegetables.
Labneh (also spelled labaneh) – Labneh is a thick and tangy strained yogurt. It can be served with salad or as a spread for pita and other types of breakfast bread. It can also be drizzled with olive oil and added with a mixture of regional spices called za’atar.
Fish – Herring is the most common fish served in an Israeli breakfast, although other fish (kosher) may be served, too. Fish can be smoked, grilled, or pickled.
Other breakfast items – Bread, fresh fruits, cereal, olives, a variety of cheeses, butter, coffee, tea, juices, and pastries
Something for everyone
It really depends on where you are going to eat your first meal of the day in Israel. But you should expect a massive variety on any breakfast table.
If it’s a continental breakfast, you will usually find toast, jam, coffee, juice, honey, and a pastry of your choice.
If it’s an Israeli breakfast, you will find most items mentioned in the list above. All in all, there’s something for everybody in any Israeli breakfast.