Food in Abu Dhabi: The Best Emirati Delicacies to Cheer Up Your Taste Buds!

Abu Dhabi is full of wonders. Be it the glistening skyscrapers, the decadent malls, the beautiful souks, the lovely people or the scrumptious delights - everything is sure to make you go wow!  Abu Dhabi has numerous dining options selling cuisines from all across the world. The Emirati cuisine works on the spice magic and lets me tell you when I say 'magic' I truly mean it. When you look at Al Harees for the first time, you might be a bit disappointed by the outer appearance but one spoon of it is enough to make you lost in its delicious taste. Even a simple appetizer here can make your day. 

So we bring you our top recommendations of food in Abu Dhabi as well as the top places to dine at. Bon appétit!

1. Khuzi

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Trip to Abu Dhabi or for that matter any Emirate in the United Arab Emirates is incomplete without trying out this dish. Khuzi, also known as Ghuzi is the national dish of the United Arab Emirates. It is served during special occasions but you can also find this in restaurants otherwise. It is one of the most popular dishes in Abu Dhabi and is considered a meal in itself. The dish is made from whole roasted lamb or mutton served on the top of spicy rice, garnished with nuts, raisins and vegetables. traditionally, a whole lamb or goat is used to make the dish, but many restaurants also serve single to-share portions so you can relish it to the fullest. The dish is prepared with generous amounts of spices such as cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, saffron and many others. The appearance of the dish is definitely Instagram-worthy!  

2. Al Machboos

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This food in Abu Dhabi is one of the most simple and delicious dishes you will come across. This one-pot dish is made using rice, meat, beef, lamb, chicken, shrimp or fish, onions, vegetables, spices and lemon. The dish is quite similar to the Indian dish biryani, however, what sets it apart are flavoured and fragrant spices used to flavour it up like cumin, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, chickpeas, saffron, turmeric, chillies, mace and many more. The meat is first boiled in water until it gets tender and then the spices are added gradually.  However, the real twist comes by adding dried lemons known as ‘loomi’. Once the meat is cooked, it is removed from the pot and rice is added to the same stock with vegetables. After the rice is fully cooked, it is layered with meat and served. It is usually served with thick spicy sauces made up of tomato, chillies and peppers or raita and salad. Make sure you try this out!

3. Al Harees

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It is one of the traditional dishes of the emirates and is specially cooked during the holy month of Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, at weddings and during other special occasions. The dish is also referred to as Jareesh or Harissa. The main ingredients are wheat and meat of choice (preferably chicken or lamb). This one-pot dish is made by soaking the wheat berries overnight and then boiling it in water with butter until a thick, porridge-like consistency is reached. Chunks of meat, cinnamon, salt, pepper and other spices and vegetables are added once the wheat is fully cooked. Though this dish may take hours to cook, let me tell you it is definitely worth the wait. Harees Al Waldha and Harees Al Fareej are the best places to try this Emirati delight.

4. Shawarma

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Though most of already heard or possibly ate shawarmas before, let me tell you the ones that will come across here will be simply amazing. This authentic Lebanese food in Abu Dhabi is a crowd favourite. You can find these in any street-side stalls or even hotels and local food outlets. The Shish Shawerma is the best place to feast on these delights.

5. Stuffed Camel

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This dish is considered the largest dish on the menu by the Guinness book of world records! The camel is stuffed with a lamb, which in turn is stuffed with one or more chicken, which is further stuffed with rice and eggs or at times fish (Now you know why it is considered the largest dish!) These are served only on very special occasions. If you find yourself feasting on one, you are more than lucky as you are probably at a Sheikh’s wedding or at a cultural bedouin ceremony.

6. Balaleet

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Balaleet is a traditional sweet and savoury dish which is very popular in the UAE. It is made up of vermicelli sweetened with sugar, nuts, saffron, rose water, cardamom, cinnamon, pistachios and is topped with an egg omelette. Both sweet and salty, this dish is a breakfast staple but is often served as a dessert. 

7. Thereed

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There is a soupy stew made up of chicken, lamb or mutton and vegetables. It is a popular meal and is used as a dish while breaking the fast during Ramadan. It is heavily spiced and is generally served with a raqaq (thin Emirati Flatbread).

8. Luqaimat

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It is the most popular Emirati dessert. These are basically small crunchy dumplings soaked in sweet and sticky date syrup known as Dibbs. It is a great dish to end a delicious Emirati meal with.

9. Al Madrooba

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Al Madrooba is a popular Emirati seafood food in Abu Dhabi made up of fish, spices and thick sauces. It is usually served with pita bread or Raqaq. This is the best dish for those who are craving for some really delicious seafood dish.

10. Saloona 

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Saloona is a local meat stew made up of vegetables, chicken, meat or lamb and served with boiled rice. It does not have many spices but is very healthy and delicious. Many restaurants sell variations of this dish brings more flavour to your palate. 

11. Tabbouleh 

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Tabbouleh is a popular food in Abu Dhabi delight made up of green onions, tomatoes, cucumber, parsley, crushed wheat and well seasoned with lemon juice and fresh mint. You can order it as an appetizer or a whole meal if you are looking for something healthy and vegetarian. 

12. Falafel

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These are more like substitute of French Fries in the Middle East. these are basically fried patties and balls made up of ground chickpeas or fava beans and are served with a spicy sauce or a dip. The Abu Dhabi-founded Just Falafel Street Food chain is the best place to savour on these.

13. Esh Asarya

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Esh Asarya is more like an Emirati cheesecake with a cream frosting. This culinary delight is also called the ‘bread of the Harem’ and is made up of bread soaked in lemon juice, rosewater, orange blossom water and further topped with cream. This is one of the most famous Emirati desserts and any meal is incomplete without having this. 

14. Fattoush

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Everyone's probably heard of this popular food in Abu Dhabi. It is basically a seasoned salad made up of fresh lettuce, sliced tomatoes, cucumber, mint leaves, onion, garlic and olive and is served with pita bread. This is something which is equally tasty and healthy. If you are done trying the shawarmas, al harees, al majboos and other spicy delicacies; then this simple dish is a must-try.

15. Chabab

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This Emirati version of a pancake is made up of eggs, sugar, flour, saffron and cardamom. It is served along with sweet date syrup and is perfect for those with a sweet tooth. 

16. Khameer

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Khameer is an Arabic bread made from yeast, flour and powdered milk. It is sprinkled with sesame seeds and is served with cheese, honey or alongside any spicy stew.

17. Mhammar

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Mhammar is a popular side dish made up of spiced fish. This sweet and savoury dish is perfect for seafood lovers. It is mostly served with sweet caramelized onions and sugary yellow rice. 

18. Mahalabiya

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It is a rich pudding flavoured with rose water and sprinkled with pistachios. It is an ultimate dish for dessert lovers and children. It is usually served cold (as heating may change the taste and destroy the flavour) alongside some fresh fruits.

Best restaurants that serve traditional Emirati and other Delectable food in Abu Dhabi:

1. Mezlai

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Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday - 1:00 PM to 10:30 PM

Address: Emirates Palace Hotel, West Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Dress Code: Smart Casual

Highlights: The classic and royal Arabic decor and outdoor terrace overlooking the sea are the best part about the interior of the restaurants. Furnished with elegant tapestries and bedoiun emblems such as golden dallah coffee pots, kunjah knives and other aesthetics; the restaurant has an ideal luxury setting.

Cuisine: Emirati

Must Try Dishes: Serves the finest traditional Emirati Cuisine such as Camel Tanour, lamb delights such as saloona and biryani, Zaatar salad, dates, Camel velvet chocolate mousse, Lamb kofta with saffron, Shrimps ‘Hamsat’, Shebab, Rose Petal Cheese Cake.

2. Al Fanar Restaurant and Cafe

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Opening Hours:Sunday to Wednesday- 8:30 AM to 10:00 PMThursday to Saturday - 8:30 AM to 11:00 PM

Address: The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal; Al Ain; Yas Mall; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Highlights: The restaurant serves authentic Emirati and gulf cuisine. The interiors done with barasti outdoor booths, mud brick rooms and a mini souk,  will remind you of old UAE neighbourhood. It can accommodate up to 300 guests at a time. The restaurants have multiple branches across Abu Dhabi and Dubai and even in the United Kingdom.

Cuisine: Emirati/ Gulf

Must Try Dishes: Raqaq, Jesheed, Naghar Nashef, Balalit ma Khoboz Magafi

3. Meylas

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Opening Hours: 9:00 AM to 11:00 PM 

Address: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Highlights: The restaurant was founded by a young Emirati women named Shaikha Al Kaabi, in order to restore and revive the traditional emirati cuisines and take them forward. A mix of contemporary and traditional Emirati elements, this place serves Emirati recipes made specially using local sourced ingredients. The interiors are modernized yet traditional; for example the door of the restaurant was originally the door to an Emirati police officer’s house back in the 1970's and the semolina cans are repurposed as cutlery holders. The restaurant also sells some local handicrafts such as items made of wickerware and supports the local talents by displaying totes, postcards and items made by Emirati artists. 

Cuisine: Traditional Emirati

Must Try Dishes: Alwedam, Machboos Chicken, Balaleet, 

4. Yadoo’s House

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Opening Hours: 8:00 AM to 11:00 PM

Address: Behind Shakespeare and Co, Al Muroor Street, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Highlights: The literal meaning of ‘Yadoos House’ is ‘Grandmother’s house’. The traditional emirati cuisine served by the restaurant feel no less than a home made one. The comfortable sofas and simple furnishings will make you feel relaxed as if at home. The ambience is great and the hospitality is equally warm. 

Cuisine: Emirati

Must Try Dishes: Al Harees, Chicken and Lamb Makboos, Dynamite Shrimp, Lentil Soup

5. Zahrat Lebnan

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Opening Hours: 
Zahrat Lebnan Defense - 8:00 AM to 3:00 AM
Zahrat Lebnan Al Khalidiyah -  8:00 AM to 3:00 AM
Zahrat Lebnan Muroor -  8:00 AM to 3:00 AM
Zahrat Lebnan Mazyad Mall -  8:00 AM to 1:00 AM
Zahrat Lebnan Airport Road -  8:00 AM to 3:00 AM

Address:  lobal Towers, Electra Street, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Highlights: If you are a fan of hummus and shawarma, don’t think twice before heading to any of the Zahrat Lebnan outlet. The restaurant has been in Abu Dhabi’s culinary scene since 1983 and is a favoured destination for locals, expats and tourists. 

Cuisine: Authentic Lebanese.

Must Try Dishes: Fattoush, kebabs, biryani, mixed grills, hummus, Lebanese Cold Mezza Grill, Shawarma.

6. Al Dhafra Dinner Cruise

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Opening Hours: 
Thursday to Saturday - 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM

Address: Madinat Zayed Freeport, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Highlights: Probably the best way to enjoy the traditional delicious emirati cuisine is to sail along the Abu Dhabi Corniche on the dhow and watch the city light up like a million stars as the evening sets in. And, the Al Dhafra Dinner Cruise makes this dream more than just true.  While the upper deck has a majlis set up, the lower is air conditioned and can fit up to 50 people. 

Cuisine: Arabic, Middle Eastern

Must Try Dishes: Arabic Coffee, Fattoush

7. Shish Shawarma

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Opening Hours:
Shish Shawarma Corniche - 11:00 AM to 1:00 AM
Shish Shawarma Muroor Road - 11:00 AM to 1:00 AM
Shish Shawerma Khalifa City - 11:00 AM to 1:00 AM

Address:It has three branches in total.
Shish Shawarma Corniche - West Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Shish Shawarma Muroor Road - 31 Muroor Road,  Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Shish Shawerma Khalifa City -  16th Street, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Highlights: They are known to serve the best shawarmas in the city. The price is also reasonable and is just AED 10. Not just shawarmas, they sell crepes, salads and kaakeh as well. 

Cuisine: Lebanese

Must Try Dishes: Shawarma, Hummus, Cheese Rolls, Moutabal

8. Al Maqam 

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Opening Hours: 12:00 PM to 10:00 PM

Address: The Village, Arabian Nights, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Highlights: Situated near a desert in Al Ain, Al Maqam restaurant with give you real glimpse of traditional emirati life. You can either dine at the barasti themed dining hall or the palm thatch covered terrace and enjoy the local delights.

Cuisine: Arabic, Lebanese, Middle Eastern, Tandoori

Must Try Dishes: Al Harees, Makboos, Shawarma, snacks

9. Al Arish Restaurant

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Opening Hours: 12:00 PM to 4:00 PM ; 7:00 PM to 12:00 AM 

Address: Al Mina Fish Souk, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Highlights: Situated near the Mina Zayed Fish Market, Al Arish is the first restaurant to serve authentic emirati cuisine. It also has a fresh market style fish display where you can choose for yourself and get it grilled on the spot.

Cuisine: Emirati, Arabic and International.

Must Try Dishes: Salads, Seafood soup.

10. Al Mrzab Restaurant

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Opening Hours: 11:30 AM to 11:00 PM

Address: Airport Road, behind the National Theatre, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Highlights: The interiors done in shades of golden and brown make this place look very royal and magnificent. 

Cuisine:
Emirati, Gulf

Must Try Dishes: Welcome Zafaran Dish, Firni

11. Villa Toscana

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Opening Hours:
Lunch Buffet (Sunday to Thursday) - 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Aperitivo Bar - 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM
A la Carte Dinner - 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM

Address: The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, Nation Towers, Corniche, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Highlights: This is the most fanciest restaurants you will come across in Abu Dhabi. It has a great ambience and serves the best Italian cuisine and plenty of seafood options.

Cuisine: Italian, Mediterranean, European

Must Try Dishes: Salmon, Risotto, Lobster Soup

12. Punjab Grill

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Opening Hours: 12:30 PM to 12:00 AM

Address: Venetian Village, The Ritz-Carlton Grand Canal, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Highlights: It is one of the top rated Indian restaurants in Abu Dhabi. This is the perfect place to hit if you are craving for some delicious Indian dishes. 

Cuisine: Indian, Asian

Must Try Dishes: Watermelon Sliders, Salmon Tikka, Coconut Prawns, Tawa Scallops, Chaamp Taajdar, Karavali Lobster.

13. Hakkasan

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Opening Hours: 7:00 PM to 11:30 PM

Address: Emirates Palace, West Corniche Road, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Highlights: Located at the beautiful Emirates Palace Hotel, Hakkasan has beautifully decorated interior as well as exterior dining area and an excellent ambience.

Cuisine: Chinese

Must Try Dishes: Peking Duck with Caviar, Grilled Wagyu Beef with King Soy Sauce 
We're sure you might be more than hungry as you might have scrolled down this list of the best restaurants & food in Abu Dhabi. Emirati food is every epicurean’s dream. Besides, the taste it carries is unique to the region and is absolutely amazing. Make sure you enjoy as many dishes you can while you are on your vacation at Abu Dhabi and bring back some amazing memories!

This post was published by Rashi Anand

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