From Mansaf to Falafel: Exploring the Best of Jordanian Food

One of the reasons I like to travel is the food. Before each trip, I prepare a list of dishes I would like to try while exploring the country. At the same time, it will help me avoid foods that contain milk and cream. I would recommend this to anyone with food allergies. Are you planning a trip to Jordan and don’t know what traditional food to try? Read on, and you will find out what is the traditional Jordanian food.

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Coffee is essential in Jordanian culture. Jordanians would instead drink water than instant coffee. Jordanians use Arabica beans to prepare the drink, which they grind together with cardamom beans. They add ground coffee to water and boil it in a specific container for several minutes. It’s basically Turkish coffee but with cardamom. People don’t refuse coffee offered by the host here. Otherwise, it would be considered an insult. For me, coffee is an integral part of breakfast. Without it, I can’t imagine how I would have managed a day trip to Petra.

Bread, falafel and hummus

Let’s start with relatively well-known dishes that need no special introduction as they are popular in every Middle Eastern country – bread, falafel and hummus, and that can’t be missing from any list of Jordanian food to try.

Bread is eaten with any meal except dessert. It is called Arabic bread or pita.

Jordan - bread
Arabic bread

Falafel are fried balls of ground chickpeas or beans (suitable for vegetarians).

Hummus is a cold dip made from cooked chickpeas mixed with tahini (sesame paste), lemon juice and garlic. It is usually served with chickpeas, olive oil, or meat (picture below). In the Hashem restaurant, I had the opportunity to try the version with bread called Fattet hummus. They soak the bread in the broth and then mix it with hummus (in the white bowl in the picture below).

Hashem Restaurant - hummus
Hummus and Fatted hummus


The next dish on the list that I wanted to try was moutabel. Like hummus, moutabel is a cold dip made from eggplant. It is my favourite appetizer, and I like trying it in different restaurants as it always tastes different. During my stay in Amman, I indulged in it during every lunch, and I managed to eat it so fast that I didn’t even have time to take a picture of it.

Warak enab

Warak enab are stuffed grape leaves. Different versions of this dish, vegetarian or meat, can be found in almost every Mediterranean and Middle Eastern country. It’s not my favourite food, but I had to try it since every country has a slightly different taste.


Manakish is also called Arabic pizza. As the name suggests, it’s shaped like a pizza, but that’s where any resemblance to pizza as we know it ends. Manakish is served with a spice mixture called za’atar and olive oil. I had the opportunity to taste manakish on the way to Petra and then saw it at Souk el-Khodra. I read online that other toppings for manakish are cheese (halloumi), egg or minced meat.

Traditional Jordanian food at Souk el-Khodra: Manakish
Manakish with various toppings


Maqluba is a popular meat dish in Jordanian cuisine and it means “upside-down” in Arabic, which refers to how the dish is traditionally served.

Jordanians typically use a large ceramic or metal pot with a lid to prepare Maqluba. The meat, usually lamb or chicken, is placed at the bottom of the pot and seasoned with various spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and cumin. Rice goes on top of everything. When everything is cooked, the contents of the pot are then carefully flipped over onto a large serving plate so that the rice, meat, and vegetables are now on top and the pot is upside-down.


Mansaf is the national dish of the Kingdom of Jordan. It has three main ingredients – rice, lamb and jammed (goat’s milk). But what I liked about this dish the most is that people eat it with their bare hands.

As I talked to one of the Uber drivers about traditional Jordanian food, he recommended Dahber, a small eatery popular with locals. They have only a few tables, and the only food they serve is Mansaf. Thus my colleagues and I had to wait almost an hour until we were seated. That gave me enough time to observe others and see how to eat this unique dish.

Once our table was ready, the staff covered it with a big plastic tablecloth and brought a huge plate full of rice and meat. I also felt like a toddler when they gave us a plastic bib.

Traditional Jordanian food: Mansaf
Dahbera Mansaf

How to East Mansaf like a local? First, pour goat’s milk over the meat and rice and then make rice balls. It can get a bit messy at the beginning. I had so much fun eating this mouthwatering food. As I watched my colleagues, they were also enjoying this extraordinary experience.

And now comes my favourite part – fruits and desserts!


I visited the Kingdom of Jordan during the dates, figs and pomegranates season. All the figs and dates were incredibly sweet and juicy. I couldn’t resist and bought a kilo of fresh yellow dates and green and purple figs.

Souk el-Khodra Figs
Souk el-Khodra Dates


Kanafeh is a popular Middle Eastern dessert originating in Palestine but is now widely enjoyed throughout the region, including in Jordan. It is a pastry made of shredded phyllo dough, soaked in a sweet syrup and layered with a rich cheese filling.

I tried Kanafeh in the hotel restaurant and various stalls on the street. Undoubtedly I prefer the one from the store on the streets. The best way to try this dessert is to buy it from a street vendor and experience the authentic atmosphere. Amman locals sit in the shade and happily make room for a tourist so they can all enjoy this popular dessert together.


There is still a lot to try from Jordanian cuisine. Unfortunately, I did not have time to try all the dishes I wanted to. If I return to Jordan, I will try chicken liver, Zarb, Musakhan and Kibbeh Bi Laban.

Have you been to Jordan? If so, what traditional Jordanian food did you try? Share your experiences.

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