If there’s a cuisine that’s naturally inclined to being dairy-free or meat-free, then it would probably have to be Middle Eastern food. That’s because the Middle East is home to three major religions – Islam, Judaism, and Coptic Christianity- which have strict dietary restrictions. So naturally, regional cuisines would have evolved their own culinary traditions that use dairy and meat substitutes.
This isn’t to say that there is a lack of dishes that use meat and milk. Halal meat still occupies a prominent position among Middle Eastern ingredient staples, but it shares its position with whole grains, legumes, and spices. This makes for a balanced and nutritious diet which is why this ethnic cuisine is also known for its healthy approach to meal planning.
Another key element of the cuisine is its abundant use of aromatic and flavorful spices. Many of them are mixed together as spice blends and are used to create a wide variety of colors and flavors in various ethnic dishes.
A good Middle Eastern cookbook will not only showcase authentic recipes but also show you how to make your own spice blends. It’ll also show you how to stock your pantry with the essential ingredients and offer tips on where to buy them, whether they’re in specialty stores or online platforms.
Because the Middle East is comprised of nearly 20 different nations, the cookbooks can also be diverse. There are cookbooks that feature representative recipes from each of the countries, and there are others that focus on one country's cuisine.
The best ones are those that offer authentic recipes that can be easily modified to fit a wide range of dietary needs. These are the ones that offer substitution lists as well as meal plans to make preparing an Arabic meal more efficient and convenient.
Here are my top 10 best Middle Eastern cookbooks on Amazon. For some different ideas, why not consider Indian or Vietnamese cookbooks? Those offer different types of recipes that can be just as delicious.
Best Middle Eastern Cookbooks
- The Arabesque Table: Contemporary Recipes from the Arab World Hardcover
- The Essential Middle Eastern Cookbook: Classic Recipes Made Easy Paperback
- Artichoke to Za’atar: Modern Middle Eastern Food Hardcover – Illustrated
- The Lebanese Cookbook Hardcover
- SUQAR: Desserts & Sweets from the Modern Middle East Hardcover
- Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & beyond Paperback
- Eating Out Loud: Bold Middle Eastern Flavors for All Day, Every Day: A Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
- Vegan Recipes from the Middle East Hardcover
- Modern Flavors of Arabia: Recipes and Memories from My Middle Eastern Kitchen Paperback
- Levant: New Middle Eastern Cooking from Tanoreen Hardcover
1. The Arabesque Table: Contemporary Recipes from the Arab World Hardcover
The recipes in this cookbook are a mix of the traditional and the modern. There are 130 recipes here that range from dishes from the Islamic Golden Age, like Narjissiya (a fava bean and egg hash) and Makmoora (a layered chicken, onion, and pine nut pot pie) to modern fusion recipes like Tahini Cheesecake and Caramelized Butternut Squash Fatteh with Za'atar.
Recipes are organized by primary ingredients, with informative notes on the culinary history behind each dish. These are not meal-type recipes but more small, individual dishes that combine to make a truly Arabian feast. Directions are clearly explained, and most have photos. They are also marked to indicate which ones are quick meals, weeknight dishes, etc.
Some familiarity with ingredients is needed but the cookbook's pantry section is informative enough even for someone who has no background in the cuisine. Those who’ve tried the recipes found the flavors authentic and familiar, with the culinary twists well appreciated.
Recommended for experienced home cooks and anyone looking for modern Arab fusion cuisine.
2. The Essential Middle Eastern Cookbook: Classic Recipes Made Easy Paperback
This cookbook is a regional food guide to the culinary regions of the Middle East. There are 100 classic recipes here collected from all parts of the region, including the Arabian Peninsula, the Levant, North Africa, and more. Samples of the recipe selection include Tabbouleh, Lebanese Chicken Fatteh, Spiced Beef Tagine, and homemade Pita Bread with Hummus.
The book also includes a section of practical pantry staples and a thorough guide for stocking the spice rack. Recipes are accessible and use ingredients that are easily found in the grocery store. And while not all of the recipes come with food photos, all of them have extensive notes on how to modify the dish with recommended ingredient substitutions.
Those who’ve tried the recipes found them easy to follow, with clear measurements and correct estimated prepping and cooking times. One liked that most of the recipes were vegetarian. Another liked its collection of spice blend recipes.
Recommended for home cooks of all skill levels.
3. Artichoke to Za’atar: Modern Middle Eastern Food Hardcover – Illustrated
This cookbook presents a comprehensive look at the ingredient staples used in Middle Eastern cuisine. They range from the familiar to the lesser-known, like artichokes and lentils to rose water and sumac. Each ingredient comes with a brief description of its culinary history and helpful tips on how to select, prepare and cook it.
There are 170 recipes here that are grouped according to their main ingredient. Samples include Blue Cheese and Walnut Terrine, Battered Scallops with Cumin Salt, and Fresh Figs Poached in Ginger Syrup, Green Lentil Soup with Saffron Scrambled Eggs, and Cardamom-Honey-Glazed Roast Duck.
Recipes are easy to follow with lots of illustrations for easy reference. Most of them have short ingredient lists, with ingredients that can easily be found in local groceries. But since this is an ethnic cuisine, some ingredients can only be found in specialty stores. Measurements are in metric form, as this cookbook was originally published in Australia.
Recommended for home cooks looking for a comprehensive reference cookbook on Middle Eastern cuisine.
4. The Lebanese Cookbook Hardcover
As the gateway to the Middle East, Lebanon is full of multi-cultural influences and this extends to its food, making it one of the most refined cuisines in the region. This cookbook features 500 authentic home recipes that range from mezzes and salads to main courses and desserts.
Recipes are straightforward and easy to follow. Most of them have full-page color photos of the dish. The selection leans towards vegetarian, dairy-free, and gluten-free dishes but there are enough grilled meat dishes to satisfy meat lovers.
Those who’ve tried the recipes found them to be delicious. Another liked the book's design and its artfully cut pages. One found it a great entry-level cookbook for anyone unfamiliar with Middle Eastern cuisine.
Recommended for cookbook collectors and home cooks looking for authentic rural Lebanese recipes.
5. SUQAR: Desserts & Sweets from the Modern Middle East Hardcover
This cookbook focuses on desserts from the Middle East, along with some new dishes that are Middle East influenced by way of their ingredient lists. There are more than 100 recipes here that cover almost all types of sweets, from pastries to confectionary, cookies and cakes, and fruity desserts and drinks.
Recipes are categorized into Fruit, Dairy, Frozen, Cakes, Cookies, Pastries, Doughnuts, Fritters & Pancakes, Halvas & Confectionery, Preserves, and Drinks. There’s a good range of difficulty in the recipe selection but for the most part, the recipes are accessible. Ninety percent of them are also gluten-free.
Recommended for pastry cooks interested in Middle Eastern sweets and anyone looking for Modern Middle Eastern style recipes.
6. Persiana: Recipes from the Middle East & beyond Paperback
This cookbook celebrates Persian cuisine from the regions near the Eastern and Southern shores of the Meditteranean sea. But unlike heirloom recipes, these have been updated to make them more user-friendly for modern kitchens. There are over 100 recipes here that also include Lamb & Sour Cherry Meatballs, Chicken, Preserved Lemon & Olive Tagine, Blood Orange & Radicchio Salad, Persian Flatbread, and Spiced Carrot, Pistachio & Coconut Cake with Rosewater Cream.
Recipes have clear instructions and generally use a handful of simple, easily sourced ingredients. The more ethnic ingredients can easily be ordered on Amazon.
Readers liked that there are both meaty and vegetarian dishes in the recipe selection. Those who’ve tried the recipes found the flavor profiles similar to an Ottolenghi cookbook but that the recipes are easier to follow.
Recommended for “mixed” diet (meat-eaters and vegetarians) households and anyone looking for easy but elevated modern Persian recipes.
7. Eating Out Loud: Bold Middle Eastern Flavors for All Day, Every Day: A Cookbook Hardcover – Illustrated
This cookbook presents updated versions of mostly Israeli comfort food that the author grew up with. The recipes here revolve around the use of her Middle Eastern pantry of essential staples: spices, seeds, herbs, and pickles. Samples of the selection include Tahini Caesar to Lemony Mejadra with Extra, Extra-Fried Shallots, as well as familiar favorites like Homemade Flatbread with Lamb, Mint, and Pomegranate, and a Chicken Shwarma in a Pita.
Recipes are easy to assemble and come with gorgeous photographs. They don’t use nearly as many random ingredients as other cookbooks and there are kosher options for most of the recipes.
Readers found the book’s sections on pantry essentials, sauces, and dips very informative. Another found the author's “workaround” notes for ingredient substitutions very helpful. One loved the flavors and textures of the recipe selection.
Recommended for intermediate to expert home cooks and anyone looking for modern Levant-centric recipes.
8. Vegan Recipes from the Middle East Hardcover
This cookbook draws its vegan recipe collection from the regional cuisines of Iran, Armenia, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, and Turkey. Samples of the recipes include Vegan Baklava, Baked Aubergine with Sumac and Parsley, Lentil Tabouleh, and the Aash Reshteh Persian New Year Soup.
Recipes are easy to follow and use short ingredient lists. There are lots of photographs and illustrations as well as informative notes on the ethnic vegetables used in the book.
Those who cooked their way through this book found the dishes to be flavorful and reliable. Another liked the book design. One found the recipes easy enough to modify for expert cooks.
Recommended for vegan home cooks and anyone looking for a representative collection of Middle East vegan recipes.
9. Modern Flavors of Arabia: Recipes and Memories from My Middle Eastern Kitchen Paperback
This collection of modern Arabian recipes offer updated riffs on classic dishes like pilafs, kibbeh, fattouche and homemade labneh. The selection is arranged into meal types (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Dessert) and includes a section dedicated to mezze (appetizers) recipes.
Recipes have precise and easy directions, with beautiful illustrations. Most have short ingredient lists and have short prepping and cooking times. Samples of the recipes include Cheese and Za'atar flatbread, Labneh, Baba Ghanouj, M'hammara, Shish Kebabs, and Shish Tawouk.
Readers found the recipe notes on what can be prepared ahead very useful for making meal plans from the book. Many liked how the recipes are reliable and delicious. Another liked how the recipes are practical and not intimidating for beginner cooks.
Recommended for all home cooks and anyone looking for delicious contemporary Arabian recipes.
10. Levant: New Middle Eastern Cooking from Tanoreen Hardcover
This is a selection of the best recipes developed for the popular Tanoreen restaurant in New York. There are more than 100 recipes here that are contemporary versions of classic Middle Eastern favorites. Samples include Cauliflower `Steak' with Pomegranate Molasses, Roasted Beetroot Hummus, Jerusalem Artichoke, and Beef Stew, Peppers with Walnut Stuffing and Oil-Cured Chiles, and Filet Mignon Shawarma Sliders.
Vegetables are the highlight of these recipes, with most of the recipes being naturally vegetarian or vegan and gluten-free. There are some meat dishes to satisfy meat-eaters but even in those recipes, the meat takes second place in favor of its vegetable ingredients. Most of the recipes produce 6-10 servings.
Those who’ve tried the recipes found them to be unique but simple enough for beginners. There are also lots of illustrations for easy reference.
Recommended for fans of Tanoreen restaurant and anyone looking to expand their repertoire of modern Middle Eastern recipes.
PERSIANA: RECIPES FROM THE MIDDLE EAST & BEYOND by Sabrina Ghayour
Some have called this more user-friendly than a Yottam Ottolenghi book, which basically means that the recipes are elevated and very flavorful but are easier to accomplish in a regular kitchen. And maybe that’s all you will ever need from a Middle Eastern cookbook. But this one is more than that.
It equips you with a working knowledge of spices so that you be able to recreate authentic flavors. And there are lots of clear photos that should satisfy anyone unfamiliar with the cuisine. Most of all, the recipes are family-friendly and ideal for weeknight meals. If you’re looking for the right mix of simple and elevated recipes, with enough variety for both meat-eaters and vegetarians in your household, you can’t go wrong with this one.