The various regional cuisines spanning the Arab world, from Mesopotamia to North-Africa. Arab cuisine often incorporates the Levantine and Egyptian culinary traditions.
Originally, the Arabs of the Arabian Peninsula relied heavily on a diet of dates, wheat, barley, rice, and meat, with little variety and heavy emphasis on yogurt products, such as labneh (لبنة) (yogurt without butterfat).
There is a strong emphasis on the following items in Arab cuisine:
- Meat: lamb and chicken are the most used, with beef, goat, and camel used to a lesser extent. Other poultry is used in some regions, and fish is used in coastal areas. Pork is completely prohibited for Muslim Arabs, being both a cultural and religious taboo (Haram) and prohibited under Islamic law, whereas many Christian Arabs do eat and enjoy pork products, especially in Lebanon, where cold cuts of ham are frequently consumed in Christian neighbourhoods.
- Dairy products: dairy products are widely used, especially yogurt and white cheese. Butter and cream are also used extensively.
- Herbs and spices: mint and thyme (often in a mix called za’atar) are widely and almost universally used; spices are used much less than in Indian cuisine, but the amount and types generally varies from region to region. Some of the included herbs and spices are sesame, saffron, turmeric, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and sumac. Spice mixtures include baharat.
- Beverages: hot beverages are served more than cold, coffee being on the top of the list, mostly in the Arab States of the Persian Gulf. However, tea is also served in many Arab countries. In Egypt and Jordan, for instance, tea is a more important hot beverage than coffee.
- Grains: rice is the staple and is used for most dishes; wheat is the main source for bread. Bulgur and semolina are also used extensively.
- Legumes: lentils are widely used, as well as fava beans and chickpeas (garbanzo beans).
- Fruits and vegetables: Arab cuisine also favors vegetables such as cucumbers, eggplant (aubergine), zucchini (courgette), okra, onions, and fruits (primarily citrus), which are often used as seasonings for entrees. Olives, as well as dates, figs, and pomegranates are also widely used. Dates are a particularly important staple in the Arab diet, often eaten with coffee.
- Nuts: almonds, peanuts, pine nuts, pistachios, and walnuts are often included.
- Greens: parsley and mint are popular as seasonings in many dishes, while spinach and mulukhiyah (leaves from the plant of the Corchorus genus) are used in cooked dishes.
- Dressings and sauces: the most popular dressings include various combinations of olive oil, lemon juice, parsley or garlic, as well as tahini (sesame paste). Labaneh (thinned yogurt) is often seasoned with mint, onion, or garlic, and served as a sauce with various dishes.
Notably, many of the same spices used in Arab cuisine are also those emphasized in Indian cuisine. This is a result of heavy trading and historical ties between the two regions, and also because many South Asian expats live in the Arab States of the Persian Gulf.