Chef John's Best Middle Eastern Recipes
We love Chef John's recipes. Always reliable, always delicious, and with his fun and informative videos in the mix, we always come away a little enlightened. He brings a world of flavors. Here Chef John is breaking out the best Middle Eastern recipes, from kebabs to tabbouleh, hummus to shakshuka, falafal to baklava. Of course, we're just scratching the surface of Middle Eastern cuisine. For more top-rated recipes from the region, explore our collection of Middle Eastern Recipes. And for tons more Chef John recipes, don't miss our special collection of Food Wishes Recipes.
Turkish Chicken Kebabs
"I'd like to think that all the chicken coming off American grills this summer will be as tasty, juicy, and tender as these Turkish chicken kebabs," says Chef John. "By using a flavorful, yogurt-based marinade, like the one seen herein, even inexperienced grillers can produce impressive results. I'm not sure how 'Turkish' this is--it's loosely based on a lamb marinade I've used for a long time."
Crispy spirals of phyllo pastry are filled with spiced ground lamb, tomatoes, onion, currants, and pine nuts. "Get your hands on the right ingredients, including about 12 good sheets of phyllo pastry, and you'll find this savory, lamb-filled pastry way easier to make than it appears -- not to mention delicious -- all thanks to an intentionally soggy dough," says Chef John. "That's right! Lightly moisturizing the phyllo with an egg/yogurt/butter wash produces flexible, flavorful, and externally crisp layers upon baking."
Chef John's Falafel
"Unlike most of America's other favorite fast foods, falafel is rarely attempted at home, which is a shame, since it's very simple to do, and even a relative novice like me can get some very decent results," says Chef John. "One word of warning: you do need to know you're going to have a craving for this a full day before you actually want to eat it."
Chef John's Tahini
Top your falafel with Chef John's homemade tahini sauce. "The technique is very simple, and every ingredient is to taste," says Chef John. "So please use the ingredient amounts as a guide, and then add more of whatever until you have it exactly how you want it."
Chef John's Pita Bread
"Unlike lots of other baked products which are better from a bakery, this is so far superior to the stuff you get at the grocery store, it's not even close," says Chef John. "And in addition to being delicious to eat, it's also extremely easy to make!"
"I believe I've posted a few fool-proof methods for cooking perfect rice, but this Persian version takes the grand prize, and it's not even close for second," says Chef John. "The beauty of this method is that it doesn't rely on any specific measurements, or even exact times. This will make some of you very nervous, but just go with it."
Chef John's Shakshuka
A spicy tomato and pepper sauce topped with eggs. This makes a delicious anytime meal -- breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner! "This North African one-dish-meal is so fast, easy, and delicious. Be sure to cook your sauce until the veggies are nice and soft and sweet," says Chef John. "Once the eggs go in, you can finish covered on the stove, or just pop the pan into a hot oven until they cook to your liking."
Lebanese Mountain Bread
"This flatbread brings me back to my early childhood when the Syrian lady across the street from my grandmother made it and always gave us some," says Chef John. "It's my first food memory. The bread has a unique texture, gorgeous appearance, and fun-to-make technique."
Turkish Stuffed Eggplant (Karniyarik)
"'Karniyarik' means 'split belly,' which refers to the technique used to stuff these, although depending on the size of your eggplant, it could also refer to you after enjoying this delicious dish," says Chef John. "Serve these with rice and yogurt sauce, such as tzatziki (see footnote). The cold, acidic sauce would be a perfect foil for the rich, aromatic, slightly sweet flavor profile. Top stuffing with extra strips of peppers if you like."
Muhammara (Roasted Pepper & Walnut Spread)
"This roasted red pepper and walnut spread is quite popular in the Middle East and you'll understand why when you make it and discover you can't stop eating it," says Chef John.
Green Quinoa Tabbouleh
"We're heading into grilling season, and for me, tabbouleh is one of the all-time great cold side dishes, since it pairs so perfectly with all those highly-seasoned, smoky meats," says Chef John. "Maybe it's the size of quinoa, or the less wheaty flavor, but for me this vibrant, bracing salad is significantly better with quinoa instead of the traditional bulgur wheat. Blanching the herbs keeps this fresh and green for several days."
Chef John's Green Hummus
"This simple, basil-spiked 'green' hummus is a great summer twist on everyone's favorite spread," says Chef John. "Turkey on wheat? Yawn. Turkey on wheat with green hummus? Hello! And don't even get me started on wraps. I won't even touch a wrap that doesn't contain hummus, and neither should you."
Chef John's Baklava
"I tend to enjoy a generous ratio between nuts and pastry, as that makes me feel a little bit better about the copious amounts of sugar in this, but above and beyond that, I think this approach produces the best texture," says Chef John. "You can use as many layers of filo as you want, but be careful, since too many may not cook through, and the only way to mess this up is to undercook the dough. The top and bottom layers need to dry out, and thoroughly crisp up, otherwise, once the syrup gets ladled over, you'll have a soggy mess."
Turkish Eggs (Cilbir)
"Imagine my shock at finding a new way to do eggs," says Chef John. "I would never have thought to pair yogurt with poached eggs and a spicy red pepper butter, but it might be my new favorite breakfast now. Fried eggs also work in this, any way you like 'em. Serve with toasted crusty bread for dipping."
"Most people think of chunks of meat on a skewer when they think of kabobs, but here I'm showing the other style of kabob, also known as kofta," says Chef John. "Now that grilling season is upon us, this is definitely something you're going to work into the rotation. Serve with grilled pita bread and a blend of diced tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions sprinkled with salt and olive oil, all topped with freshly chopped parsley and dried sumac."
Quick Chicken Couscous
Here's some Middle Eastern-inspired fast food - just be sure to use quick-cooking couscous. This impressive meal takes mere minutes to assemble once all the ingredients are prepped. "The chicken is moist and tender, the couscous is light yet satisfying, and the veggies add color, flavor, and texture," says Chef John. "Any fresh herbs can be used in place of parsley, and a garlicky yogurt sauce or tzatziki can work instead of feta. It can be eaten at any temperature and would be perfect to pack for a picnic."