The Lebanese diet consists of high levels of garlic, olive oil, fresh herbs, and copious spices. These ingredients are just one of the reasons the region is well-known for its beautiful flavor palette.
Surprisingly, Lebanese breakfast meals do not vary too much from this palette.
Unlike American breakfast food, which often includes elevated levels of sugar and savory flavors in the form of heavy meats, breakfast foods from Lebanon often include bright flavors such as lemon and fresh herbs.
This is not to say that Lebanese breakfast food is not filling, which it is, just that the meal’s focus is different than the English standard.
Lebanese breakfast dishes can start you out on delicious but light food, feeling refreshed by the bright, herby flavors of these dishes.
In this guide, we will break down the 8 most popular Lebanese breakfast foods. Find out below what makes these dishes so beloved in the region, and gain some inspiration to try a dish out on your own.
1. Fatteh Hommus
Fatteh Hommus is a relatively simple dish, consisting of chickpeas, flatbread (or pita), herbs, yogurt, and olive oil.
The closely related fattet hommus is eaten as a dip with pita bread slices often as a snack, but fatteh hommus is a commonplace breakfast dish in Lebanon.
Rather than dipping slices of pita bread into the mixture, crispy pita bread is chopped up and mixed right into this dish. The texture is similar to bread croutons within a salad.
To make fatteh hommus, cooked chickpeas are combined with yogurt, salt, cumin, lemon juice, and other herbs and spices.
The crispy pita bread is sliced to your preference and lightly mixed into the chickpea hummus. You can top it with pine nuts and cayenne pepper and serve it warm.
Manakish is a famous Lebanese dish, often served for breakfast, although sometimes used as a side dish during lunch.
Manakish uses a dough that is rolled flat and then sprinkled with your preferred toppings.
The most popular toppings for manakish are Za’tar, cheese, minced lamb, chili, kashk, or spinach.
Za’tar is a spice blend consisting of oregano, thyme, marjoram, toasted sesame seeds, salt, sumac, and other preferred spices.
When made with manakish, the za’tar is mixed with olive oil and then spread over the top of the dough.
Kashk is a mixture of dried yogurt and wheat that is combined with walnuts or onion, then spread onto the manakish dough.
Knefe, also spelled Knafeh, is a sweet breakfast pastry popular in Lebanon. This pastry uses phyllo dough, a type of puff pastry dough well-known for its use in baklava.
Knefe is made with thin pastry dough and cheese, typically a soft, spreadable white cheese.
Traditionally, knefe is made with Nabulsi cheese, a white brined cheese that originates from Palestine.
Nabulsi cheese is typically made from sheep’s milk, though goat’s milk is sometimes used in place of sheep’s due to availability.
When Knefe is made in the United States or other English-speaking areas without access to Nabulsi cheese, ricotta cheese is the most popular substitute. Knefe is a popular treat at Eid-Al-Fitr celebrations.
4. Foul Bi Tahina
Foul Bi Tahina is made by sauteing onions and tomatoes with some salt, pepper, and cumin.
The beans are added and some people opt to keep the beans whole, while others prefer the texture of smashed beans in the dish.
Once the flavors of the beans, tomatoes, onions, and spices are combined, you can serve the dish with fresh parsley, flatbread or pita bread, and some tahini sauce.
Foul bi tahina is a simple dish, so it is an everyday meal in many Lebanese households.
5. Kaak with Picon
Kaak is typical street food in Lebanon that most people grab for a quick breakfast, similar to how the French might grab a croissant from a bakery for breakfast or an American may grab a bagel.
Kaak is a type of seasoned sesame bread that is soft with a crunchy crust, notable for the air pockets that fill the bread.
These air pockets make it the perfect bread to fill with your choice of either za’atar or picon.
Kaak with picon is a popular option, as picon is a type of spreadable cheese, not unlike cream cheese. Picon is traditionally a type of goat milk cheese.
Ejjeh is a type of omelet from Lebanon traditionally served for breakfast.
The dish uses egg, chopped scallions, and chopped parsley. Different families throughout the region add additional herbs such as allspice, mint, dill, or cilantro, depending on their recipe.
Many people serve ejjeh by stuffing the omelet into a pita or flatbread and accompanying it with cucumbers and fresh tomatoes.
Although ejjeh is a commonplace breakfast dish in Lebanon, it is a traditional dish of Hanukkah for many Syrian communities.
The traditional Hanukkah dish is often compared to latkes, as both foods resemble pancakes.
When prepared for Hanukkah, the ingredients for ejjeh are often more complicated, including chickpea flour to give the pancake-like texture.
Balila is a simple but very popular breakfast dish.
Balila is made with chickpeas, olive oil, garlic, cumin, and a squeeze of lemon. The chickpeas cook until they can be easily mashed and combined with olive oil and fresh garlic.
Then, sprinkle a bit of cumin and squeeze a lemon over the dish.
In order to serve balila properly, it should be accompanied by sides such as mint, radishes, chili peppers, spring onions, tomato slices, and olives.
And like most Lebanese food, there should be pita bread so that you can scoop up the balila and top it with some of the sides for a perfect bite.
Sfiha, also spelled sfeeha, is a flatbread dish quite similar to manakish.
The dough of sfiha is mixed with spices such as cumin or allspice. Many add yogurt to the dough to give it the tangy, somewhat sweet flavor that makes it a great breakfast meal.
Sfiha is topped with minced meat, usually lamb, and other flavor additions such as pine nuts, onions, tomatoes, and spices or herbs such as allspice, parsley, red pepper flakes, nutmeg, cinnamon, or paprika.
Some will include a bit of pomegranate juice to the dough to accompany the yogurt, giving the sfiha a sweet but tart flavor.