What is Food like in Abu Dhabi? The Top 10 Foods to Try

by Micki
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Let’s start exploring the food of Abu Dhabi.

I absolutely love to explore cuisine that’s new to me and our family! While I’m familiar with some of the foods from Abu Dhabi, like shawarma (a type of sandwich) and tabbouleh (a salad), there are many tastes that are new to me.

What is food like in Abu Dhabi? Abu Dhabi cuisine is a tasty blend of flavors and dishes that you’ll only find in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), but there’s also a strong influence from the flavors and cooking techniques from Asia and the Middle East.

What to eat in Abu Dhabi Young couple from Emirati spending time in a traditional café

What is Food Like in Abu Dhabi?

Abu Dhabi, is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It may sound like tired travel cliché, but the city is truly a melting pot of diverse cultures and people.

The food of Abu Dhabi really reflects the diversity of the people who live and visit the city. You’ll find everything from traditional food to contemporary international dishes from Asia, North America, Africa, and even Oceana.

Abu Dhabi is an easy place to get to, whether you use a direct Etihad Airlines ticket booking, or take a bus from Dubai to Abu Dhabi.

Where is Abu Dhabi?

Abu Dhabi is a city on the southern coast of the Persian Gulf, in the UAE. It’s about an hour’s drive from Dubai.

Streets of Abu Dhabi at dusk

What Flavors are in Abu Dhabi Cuisine?

The typical flavors you’ll find in food in Abu Dhabi are rich, aromatic, and often a mix of sweet and savory. You’ll taste spices like saffron, turmeric, cinnamon, and cardamom are staples, along with ingredients like dates, rose water, and honey.

What is Emirati Cuisine?

Most of Abu Dhabi’s must-try dishes resulted from the influence of Emirati cuisine.

Traditional Emirati food is a blend of traditional and authentic Arabic food. It focuses on cooking methods like slow-cooking and grilling.

Traditional Emirati Dishes

There are dozens of traditional Emeriti dishes, but you’ll find harees, machboos, and balaleet almost everywhere. Harees is a wheat and meat porridge, and Machboos is made of rice with a lot of added spices. Balaleet is a sweet and savory vermicelli dish topped with an omelet.

Staple Ingredients

Staple ingredients in Emirati cuisine include rice, fish, and meat like lamb and chicken. These are flavored with spices like saffron, turmeric, cinnamon, and cardamom.

Three business men having a tea in Dubai

10 Foods You Must Try in Abu Dhabi

You’ll find everything from simple Emirati cuisine cooked by locals to Michelin star cuisine to affordable street food in Abu Dhabi.

Here are the top 10 foods you shouldn’t miss when visiting Abu Dhabi.


Balaleet is a unique blend of sweet and savory, and you can often find it at breakfast in Abu Dhabi. It’s made with vermicelli noodles sweetened with sugar, rose water, and a hint of cardamom, and topped with a savory omelet.


It sounds like it’s an over exaggeration, but I’ll stand by this: No visit to Abu Dhabi is complete without trying shawarma.

Shawarma is popular street food made with thinly sliced meat (usually chicken, lamb, or beef). The meat’s then wrapped up in pita bread with a veggies and sauce added.

To be fair, you can get shawarma in other place

Shawarma Sandwich


Harees are made of wheat and meat, with salt, cinnamon, and clarified butter. It’s a staple during Ramadan and other festive occasions.

Machboos (or Kabsa)

Machboos, also known as Kabsa, is a fragrant rice dish that’s super popular. It’s made of spices, meat (chicken, lamb, or fish), and vegetables, and garnished with raisins and nuts.


Do you have a sweet tooth? Luqaimat is likely to be one of your favorites. These sweet dumplings are made from butter, milk, sugar, flour, and saffron, and then deep-fried to golden perfection. You’ll usually find them served with date syrup and sesame seeds.

luqaimat in black bowl

Ghuzi (or Khuzi)

Ghuzi, also known as Khuzi, is often served during special occasion. It’s a whole roasted lamb or mutton on top of rice, nuts, and vegetables.


Tabbouleh is a traditional salad found everywhere in Abu Dhabi. It’s made with tomatoes, parsley, mint, bulgur, and onion, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. It’s one of my favorite Abu Dhabi foods!


Fattoush is a salad made with mixed greens, fresh vegetables, and pieces of toasted or fried khubz (Arab bread), with olive oil and pomegranate molasses.

Fattoush salad with pita bread and vegetables


Falafel is as popular in Abu Dhabi as it is in London or New York. Deep-fried balls or patties made from ground chickpeas or fava beans are typically served in a pita with tahini, hummus, or pickled vegetables.

Stuffed Camel

Stuffed camel is really only served at large gatherings and weddings. It’s one of the most iconic and luxurious dishes you’ll find in Abu Dhabi.

Food Festivals, Coffee Culture, and Dietary Restrictions in Abu Dhabi

Looking for something different? Abu Dhabi has a fun food festival scene, and a great coffee culture.

Food Festivals

Abu Dhabi hosts numerous food festivals and culinary events annually, celebrating both traditional and international cuisines. There’s the iconic, and aptly named, Abu Dhabi Food Festival, plus dozens of smaller food festivals.

Coffee Culture

Coffee in Abu Dhabi is a big deal. You can find traditional coffee-making methods all over the city. Coffeehouses are social hubs.

coffee laptop dessert pastry

Vegetarian, Vegan, and Halal Options

Abu Dhabi is a big city, and you can find options for many diets, including vegetarian, vegan, and halal. Many traditional foods are vegetarian friendly, though vegan foods are a bit harder to find among traditional restaurants.

Love vegetarian and vegan food? Learn how to build a vegetarian grocery list on a budget!

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