Unraveling the main dishes of Saudi Arabia

Unraveling the main dishes of Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is renowned for its rich and diverse culinary traditions. From fragrant spices to mouthwatering flavors, the main dishes of Saudi Arabia are a true delight for food lovers. In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the most popular and iconic main dishes that are commonly enjoyed in Saudi Arabian cuisine. Whether you are a seasoned traveler or simply curious about different cultures, join us on a gastronomic journey as we unravel the delicious secrets behind these traditional Saudi Arabian main dishes.

Main Dishes of Saudi Arabia


Kabsa is a traditional Saudi Arabian dish that is known for its rich flavors and aromatic spices. It is considered the national dish of Saudi Arabia and is widely enjoyed across the country. The main ingredient of Kabsa is rice, which is cooked with a combination of meat, such as chicken, lamb, or beef, and flavored with a unique blend of spices including cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and saffron. The dish is typically garnished with raisins, almonds, and fried onions, adding a delightful texture and taste to the overall dish. Kabsa is often served with a side of hot tomato sauce or yogurt for a complete and satisfying meal.


Mandi is another popular main dish in Saudi Arabia that originates from the southern regions of the country. It is a flavorful and fragrant rice dish that is cooked with tender and succulent pieces of meat, usually lamb or chicken. The dish is prepared by marinating the meat in a mixture of spices, including cumin, coriander, turmeric, and black lime, which gives it a distinct taste. The meat is then slow-cooked in a tandoor or an underground clay oven, allowing it to absorb all the flavors and become incredibly tender. The rice is cooked separately and flavored with the meat’s juices, resulting in a delicious and aromatic combination. Mandi is often served with a side of spicy tomato chutney or a tangy yogurt sauce that complements its flavors perfectly.


Shawarma is a popular street food in Saudi Arabia that has gained global recognition for its mouthwatering taste. It is made by thinly slicing marinated meat, typically chicken or beef, which is then stacked onto a vertical rotisserie. The meat is slowly roasted and grilled to perfection, resulting in juicy and flavorful slices. Shawarma is typically served in a warm pita bread or flatbread and accompanied by a variety of toppings and sauces such as garlic sauce, tahini, pickles, and fresh vegetables. The combination of tender meat, crispy bread, and flavorful toppings makes Shawarma a favorite choice for locals and tourists alike.

These main dishes of Saudi Arabia showcase the rich culinary heritage of the country and are a true reflection of its culture and traditions. Whether it’s the aromatic Kabsa, the flavorful Mandi, or the mouthwatering Shawarma, these dishes are sure to tantalize your taste buds and provide a memorable dining experience.

Traditional Saudi Arabian Rice Dishes


Kabsa is one of the most popular traditional Saudi Arabian rice dishes. It is a flavorful and aromatic dish that is commonly served during special occasions and celebrations. Kabsa is made with long-grain Basmati rice, meat (usually chicken, lamb, or goat), and a blend of aromatic spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and black lime. The rice is cooked with the meat, allowing it to absorb all the flavors and aromas, resulting in a delicious and fragrant dish. Kabsa is often garnished with nuts, raisins, and fried onions, adding a delightful crunch and sweetness to the dish. It is typically served with a side of tomato-based sauce known as "dakous" or "shattah" and accompanied by a variety of traditional Middle Eastern salads.


Mandi is another traditional Saudi Arabian rice dish that is widely enjoyed throughout the country. It is believed to have originated in Yemen and has become a staple in Saudi Arabian cuisine. Mandi is made using tender and succulent meat, usually lamb or chicken, which is marinated in a mixture of spices, including cumin, coriander, turmeric, and black pepper. The marinated meat is then slow-cooked in a special underground oven known as a "tandoor" or "taboon," which infuses it with a smoky and irresistible flavor. The rice used in Mandi is long-grain Basmati rice, cooked separately and flavored with the delicious meat juices and spices. The result is a delightful combination of tender meat and fragrant rice that is often garnished with roasted nuts and served with a side of tangy tomato sauce.


Saleeg is a comforting and creamy rice dish that is popular in Saudi Arabia, particularly during the winter months. It is a simple yet delicious dish made with chicken, rice, milk, and a few basic spices. The chicken is simmered in water until tender, creating a flavorful broth that is then used to cook the rice. The rice is cooked until it becomes soft and tender, absorbing the rich flavors of the chicken broth and milk. The dish is often seasoned with a pinch of cinnamon and topped with tender pieces of shredded chicken. Saleeg has a creamy and comforting texture, making it a perfect dish to warm up during cold weather. It is commonly served with a side of tangy tomato sauce or yogurt, adding a refreshing contrast to the creamy rice.

These traditional Saudi Arabian rice dishes, including Kabsa, Mandi, and Saleeg, showcase the rich flavors and culinary heritage of the country. Whether you are a fan of aromatic spices, tender meats, or creamy rice, these dishes are sure to satisfy your taste buds and provide an authentic taste of Saudi Arabian cuisine.

Saudi Arabian Grilled and Roasted Meat Dishes


Kofta is a popular dish in Saudi Arabia known for its delicious flavor and succulent texture. Made from ground meat, typically beef or lamb, mixed with a variety of spices and herbs, kofta is shaped into small cylindrical or oval patties before being grilled or roasted to perfection. The meat is often seasoned with ingredients like garlic, onions, coriander, and cumin, which give it a distinct taste that is loved by locals and tourists alike. Whether served as a main course with rice or wrapped in a warm pita bread with tahini sauce, kofta is a must-try dish when exploring the Saudi Arabian cuisine.


Kebab is another mouthwatering grilled meat dish that holds a special place in Saudi Arabian cuisine. It is made by skewering small pieces of marinated meat, such as chicken, beef, or lamb, and grilling them over an open flame or on a hot charcoal grill. The meat is usually marinated in a mixture of yogurt, lemon juice, olive oil, and spices like paprika, cumin, and turmeric, which infuses it with a rich and aromatic flavor. The result is tender, juicy kebabs with a slightly charred exterior, making them a favorite choice for meat lovers across Saudi Arabia.

Mammoth Kebab

One of the most unique and remarkable dishes in Saudi Arabian cuisine is the Mammoth Kebab. As the name suggests, this kebab is prepared from a whole roasted lamb, giving it a grand appearance and an unforgettable taste. The preparation of Mammoth Kebab is an elaborate process that involves marinating the lamb with a blend of traditional spices, herbs, and sometimes even special sauces. The lamb is then slowly roasted on a spit, allowing the flavors to penetrate deep into the meat, resulting in a tender and succulent feast fit for a special occasion. The Mammoth Kebab is often served as the centerpiece of a lavish Saudi Arabian feast, leaving guests in awe of its impressive presentation and delectable taste.

These grilled and roasted meat dishes, including kofta, kebab, and the extraordinary Mammoth Kebab, showcase the rich culinary heritage of Saudi Arabia. Whether you are a meat lover or simply curious about experiencing new flavors, indulging in these traditional Saudi Arabian dishes is a delightful journey for your taste buds.

Saudi Arabian Stews and Soups


Harees is a traditional Saudi Arabian dish that is commonly consumed during the holy month of Ramadan. This hearty stew is made by cooking wheat and meat together until they reach a smooth and porridge-like consistency. The main ingredients used in Harees usually include wheat, lamb or chicken, ghee (clarified butter), and a blend of aromatic spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.

To prepare Harees, the wheat is soaked overnight and then cooked with the meat until it becomes tender and easily mashed. The mixture is then slowly simmered, allowing the flavors to meld together and create a rich and creamy texture. Harees is often garnished with fried onions, roasted nuts, and a drizzle of ghee, adding a delightful crunch and additional layers of flavor to the dish.

This comforting stew is not only enjoyed during Ramadan but also served on special occasions and family gatherings. The smooth and velvety consistency of Harees makes it a favorite among both young and old, and it is often served as a main course during festive feasts.


Thareed is another popular Saudi Arabian stew that holds a significant place in the country’s culinary traditions. This flavorful dish consists of layers of meat, vegetables, and bread soaked in a delicious tomato-based broth. It is often prepared with lamb or chicken, but variations with fish or camel meat can also be found in different regions of Saudi Arabia.

To prepare Thareed, meat is first marinated with a blend of spices, including cumin, coriander, and turmeric, to infuse it with flavor. The meat is then cooked until tender and combined with a variety of vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, and zucchini. The mixture is simmered in a tomato-based broth, allowing the flavors to mingle and create a robust and aromatic stew.

What sets Thareed apart is the addition of torn pieces of thin Arabic bread, known as ‘ruqaq’. The bread is layered on top of the stew, absorbing the flavors of the broth and softening to a delectable texture. This unique combination of tender meat, vegetables, and bread creates a hearty and satisfying meal that is enjoyed by Saudis all year round.


Jareesh is a beloved Saudi Arabian dish that can be best described as a cross between a stew and a porridge. This delightful dish is made from crushed wheat grains that are cooked with meat and seasoned with a variety of spices. Jareesh is often prepared using either lamb or chicken, and the cooking process involves slow simmering to achieve a thick and creamy consistency.

To prepare Jareesh, the wheat grains are first washed and then crushed, creating a coarse texture. The crushed wheat is then cooked with the meat, along with spices such as cinnamon, black pepper, and cloves, which infuse the stew with their aromatic flavors. The dish is cooked until the wheat grains and meat become tender, resulting in a creamy and hearty texture.

Jareesh can be served plain or garnished with fried onions, ghee, or a dollop of yogurt for added creaminess. It is not only a delicious main course but also a comfort food that warms the heart and soul. Jareesh is often enjoyed during the winter months when its comforting flavors provide a sense of warmth and coziness.

In conclusion, Saudi Arabian cuisine offers a delightful array of stews and soups that are not only nourishing but also brimming with flavors. From the creamy and smooth Harees to the flavorful layers of Thareed and the comforting texture of Jareesh, these dishes showcase the rich culinary heritage of Saudi Arabia and are cherished by locals and visitors alike.

Saudi Arabian Seafood Dishes


Sayadia is a popular seafood dish in Saudi Arabia that is cherished for its rich flavors and aromatic spices. This traditional dish is primarily made with fish, typically including species such as hamour or red snapper, which are locally caught in the Arabian Gulf. The fish is first marinated in a delectable mixture of spices, including turmeric, cinnamon, and black lime, which gives Sayadia its unique taste.

To prepare Sayadia, the marinated fish is then cooked with fragrant basmati rice, creating a delightful combination of flavors. The dish is often garnished with caramelized onions, fried almonds, and fresh coriander, adding an extra layer of texture and aroma. The result is a mouthwatering seafood dish that is both hearty and satisfying, perfect for seafood enthusiasts.


Margoog is a traditional Saudi Arabian dish that showcases the culinary expertise of the region. Although it is not exclusively a seafood dish, it often includes seafood as one of its main ingredients. This flavorful one-pot dish is a blend of aromatic spices, meat, vegetables, and sometimes seafood, making it a versatile and satisfying option for food lovers.

When seafood is added to Margoog, it typically includes shrimp or fish, providing a delightful twist to the dish. The seafood is cooked alongside other ingredients such as tomatoes, onions, garlic, and a medley of spices, resulting in a rich and flavorsome stew-like dish. Margoog is often served with bread or rice, allowing you to savor the delightful flavors and textures of this traditional Saudi Arabian delicacy.


Fassolia, also known as fasolia, is a popular Saudi Arabian seafood dish that features a delightful combination of beans and seafood. This flavorful dish is made using white kidney beans, locally caught shrimp or fish, and a medley of aromatic spices that add depth to the flavors.

To prepare Fassolia, the beans are cooked until tender and then combined with the seafood, creating a hearty and nutritious dish. The addition of tomatoes, garlic, onions, and spices such as cumin and coriander, elevates the dish to a whole new level. Fassolia is often served with rice or bread, allowing you to savor the delicious flavors and enjoy the satisfying combination of beans and seafood.

In conclusion, Saudi Arabian cuisine offers a diverse range of seafood dishes that are packed with flavors and spices. Sayadia, Margoog, and Fassolia are just a few examples of the culinary delights that await seafood lovers in Saudi Arabia. Whether you’re a fan of fish, shrimp, or a combination of both with beans, these dishes are sure to tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more.

Saudi Arabian Bread and Pastry Dishes


Markook is a traditional Saudi Arabian bread that holds a significant place in the country’s cuisine. This thin and unleavened bread is made by stretching dough until it becomes almost translucent. It is then cooked on a hot iron griddle, resulting in a soft and pliable texture. Markook is often enjoyed with various dishes, such as stews, dips, or even on its own. Its versatility and lightness make it a popular choice among locals and visitors alike.


Mutabbaq is a delicious pastry dish that originates from Saudi Arabia. It consists of a thin, flaky dough filled with a savory mixture usually made of minced meat, onions, and spices. The dough is folded into a triangular shape and then either baked or deep-fried until golden and crispy. The combination of the flavorful filling and the crispy exterior makes Mutabbaq a delightful treat. It is commonly found in street food stalls and is often enjoyed as a quick snack or appetizer.


Sambousek is a popular pastry dish in Saudi Arabia that is commonly served as an appetizer or part of a meal. These small, triangular pastries are filled with various ingredients such as minced meat, cheese, or vegetables. The dough is usually made with flour, butter, and water, resulting in a crispy and flaky texture when baked or fried. Sambousek is often enjoyed with a side of dipping sauce, adding an extra burst of flavor to each bite. Whether they are filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables, Sambousek is a favorite among locals and visitors looking for a tasty and convenient snack.

Saudi Arabia is a country rich in culture and history, and its cuisine reflects these qualities in its main dishes. From the aromatic and flavorful Kabsa, a traditional rice and meat dish, to the hearty and comforting Saleeg, a creamy rice and chicken dish, Saudi Arabian main dishes are a delight for the senses. Each dish is meticulously prepared with a blend of spices and ingredients that enhance the flavors and create a unique dining experience. Exploring the main dishes of Saudi Arabia is like embarking on a culinary journey that unveils the essence of the country’s traditions and flavors. Whether you are a local or a visitor, these main dishes are a must-try, providing a taste of the vibrant Saudi Arabian culinary heritage.

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