I've always loved Middle Eastern food so when Vibe Israel (a non-profit organisation) invited me on a vegan food tour in their country, it was a dream come true! I had some of the best hummus, tahini, falafel and babka I've ever had! The food was abundant and nothing short of amazing. I can't wait to recreate some of these dishes for my blog! During and after the tour, people in the area were very hospitable and friendly and I'm forever grateful for that!
If you're interested, scroll to the bottom of the post to read my thoughts on the politics of visiting Israel.
About the vegan food in Israel...
I've selected my favourite restaurants, cafes, bakeries, casual eateries and markets for this post. Some of the food was gifted and some of the food was purchased with my own money - but all opinions are definitely honest and don't reflect that of the business/organisation! If you want to jump and read a particular section, click on any of the below:
Restaurants and Cafes
This was hands down my favourite restaurant during my trip to Israel. The food is mix of contemporary and Arab cuisine from the Levant (a historical region where Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine are now located). It reminded me a lot of the Middle Eastern restaurants in Australia, but a million times better. The food was wonderfully tasty yet balanced. I don't like cabbage rolls but at Luna Bistro, I couldn't stop at just one! Their desserts sooooo amazing but not sickly sweet. If I lived around the corner from here, I'd be happily broke.
Big Fashion Nazareth, Nazareth
Near the Jaffa Markets, this is a hip and slightly bohemian cafe serving organic vegan food. The cafe is filled with natural light and plants, which I absolutely loved. The food was equally as beautiful and delicious. We shared the avocado panjabi, israeli salad, fazoletti (ravioli with root vegetables) and tiramisu. This was on the pricier side in the spectrum of cafes but everything was worth it!
Ehad Ha'am 6, Tel Aviv
Anastasia is a modern cafe restaurant and one of the most popular vegan eateries in Tel Aviv. The style of food was similar to Australian cafes as they were ideal for brunch or lunch but definitely doable for dinner. We shared a rich black lentil pate as a starter and for our mains we had a shashuka, quiche, masala dosa and artichoke pappardelle as our mains. Everything was hearty, full of flavour and satiating!
Frishman st' 54, Tel Aviv
A vegan fine dining restaurant which showcases simple seasonal vegetables. Opa really embraces minimalism through its food presentation and decor. Typical of fine dining restaurants, the servings are small but each bite is bursting with flavour so you don't need much else. It was definitely a memorable experience!
Ha-Khalutzim Street 8, Tel Aviv
One of the most popular vegan places in Tel Aviv, 416 showcases vegan junk food which merges Middle Eastern and American cultures. With loud music and interesting cocktails, you'll want to make a night of it. If you love faux meats, you'll love 416 as their seitan meat is SO freakin realistic! If you don't like faux meat (like me), there are also salads which are also delicious and satiating.
HaArba'a St 16, Tel Aviv
Who would've guessed that Tel Aviv would have the best vegan sushi I've ever had! Don't get me wrong - Australia has good vegan sushi options. Green Roll's menu offered an abundance of sushi with interesting fillings, toppings and sauces but still in the realm of what I consider 'sushi.' For English-speakers, you can find a translatable menu here.
Montefiore St 30, Tel Aviv
During our trip, we walked past this mainstream bakery many times but ignored it because it didn't look vegan friendly. One morning, curiousity killed the cat and I asked the other ladies if we could 'peep inside for just a second'... and much to our surprise, there were TRAYS of vegan pastries. There were croissants, danish-like treats, rugelach, savoury pide-like treats and more. We went back day after day after day! This is a MUST visit if you love pastries, bread and vegan treats!
Allenby St 88, Tel Aviv
A super popular non-touristy bakery which has been featured in lots of local Israeli media. We enjoyed some 'accidentally vegan' spinach gozleme and borek (handmade filo pastry wrapped around spinach, pumpkin or sweet potato in a circular snail shape). I'm not sure what are their everyday vegan options but this place is the beautiful epitome of salty vegan comfort food!
Hagana Rd 33, Tel Aviv
7. Vivida Vegan
I couldn't fly all the way to this area of the world and not try BABKA (a traditional Jewish treat)! Our Vibe Israel tour guide scouted a vegan babka for us and it was sensational! In fact, I think it was my favourite food on the trip! We had a traditional chocolate babka and one with a sort of marmalade jam. The crumb teared perfectly and melted in my mouth. If you want to create one at home, here's my recipe for a jam donut babka which is pretty spot on, if I must say. If not, you might have to fly all the way to Israel or Eastern Europe!
Shalom Aleichem St 34, Tel Aviv
Casual eateries and takeaway
One Friday morning we visited this 'hummus institution' and were greeted by beautiful sea breeze and non-touristy crowds. Abu Hassan Humus' customers are mostly workers, young and old locals... savouring every bite of hummus from their bowls. The hummus (chickpea and fava bean) are served with fluffy pita bread, raw onion and pickles and you're expected to scoop as much as hummus as possible from what you've been given. We happily took on that challenge! The hummus was ridiculously smooth, not too oily or heavy and unpretentiously delicious.
Ha-Dolfin St 1, Tel Aviv
A casual eatery borderline takeaway joint serving hummus, falafel, salad, fluffy pita bread and delicious salads. We loved the diversity of dishes here!
Hagana Road 2, Tel Aviv (near HaTikva Market)
10. Gelato shops
Unlike many countries I've visited, in Israel you can walk into most mainstream gelato shops and find a good range of vegan friendly gelato and sorbet. I'm personally prefer creamy gelatos (made with coconut milk or soy milk) more than fruity sorbets, so Israel was gelato heaven for me. My favourite shops include:
- Leggenda Gelato: The widest range of vegan gelato/sorbet that I came across in Israel! They offer classic flavours chocolate, mango, lemon etc PLUS funky flavours like biscoff, banana creme brulee, ferrero rocher.... oh it was amazinG!
- Anita Gelato: Their oreo gelato is to die for! Anita Gelato was created in Israel but actually has several branches in my home city Sydney! Though, I don't recall the Sydney branches having an extensive range of vegan gelato/sorbet.
- Arte Italian Ice Cream: An old-school gelateria or ice cream parlour which has the 'vegan-friendly' sticker next to a handful of flavours.
These markets were incredible and a feast for our eyes! One of the stores Jachnun Bar serves Yemenite food with several vegan options. They were the ultimate comfort food! We also found vegan-friendly treats from a dessert store, including vegan baklava and knafeh - however, they were too sweet for our liking. There's so much to see and eat at The Shuk so make sure you visit during lunchtime! Even if you don't eat, walk around and soak up the atmosphere!
Agripas St 90, Jerusalem
Carmel Markets are the largest market in Tel Aviv and a foodie haven! There are loads of fresh fruit and vegetables, traditional Middle Eastern treats and bulk food stalls offering spices, lollies and much more. I didn't eat anything here but the market was still very enjoyable to walk through!
HaCarmel St, Tel Aviv
I adored these flea markets! They were so eclectic with a mix of the new and old, temporary stalls and permanent shops. We tried some accidentally-vegan malabi dessert (rose water milk pudding) at Malabiya which is in the centre of the flea market. They were sensational!
Olei Zion St, Tel Aviv
13. HaTikva Markets / Shuk HaTikva
A foodie market in the outer suburbs of Tel Aviv. We visited a bakery in the market with lots of vegan-friendly bread and brioche-like treats! There are also lots of stores with pick-your-own nuts, lollies and pickles!
HaTikva St 10, Tel Aviv
The politics of visiting Israel
As I mentioned in a recent Instagram post, Rainbow Nourishments is a vegan food blog so normally it makes sense to just focus on food. However, I know that people often use food to talk about politics so I want to address a few issues here!
I'm aware that visiting Israel on a 'social media trip' is sometimes seen as contentious due to its conflict with Palestine. I studied and worked in humanitarian/Australian Indigenous issues for 10 years so I'm passionate about human rights and disadvantage. Naturally, I want to learn more Middle Eastern politics. However, the more I read/discuss/listen about the region's politics, the more I realise how COMPLEX it is. I don't think I can ever fully understand the issues especially as I visited Israel/Palestine for only 10 days. I also realise that I have a mostly Western/Australian worldview which isn't necessarily the best lens for understanding Middle Eastern politics. However, I'd prefer to try to learn about the politics rather than to live in ignorance.
Western media often depicts Israel negatively. There's no doubt that I'm uncomfortable with many things the Israeli government is doing right now. I've talked to some Israelis who share a similar view too! However, I think it's important to separate the actions of the government from the actions of most of the people. No government in the world is perfect. There are many people who were born and bred in Israel who just want peace and a good quality of life. And there are many many people in Palestine who want the same thing, if not more (they don't have access to continual water)!
Tourists of Israel tend to receive more criticism than tourists who visit other countries which also violate human rights. I get that! Australia used to and continues to treat their minorities horribly (asylum seekers and Indigenous people). However, I still encourage people to visit Australia! I know Australia's political situation is not the same as Israel/Palestine but I just want to provide another perspective.
Like many people in Australia, I was born and bred here and feel immense guilt from the country's history and present. However, living with all that guilt isn't constructive. There are also people who were born and bred in Israel and acknowledge what's going on but still want people to visit.
Please don't take this as me overlooking over what Palestinians experience every day! I will do more research into Palestinian food and shine light on it too. At the moment, I just want to show that many people in Israel (not the government) can have good intentions and make great food. I can't solve thousands of years of politics in a blog post... but Middle Eastern/Jewish food deserves attention but it's delicious!
If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I will respond as soon as possible. Rainbow Nourishments receives a high number of questions through social media and email and is unable to respond to each individual query. Comments on this post are more likely to receive a response!