Go All-out With This Luxurious Israeli Breakfast at Home

These are all the recipes you need to transport yourself to a Middle Eastern summer day on the beach.

Israeli breakfast.
Vered Guttman

Israeli breakfast is a term known to any tourist who has ever visited the country. The extravaganza of all breakfasts includes, and is not limited to, eggs any style, shakshuka, chopped salad, roasted eggplant, tahini, avocado salad, pickles, lox and herring, fresh and hard cheeses, breads and pita, babka and danishes and excellent coffee (an Israeli obsession). 

Whether it is served on long buffet tables at hotel dining rooms or on a tray filled with mini ramekins directly to your table at a restaurant, the breakfast is not to be missed, although sightseeings after such meal is not an easy task. Learn from Israelis and indulge on such breakfast on lazy days only, such as Friday morning.

Israeli breakfast has probably evolved from the kibbutz breakfast, served in the communal dining room for early morning workers as they returned from romantic tasks such as milking the cows or picking cotton. When visiting uncle Ovadia at Kibbutz Lehavot Habashan in northern Israel as a child, breakfast may have seemed the most exciting aspect of kibbutz life for me, but it was rarely anything more than (the best) cottage cheese, scrambled eggs, chopped vegetable salad, rye bread and milk. And it was absolutely delicious.

Visiting Israel soon? Here’s a list of not-to-be-missed breakfast places. Otherwise, here’s a menu and recipes for a full, wonderful, easy-to-make Israeli breakfast that will transport you right to a Middle Eastern summer day on the beach. Or the kibbutz.

Israeli breakfast menu

Kubaneh challah or rolls served with spicy tomato sauce
Eajeh/arouq herb omelette
Avocado salad
Labneh tzatziki with watercress
Simple tahini sauce
Fried eggplant in lemon and mint
Chopped vegetable salad
Cold brew coffee with cardamom

Kubaneh challah and rolls

Kubaneh, a Yemenite bread, is traditionally baked overnight, next to jachnun (overnight rolls) and hard boiled eggs, to be served on Shabbat morning. This version is a quick 45-minute one, which still yields the crispy crust and a soft, buttery, slightly sour interior. The new obsession with quick kubaneh bread started with chef Meir Adoni of Mizlala in Tel Aviv, where it is served with a sauce of grilled tomatoes and chili peppers.

Kubaneh: Yemenite overnight bread.
Vered Guttman

To achieve the wonderful taste of real kubaneh, it’s best to use samneh, Yemenite clarified butter; niter kibbeh, spiced clarified butter from Ethiopia; or even ghee, the more readily available Indian clarified butter. Preparing samneh at home is simple and takes about 10 minutes. But you can also use store-bought ghee (available at most Whole Foods stores and at Indian markets) or niter kibbeh (available at Ethiopian markets). Want to make it even easier? Simply use butter.

Serve with a simple spiced tomato dip on the side, the traditional Yemenite way. Recipe below.

Yields two 8”x4” challahs or 14 buns

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups (10 oz., 2 1/2 sticks) butter or 3/4 cup (6 oz.) ghee or samneh (see note above)
1 lb. all purpose flour
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoon instant dry yeast (or active dry yeast)
1/4 cup light brown sugar 
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon honey

Directions

You can either use store-bought ghee, or samneh you make yourself. To make samneh, put butter in a small pot over medium heat and cook until melted completely. The butter will start separating and thick, white foam will form on top. Use a large spoon to skim off foam and discard it. Continue cooking butter for about 8 minutes longer; butter should bubble, but not too aggressively, until golden-brown. Remove any remaining foam, remove from heat and let cool for 10 minutes. Pour into a container through a folded cheesecloth or a very fine strainer. Cover and let cool in fridge for an hour. This can be done in advance (samneh can be stored in the fridge for months).

Put flour, dry yeast and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix for one minute. Add warm water and mix slowly for 2 minutes. Add salt, increase speed to medium, and mix for 5 minutes longer. Use a spatula to separate dough from sides of bowl, cover with towel and keep in a warm spot in the kitchen (above the stove) for 45-60 minutes, until dough doubles in volume. Gently punch down dough to its original volume.
Take out samneh from fridge. If it is solid, heat in the microwave in 15-second increments until just melted. Brush either loaf pans or muffin pans with samneh. Using your hands, grease working surface and rolling pin with samneh. 

With greasy hands, divide dough into about 14 two-inch balls. Working with one ball at a time, roll to a paper-thin rectangle of about 10 by 8 inches (20 by 25 centimeters). Gently brush with samneh, roll up the dough and then tie into a knot (or just roll into a ball) and put either in a muffin pan or in a loaf pan, one next to the other. Continue with the rest of the dough. If you’re making challahs, divide balls between the two loaf pans.

Mix milk and honey (you can heat in microwave for a few seconds) and very gently brush top of muffins or challahs. Cover dough with a towels, making sure the towel does not touch the dough directly, and let rise for 45 minutes, until it doubles.

If you’re using loaf pans, heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius). Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius) and continue baking for 30 minutes longer, until top is brown and crispy. Remove from oven, let sit for five minutes and serve with spicy tomato dip (recipe below) on the side. 

If you’re using muffin pans, heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit (160 degrees Celsius) and bake for 30 minutes until top is brown and crispy. Remove from oven, let sit for five minutes and serve with spicy tomato dip (recipe below) on the side. 

Spicy tomato dip for kubaneh

This simple, spicy fresh tomato dip is usually prepared with schug, a Yemenite spicy cilantro and chili pepper sauce. If you can get schug (available in the U.S. at some kosher markets), simply grate 3 tomatoes and mix in schug to taste, a little salt and one tablespoon olive oil. Otherwise, prepare this simple version:

Yields one cup

Ingredients

3 ripe tomatoes
1/2 to 1 Serrano or jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Directions

Halve tomatoes and grate on a coarse grater into a bowl. Mix in the rest of the ingredients, cover and let sit at room temperature until serving. The dip doesn’t keep well in the fridge, as is the case with most fresh tomato dishes.

Eajeh/arouq herb omelette

A green, chopped herb omelette, sometimes prepared as latkes, comes from the Levantine and Iraqi cuisines, where it is called eajeh in Palestine or Syria, and arouq in Iraq. It is a perfect addition to any Middle Eastern style breakfast spread.

Young, fresh radish leaves are tender, a little spicy and wonderful when chopped into omelette. If you’re making the labneh tzatzaiki recipe below, try to find radishes with leaves still attached and make sure they are light green and seem fresh. Otherwise, just add more of the herb of your choice.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

Chopped leaves of a small bunch of radishes (or 1 cup chopped watercress, arugula or any herb)
1 small bunch Italian parsley, chopped
4 green onions, green parts only, thinly sliced
1 potato
4 eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions

Mix chopped radish leaves, parsley and green onions in a large bowl. Peel potato and grate it on a coarse grater into the bowl. Add eggs and salt and mix well.

Have a plate larger than the frying pan ready. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Pour egg mixture in, lower to medium heat, and cook for about 5 minutes, until golden brown.
Slide omelette into prepared plate, then very carefully invert pan over plate, and holding plate firmly, flip plate and pan, so the omelette falls back into pan on the uncooked side. Drizzle another tablespoon olive oil on sides of pan, letting it go under omelette, and continue cooking for another 5-6 minutes. Carefully slide onto a serving plate. Serve immediately.

Avocado salad

Found on many Israeli breakfast or dinner tables, this salad is traditionally spread over a slice of bread. And no, it is not guacamole.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

2 ripe avocado
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 green onions, green part only, finely sliced
10 Kalamata or Middle Eastern cracked olives, chopped
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped (optional)
Kosher salt to taste

Directions

Slice avocado open, remove pit and spoon into a medium bowl. Add lemon juice and mash with a fork until almost smooth. Add green onion, olives and hard boiled egg (if using), and mix gently. Add salt to taste and serve.

Labneh tzatziki with watercress and radish

A Greek classic gets a Middle Eastern touch. Labneh is a sour, thick yogurt spread, and can be found at Whole Foods, Middle Easter stores and some kosher supermarkets. 

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cup labneh (see note above, can substitute with another cup of Greek yogurt)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 bunch watercress
8 radishes

Directions

In a large bowl mix yogurt, labneh, olive oil, lemon juice and salt until smooth. Chop 2/3 of the watercress and mix in. Grate radishes on a coarse grater. Put one tablespoon grated radishes aside, add the rest into yogurt and mix.
Transfer yogurt mixture into a serving bowl. Top with remaining watercress leaves, grated radish and a good drizzle of olive oil.

Simple tahini sauce

This sauce is wonderful on its own, as long as the tahini you’re using is of good quality. Simply taste the raw tahini and make sure it doesn’t have a bitter flavor to it. Palestinian brand Al Arz is my favorite available in the United States.

Yields 2 cups

Ingredients

1 cup tahini
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions

Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend for 3 minutes until smooth. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge up to a week.

Cold brew coffee with cardamom

This is 5 minutes of work, but 12 hours of waiting. Start preparing the day before.

Yields 4 cups

Ingredients

6 green cardamom pods (or 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom)
1/2 cup ground coffee
Milk or cream for serving

Directions

Put cardamom pods in a mortar, and crack open and coarsely crush with the pestle. If you’re using ground cardamom, skip this step.

Put cardamom and coffee in a container, add 2 cups cold water, mix, cover, and let sit in the fridge for 12 hours.

Strain twice though a cheesecloth-lined fine strainer. 

Pour into ice-filled glasses with equal parts water or milk (best combination is adding an equal part water and a tiny bit of heavy cream). Serve very cold. Can keep in fridge for a few weeks.