Tourist Tip #67 Hamutzim, the Israeli Appetizer

The sour mix of pickled veggies that magically appears on your table at a hummus joint is a staple of the country’s eclectic culinary traditions. Like bread at an Italian restaurant, it comes compliments of the house and in endless supply.

Brian Schaefer
Brian Schaefer
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Brian Schaefer
Brian Schaefer

Alongside the staples of Israeli street food – falafel, burekas, sabich – is a very trusty, if sour, sidekick: hamutzim. Like the English term “pickles,” hamutzim refers both specifically to a cucumber cured in brine or vinegar and left to ferment for some time, and to a variety of vegetables that have undergone the same process.

At curbside stands, there are often bowls of various hamutzim lined up for your self-service enjoyment, often accompanied by jalepenos and grilled eggplant. In hummus joints, it’s common for the server to drop off a bowl of hamuztim before the meal, which can include a mixture of pickled cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, peppers and cauliflower to whet your appetite. It’s the equivalent of bread at an Italian restaurant, but with a lot more attitude and a lot less carbs. When self-service is available, don’t be shy to pile up and return for more or, when in a restaurant, to ask your server to replenish the supply.

Many regions of the world have their own version of the pickle, each bathed in its own regionally-specific concoction of vinegar, salt, and spices. The sliced, salad-like mixes of hamutzim found in Israel, which can be consumed as a finger food, came to Israel with the waves of immigration from the east, particularly Iraq and Iran – part of the Mizrahi culinary influence that also gave us kubbe, jachnun, sabich, and the fiery zkhug that spices up your meal.

So don’t confuse the hamutzim with any version of the so-called “kosher dill” pickle which is a uniquely American invention (with Eastern European roots), which isn’t actually kosher in terms of its certification but rather earned the name from New York deli-owners who distinguish this pickle’s taste from others by adding a healthy dose of garlic and dill.

A colorful mix of pickled vegetables to kick off your meal.Credit: Doram Gaunt

Click the alert icon to follow topics:



Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN


Yair Lapid.

Yair Lapid Is the Most Israeli of All

An El Al jet sits on the tarmac at John C. Munro International Airport in Hamilton, Thursday, in 2003.

El Al to Stop Flying to Toronto, Warsaw and Brussels

An anti-abortion protester holds a cross in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

Roe v. Wade: The Supreme Court Leaves a Barely United States

A young Zeschke during down time, while serving with the Wehrmacht in Scandinavia.

How a Spanish Beach Town Became a Haven for Nazis

Ayelet Shaked.

What's Ayelet Shaked's Next Move?

A Palestinian flag is taken down from a building by Israeli authorities after being put up by an advocacy group that promotes coexistence between Palestinians and Israelis, in Ramat Gan, Israel earlier this month

Israel-Palestine Confederation: A Response to Eric Yoffie