Vegetarian Survival Guide to Jordan

Vegetarians are in luck in Jordan: it’s very easy to survive without eating meat. Although vegetarianism as a concept isn’t widely understood (Jordanians love their meat) the food culture naturally relies on lots of fresh vegetables, beans and pulses. There are plenty of salads to choose from, lots of vegetable based dips to scoop up with flatbread, and tasty cheap snacks like falafel are easily found. Everything is flavourful from tangy to spicy with olive oil, lemon, garlic, parsley and mint featuring heavily.

Arabic Phrases

English is widely spoken in Jordan so in most places you shouldn’t have problems making your needs as a vegetarian understood. It is worth learning some Arabic though, just in case. To say “I’m vegetarian” it’s “Ana nabati” for men and “Ana nabatiye” for women.

Mezze

Jordanian mezze at Haret Jdoudna restaurant, Madaba, Jordan

Our guide Kamel and Simon with our mezze spread at Haret Jdoudna restaurant, Madaba.

Jordanian meals start with mezze—an array of appetisers including salads, dips and fried snacks. They are often followed by a main course but most of these are meat based so for vegetarians the mezze can make an excellent meal in themselves. Most of these dishes aren’t specific to Jordan but can also be found in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and other Middle Eastern countries.

Our favourite places for mezze were Haret Jdoudna in Madaba, Green Valley in Jerash, Feynan Ecolodge which serves only vegetarian food, and Petra Kitchen where we helped make them ourselves.

Here are some of the diverse range of mezze available.

Salads

Salads are an important part of every meal for Jordanians and there’s always a huge variety on offer. Banish thoughts of limp iceberg lettuce because in Jordan salads are fresh and flavourful.

Fattoush – Tomato, cucumber, lettuce, and radish with toasted pitta bread croutons and a dressing of tangy sumac, mint, parsley, lemon, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar. Crunchy and piquant—our favourite salad.

Fattoush salad

Fattoush salad

Tabbouleh – Parsley is the star of the show in this green salad with supporting parts from bulgar wheat, tomato, onion, mint, lemon and olive oil. It’s often scooped up with a lettuce leaf.

Tabbouleh

Tabbouleh

Rocket salad – Big peppery rocket leaves simply dressed with lemon and olive oil.

Rocket salad

Rocket salad

Tomato, goats cheese and basil – A Jordanian caprese salad.

Tomato, goats cheese and basil salad

Tomato, goats cheese and basil salad

Arabic salad – There are lots of variations of this tomato, cucumber and onion salad, sometimes it’s served with feta.

Arabic salad with feta

Arabic salad with feta

Dips

Perfect to go with the flatbread that’s always served with mezze.

Hummus – The Middle Eastern classic: chickpeas, garlic, lemon, tahini and lots of olive oil.

Hummus

Hummus

Baba Ghanoush – Smoky roasted aubergine with tomato, onion, chilli, garlic, mint, lemon, and olive oil. Check out a baba ghanoush recipe here.

Baba Ghanoush

Baba Ghanoush

Mutabbal – Aubergine with tahini and lemon. It doesn’t have chopped tomato and onion like baba ghanoush but they look similar.

Mouttabal

Mouttabal

Zaatar w Zeit – Dried thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds are mixed with olive oil. This is often eaten at breakfast by dipping bread in it. A delicious new discovery for us.

Zaatar

Zaatar before olive oil is added.

Turkish salad – A spicy dip of tomato and chilli.

Turkish salad

Turkish salad

Bagdonsyyeh – Parsley and tahini.

Bagdonsyyeh

Bagdonsyyeh

Other Mezze Dishes

Galayat Bandura – One of the few hot vegetarian mezze, this means tomato from the frying pan. Tomatoes are fried with garlic, chilli, olive oil, and pine nuts are sprinkled on top.

Galayat Bandura

Galayat Bandura

Labneh – Yogurt is strained until it becomes a thick creamy cheese. Often served in balls in olive oil. It’s common at breakfast and is delicious.

Labneh balls at the front with other Jordanian breakfast dishes

Labneh balls at the front with other Jordanian breakfast dishes

Cheese Fatayer – There are different variations on these cheese pastries.

Mafarika Batata – Scrambled eggs with potato.

Mafarika Batata

Mafarika Batata

Warak Enab – Vine leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables. These are often stuffed with meat too so be careful.

Makdous – Small pickled aubergine stuffed with walnuts and garlic.

Makdous

Makdous

Pickles – Olives and other pickled vegetables are common.

Olives and pickles

Olives and pickles

Bread

Flatbread is served with every meal in Jordan and is fresh and tasty. Here’s a few varieties to look out for.

Khubz (Pita) – Literally, “ordinary” bread. This bread with pockets is common.

Shrak – Our favourite Jordanian bread is baked by the Bedouins. Dough is thrown to make a very thin disk and cooked on a hot iron griddle shaped like an inverted wok. I don’t think you can find it in restaurants but we ate it at Feynan Ecolodge, when visiting a Bedouin camp, and at Captain’s Camp in Wadi Rum.

Making shrak bread at Captain’s Camp, Wadi Rum

Making shrak bread at Captain’s Camp, Wadi Rum

Taboon – We saw these large traditional Jordanian flatbreads being baked on hot pebbles in a taboon oven at Green Valley restaurant in Jerash.

Taboon oven at Green Valley, Jerash

Taboon oven at Green Valley, Jerash

Taboon bread

Taboon bread

Main Dishes

Traditional main dishes are rarely vegetarian but restaurants did cater for us and brought us roasted vegetables with rice or vegetable stew. We were usually happy to stick with mezze though. There are a few other dishes to look out for.

Falafel – These fried chickpea balls are sometimes found on their own as mezze but our favourite is a falafel sandwich, stuffed in pitta with hummus and salad. It makes a very cheap and quick meal. In Aqaba we liked the falafel sandwiches at the basic local eatery Al Muhandas where we got two large falafel sandwiches and a drink for 1 JOD ($1.40).

Falafel sandwich

Falafel sandwich

Ful medames – A simple dish of cooked and mashed fava beans, often served at breakfast.

Magluba – This upside down rice dish usually contains meat but it’s possible to make it with just vegetables like eggplant and cauliflower as we did at Petra Kitchen cooking class. It’s cooked in a pot and then served flipped onto a plate so the vegetables are on the top, hence the name.

Shourbat Adas – Another dish we made on our cooking class. This simple lentil soup in popular in the winter. Check that it’s made without meat stock though.

Fasoulya Beyda – White beans cooked in tomato sauce.

Drinks

Turkish coffee – Thick, strong, grainy coffee served in small cups and sometimes flavoured with cardamon.

Turkish coffee

Turkish coffee

Tea – Tea is served black and very sweet, sometimes flavoured with mint or sage. It’s best brewed by the Bedouin over an open fire as we enjoyed at Feynan Ecolodge.

Bedouin tea

Bedouin tea

Lemon and mint juice – Very refreshing.

Lemon and mint juice

Lemon and mint juice

Dessert

Our meal usually ended with tea or coffee and some fresh fruit. We didn’t try many desserts but they all seemed to be very sweet.

Warbat – A heavy, filling dessert made from layers of filo pastry and cream cheese, topped with syrup.

Warbat

Warbat

Halawa – A dense crumbly sweet made from tahini and pistachio. This was often found at breakfast.

Knafeh – A typical dessert that we didn’t get to try. Cream cheese is topped with shredded wheat, syrup and cashew nuts.

Breakfast

Breakfast is usually a simple version of the mezze served for lunch or dinner. Take a look at our Jordanian breakfast to see what a typical one looks like.

Discovering Middle Eastern mezze was one of our highlights of Jordan. Jordan is one of the most vegetarian friendly countries we have visited and it was a pleasure to be able to enjoy local dishes that we are often unable to in less vegetable focused countries. With an emphasis on fresh, healthy ingredients and lots of flavour Jordanian food has become one of our favourites.

If you are a travelling vegetarian don’t miss our vegetarian survival guides to Burma, Chiang Mai, ThailandJapanHong KongArgentinaBrazilParaguayBolivia, and Peru.

A big thank you to Visit Jordan who hosted us during our stay in Jordan and to our wonderful guide Kamel for answering all my food questions and waiting patiently while I took photos of the food before we ate.

Trail Wallet

33 thoughts on Vegetarian Survival Guide to Jordan

  1. Seeing those pictures of hummus makes me want to cry – it was SO good in Jordan. The food there is a close second to Italian in my favourite world cuisine.

    OH! And the mint lemonade too. Crying…

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  6. All these mediterranean dishes looks so deliciuos, and they have many ingredients in common with the dishes from my region in South Italy, Puglia. Olive oil above all. So for this reason and thanks to your beautiful pictures I can imagine and feel the wonderful taste. Thanks for sharing guys :)

    • We love the food in Puglia and find that as vegetarians it’s better than elsewhere in Italy as there are so many delicious vegetables. And of course the wonderful olive oil – it makes all the difference.

  7. This post made me hungry, but not only for food. I love sampling new foods, but also learning why meals are prepared a certain way and discovering similarities between regions. So much of this looks like foods from other areas, yet it likely has it’s own unique flavours and ceremony. Wonderful post, everything looks so appetizing! Thanks!

  8. These all look delicious! It’s good to know that there are plenty of vegetarian options available in Arabic food. I kind of thought that it wouldn’t be much more than hummus, baba ganoush and flat bread. The salads look really tasty!

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  11. this has my mouth watering – the fatoush at Haret Jdouna is probably the best I’ve had anywhere in the Middle east! Every time we’ve been to Jordan we miss out Amman and head straight to Madaba just for that!!!

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  13. Great posting. The food looks great.
    My only complaint with Jordanian restaurants was the lack of provision for non-smokers. Other than that, they’re great.

  14. The best hummus I ever had was in Jordan. Especially in Aqaba. Great country. Friendly and very gracious people, wonderful ruins and holy sites to visit. Healthy and delicious food. Such a shame that it becomes harder to go there because of the chaos going on in the Middle East.

  15. Loved your picture of the oven in Green Valley Restaurant in Jerash. we were there 2 weeks ago. Over-priced fare but great food. More basic but tastier and simpler is the Restaurant Hashem in downtown Amman.

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  17. Just to add a documentary piece of info :) Galayet Bandoura, is number one meal in Jordan (along with Mansaf), because Jordan is best known for the quality of tomatoes, but it’s sometimes served with minced meat (and I know people who fry eggs along with it!) I tried to cook it in Sydney once, not the same! And you came all the way to Jordan and did not try the number one sweat: Knafeh? Oh my God, like the dude who traveled to Paris and did not see the Eiffel tower :) One last thing, Hummos, is a million dollar business in Amman, they take it seriously, and they really excel at it. Places like AbuJbara and Kalha serve hommos along with all the vegetarian dishes above, and they serve it all day, as main courses

  18. What a brilliant post!! I too am going to Jordan, and am a vegetarian. Will look into Green Valley(but sadly not staying at Madaba or Feynan), can you recommend anymore places to try Jordanioan food, particularly in Amman or Petra?

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