Where to Find UAE Traditional Food: The Best Emirati Restaurants in Dubai

by Dubai Travel Planner

Understanding what is traditional Emirati cuisine and the best places to find it in the UAE

Dubai is a very cosmopolitan city, playing host to immigrants in their millions, leading to an incredibly diverse foodie scene. Travellers can find some of the best French restaurants in Dubai alongside exquisite Thai and Italian, unbeatable Indian and luscious Lebanese dishes, to name but a few!

However, with all this variety, it is easy for traditional Emirati food to be overlooked on a trip to Dubai. In this post, we share with you some of our favourite Emirati dishes and the best dining spot for traditional Emirati food in Dubai.

You can see our complete guide to the Dubai dining scene here


What is Traditional Emirati Cuisine?

Emirati food is made using ancient ingredients that the people of the Emirates have produced and traded for millennia. Before the city of Dubai and other great constructions, the people of the Emirates lived in tribes. Many of those tribes had unique dishes that were eventually brought together along with their people, to create signature traditional Emirati dishes.

Many of the dishes served are seasonally selected. It is typical to eat dishes heavy in rice, veggies, and wheat during the cold months, and then, in the summer months, to switch to dishes heavy in animal protein such as goat, camel, and fresh-caught fish.

Traditional Emirati Cuisine - Dining Experiences in Dubai with example Emirati Dishes

There’s no better time to try Emirati cuisine than during the Holy month of Ramadan. Make sure you check out our guide to the best Iftars in Dubai (breaking of the fast), plus our favourite suhoors (the meal taken before sunrise) for a truly authentic Middle Eastern experience in Dubai.

Some favourite Emirati dishes to try in Dubai

Khuzi

Khuzi, the national dish of the United Arab Emirates, is a must-try food in Dubai. Also known as Ghuzi, this meal is made with roasted mutton or lamb, which is served alongside white rice, vegetables, and nuts.

Balaleat

Balaleat is a classic breakfast dish in Dubai. Decidedly sweet and salty, it is made using eggs and vermicelli as the main characters and then spiced up with cinnamon, cardamom, orange blossoms, and saffron, and then served alongside pistachios. Although it is a breakfast dish, some Emirati restaurants in Dubai also serve it as a dessert.

Al Machboos

Dining out in Dubai Traditional Food served Al Machboos

Al Machboos is a protein-based dish that is made using chicken, red meat, or shrimp. The meat of choice is boiled down in a stock made with dried lime powder and traditional spices. When the meat is softened, it is taken out of the pot and replaced with rice which is allowed to cook in the stock.

When the rice is properly cooked, the meat is thrown back in along with a mix of chopped potatoes, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and other veggies. This final mix is cooked for another couple of hours over low heat till everything softens and the flavour spreads evenly.

Al Harees

In the world of Arabian dishes, Al Harees is a one-pot star. It is prepared by cooking wheat and salt in a pot until it attains a consistency similar to porridge.

Once that is reached, the cook throws in chunks of different proteins like chicken, mutton, lamb, or veal, along with salt, pepper, and cinnamon for added flavour. The pot is left to cook over low heat for another couple of hours before it is ready.

Gahwa

gahwa arabic tea served in the traditional manner in Dubai

Traditional Arabic Coffee, Gahwa is made from Arabic roasted coffee beans mixed with cardamom and is prepared and served in an elaborate ceremony. Far more than just a drink, the preparation and serving of Gahwa has been inscribed in the UNESCO Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Luqaimat

Luqaimat traditional emirati dessert

Crunchy on the outside and delicately soft on the inside, Luqaimat is a favourite Emirati desert. Rolled dough balls are deep-fried and then soaked in honey or a sweet, sticky date syrup known as dibbs when served. Salty and sweet, they make the perfect ending to your traditional Emirati feast.


10 Best Emirati Restaurants in Dubai

So, where do we recommend you dine to enjoy some of these amazing traditional Emirati dishes? Since we first prepared this list in 2019, so many great new Emirati restaurants have entered the scene.

Some have a wider Arabic cuisine focus, while others look to stick as close to the Emirati tradition as possible. Get these exciting UAE restaurants on your foodie wish list!

Al Fanar

Al Fanar cooks authentic Emirati cuisine in Dubai and serves it in multiple locations around the city. The ambience in their outlets gives a feel of Dubai in the 1960s when it was just a little town located on the coast of the Arabian Gulf. Eating areas are designed to resemble a scene of desert tents placed close to a fire, and the traditional menu takes tongues on a trip through time as they taste the best traditional food in Dubai.

Where to Find Al Fanar: There are four branches in Dubai Festival City, Al Barsha Pond Park, Al Seef and Time Out Market, Souk Al Bahar. Opening times vary between branches.

Dubai Festival City; open 9:00 am to 10:00 pm Saturday to Wednesday; 9:00 am to 11:00 pm Thursday and Friday.

Al Barsha Pond Park; open daily 8:30 am to 10:00 pm

Al Seef; open daily 10:00 am to 11:00 pm.

Time Out Market; open 12:00 pm to midnight Monday to Thursday; 12:00 pm to 1:00 am Friday; 10:00 am to 1:00 am Saturday; and 10:00 am to midnight Sunday.

Learn more at www.alfanarrestaurant.com

Logma

Start the day with traditional Chenab (Emirati pancakes) drizzled with date syrup, or yummy balaleet at this comfortable eatery in Dubai Mall. Here, tradition meets modernity, with up-to-date decor that harks back to the nomadic past whilst embracing the present, and a menu that fuses the best of Emirati food with some of the best foreign imports.

On the menu, you will find a variety of rice dishes, including machboos and biryani, as well as risotto, various appetisers including fried halloumi and samboosa, in addition to a selection of salads.

The very appealing dessert menu includes saffron milk cake, kunafa and crisp pistachio mafroukeh. With both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options, Logma is the perfect place to get your introduction to Emirati cuisine, in an easy-to-access location in Downtown Dubai.

Where to find Logma: Dubai Mall, Third Floor, Close to Fashion Parking. Open 10.00 am until 12.00 am daily.

Learn more at Logma.ae

Aseelah

Aseelah is a delightful restaurant that serves traditional Emirati food in a space that blends traditional hospitality with modern twists. The restaurant is charming and welcoming, both on the outside and the inside.

The menu serves modern takes on Emirati dishes, including favourites like fennel and orange salad along with beetroot carpaccio, camel sliders, chicken harees, and the very famous chicken biryani.

Where to find Aseelah: Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek. Open Fridays 7.00 until 11.00 pm & Saturdays 12.30 pm until 4.30 pm.

Learn more at www.radissonhotels.com

SMAT

Offering Emirati fusion food, SMAT is a modern and sophisticated venue ideal for any time of day. The Emirati breakfast sets a traditional tone for the morning, whilst lunchtime biryani rolls point to the diversity that exists in the UAE today.

Some dishes stay very true to their roots, constructed with the finest ingredients sourced locally; others, like Karak French Toast, Khameer Benedict and Regag Parmiagiana, offer Emirati food with a twist.

If the main menu isn’t enough to tempt you, the dessert list will have you drooling with its sticky date pudding, date brownies, aseeda fondant and cheesecake kunafa. Of course, traditional Luqaimat are also available.

Where to find SMAT: Dubai Design District Building NO.10, open 7.30 am until 11.30 pm daily.

Learn more at SMAT.ae

Zaroob

Zaroob is a popular eatery that serves Levantine-style street food without selling it on the street. This eatery serves some of the best Arabic dishes, made with recipes native to Arab countries like Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt, and Syria.

While their menu is constantly rotating, some of their star hits include their Kofta Sandwich which features perfectly grilled meat wrapped in freshly baked Lebanese bread. Other favourites include the Chicken Mousakhan, a perfectly spiced and marinated chicken that is roasted and served with fresh bread.

Where to find Zaroob: Radisson Blu Dubai Marina hotel, Sheikh Zayed Rd. Open: 24 hours/day

Learn more at zaroob.com

Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant

The beautiful airconditioned courtyard makes for the perfect authentic setting in the heart of Dubai’s historic Al Fahidi neighbourhood. Although the restaurant itself is one of the newer entrants to the Emirati cuisine scene in Dubai, every effort has been made to reflect a traditional setting.

From the thatched placements to the lantern-lit walls, the smell of fresh bread and live music only adds to the incredible ambience at Al Khama Heritage Restaurant.

Guests are invited to enjoy gahwa on their arrival, then enjoy a menu of farm fresh ingredients from chebab pancakes to heavy meat dishes and seafood platters.

We’d highly recommend adding this as a breakfast stop before exploring the historic side of Dubai; start your day with dango, balaleet, or beid wa tomat (a local style of scrambled eggs).


They are one of only two Emirati restaurants in Dubai (alongside Al Fanar) to get a nod in the latest Michelin Guide under the Emirati Cuisine category. Not a Michelin star, but a “Bib Gourmand” award for good quality, good value cooking.

Where to find Al Khayma Heritage Restaurant: Al Fahidi Historical District. Open 8:00 am to 11:00 pm daily.

Learn more at alkhayma.com

Saba’a

The laidback setting is traditional in style, with high ceilings and Bedouin decor, forming the heart of the Al Seef Heritage Hotel. While Saba’a is the hotel’s main buffet restaurant, local dishes feature on the menu daily, and the Arabian night on a Saturday is definitely worth including in your trip.

Alongside traditional Emirati dishes, carefully selected recipes from across the Arab world are included in this meticulously curated culinary collection. You can also enjoy the dulcet tones of a live oud (traditional instrument) player as you savour the flavours of Dubai.

Where to find Saba’a: Al Seef Hotel (Hilton Curio Collection), Al Seef Heritage District, Dubai Creek area. Open daily from 7.00 am until 10.00 pm.

Learn more at hilton.com

Siraj

For a luxury Emirati dining experience, head to Siraj. The upscale restaurant overlooking the Burj Khalifa is popular with locals and has even been visited by members of the Dubai royal family.

Serving Emirati and Levantine cuisine with a contemporary twist, Siraj is the perfect venue for a romantic night out with some of Dubai’s finest Emirati cuisine.

There is a range of hot and cold mezze-style starters and salads, whilst main dishes include traditional ouzi, grilled saffron lobster and camel tenderloin. Conclude your meal with a delicious locally inspired dessert like karak cake, cheese kunafa, sticky date pudding or um Ali.

Shisha is also available at Siraj as you enjoy the nightly fountain views.

Siraj offers set menu packages starting at 360 AED per person as well as an a la carte menu.

Where to find Siraj: Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai. Open 12.00 pm until 1.00 am daily.

Learn more at sirajrestaurant.com

Arabian Tea House Al Fahidi

The Arabian Tea House Al Fahidi is an iconic establishment in Dubai that has served authentic Emirati and Dubai cuisine for over twenty years. The decor is a stark white from the walls to the stones, giving the vibe of Arabian adventurers out in the desert.

Traditional Emirati meals are served at all times. The menu includes options like the Arabian Tea House Breakfast Tray, which includes Arabic bread, falafel, hummus, olives, beans, cheddar cheese wrap, and other delicacies. All meals are freshly made and served in generous portions.

Where to find the Arabian Tea House Al Fahidi: Bastakiya, Al Fahidi Historical District. Open 7:00 am – 11:00 pm daily

(There are also new branches to be found in Sharjah, the Mall Jumeirah, Jumeirah Archaeological Site and Arabian Fish House – even Dubai House, Montenegro)

Learn more at arabianteahouse.net

Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding

The Sheikh Mohammed Centre is not a restaurant as such but uses the deliciousness of Dubai’s traditional food to create a better understanding of the people of the Emirates. Located in one of the oldest communities in Dubai, the Centre hosts a series of edible experiences within its traditional houses by Emirati locals.

Groups of guests come together to try traditional Emirati food recipes while being taught about the Emirati traditions behind each dish. Each experience lasts 90 minutes, and attendance is by booking only.

Where to find the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding: Al Musallah Road, Al Fahidi Historical District. Open: 8:00 am – 3:00 pm Monday to Thursday; 8:00 am – 12:00 pm Friday to Sunday.

Learn more at www.cultures.ae

Take a street food tour in Dubai

If you are up for a more immersive experience across the city’s culinary delights, from traditional flavours to modern twists, then we recommend you try a street food tour while you are in Dubai.

Some of our favourite options are available via Get Your Guide, our preferred tour booking agent in Dubai. Check out these options from reputable tour providers in Dubai:

We hope this has whet your appetite to give traditional and modern Emirati cuisine a try on your next trip to Dubai. Let us know in the comments if you have any other favourites you think should be on our list!

You may also want to check out our complete guide to the best Emirati food in Abu Dhabi if you’ll be heading to the capital

Visiting during the Holy Month? Whilst local restaurants may close during the day, the city comes to life again of an evening. After the Ramadan Cannon is fired, restaurants reopen with sensational Iftar spreads to break the fast, followed by a long and relaxed evening of suhoor dining and night markets.

Contrary to what you might be led to believe and what you may see in other strict Islamic countries, Dubai is well worth visiting during the Holy Month if you really want to taste the flavours and enjoy the community spirit of the Emirati people.


Before you go… More important things you should know when planning a trip to Dubai

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Please note we are not a travel agency. This site is a travel blog to help newcomers to the UAE and transit passengers self plan their trip, we cannot book your flights, hotels, visas or connections for you. We may make a small commission if you click on any of our recommendation links.

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