We might not have Amazon, Caviar or Foody Direct to bring us an endless assortment of nosh-able options, but Israel has some of the best packaged and fresh food on the planet. Plus, they’re extra special – most of them aren’t available internationally! There’s no babka like an Israeli babka and that goes double for challah, and crispy packaged snacks.
Here’s a look at a highly curated list (because anyone who has ever been to Israel knows the list is endless) of totally delicious food items to bring home to your friends and family when traveling abroad.
Babka from Bakery
There are many babka purveyors, but Bakery’s reigns supreme. Their standard offering includes halva, chocolate, and cheese, along with seasonal options. Counter-intuitively, not even the cheese one needs to be refrigerated and usually all varieties last about five days before going stale.
Challah from Lehamim
You’ll want to save this option for same day arrival trips because unlike babka, challah does not taste as good the day after. Particularly for Shabbat arrivals, however, there’s no beating Lehamim’s Festive Challah, aesthetically or taste-wise, a round weave with a half dozen kinds of multicolored seeds.
Elite Milk Chocolate with Popping Candies
When Gal Gadot stopped by The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon around Halloween last year, she brought this bar of chocolate with her, declaring it one of her favorites. The truth is, Elite has nothing on other chocolate, but it was a great pop culture moment for Israel and, for dieters, it does have less sugar than most American chocolate bars.
Halva from Halva Kingdom at the Carmel Market
The halva you get outside of Israel is more like a cavity-inducing sticky glue than an artisanal treat. It also tends to be available in original or chocolate. At Halva Kingdom you’ll find options ranging from the classic tahini/sesame/sugar to coffee, caramel, and every nut under the sun, along with a long list of other oddball flavors.
Bamba & Bissli
Other countries might try to imitate it, but there’s nothing like Bamba, the crunchy Israeli peanut-butter doodle manufactured by Osem. Shockingly, Bamba is made without preservatives and food coloring. It goes well with Israel’s second most popular crunchy snack, Bissli. Also manufactured by Osem, it's wheat-based and comes in a number of shapes and flavors including "Falafel" and "Barbecue."
Krembo, aka chocolate covered marshmallows, may sound very American, but it’s decidedly Israeli. The sweet treat is particularly popular come winter when Israelis deem it too cold for ice cream. For an idea of how popular these fluffy sweets are, there was mild panic over a shortage last year.
Sometimes it feels more like the land of dates rather than milk and honey. They’re everywhere and in everything. While dates have become increasingly popular internationally as smoothies and protein/energy balls have exploded in the wellness sphere, you don’t yet often see date paste. In its liquid form it is silan date honey, a delicious healthy alternative to maple syrup, agave, or just about any sweetener.
Israel’s Galilee region produces some of the world’s best olive oil so it’s no surprise that you’ll find it in every Israeli’s home. Many of the brands are family-owned with oils carefully extracted and bottled in small batches. Across Israel you’ll find entire boutique shops dedicated solely to olive oil.
El Namroud Arak
What wine is to the French or beer to the Belgian, Arak is to Israelis. You’ll want to warn anyone not familiar with Arak –which has an alcohol content of about 50%– that it should be mixed with water. The licorice taste is certainly an acquired one, but it’s great for those “I wanna get drunk” occasions.
Homemade Almond Drink
Israeli almonds not only taste better, they’re actually healthier than almonds you’ll find elsewhere in the world. In fact, they contain 10% more calcium than their American counterparts and they’re often more sustainably grown. All you need to make almond concentrate for the healthful refreshing local beverage are almonds and a food processor (added sugar, optional). For optimal digestion, soak your almonds in water for 24 hours before putting them in the blender (make sure to dry them). If you want to buy a bottle of the goodness ASAP, head to the Carmel Market, and most market kiosks offer prepared bottles.