What is a typical Saudi breakfast?

Thanks for asking this question in my post requesting your feedback and requests.  A typical and traditional Saudi breakfast can have variations depending on the region of Saudi Arabia where one is from.  But to give you a general idea, here are some of the breakfasts which my husband and I will enjoy which are representative of the tradition. 

Sometimes we may start with Arabic coffee and dates to get that initial burst of caffeine and energy.  On other days our preference may be for Saudi style tea which uses dried tea leaves.  In an aside, I typical place the tea leaves in a small teapot, add enough sugar to cover the bottom of the teapot and bring the tea to a boil,  As the tea boils the tea leaves rise to the top.  I use a spoon to collect and remove the tea leaves from the boiling water and then let the tea boil for about 3-5 more minutes without the leaves.  It is served piping hot in tall slender glasses.  It is also customary to fill the glass to the very brim with this hot tea as to serve less could be interpreted as a lack of hospitality and generosity.


Saudi breakfasts are usually served with items on a variety of small plates and bowls.  These items can include olives, differing soft cheeses, honey, helwa (traditional soft Saudi sweet), homemade jams (my favorite is made with apricot), fuhl, dahl, eggs (or Shashukah – which is a Saudi variation of scrambled eggs) and of course fresh hot bread.  The bread can come in many variations ranging from Afghan or Pakistani style nan or chipotti and other types as well which are circular, flat and large in shape.  Some breads may also be filled with cheese or chocolate or a variety of different flavored spices.


In the true traditional style, breakfast would be served after first placing plastic sheeting on the floor (which is sold in large rolls in all supermarkets here) and the various plates and bowls are laid out in an attractive and appetizing manner along with the tea or coffee.  My husband and I also enjoy freshly squeezed orange juice or kiwi and lime juice with our breakfast too.  The traditional breakfast would be served without any utensils.  One would tear off pieces of bread and use it as a spoon to dip into the various dishes. 

 Sometimes though my Americanism will show through and I will alternate the Saudi breakfast with pancakes, scrambled egge, hashbrowns and other items more associated with an American breakfast served on the table in individual plates.

14 Responses

  1. all those small individual dishes for the bits of this and that used to make me nuts! I have a special level of aversion for dish washing:-)
    Our stint in England now has us adding an “English” breakfast, which includes baked-beans, to our repertoire which sounds much like yours although my husband has never learned to like pancakes. We save those for days he’s out of town.

  2. Oh yes…I should have mentioned that if one does not have a housemaid, be prepared for washing a lot of dishes as the majority of Saudi residences do NOT come equipped with dishwashers!

    Your comment about baked beans reminded me of how I make my modified version of what my husband calls “American fuhl.” If we are too lazy or tired to go out and buy fresh fuhl and I do not have a can of fuhl, then instead I will use a can of Mexican refried beans. I’ll first chop up onions finely and start them frying with only a LITTLE bit of oil, add chunky bits of chopped tomato. After those are tender, I will then add the refried beans and after mixing together well and heating together, serve hot.

  3. Chakchouka – scrambled eggs? Can you give the receipe for the saudi version? I only know the algierian version which consists of peppers and tomatoes with eggs (not scrambled).
    PS love your blog – it’s very informative and easy to read:)

  4. I’ll do my best….first one should chop onions into small pieces. Fry with small amount of oil until tender. Then add chopped green peppers and tomatoes. Let these fry until tender. All salt, pepper and other spices as desired to taste. I will also add chopped hot peppers by request of my husband. When these are tender and have a nice aroma, then add eggs which have been mixed well. Optional but when mixing the eggs up I usually add 3 tablespoons of milk and a dash of tobasco sauce. The Saudi version is to typicall use a saucepan rather than a skillet. When the eggs have been added, stir or “mash” so the eggs break down and are not “chunky” like the traditional American way of serving scrambled eggs. Serve hot with thin brown bread or whatever your favorite bread may be. The Saudi way is to use the bread to scoop up the eggs instead of a fork. Enjoy!

  5. That’s exactly what I thought too – too many small dishes to wash! Ouch, dishwashers uncommon in Saudi? *light bulb going on* Now I get why all the controversy about maids (see Umm Adam’s blog) – especially given the recent post on fine dust.

    Thank you Carol for answering my query. For some reason I am fascinated with what people eat for breakfast around the world. A typical Saudi breakfast mostly seems like the typical Arab breakfast (as far as I know) except for the unroasted coffee. I love, love Saudi coffee (qawa) – for most it is an acquired taste but I loved it from the first sip. Maybe you would like to write a blog entry about Saudi coffee and its finer points; etiquettes, regional variations in recipes etc?

    The recipe you described above sounds like the scrambled eggs I make! But I like to add parsley for the colour contrast. But NO tabasco. Tabasco for breakfast? LOL – to each his own! I do enjoy ful but am I the only one who gets sleepy after eating ful?

    I would like to get a hold of the rolls of disposable plastic sheeting used for floor eating. At present I have a plastic mat which I must take the inedibles (tissues & bones) off first before wiping and drying. So much easier to just throw the whole thing (rubbish and all) away. Even better would be a biodegradable version.

    Ma’a salaama

  6. Thanks Aliyah,

    You may want to do a search in my blog for arabic coffee as I wrote an earlier post all about the history and background of arabic coffee, which by the way has its origins in Yemen!

    The plastic sheeting is convenient but I’m actually not a strong advocate of it. I am not yet accustomed to anything one does not like or for example chicken bones set aside on the plastic sheeting. I learned the hard way that some families are so accustomed to plastic sheeting they do not even realize when it is not there. For example I had some individuals for a meal and had a cloth table cloth in place at my dining room table. Without conscience thoughts bit of uneaten food, bones, etc., were placed on the tablecloth instead of on the plate.

    To my surprise I’ve found many Saudis to enjoy that dash fo tabasco or homemade hot hot sauce over most dishes to include breakfast foods!

  7. Thanks Carol, I will search your blog for the Arabic coffee entry – although I make it myself I think there are many variations especially with the proportion of cardamom to coffee.

    Throw away plastic sheets – for ease, not aesthetics! Chicken bones, used toothpicks etc, ewww! Exactly why I hate cleaning my plastic mat; I would prefer to throw the whole lot away. Only if it is biodegradable. I find I do not use cloth tablecloths anymore due to the amount of stain remover I must now use.

    I didn’t know Saudis like hot hot food. When I think of Saudi food, I think of “kabsa” and “plain meat and rice” which to me is blandish not fiery.

  8. I will venture to say that the more Saudis you know the more you will come to find that while a dish may appear “somewhat bland at first blush” many Saudis also make their own hot sauces and spice mixtures to jazz up dishes and recipes. I do not mind spicy foods but I have found that my mother-in-law and sister-in-laws homemade hot sauces and salsas are just a bit too hot for my taste!

  9. thanks for the GREAT post! Very useful…

  10. Hmm, all this cooking would drive me crazy!!! I don’t mind it that much, but for one, I am not a breakfast person at all, for two, I am very simple when it comes down to food. IF I ever eat breakfast, it would be eggs with a sliced tomato and of course bread (hot or cold does not matter). I grew up in a household with my grandparents (who had a farm) so my grandmother never had the time for much cooking, and when she cooked, she used very basic foods, no special variations. To her, it was a sign of modesty with food. For example, if she would make bean soup for lunch, that is all it was to it: bean soup and bread. If she made potatoes and chicken, that is all it was: potatoes and chicken. No bonus this or that. Our table was never full of several different foods at once. And if it was not all gone during lunch, you better believe you would have to eat it for dinner, or depending on what it was, sometimes even the next day. So this is what I got used to and it stuck with me.

  11. I just made your scrambled egg recipe. As I’m now slightly mobile I have to do my own shopping again!
    Except I didn’t.
    But I had just what it takes for your scrambled eggs. No bread though, can’t be bothered to make some either. Good eggs!

    The plastic sheet custom would make me feel very bad enviromentally.

  12. Dalioness – it is always interesting to learn other families traditions. Now that I think back on it, my mom always made sure to get us up with a big breakfast saying that was the ‘meal of the day.’

    Aafke – the plastic sheeting does take some getting used to but at the same time with Saudi families being larger and lots of young kids, it is very practical. For my husband and myself, when we decide to serve traditionally and eat on the floor rather than at the table, I’ll usually put a cloth tablecloth on the floor similar to picnic style!

  13. Very interesting. I need to know more about a saudi breakfast. An adult student from Jedda is living in my home and I do not know what to give him for breakfst. He likes hot milk, granola type cereal, fresh fruit. I am going to try the scrambled eggs as above. Please post any other ideas (He is here to learn and study english).
    ‘Cooking Suadi breakfast in Canada’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,293 other followers

%d bloggers like this: