4 Traditional Sauces Used In The Middle Eastern Cooking

Many people who are new to authentic Middle Eastern cuisine are surprised by the versatility and different natures of the many sauces that are frequently used. From tangy to sweet, Middle Eastern cuisine is full of delicious sauces.  Don’t miss to check out the 4 traditional sauces that are used frequently.

4 commonly used cooking sauces in Middle Eastern cooking.


Tahini is a traditional Middle Eastern condiment that is extremely widespread throughout the region. Typically, tahini is based on crushed sesame seeds, and this unique sauce is featured in many dishes. The fats inside the sesame seeds give off a wonderful aroma and velvetines to the sauce once crushed. Tahini has a nutty flavor, and some say that tahini has earthy undertones not too distant from peanut butter, with a hint of bitterness.

Typically, tahini is used as a standalone condiment for dipping or adding to flatbreads, kebabs, or sandwiches. In addition, tahini is used as an ingredient in many other Middle eastern sauces like hummus.

Here’s how you can make it easily:

To make tahini sauce, you need sesame seeds or tahini paste. Usually, lemon juice is used to add a fresh kick of acidity to the sauce. If you’d like your tahini to be more of a thin sauce and less of a paste, you can add a bit of water or oil. Other common additives are usually garlic and salt.

To form the tahini sauce, lightly toast sesame seeds and grind them in a food processor. If you’re using tahini paste, skip this step. Then, add the rest of your ingredients until the flavor is as desired.

2. Lebanese Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

Cucumber yogurt sauce or some form of yogurt dip is one of the most widely recognized sauces traditionally used in the Middle East. When used in Greek cooking, this sauce is usually referred to as tzatziki sauce. This version is more central to Lebanon. Other versions of yogurt sauce call for the addition of olive oil, lemons, or other spices.

The cucumber yogurt sauce is designed to be creamy, light, and fresh. 

This sauce usually has a slight tanginess from the yogurt and lemon, with a freshness from the cucumber. Yogurt sauce is the perfect condiment for grilled meats like kebabs or Lebanese kibbeh.

Here’s how you can make it at home.

To make authentic Lebanese cucumber yogurt sauce, you need yogurt. The type of yogurt is up to you, but many prefer low-fat plain or Greek yogurt. If you find that your sauce isn’t rich enough because you used a lower-fat yogurt, you can drizzle some olive oil into your sauce. Persian cucumbers are ideal because they are sweeter and firmer than English ones.

Peel your cucumbers and either grate them or chop them finely. Using a dash of water can help thin your sauce out if you’d like it to drizzle better. Make sure not to use too much and water your sauce down. Many people also add dried mint, garlic, and salt.

Forming Lebanese cucumber yogurt sauce is usually as simple as placing your yogurt into a bowl with the other ingredients and whisking them together.

3. Muhammara

Muhammara is a spicy and vibrant Middle Eastern dip. Usually, muhammara is composed of walnuts, bell peppers, pomegranate molasses, breadcrumbs, and other additives, including tahini. Muhammara originates from the city of Aleppo in Syria but has spread throughout the greater Middle East.

The best muhammara is slightly sweet, earthy, smoky, and spicy.

 Muhammara is usually served with fresh pita or other flatbreads to dip into. Other common ingredients in muhammara are tahini, pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, paprika, and salt. Making muhammara is as simple as roasting your walnuts and peppers before processing everything together.

Here’s how you can do it at home:

To make a delicious muhammara, use good-quality walnuts. You want to toast your walnuts for the best flavor. These give body to the sauce. For the best flavor, roast your own red bell peppers and then peel the skins off.

Usually, muhammara is made with Aleppo chile flakes. These can be very hard to find in certain countries. They have a very unique and bold flavor. If necessary, substitute for more commonly available chile flakes.

For Western audiences, putting breadcrumbs in the sauce may sound strange. However, breadcrumbs have been used to thicken sauces in many regions’ cuisines since the early medieval days.

4. Harissa

Harissa is a very bright and flavorful sauce that will brighten up any feast from the Middle East. Usually, harissa is a blend of hot chile peppers, olive oil, spices, garlic, and spices. 

In the Middle East, harissa is used in a similar way to how Americans use ketchup. 

This means that harissa is a very common condiment that is often added to sandwiches, pasta, and many other dishes.

Here’s how you can do this at home:

To make harissa, first, assemble dried red chile peppers. The types of chilis that you use depend on where you live and how spicy you want your harissa to be. For example, Mexican chiles like guajillo and chili de arbol can be used if you lack Middle Eastern chiles. In addition, harissa often includes minced garlic, olive oil, salt, and spices like caraway seeds, cumin, and coriander.

To assemble harissa, rehydrate the chiles and remove the seeds and stems. Then, combine everything in a food processor and blend until combined.

There is no Middle Eastern Cooking without using sauces.

There are many more sauces used- however these 4 are the most commonly used ones. Sauces are commonly used as dipping sauces, a sauce for meat, or a topping for flatbreads. In fact, eating a meal with many or all these sauces at once is not uncommon. Don’t forget to drop us a comment to let us know what other sauces you have heard about in Middle Eastern cooking.

Author Bio:

Hi, I’m Rana and I blog at ranasrecipe.com. My passion for food began very early in my life. And after managing a cafe, a granola business and helping other food businesses scale up, I found my true calling in creating wonderful recipes so that everyone can enjoy cooking as much as I do!

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