You don’t have to be a seasoned professional to capture the grilling spirit of an Israeli BBQ here in the U.S. this summer.

Israelis are known for their delicious charred shashlik (shish kabobs) and steakim (steaks). Our homeland’s Independence Day is commemorated in Spring with massive celebratory barbecues at the national parks (although this year’s celebration was a little different).

Whether it’s a patriotic 4th of July celebration or a family Shabbat dinner, there’s plenty of time to add some Israeli flavor to your epic summer barbecue.

American and Israeli BBQ

From Mexican barbacoa to the tandoori of India, cooking with fire plays a central role in cultural celebrations and feasts around the globe. In America, barbecuing dates back to North American colonists who adopted Native American cooking concepts and combined them with their own. Now American BBQ is as red, white, and blue as baseball, apple pie, and the bald eagle.

Check out all the raw meat in this video from food and recipe vlogger Yaron, and you’ll see that Israelis love barbecuing just as much as we do. We’re not sure how much you know about Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, but it’s prime time to cook and dine on meats and veggies of the mangal or al haesh, two common names for grilling in Israel.

The food of Israeli barbecues is as flavorful and diverse as the Jewish Diaspora with the historical influences from Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and Mizrahi Jews. We may all have our own approaches to grilling kabobs, but that’s just the tip of the skewer.

Your Experience Can Help: Whether you’re an alum, family member, or longtime trip leader, sharing your experience can benefit future trip participants! Share Your Story >
Your Experience Can Help: Whether you’re an alum, family member, or longtime trip leader, sharing your experience can benefit future trip participants! Share Your Story >

Summer Starters, Sides, and Salads

Ease your guests into your Israeli BBQ with starters, sides, and salads like hummus, tahini, or Veggie “Chopped Liver” for dipping with pita and veggies. Sauteed with eggplant and zucchini, this Turkish Salad from food blogger Jamie Geller is another great dip, and it’s even better when served warm. Or, if you’d rather make something cool, try this Melon and Tomato Gazpacho.

When it comes to salad, nothing captures the flavors of the Promised Land better than a classic Israeli Salad. For a true taste of the Middle East, try this spicy Summer Corn, Tomato, and Salmon Salad with Za’atar Dressing. With cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, and more, Rainbow Salad is light, flavorful, and colorful. Want something distinctive? Pomegranate molasses makes this Grilled Onion Salad with Sumac and Herbs different from all other summer salads.

Meaty and Meatless Main Dishes

By now you’ve fired up the grill, whipped up some Kosher BBQ Sauce, and you’re ready for the main event. 

While Australians throw shrimp on the barbie, Israelis sear shashlik, like marinated lamb skewers, on the mangal. Skewers are an Israel BBQ treat whether they’re made with vegetables, lamb, beef, or chicken. You can use dark chicken meat, like in this Israeli grilled Pargiot recipe or perhaps even a mixture of lamb and ground beef. If you like to play with your flavors a bit, try a sweet recipe like Honey Glazed Skewered Beef or savory Moroccan-Spiced Lamb.

Believe it or not, everything at a BBQ doesn’t have to be cooked on a stick. For this Grilled Moroccan Chicken recipe, for instance, you’ll grill the whole breast. These Spicy Middle Eastern Chicken Wings from food blogger Tori Avey are baked in the oven, not on a grill. 

Any Jewish party worth its salt could use a good brisket, and this robust and smoky Barbecued Brisket and Burnt Ends fits the bill, but only if you have the time to prepare it because it takes 10 long hours on the grill. If fish is your wish, you’re in luck with these pareve recipes: Barbecued Steelhead Trout and Cedar Plank Salmon.

Vegetarians and vegans will enjoy stuffing a pita with falafel or—better yet—with barbecued cauliflower and onion. Speaking of stuffing, you can’t go wrong with grilled Vegetarian Stuffed Bell Peppers, filled with Israeli couscous, parmesan, herbs, and veggies. At family barbecues, kids will love helping to decorate their own Barbecued Pizza with tomatoes and fresh herbs before tossing the whole pie on the grill.

Though it may be messy, Flame Roasted Eggplant is a Middle Eastern favorite that’s well worth the effort. For an old-school eggplant recipe, try smoking eggplant over a fire, peeling and then mashing into a puree—a method of cooking once popular amongst the Moors and Jews in Spain. 

Desserts and Drinks

Every great Israeli BBQ deserves a grand finale. Wrap yours up with refreshing desserts like Lazy Gal Berry Crisp, Vegan Molasses “Cookie” Date Balls, or Creamy Raspberry Jello Squares. Made with watermelon and coconut yogurt, Watermelon and Coconut Ice Lollies are the perfect way to beat the summer heat. And speaking of sweet summer treats, how about a sizzling Grilled Peach Sundae?

We have no doubt that your Israeli BBQ will be the summer event to remember, but to guarantee extra giggles be sure to whip up a huge batch of refreshing Manischewitz Sangria with tons of fresh fruit.

Your Recipes and Stories

Do you have an Israeli BBQ recipe or experience worth sharing? Send it our way.