As a genuine culinary destination, Dubai is packed to the rafters with some of the biggest restauranteurs and most luxurious restaurants in the world; you can find everything in Dubai, from traditional French bistro fare to sumptuous Thai feasts to elevated Nikkei cuisine. However, the variety of cuisines on offer means that it’s all too easy for the traditional flavours of the area to be overlooked, despite the delicious Emirati food in Dubai.
Due to its fantastic geographical location, the UAE has been a major trading hub for centuries, attracting businesses and merchants from around the world. Now, having exploded in popularity in the latter 21st century, the UAE welcomes millions of tourists each year and is globally recognised as a melting pot. Traditional Emirati cuisine reflects this rich history, drawing on the flavours of many different cultures - Bedouin, Indian, Persian and Levantine, to name a few.
Here you'll find spices such as saffron, turmeric, cinnamon, thyme and cardamom used to season a range of ingredients, including camel and goat milks, dates, grains, and hearty meats. Lamb enjoys immense popularity here, as does fresh seafood sourced directly from the Arabian Gulf. Oven-baked flat breads and fluffy rice are also staple features in traditional Emirati dishes.
You’ll never run out of new things to try when it comes to Emirati cuisine. From the crisp, sweet Emirati pancakes to the richly spiced Machboos (an Emirati adaptation of Indian biryani) to the sweet fried Luqaimat (a doughnut-esque dumpling), there’s something for every palate at any time of the day. With such a range of options, it can be difficult to narrow down the best Emirati food in Dubai!
Don't get distracted by the flashy international restaurants and miss out on authentic local flavours. It’s time to celebrate traditional Emirati food and traditions - check out our list below for the top spots where you can eat like a local.
What: Prepare to be transported to Dubai in a time before glitzy skyscrapers and 5 star hotels. Here you'll find mouthwatering traditional Emirati dishes for all times of the day, such as Emirati pancakes, chicken or lamb machboos, and classic desserts featuring the traditional flavours of dates, saffron and cardamom. All of this is served in a delightfully rustic setting paying homage to older Emirati culture - think stone walls, wooden furnitues and lanterns.
Where: Ground Floor, Dubai Festival City Mall, Dubai Festival City
Book now: Al Fanar
What: Right in the heart of Dubai's historical quarter, you'll find the part-restaurant, part-museum Al Khayma, where you can expect to be greeted by welcoming staff in traditional Emirati robes. This elegant spot prioritises traditional Arabic styles of dining, specifically the focus on sharing plates and the social side of Middle Eastern culture. Don't be afraid to go all out when choosing your mezze - there's labneh, hummus, falafel, chicken liver, tabbouleh and more.
Where: Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, Al Fahidi
Book now: Al Khayma
What: Emirati food draws heavily on Levantine flavours, and there's no cooler place to find an Arabic feast than Zaroob. This hip chain boasts some seriously funky design features (bright murals and neon signs to name a couple) and serves street food, minus the street part. Their menu is constantly changing, but be sure to order the manakeesh flatbread topped with minced meat and pomegranate.
Where: Sheikh Zayed Road, Shope 1
Book now: Zaroob
What: Logma acts as a sea of calm in the constantly busy Dubai Mall. This relaxed cafe-style spot has some seriously beachy vibes, thanks to the palms gracing the room, while the balcony offers some great views over the Dubai Fountain. The main event here is the taco-style parathas with a plethora of fillings, but there's also plenty of other great Emirati staple flavours, such as saffron risotto, shakshuka and Arabic lentil soup.
Where: Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai
Book now: Logma
What: The range of dishes on offer at Siraj is an excellent reflection of the melting pot of Dubai itself. Its Emirati Levantine fare is influenced by a range of cultures, including Mediterranean, Yemeni, Persian and Indian. This restaurant is unashamedly proud to be Emirati, boasting walls adorned with Arabic calligraphy and the poetry of HH Sheikh Mohammed, as well as seven stone arches to celebrate the seven emirates of the UAE. With spectacular view of the Dubai Fountain and delicious food, what more could you want?
Where: Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai
Book now: Siraj Restaurant
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU)
What: Located in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, the SMCCU offers guests educational programs, trips to the desert, heritage tours and mosque trips to help them cultivate a deeper understanding of and appreciation for Emirati culture. There's also the opportunity to book cultural meals, laid out to share on cushioned floors, respecting the traditions and customs of the Bedouin meal.
Where: Al Musalla Road, Bur Dubai
Book now: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU)
What: Downtown Dubai newcomer Ana offers some Emirati classics with modern twists. Expect to find the likes of kibbeh roub (stuffed lamb meatballs with labneh, parsley pesto and pine nuts) and plenty of hearty lamb-based mains including Mbahar curries and freed (Arabic bread topped with lamb, potato, marrow and tomato sauce). Pair all this with fresh contemporary interiors and stunning views, and you've got a perfect spot, no matter what time of the day it is.
Where: Dubai Mall First Floor, Downtown Dubai
Book now: Ana Restaurant
What: Meaning 'one belonging to a great heritage and family', Aseelah offers a unique experience, with a refreshing blend of culture, heritage and hospitality. Dishes are seasoned with flavourful Emirati spices like saffron, ginger, thyme, cardamom and turmeric, and belly dancing performances offer a great opportunity to soak up some authentic local culture. Aseelah is located inside the iconic Radisson Blu Dubai Deira Creek hotel - you can't miss it.
Where: 2nd Floor, Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek, Deira
Book now: Aseelah
Arabian Tea House
What: Tea aficionados, listen up! Arabian Tea House offers a whopping 150 types of tea and drinks, including classic mint lemonade and a house blend of fruity and herby black tea. It's also a hotspot for authentic Emirati cuisine and Arabic coffee, all accompanied by a relaxed atmosphere. Check out their Tahta Laham (shredded lamb with Emirati spices, white rice, raisins and yogurt) for some delicious traditional flavours.
Where: Opposite Musalla Post Office, Bastakiya, Al Fahidi Street, Meena Bazaar
Book now: Arabian Tea House
What: The clue's in the name: Seven Sands is named after the seven emirates of the UAE and champions fresh, authentic Emirati cuisine. Located at The Beach opposite Jumeirah Beach Residence Hotels, the extravagant all-day menu unites the culinary history and traditions of each of the seven emirates. The must-try dish here is the Emirati pancake, flavoured with saffron, stuffed with sweet vermicelli and served with date syrup, honey and cheese.
Where: Shop #5102, The Walk, Dubai Marina
Book now: Seven Sands
Hungry for more? Check out our roundup of the best restaurants in Dubai, which spans all sorts of different cuisines, and price points, with recommended spots all over the city!