“Understanding Syrian food requires a willingness to look hard, go deep,” says Anissa Helou, the London-based Syrian-Lebanese cookbook writer. Here, some essential ingredients to Syrian cooking.
The Best Syrian Food Unveiled

Aleppo Pepper

Named after the town of Aleppo, these small, red and mildly hot chiles are sun-dried and ground into a powder.


Bulgur Wheat

The fine grade is used in kibbe (Middle Eastern meatballs); the coarse grade is eaten on its own, or in stuffings for vegetables like zucchini.



This strained yogurt (often made from sheep’s or goat’s milk) makes a lovely dip mixed with fresh tarragon and chopped garlic.


This sesame-seed paste is used in hummus and the Syrian dressing taratour, which is eaten with vegetables like beets or Swiss chard.



A versatile spice blend. In addition to the dried thyme, sumac and sesame seeds in Jordanian and Lebanese za’atar, the Syrian version has ground roasted chickpeas, fennel seeds, coriander, cumin and black sunflower seeds.