A serving of joojeh kebab on a gray plate with sauce.

Looking for some delicious Middle Eastern-inspired recipes that are low in carbs? Welcome, friend!

As someone with Persian roots, I grew up surrounded by the flavors of saffron, sumac, turmeric, and cardamom. However, as much as I love traditional Persian food, it can often be high in carbs due to the use of rice and bread, which are certainly delicious, btw 🙂. 

That’s why I’ve compiled a list of 7 low carb Middle Eastern recipes that will satisfy your cravings without breaking your health goals, whether that’s staying in ketosis, losing weight, or simply eating healthier.

A serving of joojeh kebab on a gray plate with sauce.

Why Middle Eastern Cuisine

Middle Eastern cuisine is not only flavorful but also packed with nutrients. Unlike Western diets that are heavy on processed foods and unhealthy fats, Middle Eastern meals generally feature lean proteins, fresh vegetables, nuts, and lots of herbs and spices.

But if you ask me, the key differentiator of Middle Eastern cuisine is the reliance on spices and herbs such as sumac, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, za’atar, and more. These spices not only add flavor but also have enormous health benefits. 

There are many countries that make up the Middle East, and each has its own unique cuisine. Even so, one thing they all have in common is a focus on using fresh, whole ingredients and traditional cooking methods such as grilling, roasting, and slow cooking. This results in nutrient-dense and protein-rich dishes that are perfect for those following a low-carb diet. 

So yes, good news! You can enjoy all the Middle Eastern flavors you love without compromising your health goals. And you can access all of my favorite low-carb, healthy recipes right here. From main dishes to sides and sauces, I’ve got you covered.

Kofta wrap on a striped plate over a cutting board.

Principles of the Middle Eastern Diet

Before we jump into all these good recipes, let’s talk about the core principles that go into making Middle Eastern cuisine so healthy and delicious. 

This way, you can better understand what ingredients are used, so when you make these dishes at home, you can easily make your own low-carb versions at home.

  • Plenty of fresh vegetables: Fresh vegetables such as eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers, and various leafy greens are staples in Middle Eastern diets. These veggies not only provide essential nutrients but also add texture and flavor to dishes.
  • Lean proteins: Traditional Middle Eastern dishes often include lean proteins such as chicken, fish, lamb, and beans. These proteins are prominent and help keep your body full and energized throughout the day.
  • Healthy fats: Healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and seeds are used in abundance in Middle Eastern cuisine. These fats provide important vitamins and minerals and also keep you satiated.
  • Complex carbohydrates: While Middle Easterners love their rice and bread, they also incorporate complex carbohydrates like lentils and chickpeas into their meals. These carbs provide a steady source of energy with a lesser chance of spiking blood sugar levels as drastically as simple carbs. Of course, you can omit this element or replace it with various low-carb options, and fun fact: lupini beans are a staple low carb snack. I loved it so much that I created my Kaizen pasta!
  • Herbs and spices galore: As mentioned earlier, Middle Eastern cuisine is known for its use of various herbs and spices. These not only add flavor but are also a great way to add a boost of nutrition to your meals.
A serving of Labneh salad in a bowl with toppings.

Top 7 Middle Eastern Recipes for a Low Carb Diet

From main dishes and sides to meal prep and sauces, there’s no shortage of delicious low-carb Middle Eastern-inspired recipes to choose from. Here are some of my all-time favorites that use simple ingredients, are keto-friendly, and most importantly, taste incredible. 

1. Halal Cart Chicken and Rice Bowls

A serving of halal cart chicken with sauce and toppings.

These Halal Cart Chicken and Rice Bowls taste like they’re straight out of a food cart, but without all the carbs! Chicken thighs are marinated in Middle Eastern spices and served over a bed of my Kaizen low-carb rice and topped with pickled red onions and a delicious white sauce. Make it for meal prep, or serve it as an easy dinner for the family. Trust me, you won’t even miss the traditional rice in this tasty bowl meal!

2. Cauliflower Tabbouleh

Cauliflower tabbouleh in a bowl with wooden spoons.

A low-carb riff on the iconic Lebanese salad, this Cauliflower Tabbouleh is the ultimate side dish for any BBQ or picnic. It’s packed with fresh herbs, tomatoes, and cucumbers, making every bite a flavor party. Riced cauliflower is used as a replacement for grains, soaking up all the delicious flavors from the dressing. Serve it alongside grilled meats for a full meal, or enjoy it as a light lunch.

3. Mutabal Recipe (Middle Eastern Eggplant Dip)

Mutabal is a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s a dip made with roasted eggplant, lemon juice, tahini, and garlic. This Mutabal recipe doesn’t require an outdoor grill, so you can get that nice smoky flavor without all the hassle. The texture comes out super smooth and has a delightful, smoky, nutty flavor. Serve it up with some fresh veggies, low carb pita bread, or crackers for a healthy and effortless appetizer. 

4. Joojeh Kabab (Persian Chicken Kabab Recipe)

A serving of joojeh kebab on a gray plate with sauce.

This Joojeh Kabab recipe brings me back to my childhood with its flavorful and tender chicken pieces. Marinated in a blend of saffron, lemon juice, and Greek yogurt, the taste is perfectly balanced with a sprinkling of sumac for an extra burst of flavor. Enjoy this classic Persian dish with a side of Persian rice, grilled vegetables, or my Kaizen low-carb rice for an epic dinner experience.

5. Air Fryer Acorn Squash with a Middle Eastern twist

Air fryer acorn squash on a patterned plate with sauce.

Tender on the inside and crispy on the outside, this Air Fryer Acorn Squash is a must-try low-carb side dish. The squash is seasoned with Aleppo pepper and za’atar, giving it a delicious Middle Eastern twist. Dip ’em in some creamy garlic sauce to elevate the flavors even more. It’s one of those trusty air fryer recipes that is as easy to make as it is to love.

6. Mast o Khiar (Persian Yogurt Dip)

Mast o khiar in an orange bowl with a spoon and toppings.

This Mast o Khiar recipe was inspired by my mom’s unbeatable version but with a few extra touches. Persian cucumbers are strained and combined with plain Greek yogurt, garlic, lemon juice, dill, and mint for a fresh and healthy dip packed with flavor.

I like to add in some extra olive oil, crunchy walnuts, and sumac for a little extra texture and taste. Serve it with your favorite protein (lamb cutlets would be fire!), or just grab a spoon and enjoy it straight up. 

7. Whole Roasted Cauliflower (Middle Eastern)

A serving of whole roasted cauliflower on a plate.

You haven’t had cauliflower until you’ve tried this Whole Roasted Cauliflower recipe with a Middle Eastern twist.

A large head of cauliflower is roasted in spices like paprika, garlic powder, and cumin, then doused in a zesty sauce that’ll have you licking your plate clean. Fresh herbs, lemon juice, and crunchy pistachios add the perfect finishing touches. It’s visually stunning, incredibly tasty, and perfect for any keto, vegetarian, or gluten-free diet.

FAQ

Is Middle Eastern cuisine generally low in carbohydrates?

Yes, many traditional Middle Eastern dishes are naturally low in carbohydrates due to their emphasis on lean proteins, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. However, if you’re on a strict low-carb diet, it’s essential to be mindful of the amounts and ratios of certain vegetables and grains used in specific dishes.

Are there any Middle Eastern ingredients to be cautious of on a low-carb diet?

Some traditional Middle Eastern ingredients, such as pita bread, couscous, rice, and high-sugar fruits like dates, can be high in carbohydrates. It’s important to moderate these ingredients or replace them with low-carb alternatives when following a strict low-carb diet. But lets face it, these aren’t horrible foods, just higher in carbs. If you can enjoy them in your own diet, go ahead!

Are these recipes considered to be authentic Middle Eastern meals?

While these low carb Middle Eastern recipes may not be considered 100% authentic, they do incorporate traditional Middle Eastern flavors and ingredients in a way that is both satisfying and healthy. Feel free to adjust them according to your own taste preferences or dietary needs!

Homemade gyro bowl recipe in a bowl with sauce and toppings.

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