A spread of meze in Jordan

Meze or mezze (play /ˈmɛzɛ/) is a selection of small dishes served in the Mediterranean and Middle East as dinner or lunch, with or without drinks.[1] In Levantine cuisines and in the Caucasus region, meze is served at the beginning of all large-scale meals.[2]



The word is found in all the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire and comes from the Turkish meze 'taste, flavour, smack, relish', borrowed from Persian مزه (maze 'taste, snack' < mazīdan 'to taste').[3] The English word was probably borrowed from the Greek version mezés (μεζές). When not accompanied by alcohol, meze is known in the Arab world as muqabbilat.

Common dishes

A plate of assorted Turkish meze

Turkish meze often consist of beyaz peynir (literally "white cheese"), kavun (sliced ripe melon), acılı ezme (hot pepper paste often with walnuts), haydari (thick strained yoghurt like the Levantine labne), patlıcan salatası (cold aubergine salad), kalamar (calamari or squid), enginar (artichokes), cacık (yoghurt with cucumber and garlic), pilaki (various foods cooked in a special sauce), dolma or sarma (rice-stuffed vine leaves or other stuffed vegetables, such as bell peppers), and köfte (meatballs).

In Greece and Cyprus, mezé, mezés, or mezédhes (plural) are small dishes, hot or cold, spicy or savory. Seafood dishes such as grilled octopus may be included, along with various salads, sliced hard-boiled eggs, garlic-bread, kalamata olives, fava beans, fried vegetables, melitzanosalata (eggplant salad), taramosalata, fried or grilled cheeses called saganaki, and various fresh Greek sheep, goat or cow cheeses (feta, kasseri, kefalotyri, graviera, anthotyros, manouri, metsovone and mizithra). Other offerings are fried sausages, usually pork and often flavored with orange peel, bekrí-mezé (the "drunkard's mezé", a diced pork stew), and meatballs like keftédes and soutzoukákia smyrnéika.

Simple Greek meze: cheese and olives (feta cheese drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with oregano, served with kalamata olives and bread)

Popular meze dishes in Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Syria include:

  • Mutabbal/Babaghanoush – eggplant (aubergine) mashed and mixed with various seasonings.
  • Hummus – a dip or spread made from cooked, mashed chickpeas
  • Hummus with meat (hummus bi'l-lahm)
  • Tashi - Dip made from tahini, garlic, salt and lemon juice with chopped parsley garnish.
  • Kibbeh (İçli Köfte in Turkey) – dishes made of burghul, chopped meat, and spices
  • Kibbe Nayye – burghul, chopped lamb meat, and spices
  • Spicy lamb and beef sausages (naqaniq/maqaniq/laqaniq and sujuk)
  • Halloumi cheese, usually sliced and grilled or fried.
  • Whole roasted young birds
  • Souvlakia - Bite sized pork cubes, grilled on a skewer over charcoal.
  • Stifado - Slow cooked beef stew with lots of onions, garlic, tomatoes, cinamon, pepper and vinegar.
  • Afelia - Diced pork marinaited in wine with coriander seed, then stewed.
  • Lountza - Smoked pork loin slice, usually grilled.
  • Dolmades (also known as Koubebkia) - Vine leaves, stuffed with rice, chopped mint, lemon juice, pepper, minced lamb and fried onion.
  • Yoghurt (Mast-o-Khiar in Iran)
  • Tzatziki - Dip made from plain yoghurt, chopped cucumber with finely chopped garlic and mint leaf.
  • Labneh – strained youghurt
  • Shanklish – cow's milk or sheep's milk cheeses
  • Muhammara – a hot pepper dip with ground walnuts, breadcrumbs, garlic, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil
  • Pastirma – seasoned, air-dried cured beef meat
  • Tabbouleh – bulgur, finely chopped parsley, mint, tomato, scallion, with lemon juice, olive oil and various seasonings
  • Fattoush (Fatuş in southern Turkey) – salad made from several garden vegetables and toasted or fried pieces of pita bread
  • Rocket salad (salatat jarjir)
  • Artichoke salad
  • Olives
  • Shepherd salad - Tomato, cucumber, pepper, parsley and depending on the season onion or scallion (Turkish)
  • Kısır - Bulgur rice, tomatoes, scallions, parsley, olive oil, red pepper paste (Turkish)

In Lebanon and Cyprus, meze is often a meal in its own right. There are vegetarian, meat or fish mezes. Groups of dishes arrive at the table about 4 or 5 at a time (usually between five and ten different groups). There is a set pattern to the dishes, typically olives, tahini, salad and yoghurt will be followed by dishes with vegetables and eggs, then small meat or fish dishes alongside special accompaniments, and finally more substantial dishes such as whole fish or meat stews and grills. Different establishments will offer different dishes, their own specialities, but the pattern remains the same. Naturally the dishes served will reflect the seasons, for example in late autumn, snails will be prominent. As so much food is offered, it is not expected that every dish be finished, but rather shared at will and served at ease. Eating a Cypriot meze is a social event.

In Serbia, meze can include cheese, kajmak (clotted cream), salami, smoked ham, kulen (flavoured sausage), various bread types, while in Bosnia and Herzegovina, meze normally includes hard and creamy cheeses, smetana sour cream, (locally known as kajmak or pavlaka), suho meso (dried salted, smoked beef), pickles and sudžuk (dry, spicy sausage).

Albanian-style meze platters typically include prosciutto ham, salami and brined cheese, accompanied with roasted bell peppers (Capsicum) and/or green olives marinated in olive oil with garlic.

In Bulgaria, popular mezes are lukanka, a spicy sausage, soujouk, a dry and spicy sausage, sirene a white brine cheese, and Shopska salad, made with tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, roasted peppers and sirene.

In Romania, mezelic means quick appetizer and include Zacuscă, different type of cheese and salami, often accompanied by Țuică.

Alcoholic accompaniment

In Turkey meze is served with rakı, an anise-flavored apéritif. In Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, arak liquor is served. Cyprus Brandy (served neat, over ice) is a favourite drink to accompany meze in Cyprus although lager or wine are also popular with some.

Serving traditions

In Bulgaria, meze is served primarily at consumption of wine, but also as an appetizer for rakia and mastika. In Greece, meze is served in restaurants called mezedopoleíon and tsipourádiko or ouzerí, a type of café that serves ouzo or tsipouro. A tavérna (tavern) or estiatório (restaurant) also offer a mezé as an orektikó (appetiser). Many restaurants offer their house poikilía ("variety"), a platter with a smorgasbord of various mezedhes that can be served immediately to customers looking for a quick and/or light meal. Hosts commonly serve mezédhes to their guests at informal or impromptu get-togethers, as they are easy to prepare on short notice. Krasomezédhes (literally "wine-meze") is a meze that goes well with wine; ouzomezédhes are meze that goes with ouzo.

See also


  1. ^ Turkish cuisine
  2. ^ Alan Davidson, The Oxford Companion to Food, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 500-501
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, online version, June 2011


  • Wright, Clifford A. (2001). Mediterranean vegetables: a cook's ABC of vegetables and their preparation in Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, and north Africa with more than 200 authentic recipes for the home cook (Illustrated ed.). Harvard Common Press. ISBN 1558321969, 9781558321960. 

External links

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