The History And Influences Of Iraqi Cuisine

The history of Iraqi cuisine dates back millennia, and it is a rich tapestry of flavors, traditions, and history. Since Iraq is located at the intersection of several ancient trade routes, it has been influenced by several different cultures, which has resulted in a culinary heritage that is both diverse and delicious. In this article, we’ll investigate the captivating history of Iraqi cuisine as well as the various influences that have contributed to the development of the cuisine into what it is today.

Mesopotamian Roots

The history of Iraqi cuisine can be traced back to ancient Mesopotamia, often referred to as the “cradle of civilization.” This region, situated between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, is where agriculture was first developed, leading to the cultivation of key ingredients that continue to play a prominent role in Iraqi cooking.

Ancient Ingredients

One of the cornerstones of Iraqi cuisine, known for its rich heritage of Iraqi recipes, is wheat, which was grown abundantly in Mesopotamia. This led to the development of flatbreads like “khubz” and “sammoun,” which are still staples in Iraqi meals today. Additionally, barley and rice were widely cultivated and became essential components of many dishes.

Sumerian, Babylonian, And Assyrian Influences

Throughout its history, Iraq has been home to several great civilizations, including the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians. Each of these cultures left its mark on the culinary traditions of the region. For instance, the Sumerians are believed to have been the first to brew beer, a practice that continues to be a part of Iraqi culture.

Persian And Islamic Influences

The Persian Empire’s rule over Iraq in ancient times introduced Persian flavors and culinary techniques, including the use of saffron, dried fruits, and kebabs. The Islamic conquest in the 7th century brought new ingredients like spices and introduced the concept of communal dining, emphasizing the importance of hospitality and sharing meals.

Mongol Invasion And The Silk Road

The Mongol invasion in the 13th century had a profound impact on Iraq’s culinary landscape. During this time, trade along the Silk Road flourished, bringing exotic ingredients like spices, nuts, and dried fruits from distant lands. These ingredients were incorporated into Iraqi cuisine, enriching its flavor profile.

Ottoman Influence

Iraq was a part of the Ottoman Empire for centuries, which had a lasting impact on the local cuisine. The Ottomans introduced dishes like “dolma” (stuffed vegetables) and “maqluba” (an upside-down rice and meat dish). They also contributed to the use of yogurt-based sauces and various sweets made with nuts and honey.

Modern Influences

In the modern era, Iraq’s culinary traditions have continued to evolve. Globalization and the movement of people have brought new ingredients and cooking techniques to the country. The rise in popularity of dishes such as “shawarma” and “kebabs” and the introduction of tomato-based sauces are indicative of the influence of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines.

Signature Iraqi Dishes

  • Dolma: Stuffed vegetables, typically with rice and minced meat.
  • Kebabs: Grilled meat skewers seasoned with spices.
  • Tashreeb: A bread and meat dish cooked with broth.
  • Kubba: Deep-fried or baked dumplings stuffed with meat or vegetables.
  • Biryani: A fragrant rice dish with meat and spices.
  • Masgouf: Grilled fish marinated in tamarind sauce.
  • Baklava: A sweet pastry baked with layers of phyllo dough, honey, and nuts.

The Role Of Hospitality

Iraqi cuisine is characterized by its emphasis on hospitality, which is one of its defining characteristics. In Iraqi culture, the act of welcoming guests and sharing meals is considered to be of great significance. It is a source of pride for families to prepare elaborate feasts for guests, demonstrating their culinary expertise and their willingness to be generous.


Iraqi cuisine is a testament to the region’s rich history and the influence of various cultures over the centuries. From the ancient Mesopotamians to the Ottomans and beyond, each civilization has left its mark on the flavors and traditions that make Iraqi cuisine a unique and flavorful experience. As Iraq continues to evolve in the modern world, its culinary heritage remains a source of pride, offering a delicious glimpse into its past and present.