The Country Food Similarity Index is a statistically-based attempt to quantify how similar the food in one country is relative to another. By comparing the weight of raw food ingredients used in each country, a score is assigned that reflects the degree of similarity between the respective countries. The methodology is exactly the same for each country studied.
The Most Similar Cuisines to Saudi Food
The cuisine of Saudi Arabia has been influenced by countries throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and the Indian subcontinent. All five of the countries with the most similar food to Saudi Arabia are also Arabic-speaking countries that are mostly Muslim. In addition, the majority of the land in these countries is barren desert. Four of the five are located completely within the Asian continent.
- Kuwait is another oil-rich country that borders the Persian Gulf. Like in Saudi Arabia, the staple foods in Kuwait are unleavened bread and long-grain rice. Both countries eat spiced rice dishes with chicken meat. In addition, the date is the most popular fruit in both nations. However, Saudi cuisine tends to be milder in terms of spice levels.
- Bahrain is a small island off the coast of Saudi Arabia. Due to their shared cultural and historical ties, their food is very similar since they both have spiced rice dishes and grilled meats. Chicken is by far the most consumed meat in both countries, although Bahrain tends to eat more lamb meat. Another difference is that Bahraini food has a wider range of herbs and spices than Saudi food.
- Oman is on Saudi Arabia’s southern border. These countries are sparsely populated, since the Arabian Desert is in both countries. Omani and Saudi cuisine both feature several of the same dishes such as haneeth, harees, and kabsa. Moreover, both countries love to eat dates. However, seafood is a much bigger part of the Omani diet and chicken is less popular than in Saudi Arabia.
- Qatar is another country that borders Saudi Arabia. However, its demographics have significantly changed, since most people living there now are immigrants from South Asia. Still, their cuisines are not that different. Both countries eat a lot of bread, rice, and chicken meat. However, dates are not nearly as popular in Qatar.
- Egypt is mostly in Africa, but its food is still somewhat similar to Saudi Arabia’s. One of the most popular Egyptian dishes is koshari, a dish made with rice, lentils, chickpeas, and pasta, similar to Saudi Arabian majboos. One difference is that wheat and corn based foods are more popular in Egypt than in Saudi Arabia. They both commonly eat fish, but Egypt tends to eat less chicken.
The Least Similar Cuisines to Saudi Food
The countries with the least similar food to Saudi Arabia are all located in Africa, despite their relative proximity. Four of the five are landlocked. In addition, these countries tend to have wetter, more tropical climates. This affects what kinds of crops are typically grown in these countries. Moreover, these countries are much less wealthy than Saudi Arabia.
- Central African Republic is a former French colony in the middle of Africa. The majority of the country’s diet is based on cassava and yams. Bananas and plantains are also an extremely common source of food in the country. In addition, relatively little chicken is consumed in Central African Republic. Beef is a more commonly eaten meat there.
- Democratic Republic of Congo is another country in the middle of Africa. Cassava is the dominant staple food in the country. The most commonly eaten meat in Congo is freshwater fish, whereas chicken and eggs are more popular proteins in Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, in contrast to Saudi Arabia, their diet has little meat in it.
- South Sudan borders both Congo and the Central African Republic. It is another country where cassava is the staple food. However, unlike the other two countries, sorghum is a large part of their diet as well. Porridge is one of the most popular dishes in the country. Relatively little chicken meat is consumed there compared to Saudi Arabia. In fact, beef is a more commonly eaten.
- Burundi is yet another country in the tropical regions of Africa on this list. Its diet is in large part based on cassava, sweet potatoes, plantains, and bananas. Very little rice and wheat is eaten in Burundi as well. Moreover, an extremely small amount of meat is consumed there. As a result, its cuisine is far different from Saudi Arabia’s.
- Chad is mostly Muslim and one of its official languages is Arabic. Interestingly enough, despite these similarities, its cuisine is still far different from Saudi Arabia’s. Sorghum and millet are the two most commonly consumed grains in the country. One popular dish in Chad is saka-saka, a mix of spinach and cassava leaves.
Saudi Arabia’s Most Common Food Ingredients
Protein: Chicken, Egg
Fruit: Date, Watermelon
Vegetable: Tomato, Onion
Starch: Wheat, Rice
Primarily based on 2020 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.