Riyadh can be one fancy schmancy dining scene— but what we love about it is that it can go on the exact opposite direction! We are a city that can serve up some good hearty meals and snacking options on the cheap.
Next time you’re on a budget, here’s some awesome eats for ten Riyals or less:
Felafel (1-3 SR)
Falafel is one of the most popular Middle Eastern snacks. Each patty is made from fava beans, shaped and deep-fried to golden perfection. They’re either wrapped in a pita with some veggies and drizzled with tahini as a sandwich for 6 SR or bought on its own at 1-3 riyals for about five pieces. This will keep you full for hours.
Foul and Tamees (2 SR for the foul, 1 SR for the tamees)
Traditionally for breakfast or dinner, foul is definitely as filling and cheap as it gets.
Although its preparation varies from region to region, whether wholly soaked in lemon and garlic, or mashed with tomatoes, onions and spices, one thing about this fava bean dish remains the same– it is the food of the people. Foul does all enjoy a budget friendly food.
Kebdah Sandwich (3 – 6 SR)
Also for beef lovers who are on a budget, we recommend a kebdah sandwich. Kebdah is tender beef liver seasoned and served on a fresh bakery roll that’s available at most local fast food joints. So while cruising in the car feeling hungry we suggest you stop and try one of Riyadh’s favorite sandwiches.
Masoub (5 – 8 SR) – Mo
Masoub is a Saudi traditional food from the Hijaz region that most people usually eat for breakfast. It’s a sweet dish made with bananas, honey and sugar. This dish will leave you feeling full and it’s easy on the wallet. Masoub can be found in most foul and tamees places.
Manageesh (4 – 6 SR)
This is a lovely Lebanese tradition made out of bread that comes in different toppings like zaatar spice mix, cheese or labneh. It can be eaten any time of the day or night. You can easily find it in most bakeries.
Motabag (4 – 6 SR)
For a more traditionally Saudi and very tasty meal, we recommend Motabag. It’s dough filled with different ingredients like cheese, beef, bananas or even veggies. It comes in small square pieces and can be found all over the city at any foul and tamees joints and most of our local fast food places.
Shawarma (4 SR)
Gone are the days when you used to find 2 SR shawarmas on the street but okay, 4 SR as an average isn’t so bad. This is a weekly staple for some and simply the quickest fix for a hungry Riyadhi any time of the day. While we’ve seen a lot of mutations but nothing beats the good ol’ classic chicken, pickles and fries with a wallop of garlic sauce.
DR Tip: Our favorite shawarmas are from Mama Noura, Luluoa, bayt shawarma. They also have jumbo size ones at 7 SR a pop, match that with the 3 SR juice and you’ll be satisfied.
A Box of Hummus and Bread (8 SR)
Hummus is awesome and while this chickpeas concoction blended with tahini, olive oil and lemon juice is originally intended to be a dip or appetizer, it has evolved to be a dish on its own for a lot of folks. All you really need is some bread and you’re good to go. Oh and it has a lot of health benefits especially for those who are watching their weight.
DR Tip: The House of Hummus lives up to its name by being a home to any kind of Hummus you’re looking for in the city. Another, less healthy but irresistible option is the buttered hummus at Assaraya topped with pine nuts. It’s sinfully good.
Hamburgini’s Hamburger (9 SR)
We first met Hamburgini during the burger wars last year and it emerged victorious as the Burger to beat. It’s tasty, it’s filling and it’s the stuff of cravings. Its long lines resemble the queues for the release of the iPhone, only this one happens everyday and worth it for 9 riyals of instant tummy gratification.
Siopao and Empanada (3 SR)
If you want heavy snacks and are within the Batha area or little Manila, you should grab some Chinese Siopao and Spanish Empanada from a local Filipino bakeshop. Actually, everything you’ll find in one of these Asian bakeries is almost always below 10 SR and they are filling. Siopao is made chicken meat and egg inside a white soft bun and an Empanada is a pastry with meat and veggie fillings.
DR Tip: The Blue Ribbon near the Military hospital is a favorite among locals.
Cheap Eats for Groups
Mathbi – Roast Chicken and Rice (25 SR, good for 3 persons)
A favorite among locals wanting to have a cheap by hefty lunch, this group option would total 25 SR but is good for 3 people. So you really only end up spending 8 SR per person. The gracious serving is made of Roast Chicken with rice and you can pair it with Laban. Some of our sources insist that we try dipping the chicken in honey; sounds like an odd combination but it may just surprise you (in a good way).
DR TIP: Can be found in just about any local food joint, although the local go to place would be Romansiah and Al Sharaya Restaurant.
Bukhari Chicken (18 SR, good for 2-3 persons)
What list of cheap food in Riyadh can be complete without the bukhari? At 18 SR, getting a tray of rice and a half a chicken is indeed a bargain. This is a meal meant to be shared; we have witnessed people getting in a food coma for attempting to consume this on their own.
DR TIP: When it comes to Bukhari or any local rice dish, we really don’t care about cutlery and quite frankly, there’s something about eating this traditionally with your hands that make the dish more delish. So please, for your own sake, don’t be a pansy.