The cuisine of the Sephardi Jews is an assortment of cooking traditions that developed among the Sephardi Jews – the Jews of Spain and Portugal, and those of this Iberian origin who were dispersed in the Sephardic Diaspora, and ultimately became the Eastern Sephardim and North African Sephardim as they settled throughout the Mediterranean in places such as Turkey, Greece, the Balkans, as well as the Arab countries of West Asia and North Africa.Cuisine of the Sephardi Jews also includes the cuisine of those who became the Western Sephardim who settled in Holland, England, and from these places elsewhere.Although Mizrahi Jews, being the pre-existing Jews of the Greater Middle East (who are of non-Spanish and non-Portuguese origins), are sometimes called Sephardim in a broader sense due to their style of liturgy, and although there is some overlap in populations due to the Sephardic Diaspora, the Sephardic Jews also settled in many other countries outside the Greater Middle East as well.
While the pre-existing Jews of the countries in which they settled (in the Greater Middle East, for example, are called "Mizrahim") are distinct, the term Sephardi as used in "Sephardi cuisine" would refer only to the culinary traditions of those Jews with ancestral origins to the Jews of Spain and Portugal.
Both the Jews of the Iberian Peninsula and the pre-existing Jews of Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Bulgaria, Turkey, Syria, Egypt, Italy, and Greece into whose communities they settled adapted local dishes to the constraints of the kosher kitchen.
Since the establishment of a Jewish state and the convergence of Jews from all the globe in Israel, these local cuisines, with all their differences, have come to represent the collection of culinary traditions broadly known as "Sephardi cuisine." Sephardi cuisine emphasizes salads, stuffed vegetables and vine leaves, olive oil, lentils, fresh and dried fruits, herbs and nuts, and chickpeas. Fresh lemon juice is added to many soups and sauces.
Many meat and rice dishes incorporate dried fruits such as apricots, prunes and raisins. In the early days, Sephardic cuisine was influenced by the local cuisines of Spain and Portugal, both under Catholic and Islamic regimes.
A particular affinity to exotic foods from outside of Spain became apparent under Muslim rule, as evidenced even today with ingredients brought in by the Muslims. Chopped fresh cilantro and parsley are popular garnishes.