From sprawling supermarkets and hole-in-the-wall baqalas, to online platforms for every conceivable cooking and cleaning item and a plethora of specialty foodstuffs, the UAE is replete with shops to cater to all your grocery needs.
THE BIG FIVE
These super / hypermarkets can all fulfil the whole gamut of your grocery needs – from breads, cheeses, eggs and oils, to crisps, confectionery, meat, seafood, fruit and veg, plus cooking equipment and cleaning potions. Each has multiple branches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Dubai got its first Spinneys in 1961 – at the time the only retailer to sell frozen chicken from a chiller van. Since then the, the chain has mushroomed across the Emirates and become known for its top-quality produce – from fresh fruit and veg, to grain-fed beef to hormone-free poultry and eggs. Most branches in Abu Dhabi and Dubai also serve fresh deli items and dips daily – from hummus to garlic toum – and some have a separate pork section. Online delivery is available here.
The supermarket chain added to its comprehensive roster by taking over all Geant stores in 2017, and has a wide range of local and international produce, plus the My Club cashback loyalty card. Online delivery is available here.
For fresh fruit and vegetables, Lulu Hypermarket is hard to beat. Look out for myriad varieties of mango and less obvious fruit, such as physalis (cape gooseberry), chickoo (sapodilla) and custard apples. The hypermarket is also known for its Indian, Pakistani and Australian meat cuts.
The opening of a Waitrose store at The Dubai Mall more than 10 years ago – followed by multiple branches in the emirate, and in the capital in 2012 – gives homesick Britons a direct-access point for a range of familiar if slightly pricier foodstuffs. From reduced-sugar, high-fruit marmalade to Scottish chocolate shortbread and all-butter onion and chive twists, there are hundreds of Waitrose-brand products available, plus a large fruit and vegetable section and even pots, pans and baking tins by John Lewis – in fact, everything you need to knock up a quintessential apple tart.
Union Co-operative Society
Cheap and cheerful, is how we'd describe this co-operative – which is not to say it does not stock a plethora of fresh produce, notably dozens of varieties of apples and mangoes. It also always has a deal, often on toilet paper and diapers. "Seeing shoppers fill up three trolleys on average is common here," notes Dubai mum-of-two Zeba Syed. See here for online shopping.
A sixth franchise worth mentioning, with a presence in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, is Choithrams, which does a mean Indian mutton among other products and brands from the Indian subcontinent, alongside usual hypermarket fare.
In addition to the sprawling supermarkets listed above, the UAE is home to many smaller operations, from Carrefour Express and Lulu Express, to Zoom, West Zone, Al Maya and the ubiquitous Baqala in Abu Dhabi. These are peppered across both cities and part of many residential communities, and great for when you run out of basics.
From the Landmark group comes Viva, which promises "fresher and cheaper" fare, and monthly savings of 25 per cent to 40 per cent on its groceries, with 16 branches across Dubai and Sharjah.
The newest of the lot is Dutch supermarket chain Spar, which opened in Dubai in 2019 (to join its Abu Dhabi branches), bringing with it a fresh bakery, butchers and fish counter.
The stores also features a roastery, Food-to-Go, delicatessen, imported and local fresh meats, Arabic snacks and sweets, and healthy organic products.
The fruit and vegetable supplier launched its online platform, NRTC Fresh, in December 2018, guaranteeing same-day delivery. On offer are fruits ranging from the berry, citrus, stone and tropical families, while veggies are categorised under roots, leafy, herbs and regular. Shoppers can also opt to get theirs pre-cut.
In addition to shopping every conceivable fruit and vegetable, Kibsons also enables you to track its origins. You can also shop for meat, chicken and fish, which arrived portioned and frozen in plastic containers, plus raw nuts, healthy drinks and dairy options.
Dubai company Fruitful Day offers a subscription service, where you can sign up for a scheduled fruit delivery that can be cancelled or postponed at any time. The Trial box, which costs Dh120, contains 15 to 20 varieties of fruits, which provides 25 servings. The mangoes, pineapples and melons arrive cut up, the pomegranate shucked and blueberries and cherries washed and ready to eat.
The Fruit Box ME
Available across the Emirates, The Fruit Box ME offers office boxes staring from Dh95 per week (for six kilogram / 40 servings), plus medium and large boxes. Options include apples, bananas, pears, plums, peaches, nectarines, grapes, mandarins, clementines, kiwis, oranges, lychees, rambutans and loganberries.
Fishbox flies in fresh seafood – from lemon sole fillets to hamachi – from the the UK, Maldives, Turkey and Japan among others. Choose from whole, portioned or filleted fish, which will arrive fresh in vacuum sealed bags.
Another good platform for a variety of seafood, Arabind allows you to specify how you'd like the fish (and meat or chicken) cut or cleaned, so it arrives ready for cooking. There's even an option to order meats skewered and marinated, ready for a barbecue.
If organic is what you're after, the subscription-based FarmBox is a good choice for fruit, vegetables, eggs and baby food. The products are either locally produced or sourced from Europe.
Take a little bit of time to set up your account and your shopping preferences on BulkWhiz, and you’ll never have to do it again. The items will arrive every two weeks and include everything from, household cleaners, laundry detergents and diapers, to food, baking supplies and beauty products.
A French food lover's dream, Maison Duffour offers plump escargot gleaming with parsley butter, confit duck, puff pastry made the traditional way, and some of the finest mushrooms around (think cepes, morels and chanterelles). If you're a cheese fiend, sample the one-kilogram Cheese Selection box.
My Quality and Convenience
Fresh organic vegetable packages, aside My Q and C’s selling point is its pastas and Italian sauces (the Mutti tomato sauce is a keeper).
BBQ Box is the UAE’s first delivery service for organic beef patties, plus everything you need for a bona fide burger feast. The raw burgers are packed into reusable and fully insulated cooler bags alongside accompaniments such as fluffy potato buns, cheddar cheese, pickles, onions, lettuce, tomatoes and an array of condiments (the Messy Sauce is our go-to). The boxes come in three sizes with six, 12 and 18 burgers.
A digital Aladdin's cave of high-end fresh produce, luxury groceries and pantry items, Les Gastronomes offers French chocolate, cold cuts, cheeses, and artisan olive oils, vinegars and mustards. There is the option to order ready-to-cook beef Wellington, salmon en croute, and fresh wild seabass, Dover sole, turbot and John Dory. The Butcher's section boasts marbled cote de boeuf, bone-in tomahawk steak, Wagyu and Black Angus tenderloin, striploin, and rib-eye and hanger steaks. Other meat go-tos include Butchershop and Carni Store.
If it's organic milk you're after, look to homegrown brand Koita; its long-life milk features no toxic pesticides, artificial hormones or antibiotics, and has added halal-certified vitamin A and D3.
Fish and meat markets
In Abu Dhabi, head to Mina Market, which is a great spot to buy and cook fresh fish, shellfish and other seafood.
The Market at Mushrif Mall is another option, for seafood, meat, veggies and dates.
In Dubai, the newly refurbished and air-conditioned Waterfront Market in Deira has long been a go-to for all things seafood. It also has sections for meat, poultry, fruit and veg, spices and dates.
Fruit and veg
In addition to the freshest of local and organic fruit and veg, the private Emirates Bio Farm, in Al Ain also provides a chance to learn how the produce is grown; website
On the outskirts of Dubai, the Fruit and Vegetable Market in Ras Al Khor offers a wide variety of fresh, tasty and affordable fruit, veg and herbs, plus organic items, from all over the world – everything from locally sourced eggplants to Thai sweet basil. Viatnamese Foodies chef and owner Lily Hoa Nguyen says: "If you've not been there before, it's worth buying in bulk to get the best price. You could even consider going with friends and splitting the shopping."
Whether you’re craving a taste of home or want to sample a different cuisine, the UAE has options aplenty.
British: Good old Marks & Spencer continues to dispense its trusted fare in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai – and offers Digestive biscuits, Fair-Trade tea and coffee, the popular Colin the Caterpillar cake, handy ready meals and a comprehensive gluten-free range, to name but a few favourites. The store recently introduced Plant Kitchen, its vegan-friendly line of burgers, sausages, pizzas and meat-free nuggets, plus falafel and dahl.
Details: Multiple branches across Abu Dhabi and Dubai
South African: Hyperama stocks distinctly South African snacks and products, including Ricoffy, Steri Stumpie, Jelly Tots, Nuttikrust, Ilovo syrup, Mr Sweet peanut snack, Robertsons salt and vinegar seasoning, Jolly Jammers, Ghost Pops, Nik Naks, Flings and Cross & Blackwell tangy mayonnaise. It also has a butchery section featuring polony and kolbasa sausages, plus other hard-to-find products such as Woolworths Prawn Cocktail snacks, Pecks Anchovette fish paste, Beacon fizz pops, Marina braai salt, Sparletta fizzy drinks and Lucky Star pilchards. The shop offers an online delivery service.
Details: Hyperama, Al Quoz, Dubai; 058 108 8786; hyperama.ae
Japanese and Korean: 1004 Gourmet is the one-stop shop in Dubai for Asian treats. It stocks a wide selection of instant noodles, Japanese seaweeds, dried seafood, soy bean pastes and plenty of hot sauces, including the original Sriracha and Golden Curry sauce. It also sells high-quality meats (think marinated Korean beef), fish, milk, fruits and vegetables. It also stocks a substantial range of Korean beauty products in its cosmetics section.
Details: 1004 Gourmet, The Greens, Dubai; 04 394 3973; 1004gourmet.com
Chinese: Wenzhou Supermarket is so authentically Chinese that even its Dubai website and Facebook page are in Mandarin. Chef Tomas Reger is a fan, though, and says it's "great for quirky Chinese items – I've found everything from durian to celtuce [Chinese stem lettuce], as well as all types of mushrooms, live seafood, black chickens and pigeons".
Details: Wenzhou Supermarket, China Cluster, International City (Dragon Mart), 04 450 8750
Indian: Al Adil opened in Dubai in 1984 and in Abu Dhabi in the 2000s to serve the growing demand for South Asian products. Here you can pick up anything from urad dal and short-grain surti kolam rice, to Priya pickles, Ganesh papad, Patanjali products and all manner of Indian spices.
Details: Multiple branches across Abu Dhabi and Dubai; adilstore.com
Lebanese: Tucked away in the backstreets of Abu Dhabi's Khalidiya, the unassuming Lebanon Flower offers up everything from simple flatbread, and baked za'atar and cheese manakish, to a selection of sweets, from baklava with pistachio and honey syrup, to kanafa with cheese, syrup and nuts. In Dubai, Al Reef Lebanese Bakery boasts some of the best bread in the emirate, as well as kibbe (teardrops of deep-fried lamb and bulgar wheat) and waraq enab (stuffed vine leaves).
Japanese: Deans Fujiya in Dubai has a wide variety of comestibles, and kitchen and tableware. The former includes Marukome green onion miso soup, Hikari yuzu-flavoured miso crackers made with authentic mochigome glutinous rice, Shirakiku tempura batter mix, wakame seaweed to add to soup or ramen.
Details: Deans Fujiya Supermarket, Oud Metha Road, Dubai; 04 337 0503; deanstrading.com
Filipino: Philippine Supermarket keeps Dubai's Pinoy community well supplied; here you'll find Barrio Fiesta sauteed shrimp paste, Star garlic margarine, Takami Quick & Easy bihon noodles, Boy Bawang garlic-flavour corn snacks, Ding Dong mixed nuts and peas and jars of halo-halo (a traditional dessert with mung beans, sweetcorn, coconut gel and jackfruit). At the fresh produce counter are salted duck eggs, and occasionally you'll find the infamous balut eggs, which contain the whole duck embryos – beak, feathers, claws and all.
Details: Philippine Supermarket, Al Muraqqbat, Dubai; 04 294 6886
Australia and New Zealand: A bona fide meat feast, Prime Gourmet in Dubai is a butchery (deli and grocer) that specialises in Australian grain-fed Angus fillet steaks, beef burgers and cuts in Wagyu, grain-fed and free-range options, and lamb, veal and sausages in beef, lamb and chicken.
Details: Prime Gourmet, Gold & Diamond Park, Dubai; 04 341 5445; primegourmet.ae
Italian: Eataly's delicatessen occupies a nook in the restaurant of the same name in The Dubai Mall (and a smaller corner in Dubai Festival City Mall). For sale are various made-in-Italy brands of olive oil, tomato sauce, pastas and condiments, plus meats, cheeses, breads and Venchi chocolates.
Details: Eataly, The Dubai Mall, Dubai; 04 330 8899; www.eatalyarabia.com