A Global Taste of Ramadan: Recipes for Islam's Holiest Month
Ramadan is a month of fasting, broken only by the best food for Islam's holiest month. We've rounded up some favorite Ramadan recipes that are filling and nourishing as well as delicious.
Editor's note, April 20: The holidays will sure be different this spring, but we're feeling the need for foods that nourish body and spirit whether we're gathering with loved ones in person or via Zoom. Here's to kitchens and hearts that are as full as they can be right now. —Elaine Johnson, Yummly
We're at the start of Ramadan, the holiest month of the year for Muslims. In observance of the holy month, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. But because eating and drinking are prohibited during daylight hours, the food eaten after dark has to be special. While there are no singular dishes served everywhere for Ramadan, as many different cultures practice Islam, the variety of recipes speaks to universal themes of filling, sustaining foods, and ones that are also delicious. They run the gamut from spiced chickpea and lentil soup, to hearty stews, and buttery cookies. Come and explore with this collection of Ramadan recipes from around the Islamic world.
Suhoor is the pre-dawn meal. This meal has to give you energy for the whole day, each day for the entire month of Ramadan. These are a few of the recipes from around the world that you might eat for Suhoor.
Turkey: Firin Makarna
In Turkey, Suhoor calls for firin makarna, which translates to "baked pasta." This one is kind of like a chili-mac in that the noodles are mixed with lamb mince (ground lamb) and topped with cheese — but not just any cheese. Half is halloumi (a brined goat/sheep milk cheese from Cyprus which is excellent for grilling) and the other half is cheddar. With the meat and noodles, this is a hearty meal to keep you satisfied until dusk.
Nigeria: Moi Moi
In Nigeria, Moi Moi or bean cake is served during Suhoor. Blackeyed peas are blended with onions, habanero peppers, and oil before being placed in a bag with spinach leaves to be boiled as a steamed pudding. It's fairly easy to put together and it's a high-protein, gluten-free dish to keep you energized when eating is off limits.
Egypt: Ful Mudammas
In Egypt and other countries around the Mediterranean, ful mudammas is a common Suhoor dish as well as an everyday breakfast dish. Basically, it's mashed fava beans (cooked dried favas, or canned) mixed with lemon juice and garnished with various toppings. This particular recipe uses hard-boiled eggs, onions, tomatoes, and parsley to serve for Ramadan meals.
Lebanon: Vegetable Manakeesh/Manakeesh Bil Khodra
In Lebanon and other eastern Mediterranean and Arabic countries, they eat manakeesh to start the day. Manakeesh is a flatbread served with different toppings. The most common way to serve it is with za'atar, but this recipe is for a vegetable manakeesh. It's topped with tomatoes, onions, and peppers that make a kind of sauce before it's baked — like a tasty cheeseless pizza that provides nutrients to last you until sundown.
Abu Dhabi: Banana Date Suhoor Smoothie
One Arab Vegan takes a non-traditional approach to her early morning Ramadan meal with this high-protein, 5-minute recipe she whips up in her blender. Frozen bananas, dates, almond milk, chia seeds, almond butter, and protein powder keep her full until sundown.
Iftar is the meal to break the fast after sunset. Typically, the meal is preceded by dates or a small snack and evening prayers. We selected a soup, some mains, salads, and small bites that you might find on an Iftar table.
Morocco: Harira (Moroccan Chickpea and Lentil Soup)
While harira can often include meat, this is a vegan version of the soup that's served after sundown in Morocco to break the Ramadan fast. Spicy harissa chili paste, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger give it loads of flavor. Made with lentils, which cook quickly, and canned chickpeas, the recipe is ready in just an hour or so.
Iraq: Dolma Mahshi
You may have heard the word "dolma" before — stuffed grape leaves are often referred to as "dolma," but it's a Turkish word that means "stuffed." In this case, what's being stuffed is an onion to make this Iraqi dish. The filling is made up of rice, spices, and tomatoes. This is a vegetarian dish (vegan if you leave off the yogurt for serving) but there are dolmas that use meat if you want to break your fast with something heavier.
Pakistan/India: Egg Biryani
Biryani is a rice dish commonly eaten at Iftar in Pakistan and India, but there are dozens of types of biryani that aren't Indian or Pakistani. It's one of those dishes that varies — sometimes subtly and sometimes drastically — from region to region. It can be vegetarian or made with meat like lamb. This recipe uses a lot of spices (turmeric, garam masala, chili powder, biryani masala) and egg as its protein, making it a filling vegetarian main dish, but it can be served as a side dish as well.
You may be familiar with the parsley salad called tabbouleh. Tabbouleh is a Lebanese side dish made with parsley, bulgur wheat, diced tomatoes, lemon juice, and olive oil. It's very light and goes well with dishes served at room temperature or chilled like hummus or other bean dishes.
Morocco: Kefta Tagine
Morroco is known for its tagine — tagine is the name of a type of clay pot, as well as the name of the slow-cooked meat stew traditionally cooked in that pot. Kefta is spicy ground meat and for this recipe, the meat is formed into balls and cooked in a tagine with a sauce that's good to soak up with pita bread. But there's much more you can learn from this recipe — even if you don't get around to making it, you'll find an excellent hack for making the most of your saffron.
Güveç is a Turkish earthen pot (kind of like a Moroccan tagine), but it's also a stew served in Turkey for Iftar (though not exclusively). Typically, recipes only rely on the moisture from the meat and vegetables to make it a stew, rather than adding liquid. This recipe does use added water, but it doesn't diminish the flavor of the beef, onions, eggplant, and tomatoes. It's a hearty dish to restore your strength after a day of fasting.
Iran: Shami Lapeh
Shami Lapeh is a Persian main dish that combines meat and yellow split peas to form patties that are fried to make fritters. Some people deviate from the classic recipe and either bake them or grill them. Some even replace the split peas with garbanzo beans. Any way that you make them, they're very filling and keep well if you have leftovers.
Eid al-Fitr is the Festival of Breaking the Fast to close out the holy month of Ramadan. It lasts for three days and it's the only time Muslims are not allowed to fast. For Eid dinners, many of the dishes are the same or similar to Iftar recipes, but we included a few desserts to go with some main dishes.
Haleem is a stew that originated in the Middle East but has an extensive reach with many variations, just like biryani. Sometimes it's a lentil soup and sometimes it's a meat stew. This recipe is the meat version and calls for chicken thighs. There's a complex mix of spices and the recipe uses wheat berries to thicken it.
Börek is a Turkish stuffed pastry which can be made as a sweet or savory dish. This recipe is savory — it calls for spinach, lamb, feta cheese, and spices encased in phyllo dough. It's all rolled into the shape of a cigar and arranged into a circle so that it resembles a pizza and can be cut into wedges for easy serving.
Ghraybeh is a Lebanese shortbread cookie commonly eaten during Eid. This recipe only calls for four ingredients — one of which is ghee, but you can use brown butter in its place. It's very easy to make and if your butter is room temperature, you might not need a mixer. Additionally, if you want to make the Iraqi version, just add cardamom!
India: Sheer Khurma
Sheer khurma is a noodle pudding that's common throughout Persia and Central Asia as a breakfast or a dessert and is served during Eid. A basic recipe uses vermicelli noodles, milk, and dates, but it's one of those dishes that any and everyone manipulates to match their taste preferences. This recipe uses coconut, raisins, pistachios, and almonds to make it unique, but the secret ingredient is the saffron.
Indonesia: Kue Lapis Legit
Kue lapis legit or thousand layer cake is a pretty intense cake which is why it's an Indonesian favorite to celebrate Eid. There aren't quite 1,000 layers, but the cakes can be made with between 18 and 30 layers. You start by baking one layer of batter in the cake pan (using the broiler) and then adding another layer of batter on top of the first layer and baking it — this process is repeated until the batter is gone. If that didn't blow your mind, perhaps the fact that it also calls for 30 egg yolks will. Like I said, it's an intense cake baked for very special occasions and Eid is a very special occasion.
Ramadan Mubarak — Happy Ramadan!