A Taste of Ramadan: Recipes for a Holy Month
Ramadan’s month of daily fasting is broken only by delicious, nourishing pre-dawn and post-sunset meals. Check out some of our favorite Ramadan recipes from around the world.
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We're nearing the start of Ramadan, one of the holiest months of the year for Muslims. In observance of the holy month, billions of Muslims choose to abstain from food and drink during daylight hours. The practice of fasting is one of the five pillars of the Islamic faith. Muslims fast as an opportunity to get closer to God, a way to develop compassion for those in need, and gratitude for what they already have. Ramadan 2023 is celebrated from March 22nd until April 21st.
The meals eaten before and after the fast are called suhoor and iftar, respectively. Historically they were intended to be simple, but nutritious meals to strengthen the body while taming appetites. But over the years, these meals have become a string of magnificent meals prepared specially in celebration of one of the holiest months of the year.
To close out the month of Ramadan, Muslims participate in a very special three-day Festival of Breaking the Fast called Eid al-Fitr. Eid is quite a memorable gastronomic event in that there is a marathon of meals throughout the day. Often, the dishes are cooked all at once in the excitement of the holiday. After the early morning community prayer, Muslims go house to house or family to family visiting and eating non-stop! In fact, with so much delicious eating all day long, many Muslims don't even make it to dinner.
While there is no singular dish served everywhere for Ramadan, as many people from different cultures practice Islam, the variety of recipes speaks to universal themes of filling, sustaining foods — and they're also oh-so-tasty. They run the gamut from spiced chickpea and lentil soup, to hearty stews and buttery cookies. From Canada and Brazil to Lebanon, India, and beyond, we invite you to explore this wonderful collection of Ramadan recipes from around the world.
Ramadan Mubarak — Happy Ramadan!
Jump ahead to:
Suhoor is the pre-dawn meal. This meal gives you energy to last each and every 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, also known as 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's/sheep's 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. 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
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 at an Iftar spread.
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
Morocco 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 you make them, they're very filling and keep well if you have leftovers.
Eid al-Fitr recipes
Eid al-Fitr is the three-day Festival of Breaking the Fast to close out the holy month of Ramadan. For Eid dinners, many of the dishes are the same or similar to Iftar recipes, but we included a few yummy desserts to go with the main dishes.
Moqueca is a flavorful traditional fish stew from Brazil made with coconut milk, palm oil, garlic, tomatoes, cilantro, and onion. A variety of seafood can be used, but firm white fish is ideal — halibut works great, but feel free to experiment with cod or shrimp. This version also calls for bell pepper. And if you can’t find palm oil, olive oil will do in a pinch.
Haleem is a stew that originated in the Middle East but has extensive reach with many variations, just like biryani. In this case, haleem has found its way to Pakistan. 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 that 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 shortbread cookie with a pistachio on top, commonly eaten during Eid and Christmas. It's popular not only in Lebanon but all over the Middle East. This easy recipe calls for just five ingredients. Don't pass up the fragrant orange blossom water in the cookie dough for a taste of the East. Additionally, if you want to make an Iraqi version, just add cardamom!
India: Sheer Khurma
Sheer khurma is a noodle pudding that's common throughout Iran and Central Asia as a breakfast or dessert and is served during Eid. A basic recipe uses vermicelli noodles, milk, and dates, but it's one of those dishes that anyone and everyone manipulates to match their taste preferences. This recipe garnishes with pistachios, almonds, and cucumber seeds to make it unique, but the secret ingredients are the crushed cardamom and the saffron infused in the milk.
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 we mentioned earlier, it's an intense cake baked for very special occasions and Eid is a very special occasion.
Canada: Date Squares (Matrimonial Cake)
You’ll find date squares all across Canada. This popular date snack cake with an oatmeal crumb topping, reminiscent of a coffee cake, is called Matrimonial Cake in parts of the country. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious, made by layering the crumb mixture, then the date mixture, and then more of the crumb mixture. It makes an excellent dessert for Eid al-Fitr.