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Ramadan 2021 falls between April 12 and May 12 this year, which means it’s time to start planning those menus. When you’re fasting from sunrise to sunset for 30 days, every meal is a cause for celebration. From a hearty, predawn suhoor to power you through the day to a post-sunset iftar and, finally, the culminating feast for Eid al-Fitr, what you choose to eat is key.
There aren’t specific foods that are universally enjoyed during Ramadan, which is why we have rounded up some of our favorite recipes from around the world. With 1.9 billion Muslims spread across the globe, there are so many delicious culinary traditions from which to draw. Though this list is far from exhaustive, you’ll find recipes for breakfast, dinner and dessert from the Middle East, Mediterranean, Turkey, Africa, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and more.
When considering how to start your day before a fast, it’s important to pack in the protein and nutrients. This dairy-free shake (which acts a lot like a smoothie) combines almonds, banana and dates for a sweet and satisfying start to suhoor. It would also be a pleasant way to break your fast as a twist on traditional dates.
Packed with spices and fresh herbs, these quickie omelettes come together super fast and will help keep you full all day long. Feel free to swap in whatever fresh springtime herbs and vegetables you have on hand — even a single herb would work instead of a variety. Cook up enough of these for the whole family and you’ll be good to go.
This savory, feta-stuffed bread can commonly be found as part of a Turkish breakfast spread along with cheese, olives, fruits and salads. While pogaca is traditionally made with yeast, when you’re in a rush to get your suhoor meal on the table before dawn, there’s no time for that. So these take a cue from biscuits and use baking powder as a shortcut leavening agent.
Originally from Libya, shakshuka has become part of the culinary fabric of North Africa and the Mideast. It’s a quick, protein-rich way to start the morning before a long fast and even makes a great quick bite for iftar. No matter when you’re eating it, make sure to have plenty of pita or other bread to soak up the sauce.
There are countless versions of flatbread around the world, and rotis are particularly popular in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other parts of South Asia. Whether you use them to scoop up a curry or another great Indian dinner recipe, rotis come together quickly since the dough doesn’t need time to rise.
There’s nothing like homemade hummus — and definitely no comparison to the store bought stuff. Although it takes a bit longer, starting with dried chickpeas is ideal — but you can also totally cheat and use canned ones instead. As long as you have the chickpeas ready to go one way or another, this recipe is just the thing when you need something to start iftar, like, now.
A mixture of toasted nuts, sesame seeds, dried herb seeds and red pepper flakes, dukkah is an excellent addition to the iftar or Eid al-Fitr table because it’s simple but highly snackable. After the ingredients are ground together, you could eat the dukkah by the handful, though it’s more common to serve this Egyptian condiment along with bread and olive oil for dipping.
Just try to eat just one piece of this crispy Palestinian cauliflower — we dare you. To make it, cauliflower is coated in a seasoned batter and deep fried, and it goes great with a simple yogurt dip. If you want to make it ahead to have ready for iftar, the cauliflower reheats well in the oven in just a few minutes.
A mainstay throughout the Middle East and North Africa, this satisfying dish of spiced rice, lentils and caramelized onions is incredible at any temperature, any time of day. It’s easy on the stomach and a complete protein, which makes it a great choice to break the fast.
If you’re looking for another one of the best ways to cook with rice, then check out this Lebanese version, which mixes toasted broken vermicelli noodles with long grain white rice. The whole thing is finished with a dusting of cinnamon, giving it extra depth of flavor. Serve this alongside any hearty main, and you’ve got yourself a meal.
For a rice dish that’s more of a main than a side, biryani fits the bill. This recipe, which hails from Hyderabad, incorporates mutton or chicken that is marinated in a mixture of ginger, garlic, garam masala, cardamom, chilies, cilantro, mint and saffron. Served with some raita, this biryani delivers big time in the taste department.
Couscous is a simple and common accompaniment to iftar and Eid al-Fitr feasts alike, but if you want to switch things up a bit and get even more veggies in then this stellar recipe is worth trying. Cauliflower is roasted then pulsed in a food processor until crumbly and couscous-like. Then it’s mixed with chickpeas, bell pepper, quick pickled dried apricots and a verdant salsa verde made with carrot greens, fresh herbs, garlic, oil and vinegar.
If you’re looking for a veggie-packed dish that brings the flavor, look no further than Indonesian gado gado. Featuring lightly cooked green beans, cauliflower, cabbage and spinach tossed with a creamy peanut sauce, this works on its own with some crackers or rice, or as a side to a larger feast.
Popular throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean, there are many variations on Fattoush but the salad always has crispy pita chips as a main component. Using leftover pita is an excellent way to use food scraps to make a delicious meal. In this rendition, crispy pita, tomatoes, green onions, cucumbers, olives, parsley and cilantro are tossed with a simple dressing of olive oil and lemon juice for a fresh and crisp side.
This rich Pakastani stew recipe comes from Chicago-based chef Salim Khan. To recreate the dish, cook your beef low and slow with yogurt, spices and chilis. It takes a few hours of simmering, but this recipe could also be adapted to the slow cooker if you want to set it and forget it.
In this hearty stew recipe, boneless lamb cubes are seasoned with salt, pepper and cinnamon and seared before green beans, diced tomatoes and tomato sauce are stirred in. The whole thing simmers in a Dutch oven for about two hours until the meat is unbelievably tender and the sauce is thick and rich. If lamb isn’t your thing, feel free to swap in beef.
This Moroccan-inspired beef dish is flavored with cinnamon, cumin, ginger, bay leaf and red pepper, which makes for an intoxicating aroma. Butternut squash, sweet potatoes and red bell peppers mingle with the beef for a pop of color and boost in nutrients, while the raisins tossed in towards the end provide a slightly sweet counterpoint.
Fish is always a nice addition to any feast, and this Moroccan chermoula fish stew is a showstopper. Full of spices and fresh herbs, the chermoula would be equally good on chicken or grilled meats. But here it is used to marinate fish fillets, which are then added to a base of stewed potatoes, carrots, onions and peppers. Preserved lemon, olives, honey and cinnamon add more layers of flavor to this special dish that would traditionally be made in a tagine but can easily be prepared in a Dutch oven or large skillet.
For a protein-rich plant-based option, give this Ethiopian messer wot recipe a try. This traditional dish starts with a base of fresh onion, garlic and ginger paste that is flavored with tomato paste and berbere before simmering with lentils. Served with injera or rice, this is a perfect hearty vegan option.
This delicate and creamy milk and rice flour pudding, sometimes spelled mahalabia, is popular throughout Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, among other countries. It can be flavored any way, but rose water and orange flower water — used here — are traditional.
For the Muhallebi recipe, click here.
For a truly special end to your meal, bake up a big batch of baklava. It takes some time, but the walnut-stuffed sweet and sticky pastry is well worth the effort. Plus, it makes dozens of servings and is excellent hot or cold so you can make it ahead to cut down on effort after a long day of fasting. If baklava isn’t your thing, consider more of these impressive desserts you can make at home.
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