When I was growing up in Pakistan, almost the whole country celebrated Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, penance and charity in Islam. Restaurant specials, shorter workdays, and the camaraderie made it easy to skip food and drink from sunrise to sunset. And by sharing self-reflection at this special time of year, the iftar parties were a lot more fun.
Before the sun rises, Muslims eat suhur, a breakfast nutritious enough to get us through the day. Then, after the last rays of the sun have disappeared, we enjoy iftar, or ‘breaking the fast’ – a celebratory, communal affair that focuses on certain specialty dishes, such as South Asian pakoras and Sri Lankan biryani. Dessert is also a wonderful reward for your dedication to the special month. In Pakistan, crispy, hot jalebis fill the plates; In Bengali households, Mishti brings fasting back to life before an evening of prayer or relaxation.
We’ve rounded up our favorite Ramadan recipes for Suhoor and Iftar, whether you’re fasting, hosting, or just want to cook something special.
Former Test Chef Farideh Sadeghin learned from her father how to make these simple skewers, which he likes to serve with rice and Shirazi salad. Get the recipe >
a cook Romy Gil credits her grandmother for the clever technique used to shape these samosas. Par-cooking the wrappers makes the dough less absorbent and less malleable, making them easier to fill without becoming rubbery (and easier to prepare). Get the recipe >
The recipe for these kebabs, which can also be made with lamb, is adapted from Charmaine O’Brien’s Recipes from an urban village (The Hope Project, 2003). Get the recipe >
For this Mumbai street food snack by Raghavan Iyer, chunks of potato are dredged in a light batter of chickpea and rice flour flavored with turmeric and chilli powder. The potatoes are then fried until a golden crust forms and served with cilantro and tamarind chutneys. The spice dough can also be used for other vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli florets, plantains and eggplant. Get the recipe >
A luxurious whole fish concoction flavored with spicy tamarind and fragrant barberries, perfect for Nowruz, the Persian New Year. Find barberries at well-stocked Middle Eastern grocery stores or online. Get the recipe >
Sour sumac balances sweet caramelized onions in a fried chicken and flatbread dish traditionally baked in a wood-fired oven called a taboon. Get the recipe >
Phyllo pastry, with ground nuts smothered in sweet syrup, is a centuries-old dessert that now exists in many variations throughout the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean. Get the recipe >
For this Middle Eastern flavored stew, cauliflower stalks are shredded and sautéed in the mirepoix to add flavor, while the florets are grilled and added at the end of cooking to add crunch and body. Get the recipe >
Nihari is a rich, flavorful stew with glowing coriander leaves, a spritz of citrus and thinly sliced hot chillies. The ultimate home cooking for the home cook and Lahore native Zainab Shah whose mother prepares this dish for her and her family. The dish’s name derives from the Arabic word nahaar, or “day,” which makes sense considering the long, slow cooking required to extract the rich marrow from the lamb bones. Get the recipe >
Eggplants are stuffed with a mixture of spiced lamb and rice, then simmered in tomato sauce in a rustic, cinnamon-scented dish by Isabelle, the mother of Lebanese author Fouad Kassab. During the autumn olive harvest, she prepares it with new-season olive oil from the family’s groves. For this dish, use smaller eggplants, such as B. Japanese or fairytale eggplants. (If you can’t find these varieties, zucchini can be substituted for the eggplant.) Get the recipe >
Grilled with fragrant spices, this chicken was a favorite of former assistant editor Felicia Campbell while stationed in Iraq. Get the recipe >
Fenugreek, an aromatic dried herb, adds a distinct floral note to hearty veal stew. Get the recipe >
These flavorful ground lamb kebabs are best prepared over a fire, but can also be prepared indoors on a griddle or cast-iron skillet. Aleppo pepper and beaver salçası, a spicy red paste made from sun-dried chillies and salt, add color and warmth. Get the recipe >
Adapted from Ruweena Deen, mother-in-law of Asylum Restaurant chef Nishad Jayawardena, this is a Sri Lankan special occasion meal, prepared in bulk, suitable for a weekend family gathering or for breaking the fast for Eid at the end of Ramadan . Get the recipe >
Served at the Mansouria restaurant, this centuries-old Moroccan dish sees lamb shanks simmered for hours in a rich sauce of honey, almonds and raisins. Get the recipe >
In Tamil speaking households, a combination of fritters with gravy is referred to as Vadai Pachadi. Served at weddings and religious holidays, these flavorful donuts get their signature yellow pea crunch and are topped with a creamy, flavorful yogurt and tomato sauce. Get the recipe >
In this recipe, kataif, a bird’s nest-like phyllo dough, is coated in cream cheese and doused in amber syrup. Get the recipe >
For this rich, flavorful Iraqi breakfast dish, ground lamb is sautéed with onions, tomatoes and parsley, seasoned to the brim with bahar asfar, yellow curry powder, and then topped with soft-baked eggs. Get the recipe >
A classic Persian herb scrambled egg dish with the fragrant lift of rose petals. Get the recipe >
For Levantine Arabs, “this dish represents Ramadan more than any other,” writes chef Reem Assil. Recipe and technique are equally important here: it’s all about getting a good seal by keeping the pancakes moist before sealing. Get the recipe >