With the holiest month in the Islamic calendar just around the corner, plans for suhur and iftar meals that include long days of fasting are in full swing around the world. Below are just a selection of recipes that are commonly found on tables in different cultures and countries during the holiday, which begins on Saturday in the United States and ends with Eid al-Fitr on May 2nd. Some are savory, some are sweet, but all are sure to satisfy.
A traditional Palestinian dish, this eye-catching mountain of turmeric-infused rice, tender meat, and shredded carrots comes together in a single pot in an hour, making it a viable option to end a fasting day. Reem Kassis’ version streamlines the often time-consuming recipe by opting for boneless rib eye steak and high-quality store-bought broth.
While many versions of this delicate fried pastry can be found in North Africa and the Middle East, they are typically made with malsouka dough sheets. In this version, which Jamel Charouel inherited from his father, spring roll leaves are used to encase a chicken and potato filling flavored with ras el hanout.
Recipe: Fatima’s fingers (Tunisian egg rolls)
A pre-dawn plate of Turkish scrambled eggs with tomato can comfort and satiate before a day of fasting. This recipe by Joan Nathan invites imagination. Add your favorite fresh herbs and spices, sprinkle with crumbled cheese and sausage, or serve on a slice of warm flatbread. Or not, and eat it like traditionalists: plain, without much more than the tomatoes and eggs.
Recipe: Menemen (Turkish scrambled eggs with tomatoes)
For many, Ramadan is incomplete without these sweet stuffed pancakes. Qatayef Asafiri are the smaller of two common variations of this treat, filled with cream, partially sealed and drizzled with a thick syrup. In this recipe by Reem Kassis, the filling is scented with orange blossom and rose water, squirted into the pancake cones and dipped in pistachios.
For a simple and elegant iftar opener, a dessert or a downright sumptuous snack, these dates topped with crème fraîche are just the ticket. Adapted by Julia Moskin, this recipe requires only five ingredients and may well become the most popular dish on the table. “An iftar without dates would feel very strange to any Muslim I know,” said Yvonne Maffei, who writes a popular cooking and food blog, My Halal Kitchen, and who adapted this recipe.
The celebration of Ramadan
The Muslim month-long holiday of Ramadan, a time of prayer, fasting and feasting, begins April 2 in the United States.
Recipe: Yvonne Maffei’s dates with cream and chopped pistachios
Perfect for special occasions, this stew is flavorful and luxurious, with tender chicken and a silky coconut milk sauce. Adapted from chef Retno Pratiwi by Tejal Rao, the recipe builds a curry paste on a base of caramelized shallots before being flavored with ginger, galangal, lemongrass, salam and lime leaves, and ground coriander seeds.
Recipe: Opor Ayam (Indonesian Chicken Curry)
Semolina, the coarse, yellow flour ideal for making couscous and pasta, is great for baked goods due to its high gluten content. Adapted from Detroit-area social worker Amanda Saab by Tejal Rao, this sweet-smelling cake uses frothy, fluffy yogurt, not eggs, to achieve its rich flavor and texture.
Recipe: Namoura (semolina cake soaked in syrup)
Subtly sweet, warmly spiced and supremely comforting, this porridge from Yewande Komolafe is a gentle way to break a fast. After a vigorous soak in water, some blending, straining, and some cooking, two simple ingredients — uncooked rice and raw peanuts — transform into a creamy base ready to be dressed with tamarind paste, honey, or chopped dates.
Recipe: Kunun Gyada
A fresh and flavorful salad is the perfect accompaniment to a stronger and heartier iftar main course. Adapted from Chef Sameh Wadi by Julia Moskin, yogurt spiced with dill and dried mint masks diced cucumber and tart dried cherries in this recipe, making every bite a surprising burst of flavor and texture.
Recipe: Cucumber yoghurt salad with dill, sour cherries and rose petals
These Zainab Shah Potato and Pea Samosas can be made in bulk and frozen for a quick and easy finger food iftar snack. The vegan filling and crunchy exterior are sure to please any eater, especially when paired with a herb and mint chutney.
Recipes: Aloo Samosas (Potato Samosas) | Mint chutney
A long-simmered biryani, like this one from Tejal Rao, coated in rice, herbs, caramelized onions, braised lamb and milk golden with saffron is sure to be a labor of love. But after an overnight marinade and several hours of cooking, it’s a dish that feels extra festive and worth building an entire dinner menu around.
A light tomato pita salad flavored with sumac and dried mint and dressed with a garlic dressing made with pomegranate syrup, lemon juice and olive oil is a refreshing way to break a fast. And this beautiful recipe from Joan Nathan is met with rave reviews: “You won’t be disappointed,” wrote a reader of The New York Times Cooking.
Recipe: Fattoush (Lebanese Tomato Pita Salad)
A savory bowl of cinnamon-scented harira is a comforting and delicious way to end a fasting day. While Moroccan soup traditionally contains lamb, this version by David Tanis is vegetarian. But the lack of meat doesn’t make it any less hearty, as the recipe includes fava beans, thin chunks of pasta, and two types of lentils.
Recipe: Harira soup
This fragrant lamb kebab recipe, adapted by Chef Chintan Pandya’s Alexa Weibel, works just as well rolled into meatballs and pan seared as it does shaped onto skewers. Just don’t skip the Deggi Mirch, a chili powder that does double duty by adding both flavor and color to the ground beef.
Recipe: Seekh kebab with mint chutney
In this Moroccan tagine, Nargisse Benkabbou simmers supple lamb shanks in a broth generously seasoned with onion, garlic, ras el hanout, cinnamon and saffron, before reducing it to a syrupy sauce with raisins and honey.
Recipe: Mrouzia lamb knuckles