For the past month, Muslims around the world have been fasting for Ramadan, one of the most sacred times of the year in the faith of Islam. The days of fasting from sunrise to sunset will end in the evening of Sunday, May 1, with the highly anticipated Eid al-Fitr feast.
Eid celebrations often include large feasts, gift-giving and gatherings among family and friends. Eid feasts can include hearty main dishes, including lots of slow-cooked meat, toasty grains and refreshing salads. Desserts often air on the lighter side, with fruits, nuts, spices and yogurts meant to aid digestion.
To honor this holy time, here are some recipes to make this year's Eid a deliciously memorable one.
Eid Mubarak to all who celebrate!
Appetizers and sides
This spicy dip is made of walnuts, red bell peppers and pomegranate syrup, and is perfect simply served with slices of cucumber and carrots and fresh-baked lavash.
This dip is so versatile — you can use it as a spread on a sandwich with leftover lamb, or have it on hand for expected company; it lasts up to a week in the fridge.
Middle Eastern spices turn plain carrots into a flavorful sensation. Once you taste the combo of spicy harissa, fresh herbs, zesty lemon and smoky cumin with naturally sweet and earthy carrots, you may never make them any other way again.
This vibrant, balanced salad has a wonderful combination of tangy, sweet citrus, earthy olives and cool mint. It's the perfect preface or complement to heartier, meat-heavy dishes.
In this kibbeh recipe, bulgur wheat, ground beef or lamb, garlic, mint and parsley come together to form a shell for a succulent meaty filling, which gets fried until crispy and brown. It's a comforting finger food to have on your Eid table.
"This beautiful Lebanese dish has been passed down from generations of women within my family and has nourished us with nutrient rich lentils, vibrant seasonal vegetables and warm spices!" says Dominique Khoury. "You can make this dish in one large soup pot, enjoy it over several days for lunch or dinner and create large batches and freeze it for future family dinners to come. It is filled with layers of wholesome, bright and delicious flavors and is enjoyed best with a slice of warm toast, family and friends!"
This fresh, sharp salad and toum-yogurt makes a lovely side to heartier dishes, grilled meat (particularly when rich and fatty) and just about anything battered and fried. Toum, which literally translates to "garlic" in Arabic, is a Levantine condiment made by whipping together raw garlic and oil with a good amount of lemon juice.
This flavor punch of a salad can easily be prepared in advance and served at room temperature, leaving the stove available for other dishes.
The best part about this flavorful, brightly hued hummus is that you can throw everything into a blender and watch the magic happen, with only the push of a button.
Raw, shaved carrots may sound like the simplest side dish of all time, but it has no shortage of complexity for your taste buds. Crunchy, fresh and little sweet, make this salad a day ahead. It gets even better as it sits, absorbing more of the dressing.
Fresh parsley, zesty lemon, nutty almonds and warm spices make this tabbouleh incredibly flavorful. It's bright, fresh and healthy so it's a perfect complement to so many dishes.
Roasting eggplant turns its white flesh golden brown and gives it a wonderfully tender texture. The smoky tahini sauce, crunchy pine nuts and fresh herbs enhance the delicate, mild flavor of the eggplant.
Samin Nosrat believes that cooking a bunch of vegetables is one of the most luxurious things you can do for someone. And this satisfying salad, seasoned generously with za'atar, is definitive proof of that.
With sweet carrots and dates, hearty lentils and tons of herbs, this could certainly be a side dish for a large roast or stand on its own as a vegetarian main course.
Padma Lakshmi is all about bringing the most flavor out of a dish by cooking with spices. Here, she shares an Indian-style rice pilaf recipe that's easy to follow but has complex flavors thanks to all the spices involved.
Not only is this dip simple to make (all you do is place everything in the oven and blend it all up when it's finished) but it's remarkably flavorful and unbelievably versatile. Enjoy this dip with crackers or crudités, as a spread for sandwiches and flatbreads, a topper for salads or whatever else your heart desires!
Refreshing mint adds a cooling element of surprise to this Levantine salad. The Moroccan flavors in the dressing will delight your guests.
"If my mom wanted to spoil us, she would make these stuffed peppers during Ramadan," says Ahmad Alzahabi. "This recipe has been passed down from my grandma in Syria and combines amazing spices typical of my heritage, like safflower, cumin and dried mint. Somehow, the recipes with the most love take the longest to make."
The robust flavor of a variety of spices like cumin, coriander and garam masala bring warmth and heat to the biryani, while the saffron and milk add color and aroma.
The quickest and the most efficient way of adding a ton of flavor to protein is making this za'atar marinade. Unlike other marinades that might require some time, this one just needs a good rub on your choice of protein and it's good to go.
Ground beef gets mixed with an abundance of deep, earthy spices like black pepper, cinnamon and sumac and grilled on wood skewers, making for a wonderful main dish accompanied with rice, hummus and salads.
What could be more comforting than a plate of of creamy polenta topped with crispy chicken and a simple pan sauce? Dried herbs and spices and preserved lemon punch up the flavor in this satisfying recipe.
For perfect lamb, first cook the chops for roughly two minutes per side on medium-high heat, until each side is gorgeously caramelized, then roast it — and slather it with a tapenade of capers, pistachios and olives.
Inspired by the classic Moroccan pairing of lemon, chicken and olives, this dish is salty, tangy and bright with a pleasant chewiness from the couscous. Serve the chicken with the couscous salad as is or make it a day ahead and shred the chicken into the couscous with a squeeze of lemon juice.
Shawarma spices flavor the chicken in this one-pot, low-and-slow djej b finden with moghrabieh. The moist, tender chicken shares the stage with pearl onions and cremini mushrooms, all finished with fresh herbs, butter and white wine sauce over Lebanese couscous.
Marinate juicy chicken thighs in olive oil, lemon juice, zest, za'atar, sumac, garlic, salt and black pepper, grill 'em up and and serve 'em with fire-roasted eggplant, tahini sauce, herbs and flatbread.
Arayes, pita bread stuffed with a mixture of beef, lamb and spices and then grilled, are popular throughout the Middle East. Here, the dish is served with a refreshing herb salad and creamy tahini sauce.
Al Roker's slow-roasted, braised lamb has an incredible umami flavor that's brought out by his secret ingredient: anchovies. This dish is perfect because you can prep in the morning, spend time with the family and then have a finished meal waiting for you eight hours later.
Bring thick, steak-like pieces of cauliflower to life with amchur (dried mango powder), cumin, coriander and a zesty yogurt topping.
Spiced couscous provides a fluffy bed for tender braised short ribs, while the sweet and spicy raisin salad adds brightness to this succulent dish. It's definitely a showstopper.
The spices in this recipe are not just belly-warming and flavor-enhancing but also help the digestibility of the legumes, which can be challenging for some. This dish improves over time so always make extra.
With just a little advanced prep you can serve up this Middle Eastern classic in just a few minutes. This packs such a flavor punch, and the spice blend is so versatile.
Spatchcocking chicken is a really great way to get lots of flavors right into the chicken. The combination of the zesty lemons, sweet and smoky harissa, and earthy olive is very North African. The bulgur wheat is so refreshing and works perfectly alongside the chicken.
A far cry from a classic shakshuka, yes, but we've found that sweet potatoes provide just the right amount of moisture and heft to serve as a base for these eggs.
"Sure, spending time with family and friends is great, but we all know that one of the best parts of the holidays is eating sweet, butter-laden treats," says Hoda. "My mom, Sami, always made flaky, nutty, syrupy baklava for special occasions and it remains one of my all-time favorite indulgences."
Basbousa, which originated in Egypt, is traditionally known as a dense and creamy cake. It's perfect for special occasions.
Kheer, a creamy milk and sugar-based, is the perfect thing to end your Eid feast with. This one is flavored with warm spices like cardamom and cinnamon and topped with almonds and rose petals.
This dessert is loaded with flavors — coffee, Medjool dates and cardamom — that combine for a decadent end to a special feast.
Desiccated coconut is soaked in milk, cooked with condensed milk and cardamom and topped with a pistachio crumble. This recipe is simple, delicious and made with very few ingredients, making it super easy to whip up in just 20 minutes.