Ramadan, one of the most sacred times of the year in the Islam faith, is expected to begin on March 22. During this holy month, Muslims around the world will take time to pray and reflect, as well as fast from sunrise to sunset.
Throughout this holy time, those who observe will fast during the day from dawn (after eating the first meal known as suhoor or sehri), until sunset, when they break the fast with iftar, a meal enjoyed among friends and family. Children, typically younger than 14, women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating and anyone who is ill, elderly or traveling, are exempt from fasting.
Fasting during Ramadan can be quite rigorous, especially during longer, hotter days, so it’s of utmost importance to eat well-balanced, nutritious and filling meals when not fasting. So, here are a month’s worth of recipes to keep one feeling focused and satiated until Eid al-Fitr celebrations on April 21.
Recipes for iftar
"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."
"This soup seems to have become a staple in many households during the month of Ramadan," says Alzahabi. "Every culture and house makes it their own way, but my favorite is this style, where the lentils and veggies all get blended into a creamy consistency. The warm, smooth soup is so light on the stomach and feels like the perfect thing to enjoy after fasting the whole day. It is filled with nutrients and does a great job of whetting one's appetite."
With just a little advance prep, you can serve up this Middle Eastern classic in just a few minutes when you and your loved ones are ready to break the fast.
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.
A family-favorite dish that originated among the Muslims of the Indian subcontinent, biryani gets its warm and comforting flavor from a variety of spices like cumin, coriander and garam masala.
A kebab is simply any meat or seafood cooked on a skewer or spit, with origins in many Middle Eastern cuisines: It's a technique you need to know because of its limitless applications using a wide range of proteins that make for a wonderful main dish accompanied with rice, hummus and salads.
"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," says Ayesha Nurdjaja, chef at Shuka in New York City.
Samin Nosrat believes that cooking a bunch of vegetables is one of the most luxurious things you can do for someone. This dish shows that simple, humble ingredients can be extraordinarily delicious — and nourishing.
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.
For this za'atar and lemon grilled chicken, you marinate juicy chicken thighs in olive oil, lemon juice, zest, zaatar, sumac, garlic, salt and black pepper, then grill them and serve them with fire-roasted eggplant, tahini sauce, juicy pomegranate seeds and flatbread.
Enjoyed by both young and old folks alike, this comforting Indonesian meal is an incredibly satiating dinner for the whole family. It's a dish that can be made from whatever is lurking in your fridge or pantry, so feel free to swap out the prawns and chicken for tofu and include any greens that need using up. Serve with kerupuk or prawn crackers for extra crunch.
After a day of fasting, try baking crispy falafel in the oven, instead of deep-frying them, for a lighter, healthier plant-based meal.
A vegetarian spin on shawarma, this warming dish has plant-based proteins, fragrant spices and sweet dates, which are rounded out by a creamy yogurt topping.
Dal is both an ingredient and a staple dish in Indian cuisine using lentils or legumes. Though many stews may simmer for hours, this version is perfect for a weeknight, since it's both easy and flavorful. It cooks really quickly, it has the depth of flavor of a dish that has been sitting on the stove all day, and served with rice or roti (and maybe some sliced cucumbers on the side), it's a complete meal.
This all-on-one-sheet-pan meal has everything to complete a day of fasting. Bone-in chicken gets bathed with harissa for some tangy heat that's perfectly balanced by bitter arugula, comforting potatoes and garlicky yogurt.
Chickpeas and other legumes are packed with fiber and plant-based protein and therefore deeply satisfying and healthy. 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.
Make a large batch of lamb burgers to repurpose throughout the week to enjoy at iftar on your busier days. You can serve them with pita, grains or salad — whatever you're craving.
Grab the sheet pan and make an iftar feast for six with this hearty vegetarian recipe filled with your favorite vegetables, curried rice, crunchy cashews and plump raisins for added sweetness.
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. You can also use this recipe with meaty fish, like hake or cod. The bulgur wheat is so refreshing and works perfectly alongside the chicken.
Sumac, the lip-smacking, sour berry, is dried, ground and then savored throughout the Middle East on everything from salads and spice blends to grilled meats, like in this instance. This shawarma gets smothered in a garlicky tahini sauce and packed in a flatbread wrap with a vibrant beet tabbouleh.
Roasting eggplant turns its white flesh golden-brown and gives it a wonderfully tender texture — perfect for an appetizer, side dish or even a vegetarian main. The smoky tahini sauce, crunchy pine nuts and fresh herbs enhance the delicate, mild flavor of the eggplant.
If you like cranberry sauce with your turkey, you'll love it with pomegranate molasses. It's a little more tart, sweet and sticky but still brings the same fruity flavor.
Inspired by the classic Moroccan pairing of lemon, chicken and olives, this dish is salty, tangy and bright and with a pleasant chewiness from the couscous. Serve the chicken with the couscous salad as is or shred leftover chicken and mix with the couscous to serve the next day, making sure to brighten up the leftovers with a squeeze of lemon juice.
This fish recipe is quick, easy and flavorful. It is also a cinch to adapt to a small or large group, depending on the night or size of your family. The basic recipe is one part mustard to three parts maple syrup with one generous part masala. It goes great with a simple green salad.
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. This can be presented as a formal, special-occasion meal or as a rustic comfort food served straight from the pot.
Spiced couscous provides a fluffy bed for tender braised short ribs, while the sweet and spicy raisin salad adds brightness to this flavorful dish. This succulent dish is definitely a showstopper. Plus, short ribs have the perfect amount of intermuscular fat, so it's very hard for them to dry out.
"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 slow-cooker meal 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.
No need to boil water to prep this no-cook couscous salad! Couscous, which is a type of very tiny semolina pasta, really just needs to be rehydrated before serving. For this salad, you'll combine the couscous with a few staple pantry ingredients, then let it soak in the dressing for a couple hours (or even overnight if you'd like to prep it in advance). Serve it chilled or room temperature — no heat required!
This spicy, herby chicken is full of bright, zesty flavors and is very easy to make. The yogurt tenderizes the chicken as it marinates, making the meat very tender. It goes with everything — but is especially nice with pita or other flatbread and a big cucumber-tomato salad.
This flavorful salad can easily be prepared in advance and served at room temperature, leaving the stove available for other dishes.
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 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 recipe is like a hug in a bowl. Serve as is or add more liquid to make a soup. Better yet — slather these thick braised beans on a hot pita.
"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."
Kheer is a creamy milk and sugar-based pudding made in many regions of India. It is flavored with warm spices like cardamom and cinnamon and topped with almonds and rose petals. Made on numerous special occasions, the dessert can be served warm or cold.
This dessert is loaded with flavors — coffee, Medjool dates and cardamom — that combine for a decadent end to a special feast.
Recipes for suhoor
"During the month of Ramadan, us Muslims consume a lot of dates when we break our fast," says Ahmad Alzahabi. "With the abundance of dates in most homes, it only felt right to repurpose the dates into a smoothie to drink in the morning before starting our fast. Dates have plenty of fiber and sugar to help replenish us and keep us fueled through the day."
As easy on the stomach as it is nourishing, this rice porridge is packed with plant-based protein from the lentils, hearty vegetables and healthy, root-based spices like stomach-soothing ginger and its inflammation-fighting cousin turmeric. It's a savory start that will sustain you through sundown.
Shakshuka is a flavorful and nourishing dish that comes together with minimal effort — something that can easily be made before sunrise. The sauce and yolk combined make a glorious dipping sauce for crusty toast.
This vegan treat is naturally sweetened with dates and frozen bananas, which are balanced by warm flavors like cinnamon and vanilla. This is a great dessert on a hot day or a perfect on-the-go breakfast drink.
This comforting oatmeal is perfect for early risers, as it cooks overnight in the crockpot and is ready to go by morning.
Forget store-bought hummus and whip up this super simple recipe with warm, earthy notes of cumin and turmeric. Keep it on hand to top on suhoor and iftar dishes throughout the week, like on this well-rounded recipe for avocado toast with nutrient-dense microgreens and protein-rich goat cheese and soft-boiled eggs.
The bold spices, aromatics and fresh herbs make this omelet extra flavorful and healthful for any egg lovers' ideal breakfast dish.
This five-ingredient breakfast bowl is made with plain Greek yogurt (which has the most protein and no added sugar), juicy pomegranate seeds and a generous drizzle of honey.
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.
When you drink this green machine, you have all of your bases covered: a handful of kale and spinach for a mild greens flavor and a ton of antioxidants, banana and date for just the right amount of sweetness, chia seeds for protein and omega-3 fatty acids, flax seeds for fiber and frozen coconut meat and coconut milk for healthy fat and plenty of tropical flavor.
This small-batch vegan, gluten-free recipe uses just one banana and is perfectly portioned for one or two people. It can be multiplied, of course, for a bigger group, but only takes 30 minutes for a filling start to the day.
Combine four nutrient-rich foods for a delicious, protein-packed breakfast.
This dish is a take on nasi goreng, an Indonesian style of fried rice that uses fish sauce, which delivers a great deal of umami to the dish. The great thing about this dish is that it can be enjoyed for iftar or suhoor.