During Ramadan, everyone is on the lookout for easy and delicious iftar recipes to make. This roundup of tested and perfected middle eastern iftar recipes will keep your family delighted and satisfied!
Table of Contents
- What is Ramadan?
- Health Benefits of Ramadan
- What is Iftar?
- What is Traditionally Served at Iftar?
- Iftar Soups
- Appetizers, Salads, and Dips
- Main Dishes - Chicken
- Main Dishes - Beef and Lamb
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims, which requires us to fast from sunrise to sunset, for 30 days. This includes fasting from both food and drink. By fasting and abstaining from things we take for granted (like food and water), it will allow us to reflect on the purpose of life and grow a closer connection to God.
Ramadan is also a month full of charity, kindness, and spirituality. Muslims tend to increase their charity to the needy, and strengthen their spiritual connection with Allah. It's a beautiful month that revolves around community, and there's so much more information about it online.
The Health Benefits of Fasting
If you have heard about the latest health trends such as intermittent fasting, you may already be familiar with the health benefits of fasting from food for a period of time.
Fasting has numerous benefits such as weight loss, decreasing inflammation, decreasing blood sugar levels, boosting your metabolism, and even helping with heart health. The benefits are so great, and all are backed by science.
What is Iftar?
The meal that Muslims consume when we break our fast at sunset is termed iftar. It simply means the "breaking of the fast". It's the most anticipated meal for the day! While fasting, much of our thoughts are occupied by what we want to eat!
Iftar meals are not meant to be extravagant, but culturally it is typical for most families (if they have the means) to cook a variety of dishes and create an iftar spread for the family. Many Muslims also gather with friends and family to break their fast together.
There's an Arabic saying that goes "your eyes are bigger than your stomach" and this couldn't more true during Ramadan! While fasting, we are obviously hungry, so we want to eat so much. But as soon as we break our fast, since fasting helps to shrink the stomach, we actually don't end up eating much at all!
What is Traditionally Served at Iftar?
Since the body has been fasting, it's best to ease the digestive system into eating. That's why it's typical for iftar to start with the following food:
- A glass of water to re-hydrate the body
- Dates which are high in natural sugars and will provide an energy boost. Your body needs to rejuvenate with the right carbohydrates, and dates are a healthy source
- Soup, most commonly lentil soup, also to continue the re-hydration process and prime the digestive system
After this, a typical spread of appetizers and mains follows. This can include a variety of vegetarian, chicken, beef, or rice based dishes, depending on what the family is craving. It's usually important to vary the food each day to keep things exciting. And of course, desserts always follow too!
Below I have a collection of recipes organized by category for your convenience.
Soups are always served at iftar, no matter what the main meal is. This is to help re-hydrate the body and prime the digestive system.
Middle Eastern Lentil Soup (Instant Pot or Stovetop)
Authentic Moroccan Harira Soup
Cauliflower Soup with Caramelized Onions
Instant Pot Roasted Red Pepper Soup
Appetizers, Salads and Dips
There is usually a selection of appetizers traditionally served at iftar. This includes crunchy pastries like sambousek or cheese rolls, as well as salads and dips.
How to make Homemade Sambousek
Authentic Homemade Fatayer (Spinach and Cheese)
Manakish (Cheese and Za'atar)
Lahm Bi Ajeen / Sfiha (Middle Eastern Flatbread)
30-Minute Fattet Hummus (Canned Chickpeas)
Traditional Creamy Hummus
Baba Ganoush (Middle Eastern Eggplant Dip)
Roasted Eggplant Dip
Jajik (Cucumber, yogurt & mint salad)
Lebanese Moussaka (Maghmour | Vegan)
Malfouf Salad (Lebanese Cabbage Salad)
Healthy Bulgur Salad with Easy Dressing
The Best Tabouli Salad
Mediterranean Fattoush Salad
Main Dishes - Chicken
Whether you have bone-in or boneless chicken, whole or cut, there's definitely a chicken recipe for you! Chicken is very versatile and easy to cook.
Shawarma Rice with White Sauce (in one pot!)
Chicken Machboos (Rice & Chicken Kabsa)
Chicken Mandi (Yemeni Chicken & Yellow Rice)
Roasted Za'atar Chicken & Potatoes
Sumac Chicken and Onion (Sheet Pan Dinner)
Shish Tawook | Grilled Chicken Skewers
Marinated Chicken Joojeh Kabab (Grill or Bake)
Pomegranate Chicken Recipe (Air Fryer Drumsticks)
Mediterranean roasted chicken
Main Dishes - Beef and Lamb
Here are a variety of beef recipes, whether you're using ground beef or bone-in beef. These recipes are all great choices for iftar, and they vary by cooking time and complexity, so be sure to click the recipe to find out more!
Bechamel Pasta Bake (Macarona Bechamel)
Maqluba (Makloubeh) with Lamb (Arabic rice dish)
Arayes (Middle Eastern Stuffed Pita)
Ground Beef Kafta Kabobs (Skewers or Patties)
Tender Beef Shawarma (Quick Stovetop Method)
Easy Potato Moussaka With Eggplant
30-Minute Arabic Pasta with Yogurt Sauce
Iraqi Dolma (Middle Eastern Stuffed Vegetables)
Egyptian Goulash (Phyllo meat pie)
Mediterranean Eggplant Casserole (Kafta Bil Sanieh)
Fragrant Lamb Kabsa (10 Min Prep Time!)
Quzi (Authentic Iraqi Recipe)
Stuffed Eggplant Boats with Ground Beef
Stews and Rice
Another typical middle eastern iftar meal consists of rice served with a variety of meat and vegetable based stews. These are generally simple to make and full of flavour!
Fasolia Yabsa (Iraqi White Bean Stew)
Okra Stew | Middle Eastern Bamia Recipe
Dawood Basha (Middle Eastern Meatballs Stew)
Arabic Rice with Vermicelli
Baghali Polo or Timman Bagilla (Dill Rice)
Hashweh Rice (Arabic Keema Rice with ground beef)
Instant Pot Tomato Rice
The Best Carrot Rice Recipe (Iraqi Timman Jizar)
If you tried these recipes, please consider leaving a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page - I'd love to hear from you! You can also hop on over to Instagram and say hello!
Middle Eastern Lentil Soup (Instant Pot or Stovetop)
- 2 onions diced
- 1 potato diced
- 1 carrot diced (optional)
- 2 cups red split lentils
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon salt plus more per preference
- 1.5 teaspoon cumin powder
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 teaspoon black pepper more or less per preference
- 8-10 cups water or chicken stock
- 1 chicken stock cube if using water
- Lemon juice optional
- Crunchy pita chips optional
- Start by peeling and chopping the onions and potatoes into large chunks. If you don't want to blend the soup at the end, then dice them into smaller cubes
- In the Instant Pot (I used 8Qt for this size - see notes), add the vegetable oil, potatoes, onions, and spices and cook for 5 minutes on saute mode. If using stove top, use a regular soup pot
- Add the lentils and water, mix well ensuring you scrape the bottom of the pot, and secure the instant pot lid. If using stove top, cover the pot
- If using Instant Pot, pressure cook for 15 minutes. The Instant Pot will take approximately 10-15 minutes to come to pressure
- If using stove top, allow it to boil for 40-60 minutes until the vegetables are soft. Adjust the liquid and salt half way through
- For the Instant Pot, manually release the pressure valve and blend the soup using a hand mixer
- For the stove top, you can leave it chunky or blend it as well
- Taste and adjust the salt and also the water. If you like it thinner, add more water and allow it to cook for a few more minutes on saute mode
- If you're making the crunchy pita topping, simply cut pita bread into small squares and fry on medium heat using 3-4 tablespoons of oil. Continue stirring until golden and crunchy
- Serve with a squeeze of lemon and crunchy pita on top
- If you don't have an Instant Pot, you can follow the directions and cook on the stove top instead of pressure cooking. Cook time will be closer to 40-60 minutes.
- I used an 8 Qt instant pot for this batch size. You can halve the recipe and use a 6 Qt instant pot
- You can skip adding the potatoes if you don't have any (but don't skip the onion!)
- You can also add carrots to this soup, the same way the potatoes and onions are added
- Adjust the thickness of the soup at the end by adding more water for a thinner soup or allow it to boil for a thicker soup. This recipe yields a thick consistency