Muslims around the world look forward to the month of Ramadan, a time within the holy calendar not only to restrict yourself from food and drink from sunup to sundown, but also to reflect and refocus. For 30 days, we get up before the sunrise for a meal and the first prayer of the day, and fast until sunset.
Every year, the Islamic calendar shifts up a few days from the Gregorian calendar, and in the United States, this makes a big difference in the number of hours of fasting and heat levels. This is the most challenging time of the year to be fasting: The days are long, and the weather is usually hot. While it’s always necessary to keep track of your eating and drinking habits during Ramadan, it is especially critical to monitor what you eat, and when you eat it, in these hot summer days.
For me, Ramadan is a great time to remind myself of self-restraint, and to reset any of my autopilot tendencies. When you’re around food all day, like I am on set at Food52, you start to think about what you would eat if you weren’t fasting, and you reconsider your everyday choices.
It also makes you more appreciative of everything you have access to. Oftentimes, my reflections on my eating decisions translate into all things—time management, the way I speak to friends, family, peers, and even strangers. While it’s always very important in Islam to practice kindness, it’s particularly essential during Ramadan to be considerate and aware of your thoughts and words. Hopefully, we keep the habits we redevelop during Ramadan throughout our lives.
There is plenty to think about during the holy month of Ramadan, dietetic and otherwise. Keeping your body in good shape by feeding it (and hydrating it!) well when you’re permitted to eat and drink means you can focus on your religious and personal goals. Here are 18 recipes to prepare for breaking the fast at iftar, once the sun goes down, and suhoor, in the early morning before starting your fast.
1. Mahin Joon's Lubiah Polo
Richly spiced saffron rice; crunchy green beans; and hearty ground beef make the perfect comforting, super-filling dish to break the day's fast. Don't forget to scrape the pan for the prized tahdig, or the crispy bits of rice at the bottom.
2. Shish Barak (Lebanese Lamb Dumplings in Yogurt Sauce)
These plump, spicy dumplings are filled with a harissa-and cumin-spiked lamb sausage, but are drenched a creamy yogurt sauce that's sure to cool you down on a hot summer's day.
3. Rachel Khoo's Sticky Malaysian Chicken with Pineapple Salad
Juicy chicken thighs are enveloped by a sweet, sticky, umami-rich glaze (thanks, soy sauce, fish sauce, and honey!) for an ultra-satisfying dinner. A refreshing pineapple and cucumber salad cuts through it all to complete the meal.
4. Jackfruit Biryani
In this biryani, meaty, tender curried jackfruit is layered with super-fluffy, saffron-scented rice and caramelized onions, creating an incredible combination of flavors and textures in each and every bite.
5. Jerk Chicken Kebabs
Is there anything more satisfying than grilled chicken skewers? Here, a complex marinade made of scotch bonnet peppers, tart citrus juice, and lots of warming spices takes things to a whole new level. Start marinating the chicken the night before, and spend just a few minutes day-of grilling the chicken, before diving in—the chicken takes just 3 minutes per side to reach charred deliciousness.
6. Ma Po Tofu (Stir-Fried Bean Curd with Ground Turkey)
In this riff on the original restaurant favorite, firm tofu gets flash-fried with lean ground turkey and sweet red peppers, along with plenty of garlic, ginger, and oyster sauce. Serve this over a bed of rice and go to bed full and happy.
7. Ethiopian-Inspired Spicy Chicken Stew
After a long day, cooking up a storm can feel like the last thing you want to do. Here's a one-pot chicken dinner with a ton of spice and flair, and very little fuss. Serve with rice, riced cauliflower, or traditional injera, fermented Ethiopian flatbread.
8. Egg and Eggplant Sandwich
Creamy, spicy, crunchy, eggy, and filled with tender eggplant—what doesn't this sandwich have? What's more, you can make all of the components in advance (say, the night before) and just assemble it all when you're ready.
9. Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad
This salad, filled with chewy rice noodles and what feels like every vegetable under the sun, is the ultimate clean-out-the-fridge favorite. Plus, it's doused in a funky fish sauce vinaigrette inspired by nuoc cham, and topped with herbs and crunchy, salty peanuts galore, so you'll look forward to a burst of bright flavor in every bite.
10. Tahini Roasted Broccoli
Imagine a pan of the very best roasted broccoli: all caramelized and charred at the edges, with tender stalks and flecks of garlic that almost melt on the tongue, spritzed with zingy lemon juice after coming out of the oven. Now, imagine that same, epic broccoli with a load of creamy, nutty tahini trapped between all the nooks and crannies of the florets. That's this dish, and it's calling your name.
11. Eggs in Spicy Minted Tomato Sauce
This take on shakshuka, the Israeli dish of eggs poached in a thick tomato sauce, employs bright, refreshing mint and verdant, spicy jalapeño to wake up the palate in the morning. The staying power of the eggs, with some crusty bread to sop up all the sauce, will keep you satisfied through the morning and beyond.
12. School Morning Muesli
This muesli's a fresh, speedy, brilliantly textured way to start your day right. And beyond that, it's infinitely adaptable to your fridge and pantry fodder: Sub in your favorite non-dairy milk for the dairy milk; swap out dried apricots or dates for the cranberries; use a plum or mango or kiwi instead of the nectarine, and a pear instead of the apple; consider toasted pecans, hazelnuts, or pine nuts as a sub for the almonds. You can't go wrong here, whichever way you try.
13. Avocado, Feta, and Mint on Sourdough Toast
Avocado toast feels like the oldest breakfast trick in book, and for good reason: It's lightning-quick and keeps you satisfied for hours. Here, feta and mint give some bite to creamy, mellow avocado, all slathered on top of a slice of crunchy sourdough.
14. Vegan Morning Glory Muffins
These spiced-up, fluffy muffins are jam-packed with all sorts of goodness, like raisins, carrots, walnuts, and apples. They're also vegan and naturally sweetened with dates, so you can totally avoid a mid-morning sugar crash.
15. "Moroccan Guacamole Toast" With Fried Egg
Another avocado toast, but make it Moroccan—with salty preserved lemons and fruity Aleppo pepper. (Also, you'll definitely want to put an egg on it).
16. Yogurt with Toasted Quinoa, Dates, and Almonds
In this dish, protein-packed yogurt is covered with all kinds of crunchy-chewy-sticky things to make it really sing. With the addition of powerhouse-seed quinoa, it'll keep you full and catapult you through the day.
17. Morning Date Smoothie
This is basically a milkshake for breakfast, but made with satisfying, filling bananas and dates, and laced with fragrant cinnamon and vanilla. It also takes about five minutes to blend up.
18. Baked Onion-Walnut Frittata
Easy and hands-off, this creamy-crunchy walnut frittata will keep and reheat well, so make a big batch.
This article was originally published in June 2016. It has been updated to include more recipes, and to help you stay strong and satisfied through Ramadan this month.
What foods have you found keep you going and feeling good while fasting? Share your favorites in the comments.