7 Muslim food creators share the iftar recipes they turn to during Ramadan

7 Muslim food creators share the iftar recipes they turn to during Ramadan

Some of my earliest and fondest memories of Ramadan are of my family seated around a massive spread of food and drinks to break our fast. Iftar was a time to take a breath, come together and pray after a long day and somewhat chaotic meal prep.

I know the holy month is about more than just the food, but breaking the fast with my loved ones — and the dishes we eat year after year — is central for me. (Spring rolls and pakoras, served with ketchup and chutney and washed down with Rooh Afza, are a must!) Certain foods carry so much weight, bringing warmth and nostalgia with every bite. 

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. This Ramadan, I spoke with seven Muslims about their go-to iftar dishes. They shared personal stories about their love for these foods — along with the recipes so you can add them to your table too. 

Sarah is a Pakistani Canadian food blogger based in Toronto. She shares simple, flavourful cooking and baking recipes on Instagram and on her website, Flour & Spice.

Her iftar staple: pakoras 

Sarah recalls her mom making pakoras to go with “her trademark chutney” in the kitchen of her childhood home, minutes before it was time to break the fast — and now, pakoras are a staple on Sarah’s own iftar table. “As an adult, I appreciate the love and effort that went into that and am happy to do the same for my family,” she said.  

Pakoras are a crowd-pleaser with endless variations. “You can have these with just the dough, your favourite veggies mixed in or even boiled egg slices,” Sarah said. Her secret to getting them on the table quickly? “I use one of my mama’s favourite hacks and prep my own big batch of dry mix!” 

Anysé and Saleha are sisters based in Toronto, who blog about food and how it’s connected to their Persian heritage, culture and traditions. 

Their iftar staple: bruschetta with feta cheese 

When Anysé and Saleha were kids, their dad would serve this cheese-topped bruschetta to go with the fried foods on their iftar table. “This Iftar staple is super refreshing,” they said.  

“We have always used feta cheese … and love the flavour it adds to our recipe. The combination of tomatoes, basil, olive oil and feta is familiar to the Middle East … and maybe that’s why, although originally Italian, this bruschetta with feta became our iftar spread staple.” 

Zahra is a Toronto-based food photographer and recipe developer. She creates nutritious recipes, which draw on her cultural traditions as well as others from around the world, and shares them on social media.

Her iftar staple: meat pies

“Hand-held savoury pies, after a long day of fasting, tick off many … elements — spicy, savoury, crunchy and cheesy — which many of us crave during fasting hours,” Zahra said.  A special dish that she only makes during Ramadan, these meat pies have been an iftar staple since she got married. “Being a revert, my Ramadan traditions are learned post-marriage and now they’re traditions I pass down to my children.” 

These flaky pies, filled with chicken or ground beef, are a variation on a recipe Zahra learned from her mother-in-law. “These are a nod to my Indian Punjabi background — by way of using warm spices like cumin, coriander and garam masala, and the addition of fresh cilantro and fresh green chilies — as well as the Canadian in me, with copious amounts of gooey cheese!” she said.

Shayma is a recipe developer and food writer based in Toronto. She creates recipes — using Canadian ingredients and the flavours of her Pakistani, Afghan and Persian heritage — which she shares on Instagram and will also post on her website (currently under construction).

Her iftar staple: potato pakoras 

“Without pakoras at the iftar table, Ramadan seems incomplete,” said Shayma, who remembers eating ones made with thinly sliced potatoes when she was growing up. “In my school, the Gujarati tuck-shop lady called them bhajia. Making these during Ramadan reminds me not only of my ancestral home in Lahore, Pakistan, but also my childhood home in Nairobi.”

Enjoyed as a street food in countries throughout the Indian subcontinent, the spiced vegetable fritters are usually made with chickpea flour (a.k.a. besan or gram flour), which you can find at South Asian grocery stores. “Hot, crispy pakoras are perfect finger food to dip into a cooling cilantro-mint chutney,” Shayma said.

Amina is a Toronto-based engineer, food blogger and founder of the Hungry Paprikas website. She creates authentic Middle Eastern recipes that are easy and approachable. 

Her iftar staple: okra stew (bamya)

“My family craves simple comfort food at iftar time, so along with a hot bowl of lentil soup, we always have various vegetable stews with lamb on the table, served with vermicelli rice,” Amina said. “Rice and stew is the ultimate Arabic comfort food — especially when served with vermicelli rice.” 

A recipe learned from her mother, this Iraqi stew is a family favourite. “Okra stew is cooked across the Middle East, each country with a different variation,” she said. 

Tasnim is a Toronto science teacher and food and travel blogger who shares easy family-friendly recipes, often with influences from her Bangladeshi background. 

Her iftar staple: piyaju

Growing up in Bangladesh, Tasnim always ate piyaju during Ramadan. “It was part of my childhood, so it’s something I love making for my family now,” she said. 

The Bangladeshi fritter is made with dried red lentils that are soaked, blended and mixed with onions, herbs and spices. The batter is then shaped into balls and deep-fried until golden brown. “You can enjoy it as is,” she said, “or with your favourite sauce. I love tamarind chutney!”