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Nourishing Recipes Muslim Chefs and Health Experts Love at Ramadan

Packed with goodness, for you to enjoy dawn and sundown each day of the Muslim holy month

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Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Nazima Qureshi and Belal Hafeez (2); Jamela Bilal (3); Getty Images (6))

Fasting is a central part of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month observed this year from Sunday, March 10, to Tuesday, April 9. Practiced from sunrise to sunset throughout the 30-day lunar month, fasting is meant to  heighten one’s connection to God and cultivate feelings of empathy and generosity for others.

That can mean around 12 hours without eating or drinking, making the food before sunrise and after sunset especially important on a physical, mental and spiritual level, says Jamela Bilal, a halal-certified meal prep chef based in Philadelphia.

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Here are recipes and tips from Muslim chefs and health experts to help get you through your day during the holy month.

Before sunrise, go for meals that will last

A suhoor meal is eaten around 5 or 6 a.m. Favorites for Bilal consist of protein, healthy fats and slow-burning carbs, as well as hydrating foods like cucumbers or fresh fruit.

“What you eat in the morning is pivotal,” says Bilal, whose business Halal2Go currently delivers meals nationwide but is transitioning to a local model, delivering in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. She adds that while a nutrient-dense morning meal won’t stave off hunger entirely, a high-protein meal like her vegetable-studded omelet helps “give you good energy to last throughout the day.”

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Courtesy: Jamela Bilal


  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • ¼ cup diced scallions
  • ¼ cup chopped red pepper
  • ½ cup chopped kale
  • ¼ cup shredded cheese


  1. In a bowl, whisk the eggs until well beaten. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil.
  3. Add the scallions, red pepper and kale to the skillet, and sauté until the kale is wilted and the scallions are translucent.
  4. Pour the whisked eggs over the scallions, red pepper and kale mixture.
  5. Allow the eggs to cook for a few minutes, until the edges start to set.
  6. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over one half of the omelet.
  7. Using a spatula, fold the other half of the omelet over the cheese side to create a half-moon shape. Cook for another minute, or until the cheese is melted.
  8. Slide the omelet onto a plate and serve hot.

Optional: Serve with a meat protein like smoked salmon or turkey or beef sausage 

Busy households, prep your morning meal ahead of time

For morning meals in their household with three young children, registered dietitian Nazima Qureshi and her husband, fitness expert Belal Hafeez, turn to recipes that can be assembled before bed to pack a nutritious morning punch. “Our go-to is overnight oats because we can prep it ahead of time,” says Qureshi, who has her master’s in public health from the University of Toronto and who cofounded the website The Healthy Muslims with Hafeez.

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Courtesy: Nazima Qureshi and Belal Hafeez


  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dark chocolate chips
  • 10 almonds
  • 3-4 strawberries, sliced


  1. In a mason jar, add rolled oats, milk and Greek yogurt. Add in the remaining ingredients and cover with lid.
  2. Place in the refrigerator overnight.
  3. When ready to serve, remove lid and serve well.
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Break the fast in the evening with healthy, ‘luxurious’ foods

Dates are a traditional food to break the daily fast (the meal the fast is broken with is called iftar in Arabic) after sunset. There are health reasons for this — in addition to energy-replenishing natural sugar, dates are high in fiber and nutrients including magnesium and iron. 

Dates are also eaten for religious and cultural reasons — the fruit is mentioned more than 20 times in the Quran, and in the Hadith,  the collections of sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, the prophet broke his own fast with dates.

Bilal first sips some water at the end of each day’s fast. She then enjoys a platter of dates, olives and nuts that energize her for the evening prayers she attends at her local mosque. The Quran is read aloud throughout the month of Ramadan, and the prayers she attends involve standing for at least an hour each night.

“One of the real positive things about Ramadan is the communal part of it,” says Bilal, who is an African American Muslim. When she attends mosque with people from diverse cultural backgrounds, she likes to share a dish that’s “American-inspired” and represents her family’s favorites.

Bilal loves to bring macaroni and cheese to iftar meals. She makes the filling classic healthy but still “luxurious” by using protein pasta, protein powder, cottage cheese and vitamin-packed butternut squash to elevate its nutritional impact. “It’s a star dish,” she says.

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Courtesy: Jamela Bilal


  • 8 oz chickpea macaroni or rotini noodles
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup cottage cheese
  • ¼ cup plain protein powder
  • 1 cup pureed butternut squash (canned, or baby food is an easy choice)
  • Season salt, pepper and onion powder, to taste


  1. Cook the noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until it starts to simmer.
  3. Gradually whisk in the grated cheddar cheese and cottage cheese until the sauce is melted and smooth.
  4. Stir in the protein powder and squash until combined.
  5. Season with season salt, pepper and onion powder, to taste.
  6. Add the cooked noodles to the cheese sauce and stir until well coated.

Optional: Sprinkle with paprika for color, and bake in the oven until golden brown on top. 

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Keep the evening easy with one-pan meals

Qureshi and Hafeez also like to make the evening meal as easy as possible with their family of five and busy lives — making it more about a time to connect.

“When you’re on the go from Monday to Friday, it’s hard to get the whole family together just to have dinner,” says Hafeez. “But in Ramadan, it becomes a lot easier — it becomes a very family-oriented time."

The couple, who wrote the book The Healthy Ramadan Guide,  include one-pan meals like coconut chicken and vegetable curry — both family favorites — that can be prepared ahead and warmed up without any late-day energy required.

The couple has a mission to “bridge the gap between ‘healthy’ and ‘cultural,’ ” preserving the flavors of various countries and cultures while dialing down techniques like deep-frying or using fatty cuts of meat. 

Spices like red chili powder, cumin, ginger and garlic — hallmark flavors of Qureshi and Hafeez’s Indian and Pakistani cultures — bring powerful cultural resonance without added fat. The spices appear on most of their iftar tables, including in the warm and flavorful curry.

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Courtesy: Nazima Qureshi and Belal Hafeez


  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 lb boneless chicken, cut into cubes (breast or thigh)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ red onion, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • ¼ acorn squash, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cups broccoli, chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms, sliced
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch + ¼ cup water


  1. In a large pan, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil at medium heat and add chicken pieces. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes until chicken is fully cooked through and browned. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil at medium heat and add onions. Sauté for 2-3 minutes until onions have softened. Add ginger, garlic, carrots and acorn squash.
  3. Add spices and mix well until vegetables are evenly coated. Add ½ cup water, increase heat to medium-high, and cover. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until carrots and squash have softened.
  4. Add broccoli, mushrooms, and an additional ½ cup of water. Cook for 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat until it reaches a simmer. Add chicken and coconut milk. Let the curry come to a boil.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together cornstarch and ¼ cup water. Add cornstarch mixture to the curry in a steady stream while continuously mixing. Cook for 1-2 minutes until curry has thickened.
  6. Remove from heat and serve over brown rice.

Prep and freeze for everyday-easy meals

When she’s at home with her 9- and 17-year-old sons, Bilal prefers to tuck into a warm dish like Moroccan lamb stew, which is easy to prepare ahead of time, and “comes back to life nicely” straight from the freezer. “I enjoy a warm and comforting meal at iftar,” she says, “and this lamb stew does that for me.”

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Courtesy: Jamela Bilal


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb lamb, cut into small pieces
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups water or chicken broth
  • 1 carrot, sliced into rounds
  • Canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed (for garnish)
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped (for garnish)


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until softened.
  2. Add the lamb pieces to the pot and cook until browned on all sides.
  3. Stir in the cumin, coriander, paprika, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, cayenne pepper and salt. Mix well to coat the lamb evenly with the spices.
  4. Pour in the water or chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pot and let it simmer for an hour.
  5. Add the carrots and simmer another 20-30 minutes, or until the lamb is tender.
  6. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve hot, garnished with chickpeas and fresh parsley.

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