Afghani cuisine

Afghan cuisine is largely based upon the nation's chief crops, such as cereals like wheat, maize, barley and rice. Accompanying these staples are the dairy products (yogurt and whey), various nuts, and native vegetables, as well as fresh and dried fruits; Afghanistan is well known for its high quality pomegranates, grapes and sweet football-shaped melons.[1] The nation's culinary specialties reflect its ethnic and geographic diversity. Afghan food is also Halal according to Islamic dietary laws.

Kabul influence on Afghan cuisine

An ancient city of art, traditions and being the nation’s multi-cultural capital, Kabul has traditionally offered a wide variety of cooking styles and ingredients to its citizens. Most notable Afghan food items known today were probably first served by urban residents. Most food and trade recipes were traditionally handed down through the generations. Late in the 19th or early in 20th century, a collection of formal gastronomy documents was published by Afghanistan’s government. These invaluable documents included preparation, food history, cookware fabrication, and dining etiquette.

The varied climate of Afghanistan allows for an abundance of crops throughout the seasons. Fresh yogurt, coriander, garlic, onions, spring onion, tomatoes, potatoes, and fruit are widely available in all parts of Afghanistan and are used in preparing foods. Fruits and vegetables, fresh and dried, form an important part of the Afghan diet, especially in the rural areas. Afghanistan produces a variety of fruits, notably grapes, pomegranates, apricots, berries, and plums. These fruits have traditionally been Afghanistan's main food exports. Dried nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, pistachios, almonds, peanuts, and pine nuts are both very popular and plentiful in Afghanistan. A variety of oranges, known locally as "malta" is grown in the warm climate of Nangarhar province. Also in the temperate climate of Nangarhar, olive groves once stood for the nation’s consumption of olive oil. Wardak Province is well known for its apples and apricots, as is Kandahar for its fabled pomegranates. Herbs and spices used in Afghan cuisine include mint, saffron, coriander, cilantro, cardamom, and black pepper. Lamb and chicken are the preferred meats. Afghan cuisine emphasizes well-balanced, contrasting tastes and food is neither spicy nor bland.


Known as the dastarkhan, the floor spread is an important expression of culture in Afghanistan. Regardless of economic status, creating an adequate dastarkhan is important to any family, especially when hosting guests. A large tablecloth will be spread over a traditional rug. Most likely a young member of the family will present an "aftabah wa lagan", a copper basin and elaborate pot filled with water for the household to wash their hands in. He or she will go around the destarkhan to each of the people dining, pouring fresh water over their hands. Soap is provided, as is a drying cloth. The destarkhan is then filled with breads, accompaniments, relishes, appetizers, main courses, salads, rice, and fruits. Arrangement of foods is important when having guests; they must have easy access to the specialty foods.

Major foods

Breads and accompaniments

There are mainly three types of Afghan bread:

  • Naan - Literally "bread". Thin, long and oval shaped, it is mainly a white/whole wheat blend. Topped with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, nigella seeds, or some combination of these. More expensive naan can be made with all white flour and oil.
  • Obi Non - Uzbek-style bread. Shaped like a disc and thicker than naan. Usually made with white flour.
  • Lavash - Very thin bread. Similar to the Lavash elsewhere. Usually used as plating for meats and stews.

Accompaniments may include:

  • Torshi - Various pickled fruits (e.g., peach, lemon) and vegetables (eggplant, garlic) mixed with vinegar and spices.
  • Chutney - Pepper sauces. Usually made with vinegar, fresh cilantro, chili peppers, and sometimes tomato paste.

Rice dishes

Rice dishes are the "king" of all foods in Afghanistan. The Afghans have certainly taken much time and effort in creating their rice dishes, as they are considered the best part of any meal. Wealthier families will eat one rice dish per day. The Afghan royalty spent much time on rice preparation and invention as evidenced in the number of rice dishes in their cookbooks. Weddings and family gatherings must feature several rice dishes and certainly reputations can be made in the realm of rice preparation. The types of rice prepared are outlined below.


White rice. Extra long grains such as basmati is required. First parboiled, then drained, and finally baked in an oven with some oil, butter, and salt. This method creates a fluffy rice with each grain separated.

Chalow is served mainly with qormas (korma; stews or casseroles).


Cooked the same as chalao, but either meat & stock, qorma, herbs, or a combination are blended in before the baking process. This creates elaborate colors, flavors, and aromas for which some rices are named after. Caramelized sugar is also sometimes used to give the rice a rich brown color. Examples include:

  • Qabili Palao - The national dish, meat and stock added, topped with fried raisins, slivered carrots, and pistachios.
  • Yakhni Palao - Meat & stock added. Creates a brown rice.
  • Zamarod Palao - Spinach qorma mixed in before the baking process, hence 'zamarod' or emerald.
  • Qorma Palao - Qorm'eh Albokhara wa Dalnakhod mixed in before the baking process
  • Bore Palao - Qorm'eh Lawand added. Creates a yellow rice.
  • Bonjan-e-Roomi Palao - Qorm'eh Bonjan-e-Roomi (tomato qorma) added during baking process. Creates a red rice.
  • Serkah Palao - Similar to yakhni palao, but with vinegar and other spices.
  • Shebet Palao - Fresh dill, raisins added at baking process.
  • Narenj Palao - A sweet and elaborate rice dish made with saffron, orange peel, pistachios, almonds and chicken.
  • Maash Palao - A sweet and sour palao baked with mung beans, apricots, and Bulgur (a kind of wheat). Exclusively vegetarian.
  • Alou Balou Palao - Sweet rice dish with cherries and chicken.

Sticky rice

Rice that is cooked with its water and forms a sticky consistency, is known as Bata. Bata is usually eaten with a qorma, such as Sabzi (spinach) or Shalgham (turnips). With the addition of stock, meat, herbs, and grains, more elaborate dishes are created. Notable dishes include Mastawa, Kecheri Qoroot, and Shola. A sweet rice dish called Shir Birenj (literally milk rice) is often served as dessert.


Qorma is a stew or casserole, usually served with chalow. Most qormas are onion-based. Onions are fried, then meat is added, as are a variety of fruits, spices, and vegetables depending on the recipe. Finally water is added and left to simmer. The onion caramelizes and creates a richly colored stew. There are over 100 qormas. Below are some examples:

  • Qorma Alou-Bokhara wa Dalnakhod - Onion based, with sour plums, lentils, and cardamom. Veal or chicken.
  • Qorma Nadroo - Onion based, with yogurt, lotus roots, cilantro, and coriander. Lamb or veal.
  • Qorma Lawand - Onion based, with yogurt, turmeric, and cilantro. Chicken, lamb, or beef.
  • Qorma Sabzi - Sauteed spinach and other greens. Lamb.
  • Qorma Shalgham - Onion based, with turnips and sugar; sweet and sour taste. Lamb.


Pasta is called "khameerbob" in Afghanistan and is often in the shape of dumplings. These native dishes are popular. Due to the time-consuming process of creating the dough for the dumplings, it is rarely served at large gatherings such as weddings, but for more special occasions at home:

  • Mantu - A dish of Chinese origin. Dumplings filled with onion & ground beef. Mantu is steamed and usually topped with a tomato-based sauce and a yogurt or qoroot-based sauce. The yogurt-based topping is usually a mixture of yogurt, sour cream, and garlic. The qoroot-based sauce is made of goat cheese and is also mixed with garlic. Sometimes a qoroot and yogurt mixture will be used. The dish is then topped with dried mint.
  • Ashak - Kabul dish. Dumplings filled with leeks. Boiled and then drained. Ashak is topped with garlic-mint qoroot or a garlic yogurt sauce and a well seasoned ground meat mixture.

Each family or village will have its own version of mantu and ashak, which creates a wide variety of dumplings.

Pasta in the form of noodles is also commonly found in aush, a noodle soup served in several varieties around the country.


Afghan kebab is most often found in restaurants and outdoor vendor stalls. The most widely used meat is lamb. Recipes differ with every restaurant. Afghan kebab is served with naan, rarely rice and customers have the option to sprinkle sumac or ghora, dried ground sour grapes, on their kebab. The quality of kebab is solely dependent on the quality of the meat. Pieces of fat from the sheep's tail (jijeq) are usually added with the lamb skewers to add extra flavor.

Other popular kebabs include the lamb chop, ribs, kofta (ground beef) and chicken; all of which are found in better restaurants.

Chapli kebab, a specialty of Eastern Afghanistan, a patty made from beef mince, and is one of the most popular barbecue meals in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The word Chapli comes from the Pashto word Chaprikh which means flat. It is prepared flat and round, and served with naan. The original recipe of chapli kebab dictates a half meat (or less), half flour mixture, which renders it lighter in taste, and less expensive.


Quroot (or Qoroot) (Dari: قروت), also called Kashk (Iran) is a reconstituted Quroot product. The product traces its origins to Northern Afghanistan during the 1st Century BC.

It was traditionally a by-product of butter made from sheep or goat milk. The residual buttermilk remaining after churning of the butter is soured further by keeping at room temperature for a few days, treated with salt, and then boiled. The precipitated casein is filtered by cheesecloth, pressed to remove liquid, and shaped into balls. The product is thus a very sour cottage cheese.

Quroot is typically eaten raw, and may be served with cooked Afghan dishes such as Ashak, Mantoo, and Qeshla Qoroot, among others.

Other Afghan food items


Shomleh/Shlombeh, cold drink made by mixing water with yogurt and then adding fresh or dried mint. It is the most widely consumed drink in Afghanistan, especially during lunch time in the summer season.

Eating out

Afghans do not usually eat out at restaurants, but some restaurants have booths or a separate dining area for families, so women may dine out when they are with their families. Women do not dine out alone or with friends.

Special occasions

Serving tea and white sugared almonds is a familiar custom during Afghan festivals. Eid-e-Qorban is celebrated at the end of the Haj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, when families and friends come visiting each other to drink a cup of tea together and share some nuts, sweets, and sugared almonds called noql.

See also


External links

  • Afghan cooking, recipes and culture
  • Afghani Foods and Cuisine
  • Afghan Food and Cookery
  • Afghan cooking
  • Afghan food recipes from
  • Some Afghan Dishes
  • Afghan recipes
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