Heard the term “halal” and wondering what it really means? Thinking that rules surrounding halal sound a lot like kosher and wondering what the difference is? Having Muslim guests and need to whip up a halal meal? Help is here!
The best place to start is Islam for Busy People. A great online resource for people needing information about Islam in a nutshell, Islam for Busy People can help you navigate everything from the basics of Shari’ah law to the proper Halal cooking rules. It’s a great course to educate yourself with in a world full of confusing and conflicting information about the 3rd strand of Abrahamic religion (you may find many more similarities with Christianity and Judaism than differences!).
You can read on for a brief overview of halal, for cooking halal, and for some basic halal recipes.
Halal doesn’t just pertain to food – it pertains to food preparation and many aspects of daily life for the practicing Muslim. The term halal signifies what is permissible to do or what is permissible to eat. There is also a term for what is not permissible: “haraam”.
To simplify the rules for practitioners (and anyone familiar with the strict and complicated kosher practices will appreciate this), everything is considered halal unless expressly deemed haraam in the Qur’an.
In regard to food, here is a list of foods that are expressly forbidden in the Qur’an:
- Pork – Quran 2:173
- Animals slaughtered in the name of anyone but “Allah” – Quran 2:173, Quran 5:3
- Carrion (carcasses of dead animals) – Quran 2:173
- An animal that has been strangled, beaten (to death), killed by a fall, gored (to death), or savaged by a beast of prey (unless finished off by a human) – Quran 5:3
- Blood – Quran 5:3
- Food over which Allah’s name is not pronounced – Quran 6:121
- Intoxicants & Alcoholic beverages – Qur’an 5:90
If you look up these verses and find them more confusing than enlightening, check out Quran Reading A-Z .
The explanation for outlawing these animals and substances doesn’t involve testing the faith of practitioners or a flight of fancy by god. These foods and substances were deemed harmful for humans for health reasons or for spiritual growth.
When eating animal flesh, Muslims need to be aware of the process by which the animal was slaughtered so they can keep with halal.
The slaughter itself must be carried out by a Muslim. This person must start off by invoking the name of Allah and then saying “God is the greatest” three times in rapid succession.
Then the animal is killed by cutting through the throat, blood vessels, and windpipe – but not the spinal cord. Finally, the animal’s blood must be completely drained.
Non-animal derived foods must just lack any haraam by-products and any alcohol.
There are some tricky aspects to keeping halal. Many modern-day cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and processed foods use pork and animal by-products. Muslims must be careful of the origins of these by-products or not use them at all. Many devout keep the numbers of food companies and processors on-hand for quick reference.
Alcohol is used in many food products, and alcohol, famously, is haraam.
How To Get Halal Foods
There are many resources within Muslim communities for getting halal foods. There are also resources if you’re not necessarily part of those communities. Visit Muslim Consumer Group – it can help you find any sort of food and help you make sure it’s halal. It can even direct you to what major grocery chains might carry it. Funnily enough, looking for foods marked “kosher” also makes it easier to shop. Kosher foods will not have pork product either (again, more similarities than differences!).
Cooking halal can be rewarding for spiritual, health, and hospitality reasons, and it doesn’t have to be difficult.
Mint Turkey with Potatoes
- 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 pound ground turkey
- 8-10 small boiled potatoes, quartered
- 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 teaspoon dried mint
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- Salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley or 2 tablespoons dried
Sauté the onion and garlic in warmed oil until the garlic has softened. Add the tomatoes and cook down until they have released all of their juices.
Add the ground turkey, making sure to break it up with a wooden spoon or utensil so that they are separated and can cook evenly. Brown nicely, about 4-5 minutes.
Add the potatoes and the herbs. Add more oil if necessary to brown the potatoes. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, covered.
When the meat is close to being finished, add the parsley. Serve with fresh pita, naan bread or tortillas.
Chicken Pot Pie
- 2 sheets puff pastry
- 1 egg, beaten
- 4 chicken breast halves, or 2 cups leftover cooked chicken
- 2 tbsps cooking oil
- 1/3 cup butter
- 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 quart heavy cream
- 1/4 cup chicken stock or vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp. minced garlic
- 1/2 small yellow onion, minced
- 1 cup frozen green peas,
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- Pinch fresh grated nutmeg, optional
- 1 tbsp. Garam Masala Powder
- salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat oven to 425 F.
Season chicken with seasoned salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and saute until cooked through. Remove from heat and cut into chunks. Or use precooked chicken.
In a large saucepan, melt butter and then slowly add flour, keep stirring , do not let it brown. Slowly add cream and keep stirring. Add chicken stock, garlic, carrots and onion and stir until thickened. Add peas, nutmeg, if using, and cut up chicken. Add garam masala . Remove from heat.
Roll out the puff pastry sheet. Brush the outside edges of the bowl with the egg wash, then place the dough on top. Trim the circle to 1/2-inch larger than the top of the bowl. Crimp the dough to fold over the side, pressing it to make it stick. Brush the dough with egg wash and make 3 slits in the top. Sprinkle with sea salt and more garam masala powder. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Decrease the heat to 400 degrees F and bake until the crust is puffed and golden brown and the filling is bubbly, another 15 to 20 minutes. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes before serving.
Looking for a simple and delicious dessert? Try “Fig and Cardamom Delight”. It features Agar Agar, which is a great alternative to pork-derived gelatin. Gelatin is used in many baking recipes, so Agar Agar is a great tool to have for both halal cooking and for vegetarian cooking! Interested in vegan cooking and baking? Online Vegan Vegetarian Cooking will make you a master.
Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 10 mins
Makes 6 glasses
- 1/2 packet (5 grams) chopped agar-agar
- 2 1/2 cups low-fat milk
- 3 tsp sugar
- 2 pinches cardamom (elaichi) powder
- 2 pinches of saffron (kesar) strands
- 8 dried figs (anjeer) , soaked in 1/2 cup waterand pureed
Combine ¾ cup water and agar-agar in a deep non-stick pan and simmer over a slow flame till the agar-agar melts. Add the milk, sugar, cardamom powder, and fig purée. Miix well and cook on a slow flame till the sugar dissolves completely. Keep aside to cool slightly. Pour into 6 individual glasses and refrigerate for at least an hour or till it sets. Serve chilled.
Happy halal cooking!
Interested in cultural cooking? Going beyond halal and kosher cooking, there’s Ayurvedic cooking. Instead of having certain rules for consumption, it treats food as medicine. Truly and education, Healing Foods with Ayurvedic Cooking can get you started.