Updated: Oct 22, 2021
The Afghan cuisine was influenced by its border trade routes with different countries. From Iran came the coriander, mint, and the cooking style using veggie greens like herbs, spinach, etc. Mongolia contributed the noodles and dumplings, while from India came the chilies, pepper, and other spices like cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, and nutmeg. Here are the famous Authentic dishes in Afghanistan.
Afghan bread, or Nân-i Afğânī, is the national bread of Afghanistan.
The bread is oval or rectangular and baked in a tandoor, a cylindrical oven that is widely used in South Asia. The Afghan version of the tandoor sits above ground and is made of bricks, which are heated to cook the bread.
Aushak is known as Afghanistan leek and scallion dumplings.
This dish is made of pasta dumplings filled with vegetables either chopped spring onions and leek and without cheese and meat in it.
It is usually served with a meaty tomato sauce.
The meal is often enjoyed with yogurt and dry mint garnishes. However, a vegetarian variety is also available.
It is a common menu for public holidays and Islamic festive gatherings like Eid and Ramadan.
Bolani* is traditional street food, it is stuffed, baked, or pan-fried flatbread that is made of unleavened dough filled with meats, seafood, vegetables, pumpkin, spinach, spring onions, potato, chives, or even green or red lentils.
Bolani is often served as a side dish to accompany the main course meal and it is well-known as a dish that is rich in proteins, fiber, and vitamins.
It is great to be eaten as a snack if you are looking for something light to eat for your meal.
*Bolani is also known as Perakai or Poraki.
Lavash is a very thin bread that can either be soft or hard and often comes with a square, rectangle, or circle shape.
This bread dish is baked in pottery to preserve its original taste.
Lavash is often eaten with cheese or meat and plays a vital role in traditional weddings where it carries the meaning of bringing fertility and prosperity to the newlywed.
Aush or ash is a thick Afghan noodle soup that can be made in various ways.
The basic ingredients are always the noodles, with garlic, tomatoes, different herbs and spices (mint being the most common), and chakkah, a type of strained yogurt that is either added on top of the soup or mixed in at the end.
The dish has many versions, some are with vegetables like beans and chickpeas, another version is with combining noodles, vegetables, and meatballs, to such versions as (aush-e-asli) that consisting of noodles and meatballs (lamb or beef) only.
Osh pyozee means stuffed onions, is an Afghan specialty made with onions filled with rice, ground meat, feta cheese, and prunes.
Layers of boiled yellow onions are topped with a mixture of cooked rice, ground lamb, feta, prunes, and sautéed garlic with cumin seeds.
The onion layers are tightly folded around the filling, drizzled with oil, and then baked until nicely browned and fragrant.
This savory treat is usually served as an appetizer, but it can also be served as a main dish or an accompaniment to various Afghan dishes.
Bonjan salad is a flavorful and healthy appetizer from Afghanistan.
The dish is consists of slices of eggplant that are first fried and then poured over with a tomato sauce that's spiced with red pepper flakes, pepper, and cinnamon.
The coated eggplants are usually left to cool in the refrigerator anywhere from a few hours to overnight and are then served at room temperature, preferably with Afghan flatbread or a cup of yogurt.
Afghani Green Sauce
A Famous Condiment for Fries & Kebabs
The sauce is made from a variety of spices, it is used as a dip for enhancing the taste of the other main courses.
It consists of a strong aroma of raw garlic, lime juice, chilies, and other ingredients that give it a typical Afghani taste that perfectly matches with all kebabs and fries.
Kabuli Pulao (steamed rice and lamb)
Kabuli Pulao* also commonly known as "Qabili Palau" by the locals, is a traditional Afghan food that is consists of steamed long-grained rice mixed with caramelized carrots, raisins, almonds, a range of sweet spices, and chunks of lamb meat, although chicken and beef are also often used.
The ingredients varying from region to region. The flavors also differ largely, depending upon the herbs, spices, and ingredients used.
*The ‘Kabuli’ in the dish name takes its name from the capital, Kabul, whereas 'Pulao’ is a type of rice dish that is uniquely crafted with a two-stepped cooking process, a cooking method that is one of a kind amongst the locals.
Besides, an Afghan woman's marriage prospects are said to depend on her ability to make qabili Palau.
Saji Kabab is usually served as a whole lamb or in skewers, marinated in salt.
Some versions of the kabab use chicken instead of lamb and are usually roasted between medium to well done. To add flavor to the dish, many like to add green papaya paste or rice to accompany the dish.
On top of that, Saji Kabab is also often eaten with Kaak, a special type of bread, or naan, a bread baked in an oven.
Afghan lamb meatballs are known as Korme Kofta in Afghanistan.
It is the main entree, often served during lunch or dinner, but Korme Kofta is typically accompanied by vegetable, rice, and fruit side dishes.
Combine lamb mince, finely chopped onions, crushed garlic, tomato paste, chopped coriander leaves, egg, ground turmeric, sweet paprika, and pepper in a bowl. Shape mixture into small balls. Set aside. Heat olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat.
Chalow, which means rice, is a dish consisting mainly of meatballs and white rice.
The meatballs come in various varieties, depending on one’s preference. The more common meatballs are lamb and beef or a combination of both. On top of the meatballs, the dish is also topped with onions, garlic, and eggs to add flavor to it.
Afghan Lamb Kebab
Afghan Lamb Kebab, is a slow-cooked meat dish that comes in many variations, with most people using mutton.
The mutton is marinated for a specific time and then barbecued or roasted in an open fire on skewers. Variations of chicken and other meats are also available.
After slowly grilling the lamb kebab, the meat is going to be so tender that it will melt inside your mouth.
Additionally, it goes well with Afghani Green Sauce, which is a combination of many spices.
Mastawa is a rice dish cooked with lamb, yogurt and chickpeas, short-grained rice, and salted sun-dried mutton called lahndi, all simmered together in an aromatic broth flavored with onions, garlic, turmeric, coriander, and mint.
It is given a lovely fragrant aroma by the orange peel added during cooking This dish is perfect for those chilly winter evenings.
Manto is also known as ‘Mantu’ or ‘Manti’.
It is made of a dumpling wrapper filled with minced or ground meat and then steamed until cooked.
Manto is best served with yogurt & tomato sauce or a sour cheese dip called ‘Quroot’.
Another great thing about this dish is it is a healthy snack option, for it has less oil and gluten-free.
The main ingredients in this Afghan dish are chunks of pumpkin that are slowly braised in a flavorful combination of onions, garlic, coriander, ginger, turmeric, chili peppers, and tomatoes.
Borani kadoo is served as the main course or a side dish. It is typically served garnished with garlic-spiked yogurt and naan bread on the side.
The meal is usually consumed by scooping a mouthful with Afghan flatbreads, or it can be poured over white rice called challow.
Burani Banjan is a vegetable dish that is made with slices of eggplant that are simmered in an aromatic tomato sauce and served topped with a thick yogurt that is heavily seasoned with garlic and mint.
The eggplants are traditionally fried, but most recipes suggest roasting or baking them. The dip is seasoned with fresh or dried mint, and it is typically eaten as an appetizer that is paired with lavash or Afghan flatbread.
Even though burani banjan is often enjoyed on its own, when it is accompanied with Afghan naan flatbread, it also makes the perfect side dish to Kabuli lamb pilaf.
The spicy level can differ according to one’s personal preference while some would prefer it to be heavily sauced.
Kofta challow is a traditional Afghan dish consisting of meatballs and white rice, where kofta refers to meatballs and challow refers to rice.
The meatballs are typically prepared with a combination of ground lamb or beef, onions, garlic, eggs, coriander, and black pepper.
The meatballs are cooked in a flavorful sauce based on tomatoes and onions. Then, the meatballs are served with white rice.
Shola is a traditional dish that is based on a kind of short-grain sticky rice, which is also referred to as shola.
The dish has been prepared in both sweet and savory versions, although the savory version is more common these days.
Savory shola is a traditional home-cooked dish that is typically made by combining short-grain sticky rice and mash mung beans or split peas, and it can also contain some meat in it such as beef or lamb.
Shola dish is best enjoyed during the cold months, and it is usually accompanied by a glass of plain yogurt, quroot (dried curd), along with a fresh vegetable salad.
Different versions of shola, also called sholleh, have also been widely consumed in Iran and the Middle East, with various other ingredients used in the preparation, making the dish either sweet or savory.
Zamarod pulao, which means "emerald pilaf", is a famous Afghan dish made with lamb or beef, rice, and spinach cooked in vegetable stock.
The spinach gives it's a signature green color to the dish, so it is usually combined with the rice before the baking process begins.
This flavorful pilaf dish is served on a variety of special occasions, weddings, and family gatherings.
Haft Mewa translates literally to "seven fruits," and is traditionally prepared for Nowruz, the Afghan New Year. Some Afghan's believe that if your haft mewa comes out well, and does not spoil during the soak time, you will have good luck in the coming year.
Haft mewa is made with green and red raisins, almonds, pistachios, walnuts, dried apricots, and oleaster berries, all soaked in either water or sweetened rosewater.
Haft mewa is traditionally enjoyed for breakfast.
Gosh-e fil is a fried sweet pastry that is popularly nicknamed elephant's ear due to its shape.
The main ingredients in the dough are flour, sugar, eggs, and milk, which once it's kneaded and rested, is thinly rolled and shortly fried in oil, about a few seconds on both sides. When served, icing sugar, powdered cardamom, and crushed pistachios are added to these pastries, as well as rose petals.
Sheer yakh, which means frozen milk or cold milk.
It is a traditional Afghan dessert that uses the same ingredients as the Indian kulfi ice cream but is prepared differently.
The ice cream ingredients such as milk, sugar, and flavorings are all added to a metal container, which is then placed inside another metal container filled with ice and salt.
The person who makes the ice cream continuously rotates the vessel holding the ingredients manually within the stationary ice-filled container and occasionally stirs the creamy mixture until it becomes frozen.
Typical flavorings include cardamom, rose water, and salep (wild orchid powder).
Sheer pira, meaning sweet milk, is a traditional Afghan dessert made with a mixture of full-cream milk powder, ground cardamom, rosewater, and ground or chopped nuts combined with hot sugar syrup. The creamy mixture is added to a deep dish, smoothed out, and then sprinkled with additional chopped or powdered nuts*.
Once the dessert hardens to a fudge-like consistency, it is cut into diamond-shaped slices or squares before serving.
*Nuts used for the dessert include walnuts, pistachios, cashews, hazelnuts, or almonds, which are often roasted for added flavor.