Beyond its historical landmarks and cultural heritage, Afghanistan also boasts a range of delicious cuisines. Afghan food is known for its rich and aromatic taste which makes it appealing for travelers.
The native palate is generally not primed for spicy food, therefore, you will not find too much heat in Afghan foods. Rice is the local’s favorite pickup and is considered the best item of every meal. Afghanies cook their rice in a unique style to make them fluffy.
What Is Special About Afghanistan Foods?
Afghan cuisine is a mixture of Indian, Iranian, and Mongolian cuisine. The main ingredients taken from Indian cuisine are garam masala, chilies, pepper, and saffron. Mongolia influences the shape of dumplings and noodles.
Mint, coriander, and cooking with vegetables like green herbs or spinach are taken from Persian cuisine.
Afghan food culture also has its particular style. Here, fatty dishes are of great importance since they are great for boosting energy and nourishment during winter.
Afghan dishes are cooked in lots of oil. Mutton fat is also very popular and is added to various dishes. Some of its foods are also graced with nuts and dry fruits.
Most Famous Afghan Food
Kabuli Pulao (Steamed Rice With Dry Fruits)
Kabuli pulao is often considered the national dish and it’s a well-known fact in Afghanistan that people love it. The dish is named “Kabuli Pulao” after the city of Kabul. It is because the upper-class families of Kabul created this dish.
This national dish of Afghanistan is made from steamed rice loaded with various dry fruits. Fried raisins, pistachios, almonds, caramelized carrots, and sweet spices are added for flavoring. The dish also includes large chunks of lamb meat which is the highlight for meat lovers.
The pulao has a sweet and savory taste. The added dry fruits give it a crunchy texture. There is no wonder why it is known as the crown of Afghan cuisine!
Afghan Food – Rice Dishes
Challow (Rice With Meatballs)
Challow is a traditional food of Afghanistan loved by almost everyone. It is a rice-based dish with meatballs. A spoon full of fragrant rice with soft and tender meatballs simply tastes incredible.
The delicious dish is prepared by mixing boiled rice with several Afghan spices. Then they are steamed or baked. The meatballs are made of beef or lamb. Finally, it is topped with egg, onions, and garlic to make it more flavourful.
You can enjoy this delicious Afghan food in various ways according to your choice. Some people like to eat it with vegetables, others prefer to eat it with more meat. If you want an added savory taste, try it with tomato or onion sauce.
Mastawa (Sticky Rice With Lamb)
Mastawa is a traditional Afghanistan food made of rice, sun-dried salted mutton, and chickpeas. It is seasoned with mint, coriander, garlic, and turmeric. Finally, the secret ingredient “Quroot” (Afghan cheese) is added.
This traditional Afghanistan food is specially made in winter. It is comparatively spicy for the cuisine and has an unforgettable taste. This rice dish is served sprinkled with hot pepper and drizzled with orange peels, delivering a lovely fruity aroma.
You can try this classic Afghan dish anywhere in the country, but Kabul is considered the best place to sample this Afghan delicacy.
Afghan Food – Dumplings
Aushak Dumplings (Vegetable Dumplings)
Aushak is another famous food in Afghanistan. It is commonly known as the “Leek and Stallion dumplings of Afghanistan.” These vegetarian dumplings are mostly served on special occasions and holidays.
The traditional Afghan food is made of pasta dumplings with no cheese and meat. It is filled with a lot of veggies. The addition of leek and chopped onions further enhance its flavor.
This flavourful dish is served with tomato sauce and dried mint. Some locals also recommend eating it with minced lamb or beef.
Mantu (Meat Dumpling)
Mantu is a popular food in several countries including Afghanistan. It also reflects an authentic taste of Afghan cuisine.
Mantu is a meat dumpling similar to the famous Chinese dim sum. This Afghanistan food can be made gluten-free. It is prepared with little to no oil, making it a healthy snack to enjoy with morning tea.
These delicious meat dumplings are stuffed with minced or ground meat. It is flavored with lots of Afghan spices, then steamed until cooked.
This Afghan food goes well with several types of sauces. The locals recommend enjoying it with yogurt, tomato sauce, or sour cheese dip.
Afghan Food – Flatbreads
Bolani (Stuffed Flatbread)
Bolani is a traditional Afghan food. It is ranked as the most famous street food in the whole of Kabul. In Afghanistan, it is served as a side dish with several main courses.
This flatbread is made with flour dough and stuffed with delicious fillings. Some common ones are meat, seafood, spinach, lentils, pumpkin, or mashed potatoes. All of its ingredients are healthy and provide you with proteins, fiber, and vitamins.
The best way to enjoy this fulfilling flatbread is with the traditional Afghan creamy yogurt and mint dip Chakkah. You can have it as a snack with your evening tea or as a light Afghani breakfast for the morning.
Lavash (Afghanistan Flatbread)
Lavash is a bread-based dish with cultural significance that reflects Afghanistan food traditions. It appears regularly in special feasts for wedding ceremonies. The dish is considered to bring prosperity and fertility to newlyweds.
This leavened flatbread is traditionally baked on tandoor or tawa to preserve its unique taste. It is shaped in a rectangular, round, or square shape and is best served soft and fresh.
Lavash is usually enjoyed with cheese or meat. You can also try it with a spicy meat dish.
Afghanistan Food – Vegetarian Dishes And Salads
Borani Banjan (Sliced Eggplant Dish)
Borani Banjan is a popular item in Kabul cuisine. It is a sliced eggplant dish flavored with a savory topping of yogurt, garlic, tomatoes, and mint.
This Afghan food is usually made by frying eggplants. The fried eggplants are then cooked with a secret ingredient: tomato sauce. Finally, it is seasoned with garlic and mint.
In Afghanistan, you can find several versions of Borani Banjan with different spice levels. Some places make it super saucy, while others keep it slightly dry. Whatever version you try, this dish always delights your heart with its savory and rich flavors
Haft Mewa (Fruit Medley)
Haft Mewa is a popular and traditional fruit salad dish in Afghanistan. The word Haft means seven and Mewa means fruits or nuts. As the meaning reflects, this Afghan food consists of seven fruits and nuts in a bowl.
The most common fruits or nuts used in Haft Mewa are berries, pistachios, hazelnuts, apricots, walnuts, and raisins. They are soaked in sweet rose water for a pleasing aroma. Overall, it tastes fresh, nutty, and crunchy.
This traditional Afghanistan food is a refreshing treat for starting your day. It is usually served at breakfast on New Year’s morning and at Nowroz. It is very healthy and light on the stomach.
Salata (Vegetable Salad)
Salata is a popular food in Kabul that is loaded with fresh and healthy vegetables. This Afghan food is often served as a side dish during dinner and lunch.
Salata mostly contains slices of tomatoes and cucumbers. These perfectly sliced veggies are sprinkled with lemon juice and flavored with salt, parsley, mint, or cilantro. The combination of seasoned fresh veggies goes well with a heavy main course.
While simple, this vegetable salad is tasty and refreshing. The texture is light and crunchy. It is a healthy addition to Afghan cuisine.
Afghan Food – Dairy Products
Quroot (Afghan Cheese)
Quroot is a traditional food of Afghanistan with an acquired salty taste. It is a kind of cheese made from a by-product of butter from sheep or goat milk. This versatile food can be served as a side dish or added to Afghan foods and drinks.
It is quite popular among locals to carry Quroot on picnics or long journeys. It can be eaten cold or mixed with water to create a refreshing drink. The snack is also used in Qurroti, an Afghan dairy product pudding.
Quroot is not only good in taste but also has many health benefits. It is a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin E, and calcium. This Afghan food is particularly popular during the hot summer days.
Sheer Yakh (Afghan Ice Cream)
The ice cream is prepared in a different way from normal kulfi. Its main ingredients include milk, sugar, rose water, salep, and cardamom. The toppings of thick cream, crushed pistachios, and almonds make it even tastier.
This famous food of Afghanistan feels very creamy and thick on the palate. You can find it in banana, sweet lime, and mango flavors. It is the best street food in Afghanistan to enjoy on a hot day.
Afghan Food – Desserts
Sheer Khurma (Rice Pudding)
After enjoying so many savory Afghan foods, you must crave something sweet. In that case, consider going for a sweet dessert known as Sheer Khurma. It is an Afghanistan food tradition to enjoy this confectionery during Ramadan and on the first day of Eid.
Sheer Khurma is made from vermicelli. It is cooked in milk and then graced with dry fruit toppings. Some people also sprinkle saffron over it for flavor and aroma.
This versatile Afghan food can be enjoyed both warm and cold. It feels thick, creamy, and soft. The added nuts give it a slightly crunchy texture and take it up a level.
Malida (Sweet Crunched Bread)
Malida is another mouthwatering Afghan food popular in several countries around the globe. It has a sweet flavor with a crispy or crumbly texture. Locals specially made this dish in the winter for their children to keep them warm.
This traditional food of Afghanistan consists of leftover bread ground to turn into breadcrumbs. Cardamon powder, sugar, and oil are its main ingredients. The addition of ingredients in the breadcrumbs results in a dessert with an exciting and sweet flavor.
In addition, this dish also holds religious values. You will see it in many festive events and wedding menus. It is generally served along with tea.
Gosh-e-Fil (Fried Pastry)
The Afghanistan food scene is filled with delightful treats for food lovers, even from international influences. Gosh-e-Fil is a delightful dessert that draws inspiration from Italian cuisine. Due to its high demand and unique taste, the dish also gained popularity in Afghanistan.
This Italian-Afghan food is a sweet fried pastry. It has a sweet taste and a crispy texture. It is nicknamed “Elephant Ear” because of its unique shape.
The dish is sprinkled with cardamom powder, icing sugar, and pistachios. Every bite of this delicious confectionery is a treat for its consumers. It is a heavenly match with tea and coffee.
Afghan Food – Non-Veg Options
Chopan Kabob (Grilled Lamb)
Chopan kabob is a popular Afghan food that is a specialty of Pashtun cuisine. It is juicy, spicy, and tasty enough to satisfy your cravings.
This Afghan delicacy is made with the best cuts of lamb meat. The meat chunks are marinated with onion juice, sumac, sour grape powder, ginger, salt, garlic, and yogurt. Then it is skewered and grilled.
Chopan kabob is traditionally grilled in a charcoal brazier known as Mankal. You can try this spicy Afghan food from kebab street stalls. It is usually served with naan or bread.
Sajji Kabab (Roasted Lamb Kebab)
Sajji kabab is an iconic food of Afghan cuisine that just bursts with natural flavor. It is also one of the most famous street foods in the country.
The dish is traditionally made from lamb meat. Some of its variants also substitute chicken with lamb. The meat is marinated in salt and then roasted between medium to well-cooked.
This traditional Afghan food is served whole or in skewers. It is usually enjoyed with naan. Some places also serve it with papaya paste and rice on the side.
Bamia (Okra And Meat Stew)
Bamia is a stew dish mainly made of okra and beef. As okra has a naturally thick texture, it also gives Bamia a similar appearance. This Afghanistan food doesn’t have a strong flavor but a light and soft taste.
The texture and taste of Bamia depend on how it is prepared. Slow cooking gives it a tender and melting taste. On the other hand, the fried technique makes it crispy and crunchy.
Traditionally, it is cooked with okra, beef, water, pomegranate molasses, and tomato paste. Then, it is seasoned with onion, garlic, vegetable oil, and other spices. This dish has grown to become a popular street food in Kabul.
Korme Kofta (Lamb Meatballs)
In Afghanistan, lamb meatballs curry is locally called korma kofta. It is a traditional and staple street food in Kabul. This delicious Afghan food is a special meal during the new year’s day – Nowruz.
The dish consists of meatballs in spicy and flavorful gravy. It is served with fresh vegetables, salad, and rice. Some places also serve fruits as a side dish.
Every bite of this Afghanistan food is a mouthful of tender flavor. The dish delivers a pleading aroma with a spicy flavor. It is usually served at dinner or lunch.
Afghan Karahi (Meat Stew)
This famous Afghanistan food has a mouth-watering smell and appearance. Karahi is also popular in several other South Asian countries including Pakistan and India. It is a meat-based stew that comes in various variations.
The dish is cooked in a karahi or wok combining meat (chicken, lamb, or beef) with aromatic Afghan spices and veggies. The result is a spicy dish that delivers the authentic taste of Afghan cuisine. It is served garnished with fresh coriander leaves.
Karahi goes well with rice and roti. We recommend trying this delicious Afghan food with tandoori naan or roti. They are great for dipping and scooping up all that flavorful sauce. A bite of roti with the rich karahi gives a heavenly taste.
Afghan Food – Soup
Aush (Noodle Soup)
Aush is a traditional Afghan food and famous food in Kabul. Traditionally, it is a non-vegetarian soup dish with beef sauce and kofta. But it can turn into a vegetarian version by substituting vegetables instead of kofta.
The soup consists of healthy pasta with tomato broth to make it thick, and the noodles are overall flat and sticky. The final touch is the topping of caramelized yogurt sauce.
Aush is considered a satisfying comfort food option for noodle soup lovers. It tastes rich and creamy; a delicious dish perfect for a cool evening.
Iconic Drinks In Afghanistan
Ayran (Yogurt Drink)
The Afghanistan food scene also includes a wide range of refreshing drinks. Aryan, Shomeleh, or Dough is one such traditional Afghan drink made of yogurt, salt, and water. It is an Afghan-Persian drink served chilled during summer.
Ayran is very luscious and refreshing, but the taste can be rather acquired for foreigners and takes some time to get used to. Nevertheless, locals enjoy it immensely.
A single glass will boost your energy and power after an exhausting day. In some places, it is drizzled with lime juice, black pepper, and mint, although they are optional.
This drink is often served with several Afghan dishes such as rice or grilled meat.
Kahwah (Herbal Tea)
Kahwah is a traditional green tea famous among the natives of Afghanistan, India, Iran, Kashmir Valley, and Northern Pakistan. It is known as the national beverage of Afghanistan. This tea is very light and aromatic.
The recipe for this Afghan beverage varies from place to place. It is mild and soft. Even though it is a winter drink, you can also enjoy it in the summer.
Afghan Kahwah is also healthy. It helps to boost your metabolism and maintain your health. This refreshing tea is a good choice for a mid-day perk-me-up.
Discovering Traditional Food In Afghanistan
Afghan food offers countless options to satisfy your craving. It includes many varieties that range from sweet to savory, and even spicy.
Some of the food in Afghanistan may seem similar to its neighboring countries, but most of them have an original taste catered to local preferences. They are made with traditional cooking methods, thus preserving the original taste of Afghan cuisine.
The food is neither too hot nor too spicy but with a balanced hint of flavors. Rice and non-veg dishes are the most popular and widely enjoyed traditional food of Afghans.