Top 13 Traditional Foods In Afghanistan

traditional food in afghanistan
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Located in the center of Asian civilization, Afghanistan possesses a lot of historical places and cultural backgrounds that are interesting for guests to explore if they are keen on discovering more unique stories about the country. When you are here, dropping by places with rich cultural influences is one of the things you must do. That includes visiting religious sites such as the Blue Mosque or learning about the development of Afghanistan in the National Museum of Afghanistan. Above all, you must not miss the chance to try out some of the traditional Afghan cuisine because there are a lot of local delicacies here that you might not get elsewhere. Continue reading to learn more about the top traditional foods in Afghanistan.

1. Shola

Afghan Shola
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Miansari66 used under CC0

One of the famous foods in Afghanistan is the hearty shola, which is a fusion of aromatic spices, tender beans, and fragrant rice. Shola typically incorporates split peas or mung beans, combined with spices such as turmeric, cumin, and coriander. The result is a savory, sticky stew that delights the palate with its complex, well-balanced taste. The addition of sticky rice provides a unique texture and adds to the dish’s comforting appeal.

What truly sets Shola apart is its role in Afghan hospitality and tradition. It is often prepared and shared during communal gatherings, weddings, or festive occasions, symbolizing unity and the warmth of Afghan culture.

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2. Kabuli Pulao (steamed rice and lamb)

Kabuli Pulao
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Miansari66 used under CC0

Kabuli Pulao, more commonly known as Qabili Palau by the locals, is a traditional Afghan food that is a mixture of steamed rice and lamb, its flavor enhanced with the addition of raisins, carrot, and a range of sweet spices. 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.

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3. Aushak (leek and scallion dumplings)

Source: Photo by user Arnold Gatilao used under CC BY 2.0

Aushak, also known as Afghanistan leek and scallion dumplings, is a dish made out of dumpling, as the name might have suggested. The best thing about this dish is that the dumplings have no cheese and meat in it, but it is mainly cooked with vegetables, used as fillings in the dumplings themselves. Made out of pasta dumplings, you can also enjoy this dish with tomato sauce and dried mint to add flavor into it.

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4. Bolani (flour dough with fillings)

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Tunshi used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Bolani is a type of traditional street food in Afghanistan that is made out of flour dough coupled with stuffed meats, seafood, vegetables, pumpkin, or potato. 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.

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5. Sheer Khurma (milk with dates)

Sheer Khurma special
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Miansari66 used under PUBLIC DOMAIN

One of the best Afghan food, Sheer Khurma, literally means “milk with dates” when translated into English, is a healthy meal that is essential for the holy month of Ramadan. Traditionally, the dish is often served in the morning of Eid as breakfast after the prayer. It is also a popular meal to serve for guests throughout the day. Sheer Khurma is made out of nylon vermicelli cooked with milk and topped with dry fruits. For added flavor, saffron is a popular ingredient the locals like to use to give it a unique taste.

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6. Haft Mewa (fruit medley)

Haft Mewa Nawruz Afg
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Waleedkabul used under CC BY-SA 4.0

A famous Afghan food, Haft mewa is a very symbolic fruit salad for the locals. Despite its easy-to-make recipe, haft mewa is a very important dish that is often used in the local celebration of Nawroz. The base recipe of this dish is made out of dried fruits and nuts, mixed into a bowl together. The more common types of dried fruits that are used in the dish include raisins, hazelnuts, apricots, almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts. Needless to say, this is a very healthy dish that you can enjoy in Afghanistan if you are looking for something that is more refreshing and less heavy.

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7. Boranee Banjan (eggplant with yogurt topping)

Afghan cuisine egg plant with yogurt
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Nissy-KITAQ used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Boranee Banjan is an eggplant dish that is topped with yogurt alongside garlic, tomatoes, and mint. The eggplant dish is usually fried before baking. The spicy level can differ according to one’s personal preference while some would prefer it to be heavily sauced. Due to the flexibility of the dish, you are able to taste a different kind of eggplants yet still being able to savor the delicious core of the dish all at the same time.

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8. Saji Kabab (roasted lamb or chicken)

Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user [Unknown] used under CC BY 2.0

Another well-loved Afghanistan cuisine, 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 is 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 break baked in an oven.

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9. Lavash (thin bread with cheese or meat)

Afghan bread
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Paulscf used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Lavash is a very thin bread that can either be soft or hard and often comes with a square, rectangle or a circle. This bread dish is baked in pottery to preserve its original taste. Lavash is often eaten with cheese or meat and plays a crucial role in traditional weddings where it carries the meaning of bringing fertility and prosperity to the newlywed.

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10. Korme Kofta (lamb meatballs)

Editor's Note: Photo taken from the establishment's official social account

Afghan lamb meatballs are also known as Korme Kofta in the local name. The dish is typically made out of vegetable and rice with fruits as its side dishes. To add flavor to the dish, many also choose to add a variety of other ingredients inclusive of seafood or grains into the dish. The Korme Kofta is a popular classic main course for the locals, often served during lunch or dinner.

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11. Chalow (rice with meatballs)

Source: Photo by Flickr user ResoluteSupportMedia

Chalow, which literally 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. Some love to eat Chalow with tomato- or onion-based sauces. There are many ways to eat this dish, all based on your preference so don’t forget to check out the option they have if you happen to find them in a restaurant.

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12. Afghan Lamb Kebab

Afghani lamb kebab
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user rochelle hartman used under CC BY 2.0

Boasting a great food culture, Afghanistan also has another local favorite, which is the Afghan Lamb Kebab. It 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 slowly roasted in a mankal, which is Afghanistan’s traditional charcoal grill. 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.

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13. Manto (meat dumpling)

05 Mantoo steamed beef dumplings - Bamiyan Afghan
Source: Photo by Flickr user Jason Lam used under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’re familiar with the shumai, a popular Chinese dim sum, Manto, is almost similar to that dish, only it has the authentic flavor of Afghanistan through its spices. It is made of dumpling wrapper filled with minced or ground meat and then steamed until cooked. The Manto is best devoured with yogurt and tomato sauce, or a sour cheese dip called Qooroot. Another great thing about this dish is it is a healthy snack option, for it has less oil and gluten-free.

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Enjoy thick flavors in Afghanistan

As you may have noticed, most of the traditional dishes and the several types of food in Afghanistan come in thick flavors, hence making them recommended dishes for travelers who prefer to have some heavy flavor in their food. No matter if you are looking for some snacks or a main course meal, traditional Afghan food come with various type of eating method to suit the preferences of many so feel free to enjoy your food-hunting journey in Afghanistan, all the while keeping your stomach well fed.

Frequently asked questions about traditional foods in Afghanistan

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