Afghan’s cuisine is renowned for its delicious flavour and aromatic spices. The dietary staples are rice and bread (naan). Other basic foods include cheese, beef, lamb, chicken, eggs, tea and numerous fruits and vegetables. As in other Muslim countries, livestock must be slaughtered according to Islamic rites (halal).

A common Afghan entrée is shish kabab: small cubes of meat skewered with alternating pieces of fat (a flavour enhancer) and vegetables such as onions and tomatoes, then grilled. Kofta kabab is made with minced meat ground with onions, while shami kabab is minced meat mixed with eggs and mashed potatoes. Vegetable dishes include banyan boorani (borani), made of eggplant and tomato. Northern Afghans enjoy pasta: ashtak, a type of ravioli, can be stuffed with fillings such as leeks and meat, while mantu is a dumpling filled with meat and onion.

All meals are accompanied by bread and/or rice. The most common bread is naan, a flat bread that is generally long in shape. Made from whatever grain is available, naan is traditionally baked either in a clay pot set in the ground, on an iron griddle or over heated stones. Cooks sometimes add potatoes or onions.

Afghan farmers cultivate numerous varieties of rice, which is usually served plain. For more formal dinners, rice may be cooked into a pilau with various vegetable and fruit additions. Qabuli pilau is a highly traditional and celebrated dish consisting of seasoned pieces of lamb shank and rice topped with thinly sliced carrots and raisins. Common accompaniments to pilau and other meals are yoghurt, pickled vegetables called torshi and hot chili sauce.

Afghans enjoy a wide variety of local fruits for dessert, including melons, apples, pears, apricots, mulberries and plums. Nuts such as walnuts, pistachios and almonds are favourite snacks. Cooked desserts include firni, a milk pudding topped with pistachios.

  Qabuli Pilau

Vegetable oil for sautéing
1 medium onion, diced
454 g lamb or beef, cut into cubes
480 ml water
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp cardamom
1 1/2 tsp cumin
3 carrots, sliced thinly
1 tsp sugar
240 ml raisins
480 ml basmati rice


In a large skillet, sauté the onion in oil until fairly dark. Add the meat and brown lightly. Add the water, one teaspoon of salt and the spices. Cover and simmer until the meat is tender, about one hour. Drain, setting the juice and meat aside. Sauté the carrots and sugar in about 60 millilitres of oil until lightly browned. Remove from oil. Add the raisins to the oil and sauté until they swell up. In a large pot, bring the reserved meat juice to a boil and add the rice, the remaining salt and enough boiling water to come five centimetres above the rice. Cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, not mushy. Mix in the meat, carrots and raisins. Place in a large casserole dish, cover and bake at 150°C for 30 to 60 minutes. Can be served with yogurt.

  Did you know?
Tea is the national drink of Afghanistan, served with meals and enjoyed anytime of the day at home or in the numerous teahouses in towns and cities. The most common types of tea are black and green.