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Afghan Food: 15 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of Afghanistan

Afghan Food: 15 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a landlocked country located in the centre of the Asia, bordering on and often considered to be part of the Middle East. Historical landmarks, cultural heritage attractions and incredible landscapes are part of Afghanistan’s appeal to tourists.

The cuisine of Afghanistan is one of the least well-known throughout the world but offers rich, fragrant flavors for those who take the time to discover what the country has to offer.

There can be some similarities drawn between neighbouring countries of Pakistan and Iran, but much of the Afghan cuisine is untouched by outside influence. A true testament to the authenticity and perseverance of traditional cooking styles and ingredients used in Afghan cooking.

Rice, barley, milk, yoghurt and whey are some of the staple ingredients that make up many popular Afghan dishes. Fruits such as grapes, pomegranates and melons are some of the most common fruits found in the country.

Here are some of the most popular dishes of Afghanistan that you can try for yourself.

Kabuli Pulao

Kabuli Pulao

Kabuli pulao, commonly known as the crown of Afghan cuisine, is a dish eaten by the upper-class families of Kabul. The word ‘Kabuli’ is taken from ‘Kabul’ which is the capital of Afghanistan.

This traditional dish is prepared with steamed rice that is mixed with various dry fruits including raisins and almonds, caramelized carrots and a range of sweet spices. The steamed rice platter is served with large chunks of lamb meat.

Sajji Kabab

Sajji generally consists of a whole lamb which is marinated in salt and is then roasted until it is medium or well cooked.

Chicken can also be used to make this delicious dish but lamb is used more popularly. It is usually served with rice or naan depending upon one’s personal preference.

The naan served with Sajji kebab is traditionally Kaak, which is a special type of bread that is prepared by baking in an oven.

Ashak Dumplings

Ashak dumplings
Photo Credit: Xerxes931

Ashak or simply leek and scallion dumplings is an Afghan meal that is usually served on special occasions or holidays.

These delicious dumplings are filled with leek and chopped spring onions. This dish is generally served with minced lamb or beef. Tomato sauce and dried mint are also served with it to enhance its flavor.



Mantu (or Mantoo) is similar to the popular Chinese dim sum. The only difference between Mantu and dim sum is that Mantu is prepared with lots of Afghani spices.

Mantu is basically a dumpling wrapper which is filled with spicy minced meat. The dumpling is then steamed until it is cooked completely. 

It is a favorite healthy snack as it is made with little oil and is gluten-free. This amazing dumpling dish is served with tomato or yogurt dip and sometimes with Quroot, which is a sour cheese sauce.

Chopan Kabob

Afghan Chopan Kabobs

Chopan kabob is a Pashtun delicacy consisting of skewered and grilled lamb meat. The meat is marinated with onion juice, ginger, salt, garlic, and yogurt before being grilled over a traditional Afghan charcoal brazier called mankal.



Lavash is a flat, thin bread which is traditionally prepared in either a Tandoor or a Tawa in order to preserve its original taste.

It can be made soft or hard depending upon your choice and the shapes may vary too. Some like it to be rectangular, others make circular while some others make square Lavash. 

Lavash is eaten with spicy meat and served with cheese. It is a traditional dish and is mostly served on weddings. It is thought that Lavash will bring prosperity and fertility to the newly wed couple.

Borani Banjan

Borani Banjan is a traditional vegetable dish consisting of fried eggplants that are cooked with a tomato sauce and seasoned with lots of garlic and mint.

Borani Banjan is served with thick yogurt. The yogurt is also seasoned with lots of Afghan spices.



Bolani is the most popular street food snacks of Afghanistan. It is essentially a flatbread that is stuffed with a variety of ingredients and then fried.

It can be stuffed with mashed potatoes, pumpkin, spinach, meat or lentils. This light snack dish is traditionally prepared at home and is often presented as a side dish.

Bolani is best enjoyed with Chakkah, which is a creamy mint and yogurt dip and coriander chutney which enhances its flavor even more.

Sheer Yakh

Sheer Yakh is a traditional Afghan ice cream which is loved by children as well as adults. The word Sheer Yakh means cold or frozen milk.

The ingredients that are used for making Sheer Yakh are the same as those for making Indian Kulfi but the method of preparation is quite different. 

The major ingredients required for preparing Sheer Yakh are milk, sugar, rose water, cardamom and Salep, which is a wild orchid powder. Sheer Yakh is generally garnished with thick cream and chopped nuts including pistachios and almonds and is served in small bowls.

Gosh-e fil

Gosh e fil

Gosh-e fil is another delightful Afghan dessert which is a sweet pastry that is lightly fried. Due to its unique shape, it is popularly known with the nickname of Elephant’s Ear. 

The dough for preparing the pastry is made by kneading together flour, sugar, milk and eggs. The resultant crispy gosh-e fil are dusted with cardamom powder, icing sugar and chopped pistachios and are served with tea.

Haft Mewa

Haft Mewa
Photo Credit: Waleedkabul

Haft Mewa is a delicious, sweet and crunchy nuts-and-fruit salad. The word ‘Haft’ means ‘Seven’ and ‘Mewa’ means ‘Fruits and Nuts’. 

This salad consists of 7 fruits and nuts which include berries, raisins, walnuts, dried apricots, pistachios and almonds. All these fruits and nuts are soaked in sweetened rosewater to give it a special kind of aroma and flavor. 

Haft Mewa is traditionally prepared for Naw Roz which is the Afghan New Year. Naw Roz is celebrated on the first day of spring and the Afghani people enjoy this flavourful Haft Mewa on their breakfast. 



Malida is another traditional Afghan dessert which is traditionally prepared for weddings and other festivals.

Bread is first made with flour, baking soda, yeast and oil. It is then finely ground in a grinder in order to form fine breadcrumbs.

These breadcrumbs are then cooked in a pan with hot oil, cardamom powder and sugar. The Malida is typically served with tea.


Mastawa is a hearty meal that is popularly enjoyed on winter evenings. It is a rice dish which is made with chickpeas and Lahndi, a special type of lamb meat which is sun-dried.

All these ingredients are simmered together and seasoned with onions, garlic, coriander and other spices. Narenj or orange peel and hot peppers are also added in order to give it a special kind of aroma and flavor. 


Turkish Ayran yoghurt drink

Ayran is a yogurt-based drink made from yogurt, iced water and salt. Optional ingredients also include black pepper, lime juice and herbs such as dried mint. Generally served chilled, ayran is often served along with grilled meat or rice and is most commonly consumed during summer.



Bamia is an okra and beef stew popular throughout the Middle East. The meat and okra are cooked together with tomato paste, spices, water and pomegranate molasses to name a few of the ingredients. They are stewed in the tomato sauce until the meat becomes tender and the sauce thickens.

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