23 May 8 Traditional Ramadan Desserts from Around the Arab World
A decadent dessert to round off a hearty iftar meal is a must! Even though they’re served and enjoyed all year round, sweet treats have always been one of the major highlights to celebrate the month of Ramadan.
Sit down and enjoy our lavish array of 8 traditional Ramadan desserts from around the Arab world (figuratively, of course).
1. Baklawa (بقلاوة)
We had to start with this one! The absolutely delicious, crispy, and nutty rich baklawa is a true staple of the Middle East.
Baklawa/baqlawa is a flaky multi-layered sweet delicacy made with phyllo pastry and filled with chopped nuts such as pistachios, walnuts or almonds. Be warned, there’s a real possibility that you’ll keep on wanting more and more!
Source: Randa A.
2. Ma’amoul (معمول)
A true delectable classic. These date-filled shortbread cookies are out of this world with their fragrant aroma of rose water. If they’re not stuffed with dates, they’re filled with nuts, usually pistachios or walnuts. Ma’amoul is always prepared in large quantities and is very popular during Ramadan (also Eid) in the Levant countries, including Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine.
The Arabic word “Ma’amoul” is derived from the Arabic verb: a’amala (to do).
Source: Randa A.
3. Luqaimat (لقيمات)
Sinfully delicious! Crispy on the outside, soft and sweet on the inside, luqaimat is popular all over the Middle East region and is a traditional post-iftar family favorite! The sweet dumplings dessert is a total must-have during the month of Ramadan. You’ll find it in most Gulf countries, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, etc. It’s also popular in the Levantine cuisine where it’s known as “awamat” or “luqmat al-qadhi”.
- In Arabic “luqma” means a bite or mouthful and “luqaimat” (colloquial) means mini bites
- In the Emirati dialect, it’s pronounced as “lgaimat”
- Levantine cuisine is called “al-matbakh al-shami” in Arabic
4. Qatayif (قطايف)
The famous Middle Eastern semolina pancakes – a traditional dessert from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Egypt. Qatayif or atayef (Levantine dialect) is one of the many Ramadan desserts to watch out for!
They resemble pancakes (qatayif asafiri) and are either filled with cream, custard or cheese … mmmm! The deep-fried version is usually stuffed with chopped nuts then soaked with syrup.
The word “qatayif” is derived from the Arabic verb “qataf” which means pick-up. So, it literally translates to “picked bites” …you get the picture, small yummy bites that are easily picked and devoured.
5. Oum Ali (ام علي)
Oum Ali is a flavorful traditional Egyptian dessert similar to the ever-so-popular bread pudding. It’s made with phyllo dough or puff pastry (or sometimes plain croissants), loads of nuts, dried fruits, and milk.
In Arabic, “Oum Ali” means Mother of Ali, or Ali’s mother …yep, a woman named Oum Ali had a son named Ali and going back in history, she was the wife of a ruler named Ezz El Din Aybek, from the Ayyubid dynasty.
6. Basbousa (بسبوسة)
Basbousa/Hareesa/Namoura – the many names of basbousa! This heavenly semolina cake is a popular Ramadan feature of Arab cuisine.
It’s often known as “hareesa” in the Levant region and the city of Alexandria in Egypt (not to be confused with the authentic Emirati Harees dish). In Tunisia, on the other hand, it’s called “hareesa helwa” (helwa means sweet in Arabic).
7. Halawet El-Jibn (حلاوة الجبن)
You’ll literally have a major crush on this one because halwet el-jibn for dessert is an absolute treat! The creamy bundle of deliciousness is a traditional mouth-watering Syrian/Lebanese dessert made from rolls of soft, sweet semolina and cheese dough filled with cream. It’s just pleasantly cheesy!
- In Arabic, halawa means sweet/sweetness/confection and jibn means cheese
- Halwet el jibn originated in the Syrian city of Hama
8. Kunafa (كنافة)
Saving the best for last! The “queen” of Middle Eastern desserts; *insert heart eyes emoji* kunafa is yet another family after-iftar meal favorite and …umm well, a craving of the day. This gooey yummy-ness is a month of Ramadan tradition. It’s made of shredded phyllo dough (it looks like thin noodles), classically stuffed with fresh clotted thick cream (ashta/qishta) and cheese …and of course, drizzled with sugar syrup/honey.
There are a lot of spelling variations for kunafa: kunafah kanafe, knafeh and so on. It really depends on the Arabic dialect a person speaks.
Oh, and by the way, some of the best kunafas are found in Turkey today where it’s served with ice cream …tempting enough? Greece has also adopted this legend dessert from Turkey.