Although Ramadan is primarily a time for fasting, it is most certainly also a time for feasting. Families will wake in the wee hours of the morning for Suhoor, the dawn meal before fasting begins, to partake in the first bites of deliciousness. Often, the day's eating opens with a dish such as sweet dates stuffed with nuts. However, once the sun rises, the feasting ceases, and the fast begins again. Yet, awaiting the diligence of those who deprive themselves of food and water during the holy month are delicacies and treats beyond the wildest imagination.
Here are the 10 Best Palestinian Desserts During Ramadan:
Qatayef - One of the most popular desserts, especially during Ramadan. Qatayef can be described as a cross between a pancake and a dumpling, made from yeasted batter and once fried, then stuffed with cheese and nuts. Oftentimes walnuts (joz) are utilized, as well as a supple topping of simple syrups and ground pistachios. Sometimes the cheese is even charmed with cardamom or rose water to add a special Palestinian flare.
Maamoul - An ancient cookie that is often stuffed with sesame seeds, dates, pistachios, or other nuts. The prepared dough is stuffed inside a big wooden spoon used as a mold to help shape the cookie before it is then stamped out. This classic dessert is often served with coffee.
Knafeh - One of the most popular Arabic desserts ever created. Knaffa is made from pasteurized goat cheese, and is basically the Middle Eastern version of a cheesecake. It is often made with a combination of mozzarella and ricotta cheeses and is topped with crumbled pistachios and a shredded phyllo dough.
Awwami - Means crisp donut ball in English, which is essentially exactly what they are! Awwami is a dough ball coated with sesame seeds (alternatively mixed in with the dough), deep fried, and dipped in a cold syrup water. Simple, and delicious!
Aish el saraya - The Arabic version of bread pudding. Made by layering bread at the bottom of the dish, covering it with a sweet syrup, then adding cream, and adding topping it with garnishes like crumbled pistachios. The name translates to “royal court’s bread,” meaning it is fit for a king or queen!
Rice Pudding (Roz bil laban) - Also known as ba7ta. This Palestinian dessert is made with cardamom, cinnamon, rose water, orange blossom water and can be topped with an assortment of nuts, dried fruit and coconut. It can also be served either warm or cold! However, it is absolutely delicious either way.
Halawet el Jibn - A very popular dessert made from sweet cheese rolled with custard and heavy cream, drizzled with rose water and syrup. It is also garnished with cashews and other nuts. The dessert is a personal favorite for many, packed not only with an immensely delicious flavor but memories of childhood as well.
Basbousa or Harissa - Traditionally a sweet yellow cake cooked with semolina (similar to knafeh). It is soaked in sugar water and often made topped with coconut, orange flower or rose water and syrup. Every single piece has an almond in it and this recipe can easily be made vegan as well!
Watermelon & Cheese - Our final dessert on the list is exactly as it sounds, watermelon and cheese! A delightful pairing of fresh fruit with savory cheese. If you haven’t tried it, perhaps this Ramadan season will be the right time.
Well, that’s our Top 10 for now, friends! Thank you for reading. What is your favorite Palestinian dessert? Do you have specific loves during or Ramadan? If you have special recipes you know of or would like to share, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment for the PaliRoots community below. Your ongoing support helps us continue to share Palestinian culture and heritage with the world. Happy Ramadan.