What is Halal Food? – Plus Guides and Customs
Here in the United States, halal food has found popularity in cities like New York, with halal carts and trucks serving dishes such as falafel, shawarma, and flavorful kabobs.
In fact, halal food encompasses dishes from the middle east to the far east with Uighur Chinese food.
An example of a halal food guideline is the laws around meat, which must come from an animal that was killed according to specific practices.
Muslims are taught through the Quran that all animals should be treated with respect and be well cared for. So much so that the animals cannot be allowed to witness other animals being slaughtered.
Therefore the goal in halal butchery is to slaughter the animal in a manner that will limit the amount of pain the animal will endure, physical and mental.
The animal must have been alive and healthy when it was slaughtered, and the kill must come from a cut to the jugular, carotid artery and the windpipe.
The knife used needs to be very sharp and four times the size of the neck of the animal that is to be cut.
In addition, since pork is forbidden, the slaughtering cannot be practiced where pigs are slaughtered.
The benefits of such a slaughter induce the animal to lose blood suddenly and become unconscious quickly.
Another reason for this is that Muslims are not allowed to consume blood, therefore it also acts to drain the blood from the animal.
What is Halal Food?
Halal food is a standard of preparation, rules, and customs, that are formulated under the Islamic guidelines for nutrition.
With many Muslims around the world, halal food can be found in pretty much every major form of cuisine.
Halal encompasses more than just meat, or even the type of meat eaten, although it is the most discussed type of product consumed.
The halal food industry in the United States is expanding rapidly. A growing Muslim population, along with younger non-Muslim customers who consume these foods.
Halal foods are foods that are allowed to be consumed under Islamic dietary guidelines. The foods that are not permitted are called haram, meaning “forbidden” in Arabic.
With that being said, non-halal foods “haram” include pork or pork by-products, animals that were dead prior to slaughtering, and animals not slaughtered properly or not slaughtered in the name of God.
Other forms of protein that are forbidden are carnivorous animals, birds of prey, and land animals without external ears, blood and blood by-products as well as alcohol.
Types of Halal Food
When it comes to halal foods most people are only familiar with middle eastern or Mediterranean style food.
Some popular casual middle eastern food halal dishes are chicken, gyros, or falafel served either platter-style with rice or wrapped in a pita with lettuce and tomatoes and a white, tahini-based sauce or a red, harissa based sauce.
Side dishes might include foods such as hummus or tahini and baklava is commonly offered as a dessert option.
Put simply halal foods include grain products such as rice, pasta or bread, fruits, vegetables, fish, dairy and meat.
Halal Grain Products
- Any grain product, such as bread, breakfast cereal or baked goods prepared without Haram ingredients
Halal Vegetables and Fruit
- All vegetables and fruit: raw, dried, frozen or canned.
- All vegetables and fruit cooked or served with water,
- butter, or vegetable oils
- All juices
*Any vegetables and fruit prepared with alcohol, animal shortening, bacon, gelatin, lard or some margarine which contain monoglycerides or diglycerides from an animal source are not allowed.
Halal Milk and Milk Products
- Ice Cream
*Desserts made with animal rennet, gelatin, lipase, pepsin, pure or artificial vanilla extract or whey from pork are not allowed.
Halal Meat and Alternatives
- Meat and poultry slaughtered according to Islamic dietary law (Zabihah)
- Nuts, seeds
- Peanut butter
- Halal deli meats
- Dried beans, peas and lentils
*Pork and pork products, e.g. bacon, deli meats, ham, and sausage are not allowed.
*Meat and poultry not slaughtered according to Islamic dietary law are not allowed.
*Canned beans, peas and lentils containing pork are not allowed.
*Any meat and meat alternative dish prepared with alcohol, pork products or animal shortening are not allowed.
Other Halal Food
- Beverages: carbonated drinks, fruit juice, punch, cocktails, tea, and coffee
- Fats and oils: butter, margarine, mayonnaise, vegetable oils, and some salad dressings
- Miscellaneous: chutneys, coconut milk, jam, pickles, spices
- Desserts made with agar and/or carrageenan base only
- Sweeteners: honey, sugar, syrup, chocolate liquor (roasted ground cocoa bean syrup)
What is Halal Certified Food?
Many foods are clearly Halal or clearly Haram. However, certain foods are difficult to classify because of the ingredients they contain.
You can check for Halal certification or read food labels to get a better picture.
Check carefully each time you buy food products, as manufacturers may change ingredients without notice.
Depending on what country you live in, different halal boards and certifications can be found. And usually, you can call them to ask about a specific food or question.
Where to Find Halal Food
Halal foods can be found in many Middle Eastern grocers. In larger cities, you may also be able to find halal butchers.
With the growing demand for halal foods in certain areas, some national supermarket chains are carrying halal meats and even halal turkeys for Thanksgiving.
There are also many online stores that now offer halal foods such as ours here at the shop.