Halal food has become increasingly popular in recent years, even for those who don’t follow Islam. But what exactly does “halal” mean? And what are some common halal foods and ingredients? This guide will explain everything you need to know about halal cuisine.
What Does Halal Mean?
The Arabic word “halal” literally means “permissible” or “lawful.” When it comes to food, halal refers to ingredients and dishes that conform to Islamic dietary guidelines. These guidelines come from the Quran, the holy book of Islam, as well as the Hadith, a collection of sayings from the Prophet Muhammad.
According to Islamic law, for food to be considered halal, it must meet the following criteria:
- The food does not contain anything forbidden by Islamic law. For example, pork and alcohol are both prohibited.
- The animal or poultry used has been slaughtered according to zabiha, the Islamic method of slaughter. This involves making a swift, deep cut with a sharp knife to sever the trachea, esophagus, and blood vessels in the neck. The animal must be alive and healthy at the time of slaughter.
- Meat and poultry must be processed separately from any non-halal foods to avoid cross-contamination.
- No alcohol can be used as an ingredient or in processing. This includes vinegars made from wine.
- The food must be free of any ingredients that Muslims consider haram or unlawful. This includes blood, carrion, and pork.
Following these guidelines allows Muslims to eat food that is tayyib – meaning wholesome, healthy, and ethically produced. Eating halal is an integral part of living an Islamic lifestyle.
Common Halal Foods and Ingredients
Many staple foods and ingredients are naturally halal without any special preparation required. Here are some of the most common halal foods:
- Beef, lamb, and goat when slaughtered properly
- Chicken and turkey slaughtered by the zabiha method
- Fish and seafood (as long as they have scales/fins)
- Eggs from halal-fed chickens
- Milk, butter, yogurt, and cheese made from halal animals
- Plant-based milk like soy, almond, and coconut
Fruits and Vegetables
- Fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables
- Dried fruits like dates, raisins, apricots
- Legumes and pulses like chickpeas, lentils, beans
- Rice, pasta, bread, cereals
- Flours like all-purpose, whole wheat, chickpea
- Oats, quinoa, buckwheat, barley
Spices and Seasonings
- Herbs like parsley, basil, cilantro
- Spices like garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon
- Salt, black pepper, chili powder, curry powder
- Vanilla extract (alcohol-free)
Oils and Vinegars
- Olive oil, vegetable oil, avocado oil
- Non-alcoholic apple cider vinegar
- White and brown sugar
- Molasses and maple syrup
- Dates, figs, raisins
- Water, juice, tea, coffee
- Plant-based milk like soy or almond
- Non-alcoholic beer and wine
With such a wide variety of halal options, those who follow a halal diet can enjoy delicious and satisfying meals. Many cuisines from around the world are easily adapted to be halal-compliant.
What is Not Halal? Haram Foods to Avoid
While the list of halal foods is extensive, there are some major categories that are haram (forbidden) in Islam. Here are the main types of ingredients that are not halal:
Pork and Pork By-Products
Pork, bacon, ham, pepperoni, lard, and any pork-derived ingredients are haram. Muslims cannot consume any products from pigs.
Any alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, and liquor are prohibited. Food cooked with alcohol or non-halal vinegars are also haram.
Meat from Improperly Slaughtered Animals
Muslims can only eat meat from livestock slaughtered by the zabiha method. Meat not slaughtered this way is haram.
Animals that eat other animals, such as lions, bears, and snakes, are considered haram.
Blood and Blood By-Products
Consuming blood is prohibited in Islam. Foods with blood or ingredients like gelatin made from animal byproducts are also haram.
Food Sacrificed to Idols
Muslims cannot eat any food that has been dedicated or offered to idols or deities forbidden in Islam.
Avoiding haram ingredients is key for Muslims who want to eat halal. Carefully reading ingredient labels is an important step. When in doubt, it’s best to ask if a food contains any prohibited ingredients.
How Food Becomes Certified Halal
For packaged food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and other products, an official certification process exists to verify the items are 100% halal.
Halal certification agencies inspect facilities and production lines to make sure they meet standards for proper hygiene and quality control. Auditors check to ensure no haram substances ever come in contact with equipment used for halal foods.
Companies that obtain halal certification must use suppliers and vendors that provide only halal-approved ingredients. Their processing facilities are dedicated for halal food preparation only.
Once certified halal, products get stamped with the official logo of the certifying body. This makes it easy for Muslim consumers to identify and feel confident in choosing halal products.
Some of the major international halal certification organizations include:
- Halal Food Council of Europe (HFCE)
- Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America (IFANCA)
- The Islamic Society of the Washington Area (ISWA)
- Majelis Ulama Indonesia (Indonesian Ulema Council)
Why Choose Halal Food?
Following a halal diet provides various benefits beyond adhering to Islamic law. Here are some key reasons to go halal:
- Peace of mind: You can be certain the food aligns with your values and religious beliefs. Eating halal provides spiritual satisfaction.
- Health benefits: Halal food avoids pork, blood, carrion, and alcohol – all prohibited due to their harm on the mind and body. Halal meat comes from humanely slaughtered animals.
- Ethical practices: Halal guidelines emphasize kindness to animals, sustainable farming, and fair labor standards – helping you eat conscientiously.
- High quality: Official halal certification requires strict food safety and hygiene standards that result in fresh, nutritious cuisine.
- Delicious flavors: Halal cooking offers diverse, mouthwatering recipes perfected over centuries by innovative chefs.
Even those who don’t follow Islam can enjoy halal food due to its ethical, nutritious, and tasty characteristics. More restaurants and companies now offer halal options to serve this growing market worldwide.
Finding Halal Food and Products
Thanks to rising demand, halal choices are easier than ever to find in much of the world:
- Grocery stores: Many supermarkets now have halal sections stocking meats, frozen foods, and specialty items. Larger chains may also keep halal food separate to prevent cross-contamination.
- Restaurants: More eateries, especially Middle Eastern, Turkish, Indian, and Malaysian restaurants offer halal menus. Be sure to ask if all menu items are certified halal.
- Online retailers: Buy halal-certified frozen food, meat, spices, vitamins, skincare, and more from Muslim-owned businesses that deliver direct to your door.
- Food apps: Get halal takeout, grocery delivery, and restaurant reservations through services like Halal Eats, Salam Planet, Book Halal, and Crescent Foods.
- Farmers markets: Look for halal meat vendors at local markets and stores specializing in fresh, organic fare.
- Ethnic grocery stores: Middle Eastern, Asian, and Indian markets typically stock halal pantry items.
Asking about uncertified halal products at mainstream restaurants and reading labels carefully is key. With some research, those seeking halal food can access all kinds of cuisines to enjoy.
The World of Halal Continues to Grow
From Middle Eastern staples to Asian cuisine to halal versions of American classics, the options for halal cooking are endless. The halal market is forecasted to continue expanding globally as awareness and demand increases.
At International Fresh Market, we’re proud to offer a huge selection of certified halal grocery products. Learn more about our halal grocery store, our extensive inventory and place an order online today to have halal meals for the whole family.