A halal diet is one that follows the rules of the Islamic faith, concerning what foods are prohibited, and how some foods should be prepared. Muslims must follow these rules unless they are forced by necessity not to. Many stores and restaurants now offer halal food choices, however, it is still important to know which foods to avoid when following a halal diet, or when entertaining people who do.
Uncertified Meat Products
Unless a meat product is certified as being halal, it is better to avoid it. Halal slaughtering practises are very specific and it is unlikely they have been followed to the letter if the meat is not from a halal butcher. Some Muslims consider kosher certified meat to be permissible if necessary, but this is not universal.
Blood-Based Food Products
While there might not seem to be many food products made from blood, there are a few that are popular in different cultures. Blood sausages, also known as blutwerst and black pudding, are a traditional food in Europe, and blood soup is a traditional food in several Asian countries. These products should be avoided.
Alcohol is forbidden in Islam. While most people think of that as a simple ban on drinking alcohol, it also includes any products that have been made with alcohol, or cooked in alcohol. Wine is often made into sauces, for example, or used when flambeing food and beer might be added to a batter. Dishes containing these should be avoided. Vanilla essence can also contain alcohol and should be substituted with vanilla powder or fresh vanilla beans. Soy sauce also contains alcohol and should not be used in cooking.
Pork and Other Pig Products
Eating pork, ham, bacon or any other part of the pig is strictly forbidden by the Islamic faith. While it is easy enough to avoid these meats, there are often other ingredients that are made from pig products and may be difficult to recognize. Gelatin is often made from pig products and should only be eaten if it is certified halal. MSG can also be derived from pig fat and should be avoided unless it is certified or known to be made entirely from algae. Take care not to eat any foods containing unknown fats, as it is possible they are made with pig lard, or fat from a non-halal animal.
While dairy products are considered to be halal, cheese is often made with rennet, which is obtained from a calf’s stomach. If the calf was not slaughtered using halal practices, the rennet cannot be considered halal. Therefore, only eat cheese that is certified halal.
While food obtained from a restaurant is not automatically forbidden, it can be difficult to know whether or not it has come into contact with forbidden foods, such as non-halal meat or alcohol. Unless the restaurant is certified as providing halal food, it should be avoided.
The halal diet is a difficult one to follow, although halal certification is gradually making it easier. Avoiding these foods and foods that have come into contact with them will help ensure you remain respectful of the laws of Islam.