What is Halal Food? A Quick Guide

Your religion will have a huge impact on lots of different aspects of your life. From the way that you behave, to the life that you lead, religion is incredibly important. It will also have an impact on the food that you eat. 

Even if you are not of Islamic faith, you’ve probably heard of Halal food. Halal food is incredibly important for Muslims, and most schools teach students about this to help them understand how different religions have different faiths. 

But aside from knowing that Halal food is a thing, you might not actually know that much about what it is, and what makes Halal food different. In this quick guide, we’ll be taking a look at what Halal food is. So to find out more, keep on reading. 

What does Halal Food mean?

First, let’s find out what Halal food is. Halal is an Arabic word which means ‘lawful’ or ‘permitted’. In relation to food, Halal is the diet which should be followed according to the Quran. In Islamic faith, there are two categories for food, they are Halal and Haram. Halal food is what is seen as the correct foods to eat, whereas Haram foods are prohibited.

But Halal and Haram are not terms that should be limited to food, they are terms that apply to all aspects of life in Islamic faith. These aspects include cosmetics, personal care products, food contact materials, and food itself. 

Generally speaking, all food is considered Halal in Islam, unless it is specifically prohibited by the Qu’ran and the Islamic teachings. Deeply embedded into Islamic faith is the welfare of the society that we live in, and how to get the best nutrition out of this. It is taught that the best way to get nutrition out of the foods on offer is to follow a Halal diet, and avoid all foods that are considered to be Haram. 

Like we said earlier, a lot of food is actually Halal, because of this, it is easier to say what foods are not Halal. So, let’s take a look at what foods are considered to be Haram. 

What Food is Haram?

Due to the fact that some meats are considered to be Halal, while others are considered to be Haram, there are some gray areas in these categories. Everything that is marked with an Asterix (*) is considered to be Halal if it comes from a Halal animal. But, if it comes from a Haram animal, then these products will also be considered Haram. 

Here is a list of the main foods and products which are considered to be Haram:

  • Pork, Bacon, Ham and any meat that comes from the pig 
  • Meat broth where the animal is not specified 
  • Lard
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • All carnivorous animals 
  • Gelatin* 
  • Lipase* 
  • Rennet*
  • Stock*
  • Tallow*
  • Non-Halal Animal Fat 
  • Anything contaminated with the above products

(*OK to consume if derived from Halal animals)

When it comes to the gray areas that we mentioned earlier, it is advised that you simply avoid these ingredients if you do not know where these products are derived from. If you know that, for example, the stock comes from a chicken, then it will be considered Halal. But, if you do not know where it comes from, then you should not consume it as there is a possibility that it could be derived from pigs. This, of course, is not Halal. 

What is the Difference between Halal Meat and Regular Meat?

Even though Halal and Haram are terms that are applied to a lot of different aspects of Islamic faith, ‘Halal’ is most commonly linked to meat. With the exception of meat that comes from pigs (and carnivorous animals), all meat is considered to be Halal as long as it is prepared in a certain way. This preparation refers to the way in which that animal is killed. 

It is taught in the Quran that animals should be slaughtered in a very specific way. This applies to both animals and poultry. In order to slaughter animals in line with Islamic faith, a cut should be made through the windpipe, carotid artery, and the jugular vein.

halal food set out for a ramadan feast

The animal must be completely healthy and alive when this cut is made, and once the cut is made, all blood should be drained from the carcass. While this is happening, a dedication will be recited by a Muslim, this is known as the shahada or the tasmiya.  

This is very different from the way in which regular meat is slaughtered, and this is why Halal killing is sometimes seen as controversial. Outside of Halal slaughterhouses, the majority of places will stun the animal before killing them. This ensures that the animal is not suffering when it is killed. 

The controversy surrounding Halal slaughtering practices does sometimes make it difficult for Muslims to find true Halal meat. A lot of grocery stores will stun their ‘Halal’ meat prior to slaughtering it, simply reciting a blessing during the slaughter process.

So, in a lot of cases, to find true Halal meat, you will have to visit a Halal slaughterhouse or butchers. The slaughter process aside, Halal meat is cut and prepared in the same manner as regular meat. 

In short, Halal food is all food that is considered to be lawful and permitted according to the Islamic faith. A lot of people think that ‘Halal’ simply refers to meat, but this isn’t the case. The terms Halal and Haram apply to all aspects of life in the Islamic faith, and they are the guidelines by which Muslims live their lives. 

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.