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What Is Haleem?

Haleem is a rich, slow-cooked stew brimming with tender meat, lentils, and grains, often seasoned with aromatic spices. Originating from the Middle East, it's a beloved comfort food in many cultures, especially during Ramadan. Its hearty texture and flavorful depth make it a nourishing feast for the senses. Curious about its origins and how to savor this delicacy? Let's dive deeper.
Eugene P.
Eugene P.

Haleem is a very heavy, thick soup made with wheat, lentils, yellow split peas and meat that is cooked for a long time over low heat. The dish is very popular in India and Pakistan and is served in several other countries in the Middle East. The cooked soup is distinctive not only for its spicy taste and filling body, but also because all the ingredients are cooked for so long that they merge into a single thick sauce or are actually ground or pureed until smooth. Completed haleem can be served over rice, garnished with fresh herbs and lime. It is often sold by street vendors as a snack food, but also is prepared for holidays and celebrations.

During religious periods such as Ramadan, haleem is often prepared by Muslims and served in the evening when the daylong fast is broken. It is made in India to celebrate weddings and other holidays. The recipes are flexible, so using ingredients that follow different religious and cultural dietary laws is fairly easy. The Indian region of Hyderabad generates a popular version of haleem that has a more elaborate preparation. Hyderabadi haleem is actually so popular during certain times of the year that the meal is prepared and shipped to eager connoisseurs around the world.

Lentils are used to make Haleem.
Lentils are used to make Haleem.

Although many aspects of haleem can be changed depending on tradition, region or family recipes, the basic ingredients remain the same. Meat is almost always used, although some vegetarian varieties exist. The type of meat is usually beef, lamb or chicken. It will cook for a long time and eventually either be shredded or pureed, so the individual cut does not really matter.

Fresh herbs can be used as a garnish in chicken haleem.
Fresh herbs can be used as a garnish in chicken haleem.

The grains in the dish consistently include cracked wheat. This is cooked by itself at first until it becomes a thick, soft mass. The same is done with the lentils and yellow split peas. All three are added to the same cooking pot, along with spices such as coriander, turmeric, garlic, ginger and fried onions.

The meat can be browned ahead of time, but it does not have to be. It is added to the beans, usually with water or stock, and then the whole pot of haleem is cooked for hours until everything has come together and the consistency of the food is thick. Here, many recipes call for the meat to be shredded or mashed with the rest of the ingredients. In Hyderabad, the ingredients are actually run through a food processor or food mill to create a smooth soup.

Haleem can be served in a bowl over rice and is usually garnished. The garnish can include lime, fresh cilantro, green chilies and a pinch of garam masala spice mix. The dish is incredibly filling and contains a large amount of protein.

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    • Lentils are used to make Haleem.
      By: gitusik
      Lentils are used to make Haleem.
    • Fresh herbs can be used as a garnish in chicken haleem.
      By: Studio Gi
      Fresh herbs can be used as a garnish in chicken haleem.