Many travelers from Muslim-majority countries often ask me if they can find halal food in Armenia. So, I got curious myself and decided to look into this question and write a post for you. According to Islamic law, halal food is the “permissible” food for Muslims. So, it’s understandable that some of you wonder whether you can find halal food in a Christian country like Armenia. So, let’s look into this: Can you find halal food in Armenia?
Yes, you can find halal food in Armenia. Many Armenians repatriated back to Armenia coming from various Muslim-majority countries in the recent years. And many of these families opened their own restaurants, where they offer dishes prepared with halal food protocols in mind.
In this post I’m going to talk in more detail about how halal food became available in Armenia. I’ll list some popular restaurants where you can enjoy good food with peace of mind. If you have ever visited Armenia, there is a chance you might have also been to any of these restaurants. If so, let me know your opinion on Twitter or Instagram with #ArmeniaTravelTips.
Why is it that you can find halal food in Armenia?
In my understanding, the “halal” label used in reference to food means that:
- the dish doesn’t contain forbidden ingredients (like pork or alcohol),
- tools used for preparing the food and handling the ingredients used in it weren’t contaminated by forbidden ingredients,
- the process of sourcing the ingredients and preparing them is in line with certain islamic protocols. Just so you know, these protocols define what is halal and what is haram (forbidden).
However, there is no requirement that the food is made by a Muslim, for it to be considered halal. Which is why it’s perfectly normal that Armenian chefs are educated on requirements for halal food and follow the necessary protocols in sourcing and cooking.
Besides, as Halal Focus reported, since 2017 a special body of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation called Halal World Institute operates in Armenia under the supervision of the Iranian Embassy. Their office validates that halal protocols are followed in food production. For example, they watch for the slaughterhouses that export meat into Muslim-majority countries.
We, Armenians, are well known for our big diaspora living in various regions around the world, including many Muslim-majority countries. In recent years, many Armenians from those Middle Eastern countries moved to Armenia. Coming from places like Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, they opened their own restaurants specialized in the cuisine of the countries they came from. If you’re interested in learning more about Lebanese and Armenian food check out that link.
Some of these restaurants have become very popular and loved by the locals, too. The booming tourism sector, and increasing popularity of Armenia as a travel destination among visitors from all over the Middle East, has also raised the importance of having halal options on the menu. So, let’s go over the places where you can enjoy halal food in Armenia.
Zeituna – one of the most famous restaurants in Yerevan
Zeituna restaurant (the name of which translates into Armenian as “olive”) in the center of Yerevan is a popular spot both for locals and visitors. It offers a wide variety of Middle Eastern cuisine, but their Lebanese dishes are the absolute best! They have a dedicated halal menu for Muslim visitors, so you can rest assured the food you get here is made in accordance with islamic protocols.
One thing to keep in mind is that Zeituna is located in the very heart of the city center. Though the restaurant is really small, they invested into a very delightful interior design. For that reason, their prices are a bit higher than in other places. But, on the positive side – the food quality here is really good. So, you’re definitely paying for a good experience.
Babylon – halal food in an ancient environment
Once you visit Armenia, you will have the chance to taste Iraqi flavors at Babylon restaurant. This spot is located on one of the central streets in Yerevan.
I visited the restaurant to taste and find out more about the halal food they serve. The manager explained that they purchase the meat from a slaughterhouse, where animals are treated in accordance with halal principles.
This place is really popular among muslim visitors to Armenia. Everyone who’s been here at least once praises their food quality. If you check out their reviews, you will see that people also point out its unique interior design, influenced by ancient Babylonian culture. And that’s true, when you enter the venue, you feel like you travel back in time to Babylonia.
Taboulé – amazing Lebanese food, served by an amazing staff
Do you like Lebanese food? Then you absolutely must check out Taboulé restaurant on Zakyan street in Yerevan. At the entrance of the restaurant you can notice the sign of halal food.
When I visited the restaurant, I didn’t only taste quality Lebanese food, but also experienced amazing live music. Besides, the staff isn’t only good at serving the food properly, but also they are good advisers for those who have specific gastronomic needs. They can really explain everything about the food they make there, go into details of used ingredients etc. I can only recommend this restaurant if you’re looking to eat halal while in Armenia.
Shirvan – Persian travelers’ favorite place
Shirvan restaurant is another popular venue among Persian travelers visiting from neighboring Iran. The restaurant was opened by Persian-Armenians and it serves a variety of meals made from halal beef, chicken and lamb. This restaurant is also located in the heart of Yerevan and is an easily accessible location for visitors.
I spoke to the owner of the restaurant, and he informed me that the meat is purchased from a halal butcher. They also offer a wide variety of vegetarian dishes, so here you can rest assured that you can eat well avoiding any haram food.
It’s also worth noting that Shirvan provides delivery of halal food and can even cook at the guests’ house, if requested. I felt too ashamed to ask how much it’s going to cost, cause I assume having a chef come over and cook for me is going to be quite expensive. But, I guess, if you have money to spend and you want special service, this might be something for you.
Kessab – taste halal food outside of Yerevan
Halal food in Armenia is not only limited to restaurants in Yerevan. You can also have a great food experience, in case you decide to travel outside of the capital and explore other major cities in Armenia.
Dilijan or “Little Switzerland”, as many Armenians call it, is a cute town located in the northern part of the country – Tavush region. Thanks to its picturesque nature, Dilijan is one of the most favorite destinations for short city breaks Armenians make.
You can easily find halal tasty food in Dilijan, as well. Kessab restaurant in Dilijan is operated by a Syrian-Armenian family who ensure that the grill they make is heated on “halal” shampurs (skewers) which are never used for making pork.
Also, they develop special halal meal sets which are very tasty and cost under $15. From what I have tried, the shish tawook and hummus cooked by Kessab have an unforgettable taste.
If you’re actually planning to visit Dilijan, you might want to check out my list of best things to do in Dilijan National Park before you head in that direction.
Final thoughts on halal food in Armenia
So, to conclude, yes you can easily find halal food in Armenia. The number of restaurants operated by Armenian re-pats from the Middle East is growing day-by-day. Most Middle Eastern restaurants in Armenia are owned by diaspora Armenians and many of them have the halal sign on their doors.
It seems like this is a response to the growing tourism industry in Armenia (and because Armenia is a very safe country for Muslim travelers), as well as the fact that locals also show huge appreciation for this diverse cuisine. If you come to enjoy halal food in Armenia, don’t forget to share your impressions and tasty pictures with me on Twitter or Instagram with #ArmeniaTravelTips. Bon appetit!
Featured image credit: @luckyhand2010 on Pixabay