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Tunisia’s cuisine has a deep and rich history, built upon a foundation laid down by cooks from the ancient Berber, Carthage, Roman, and Ottoman eras.
Furthermore, the country’s geography, lining the Mediterranean basin, has given it access to ripe ingredients, fresh seafood, and centuries of neighboring influence.
Gear up for quite the foodie adventure, as a local Tunisian guides us through fifteen of Tunisia’s most popular and traditional foods.
Tunisian Foods You Need To Try
1 – Borek / Brik – Stuffed Turnover
Borek is a beloved appetizer that is present in most Tunisian kitchens. It is one of the most popular Tunisian foods.
Borek, or Brik, is served as an appetizer with a variety of main meals. It can be fried or baked, and is a great ‘grab and go’ food for students and commuters.
Borek is made of thin dough that becomes crispy once fried or baked. It is then stuffed with a range of very simple and affordable ingredients.
Borek can be stuffed with parsley, finely diced onion, cheese, tuna, minced meat, and eggs, among many other fillings.
Some restaurants serve borek as a snack with lemon juice. It is commonly eaten for breakfast, but can also be eaten at lunch or dinner, less so.
Borek’s origins can be traced back to ancient Greece. This delicious food is popular throughout the Balkans, the Eastern Mediterranean region, and the Middle Eastern region.
This important Tunisian food is a huge part of the country’s culture, and one of the foods that fuel a country of Tunisians every morning.
2 – Asida – White Porridge
Asida is another of Tunisia’s most popular recipes. It is served as both a breakfast and a dessert, depending on your preference.
Tunisian white porridge mainly consists of a little olive oil or butter, mixed with wheat or all-purpose flour.
Despite the simplicity of its ingredients, preparing porridge or Asida can be challenging. It requires a specific cooking method to be perfectly cooked.
Once Asida is cooked and ready, honey and olive oil are drizzled over the top to add an extra layer of flavor.
According to Tunisian tradition, Asida has been eaten by hand, without using any type of dinnerware or spoons, for centuries.
Porridge or Asida is usually prepared and served for religious celebrations, or official holidays in Tunisia, such as Eid al-Fitr or Ashura.
3 – Tajine – Tunisian Frittata
Tunisian frittata or Tajine is one of the most popular Tunisian foods. It can be served either as a side dish or as a main meal.
Tajine is very similar to an Italian frittata. It has an egg base, and it is cooked with parsley, onion, cheese, turmeric, harissa, olives, and meats like diced chicken breast, minced meat, or chopped liver.
The key difference in the Tunisian tajine is the use of spices, which elevate the dense, savory base to a new level of flavor.
Tajine is not to be confused with Moroccon or Algerian tajine. The two are very different dishes. In Moroccan cooking, tajine refers to the earthenware pot used to cook a variety of dishes.
Tajine is known for being high in protein and fiber. It can be refrigerated for up to about five to six days, and it can be reheated or even served cold.
4 – Couscous
Couscous is known for being originally a Berber dish that first appeared in the countries of Maghreb. It then quickly became one of the most versatile and consumed dishes in North Africa.
Tunisian couscous is one of the most important authentic Tunisian recipes that natives will eat multiple times a week.
Couscous consists of grains of different sizes that could be fine, medium, or large.
The Tunisian dish is usually prepared with lamb chops, chickpeas, tomato sauce, and spices. Lamb is sometimes replaced with chicken or beef.
Cooking Couscous symbolizes abundance and happiness in North African traditions.
Almost all Tunisian families cook couscous at least every weekend. Visit Tunisia, and you will see couscous served in practically all authentic restaurants.
5 – Salata Meshwya – Grilled Vegetable Salad
Salata Meshwya is a delicious grilled vegetable salad, and it is one of the most popular Tunisian dishes during the summer months.
This fresh and flavorful salad consists of vegetables such as green peppers, zucchini, and tomato.
Once the vegetables are grilled, they are mashed together with various spices, including Ras el Hanout, a popular North African spice blend of cumin, ginger, cinnamon, and several other spices.
Salt, pepper, lemon, and other ground spices are added, to create a fresh, colorful, and rich salad that explodes with heat and spice.
Grilled green pepper salad is usually served as a side dish with grilled chicken, fish, or meat. Some Tunisians serve it with tuna or boiled eggs.
For a more intense flavor, many cooks prefer to grill the vegetables over hot coals. This way, the salad adapts more of a smokey flavor.
6 – Bsisa – Paste of Ground Roasted Cereals and Spices
Bsisa is an ancient dish and one of the oldest foods in Tunisia. It originates back to Roman, Carthaginian, and Byzantine times.
This wholesome Tunisian dish consists of various roasted cereals, commonly roasted barley, ground with cumin, sugar, and seeds like aniseed and fenugreek.
Through the ages, Bsisa was commonly carried and eaten by travelers who had to walk through the arid desert for days or weeks on end, knowing that food would be almost impossible to find.
Because Bsisa is rich in nutrients and very light to carry, it made for the perfect food to travel with.
Today, Bsisa is still eaten by people from all parts of Tunisia. However, various ingredients are added to the paste to enhance the flavor.
You’ll commonly find Bsisa with crushed nuts, olive oil, dried fruits, and many other ingredients.
Bsisa can also be served as a drink when combined with a liquid, like water or milk, creating a powerful protein drink that we call Rowina or Bsisa Mdardra.
7 – Tabouna Bread – Traditional Tunisian Bread
Tabouna bread is a much-loved popular Tunisian food. You simply cannot visit Tunisia and leave without trying it.
Tabouna bread has a long and particular preparation process. It can take up to five hours to prepare traditional Tabouna bread.
However, due to its deep and comforting taste, it is more than worth the wait. This is a Tunisian food that is in high demand.
Tabouna bread is made of wheat flour, semolina, salt, a little olive oil, and yeast. It is kneaded in a specific way before baking.
Tabouna is served with olive oil and honey when hot, and it can be served with different main dishes that are eaten with bread.
8 – Makroudh – Date Pastries
Makroudh is a sweet and delicious date-filled pastry that’s popular in several North African countries.
You can find Makroudh throughout Tunisia, and it is sold by many shops and street vendors. Traditionally, it is prepared for holy occasions like Eid Elfit.
It is made from a dough of semolina, olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and sugar. The dough is kneaded meticulously and well.
Once the dough is ready, it is filled with date paste and nuts. Finally, it is fried in oil, then dipped in syrup as soon as it leaves the pan.
Makroudh originates from the Tunisian city of Kairouan. Thousands visit every year to try this historic and delicious Tunisian food.
While traditionally Makroudh is stuffed with dates, you can find many other variations too. These include various nuts, like almonds, and other sweet fillings like chocolate or jam.
9 – Osban – Meat & Spices Sausage
Osban is a savory dish, only found in Tunisia. It is something of a delicacy, and a historically important food in Tunisian culture.
Osban, essentially, is a stuffed sausage. It is filled with finely chopped liver, heart, ground meat, parsley, onion, garlic, rice, and spices.
Once stuffed, the sausage is sewn together with a needle and thread. Once ready, Osban is either steamed or cooked in juices and sauce.
This Tunisian sausage is nearly always served over a bed of couscous. It has a rich, meaty taste, and dense, layered texture.
Tunisians prepare this dish mainly for Eid al-Adha, a holy tradition that dates back centuries.
10 – Lablabi – Cooked Chickpeas
Lablabi is an ancient Tunisian dish, and it has been eaten throughout the northern regions of Africa for centuries. Its origins date back to Turkey.
Walk through any busy Tunisian street, and people lining up to eat bowls of Lablabi at vendors and takeaway restaurants is a very common sight.
An integral part of Tunisian cuisine, this dish is simple to make, utilizing commonplace but delicious ingredients.
Traditionally served in a bowl, Lablabi is a rich and flavorsome dish of cooked chickpeas, eggs, and a generous helping of olive oil. It is often served with bread.
Various spices are used when cooking the chickpeas, depending on the chef’s preference. Some Tunisians prefer it very spicy, while others opt for a softer taste, using the likes of red pepper puree.
Full of protein, mineral salts, fiber, and essential fatty acids, this rich Tunisian food is especially popular during the winter months.
11 – Sohlob – Sorghum Bowl
Sorghum bowl is one of the most popular winter foods in Tunisia. Tunisians usually eat this rich dish at breakfast, but there are those who serve it during Ramadan evenings or at the times of Suhoor before the dawn.
This Tunisian food consists of sorghum grains that are first dried and ground to become smooth, then cooked in hot water or milk.
Tunisians add honey and dried fruits to the bowl and then finish it with a sprinkle of ginger.
Sohlob is usually mixed with a large wooden spoon, to prevent it from sticking to the spoon when served. It’s a delicious Tunisian food with a rich history.
12 – Tunisian Masfouf – Sweet Couscous with Raisins and Dates
Masfouf is a simple, sweet, and delicious Tunisian dish. It is a wholesome combination of dried semolina couscous and dried fruits, like raisins.
Many types of nuts can be used in the Tunisian Masfouf, like almonds and walnuts. Masfouf is eaten as a dessert or used as a suhur dish during the holy month of Ramadan.
You can also top Masfouf with almonds, chopped dates, and different types of dried fruits.
13 – Fricassee – Sandwiches
Fricassee is a Tunisian specialty dish and one of the most popular snack foods in the country.
You will nearly always find Fricassee in any fast food restaurant you go to in Tunisia.
Tunisian Fricassee can be eaten any time of the day. These hearty small sandwiches are stuffed with boiled, mashed, or chopped fried potatoes, spicy harissa, boiled eggs, olives, and tuna.
But the key to Fricasse’s comforting taste is Frikiasi bread. This Tunisian bread is fried in oil, once the dough has risen, and stuffed with delicious ingredients as soon as it has cooled.
A sprinkle of chopped parsley and olives add the finishing touch to a taste most Tunisians love and cherish so much.
14 – Zrir – Seed Dessert
Tunisian Zrir is a traditional cake of oil seeds, such as sesame seeds, honey, butter, and hazelnuts.
It is an authentic Tunisian dessert dish, loved across the country. It is traditionally given to Tunisian mothers after the birth of their children.
As Zrir is a nutritious dessert, it is eaten by mothers to help them regain strength after giving birth. It can also help with iron deficiencies.
It is usually served in small glasses. Many variations of the recipe exist, using different oil-based seeds, but all use honey and butter.
15 – Hlalem – Tunisian Soup
Hlalem is one of the most prominent traditional Tunisian dishes. It is especially popular during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Hlalem is a rich and delicious soup with dumpling-like dough pieces, made from combing semolina with water and salt.
Once you have combined your ingredients, mix and knead the dough until it is soft enough to cut.
Once the dough is cut, you twist the pieces between the palms of your hands into small chains, then let them drain and dry in a sieve.
Hlalem soup is made of chickpeas combined with Egyptian beans, along with onions, parsley, tomato pure, ground red pepper, salt, and spinach.
These ingredients are cooked in water for around twenty minutes before the dried dough pieces are added and cooked for an additional five or six minutes.
Hlalem is a Tunisian dish with a deep and rich history. It is wholesome, flavorsome, and enjoyed by millions throughout the country.
Tunisian Food Summary
While Moroccan food may be the global star of North African cuisines, Tunisian food is very much one of its undiscovered gems.
The country’s unique fusion of ancient Berber, Roman, and Ottoman recipes, with Mediterranean, European, and African influence, has created a cuisine with such depth and diversity.
Tunisia’s location around the Mediterranean basin has meant plenty of classic flavors have entered Tunisian cuisine, such as salty-fresh seafood and olive oil.
Throw African heat and French flair into the mix, and it’s no surprise Tunisian dishes are packed with spice, heat, and flavor.
There’s so much to get excited about when it comes to Tunisian food. This beautiful country may be lesser-known in world cuisine, but it brings to the table some truly wonderful food.
So, one final time, here’s the full list of all Tunisian foods covered in this article for reference.
Be sure to have this list of Tunisian food handy when you visit so that you can try one or more of these popular and traditional foods.
- Borek / Brik – Stuffed Turnover
- Asida – White Porridge
- Tajine – Tunisian Frittata
- Salata Meshwya – Grilled Vegetable Salad
- Bsisa – Paste of Ground Roasted Cereals and Spices
- Tabouna Bread – Traditional Tunisian Bread
- Makroudh – Date Pastries
- Osban – Meat & Spices Sausage
- Lablabi – Cooked Chickpeas
- Sohlob – Sorghum Bowl
- Tunisian Masfouf – Sweet Couscous with Raisins and Dates
- Fricassee – Sandwiches
- Zrir – Seed Dessert
- Hlalem – Tunisian Soup
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Contributor: Asma Ghuidhaoui is a creative recipe cookbook writer, hailing from Kairouan, Tunisia. She is passionate about Tunisian culture and cuisine, and shares traditional and authentic recipes through her writing.
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