Tunisian cuisine is rich in heartwarming and palate-pleasing dishes known for it’s spices.
It is a typically Mediterranean cuisine that consists of cereals, vegetables, lamb, legumes, beef, chicken, plus various spices.
The Tunisian dishes reflect the country’s rich history, influenced by the Berbers, Jewish, Arabs, Andalusians, Italians, Turkish, and French.
We’ve collected some of the best traditional Tunisian foods if you find yourself in the country or at a Tunisian restaurant in your area.
This stew-like dish is hearty and delicious. It’s prepared with onions, tomatoes, green peppers, and garlic. There are a few optional ingredients like courgette, potatoes, or broad beans especially in spring.
People here add eggs while cooking the dish to let them slowly poach in the soup. Tunisians love to have Shakshuka, or Chakchouka, for lunch or dinner.
If you ever visit Tunisia, you’ll see the local eat bread with almost every meal. If you order Shakshuka, it’ll be served with plenty of bread, which you can dip into the sauce.
This dish is not only popular in Tunisia, but in many countries of the Middle East such as Israel. This easy and colorful dish of eggs and vegetables is usually eaten for dinner in the northern African countries. The name comes from a Barber word meaning vegetable ragout, or a mixture.
2. Brick a l’oeuf
This classic Tunisian dish is served in most Tunisian restaurant and many street shops as well. It’s prepared by stuffing Malsouka, a delicate pastry dough, with an egg yolk and then fried in a triangular shape and served with a slice of lemon.
Sometimes the filling contains parsley, coriander, or a bit of tuna or potato. You eat this delicious meal with your hands, without letting the runny egg drip down onto your fingers or chin.
There’s a technique to eat Brik a l’oeuf: you add a bit of lemon juice at any bite, and once you reach the egg, you swallow it to prevent the runny egg from spilling.
This unusual fried pastry is mostly found in a triangular form, and high-quality bricks are multi-layered and dryer than others. One of the main reasons for the popularity of this dish is that is served as the second course during Ramadan.
3. Mechouia Salad
Mechouia salad, or slata mechouia, is served as a starter at almost every Tunisian meal. It’s made from green peppers and tomatoes charred over an open fire, but some restaurants like to add an eggplant as well. The vegetables are then finely chopped and mixed with garlic, onions, caraway seeds, ground coriander, some lemon juice, plus lots of olive oil.
This red salad can be rather spicy if it contains Harissa, so it’s best to ask before ordering. Sometimes you can find it with capers for an extra zing, as well as with tuna and slices of hard-boiled eggs for decoration.
If served as part of another dish, the salad comes alongside grilled lamb or fish. Locals enjoy it in the summer, either mild or hot.
Lablabi is a stew or soup typically prepared during winter days. It’s made from chickpeas and flavored with garlic, cumin, salt, and olive oil, and served with stale crusty bread.
If you order Lablabi in Tunisia, the waiter will probably bring you a basket of stale bread and an empty bowl so that you can fill it with bits of bread over which they will pour ladles of Lablabi. You mix everything with a spoon and you finally eat it.
Sometimes the thick, stew-like dish contains the spicy ingredient Harissa as well. You can find this dish topped with tuna and slices of hard-boiled eggs, so ask before ordering if you’re vegan or vegetarian.
Makroudh is a fried sweet pastry dessert. It’s popular across the Middle East as well.
It is made of a semolina dough filled with dates, and sometimes almonds and figs. The Algerian version often includes an almond filling. The stuffed dough is then cut in the shape of lozenges, and fried. Finally, it’s doused in honey or sugar syrup.
Done properly, the dessert is not greasy at all but has a slightly crispy exterior while being cake-like on the inside.
Some versions of Makroudh are baked instead of fried in oil. The name of the dessert means diamond, indicating the shape of these small delicacies.
It is especially popular in Ramadan, Eid, and other important holidays.
6. Tunisian Tagine
This traditional Tunisian dish can be described as a casserole with the main ingredient being lamb. Other ingredients include eggs, cinnamon, and coriander. Some people say it’s similar to the Italian frittata.
It has eggs as a basis, and then some minced veal, lamb or chicken, tuna, spinach, potatoes, parsley, cheese, and a plethora of spices. Optional ingredients are onions and courgettes. It’s a wonderful combination of lamb and potatoes with a light creaminess of the cheese and eggs.
It is baked in the oven until firm and served cold as an appetizer. You can also enjoy it with a salad.
Harissa is a spicy mixture served as a condiment or dip with many Tunisian meals and salads, and included as an ingredient in many soups or stews. It’s made with garlic, chili peppers, olive oil, and salt.
This spicy paste is used to season couscous. People also use it to rub vegetables and meat for an extra zing.
There are many variations of Harissa. Some are made with additions such as coriander, lemon juice, cumin, tomato, and onions. Although it’s a very common ingredient in Tunisia, it’s also popular in Middle Eastern cuisines.
The traditional Tunisian condiment is made with hot peppers measuring 40,000-50,000 on the Scoville scale, so it’s relatively mild. You can find it in superstores or make your own at home.
These round-shaped doughnuts are similar to the American doughnuts, but a lot sweeter. They are made with flour dough that’s fried in oil and soaked in honey or sprinkled with sugar. These sweet donuts are most delicious when served hot, fresh out of the frying pot with coffee with milk.
You can find them in fast food shops throughout Tunisia. Bambalouni is usually served as part of breakfast or as a late-night snack, but locals eat it at any time of the day.
9. Khobz Tabouna
This is not something you’ll find easily in another part of the world. It’s a form of bread that takes a lot of time and practice to prepare it, plus special cooking equipment.
Khobz Tabouna is kneaded and mixed for about 5 hours. It’s a simple but incredibly satisfying bread cooked in a tabouna which narrows at the top.
These tabounas, terracotta ovens, are made of baked earth, so they are quite difficult to make. The bread in this traditional oven is baked vertically, while stones at the bottom help retain the heat inside.
Locals here love to eat it with every meal, especially for breakfast, although it’s delicious on its own. They eat it with Harissa, salads, or grilled meat. You can find it in traditional fast-food restaurants as a basis for sandwiches.
It is mostly consumed in rural areas of the country, but during Ramadan it’s the first choice of bread for Tunisians. It’s the most ancient and favorite bread among these people, dating from the Carthaginian era.
Koucha is a tender lamb stew that’s traditionally cooked in kolla or golla, a clay vessel similar to gargoulette that looks like a jug lying on its side.
The thick, fragrant stew is made with lamb and vegetables like potatoes, onions, and peppers, and a plethora of spices combined in a single one called Ras-el-hanout, one of the most popular North African spices.
You can also feel the presence of rosemary and wild thyme.
The lamb is perfectly tender and the potatoes are soft and not mushy.
The stew is usually served hot with a tomato and onion salad, couscous, and a brik. Sometimes you can find it decorated with slices of boiled egg.
11. Khobz Mella
Another bread that requires special equipment for cooking. The popular Khobz Mella requires an open fire that has a contact with embers and hot sand. Above the contraption, a flat loaf is placed and cooked accordingly. The crust is dipped in some Harissa.
Due to the complicated process of cooking, this dish is rarely prepared at home. However, you can find it in many Tunisian restaurants.
Mloukhia, melukhia, mlokhia, mlukhiya, or molokeya, is a Tunisian lamb dish that’s also popular in the countries of the Middle East. It is a lamb or beef stew cooked in a rich sauce of the dried, green spice Jew’s mallow, and olive or sunflower oil.
Locals cook the meat together with pieces of tripe on charcoal on low heat. It takes around 8 hours to be completed. Mloukhia is usually served with North Africa’s most popular sausage called Merguez.
In Tunisia, this lamb stew is called “the delicacy of the king” because the name of the dish comes from the Arabic word malik or malek which means king. It is mostly consumed during holidays such as the new year of the Hegira or on the day of Ras-el-am.
There are many variations of this dish throughout the world, but none of them tastes like the one prepared by the local Tunisians.
This is one of the most aromatic Tunisian dishes containing sheep’s giblets and cumin. It’s a stew made of these ingredients along with a considerable amount of garlic, turmeric, and sometimes even octopus.
Other recipes include lamb as the main ingredient, served with finely chopped parsley and onion. It has a unique taste that’s probably better than you imagine right now.
Kamounia is quite popular in Egypt as well, but only the Tunisian version comes with Harissa.
Tunisians love to eat chorba or shorba during the cold, winter days. It is a soup or stew made with lots of barley, saffron, different vegetables, fish such as grouper or sea bass, and spices such as salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.
Vegetables usually include tomatoes, cilantro, and celery, but the choice depends on the chef. There are numerous varieties of chorba in Tunisia, the Middle East countries, and the Balkans.
It’s typically served with bread, just like most dishes in this country.
15. Assidat Zgougou
This traditional dessert is mostly prepared to celebrate holidays such as the Mūled and other special occasions. It is made from seeds of Aleppo pine (zgougou), sweet cream, and dried fruit.
The seeds make the lower layer of the dessert, which are ground in water and sieved to tiny sizes. Then, the juicy liquid is blended with wheat flour or starch, and sometimes even with a bit of milk. The mixture is then cooked and poured into a bowl, covered with sweet cream, and decorated with nuts and dried fruit.
Traditionally, locals exchange bowls of this dessert with family members and neighbors on the Mūled, making sure it’s as good decorated as it tastes.
It is an incredibly yummy and filling dish that’s prepared mostly for breakfast. Tunisians tend to prepare this sweet every Sunday at home. It’s similar to of porridge, and it’s made up of a cooked wheat flour dough or lump served with honey, butter, or date syrup. Some variations include a sauce of pumpkin.
Some Tunisians like to do a twist on it and combine it with something more savory such as onions, potatoes, and hot sauce.
This is probably the most popular Northern African dish that’s common in all the countries of the Middle East.
It’s a stew-like sauce of tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, courgettes, pumpkin or squash, and chicken or lamb served on a bed of crushed durum wheat semolina.
You can find Couscous prepared in many different ways depending in the area of the country, and it can include different ingredients and spices. Sometimes you can find couscous with fish such as sea bass, grouper, red snapper, or swordfish instead of lamb or chicken.
In some parts of Tunisia, couscous is prepared with cinnamon, and in others with crushed rose buds.
The Tunisian Couscous always contains tomatoes and lamb, while the semolina is combined with a sauce based on tomatoes.
Locals enjoy it on a regular basis mild or hot, especially during the summer. They love it no matter the size of the seeds, enjoying it equally, whether they are large, average, or fine
Kefta or kofta is a Tunisian version of meatballs that’s also popular in countries of the Middle East. It’s made of minced meat, usually lamb, chopped onion, and spices like salt, pepper, and cayenne.
Everything is mixed and formed into little balls which are then fried in oil. Kefta is often served with Harissa sauce, tomato sauce, carrot salad, or over couscous or rice as an appetizer.
This common Tunisian sandwich is not only rich in flavor, but also rich in calories. Still, it’s one of the most popular foods you can find in many sandwich shops and fast-food restaurants in the country.
The base for this sandwich is made with flour, oil, eggs, water, salt, and yeast. Once the dough is shaped into elongated or round rolls, they are fried in hot oil. Then, they are filled with boiled eggs, hummus, tuna, Harissa, olives, boiled potatoes, and capers.
The Tunisian Fricassee sandwich is great for picnics or casual lunches at home, or for a quick but satisfying meal while you are exploring the area.