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Food in Tunisia

Savor the authentic Tunisian food and discover its top traditional dishes.

Embark on a tantalizing journey with food in Tunisia, the culinary gem of North Africa.  Step into the markets, cafes, and kitchens where these traditional recipes come alive, and savor the history and community behind every bite without leaving your table.

Tunisian jewels

  • Tunisian cuisine integrates Mediterranean, Arab, Turkish, and Italian influences, offering bold flavors and spicy dishes, with olive oil and harissa as central ingredients.
  • Traditional Tunisian street foods like brik and lablabi provide a glimpse into local culture, while Tunisian couscous is celebrated as the national dish, enjoyed with a stew-like sauce and various meats or seafood.
  • Tunisian desserts and drinks, including Makroudh and the Jouajem juice, showcase the country’s culinary creativity and are integral to celebrations and everyday life.

Savoring Tunisia is a worthy culinary journey

Tunisian cuisine is a tapestry woven from the threads of Mediterranean and native Punics-Berber traditions, richly colored by the influences of Arab, Turkish, and Italian cultures. The result is a culinary landscape that is as diverse as it is delicious, marked by:

  • the liberal use of olive oil
  • seafood
  • meats
  • a symphony of spices that dance on the palate with a distinctive spiciness

The visual feast is matched by the taste, with each dish served on stunning ceramic platters that promise not just a meal, but an experience.

Despite its humble international profile compared to other North African cuisines, Tunisian cooking stands out for its bold flavors and spicier palate, offering a culinary adventure that is as intriguing as it is enriching. The history of Tunisian food tells a story of convergence and adaptation, where ingredients such as:

  • cumin
  • caraway seeds
  • coriander seeds
  • tomatoes
  • tuna
  • eggs

Blend seamlessly, creating traditional Tunisian dishes that are a testament to the country’s intricate past in North Africa.

The heart of Tunisian cooking are olive oil & harissa

In the world of Tunisian cuisine, olive oil is not just an ingredient; it’s a statement of identity. Reflecting Tunisia’s status as a notable olive oil producer, the oil enriches traditional Tunisian dishes with its distinct flavor, making it an indispensable element in Tunisian cooking. Drizzled over salads, blended into spicy tomato sauce, or used as the base for cooking, olive oil is the golden thread that runs through the fabric of Tunisian food.

Adding to the culinary identity is harissa, a fiery condiment that captures the essence of Tunisian spiciness. A blend of chili peppers, garlic, and a medley of spices including cumin and coriander, harissa is the heartthrob of many Tunisian dishes. Whether stirred into tomato paste to create a spicy sauce or used to marinate meat, this chili pepper paste is a traditional Tunisian staple that defines the nation’s love for heat and flavor.

Spices and herbs put flavorful foundations

Aromatic and bold, the spices of Tunisia lay the flavorful foundations of its cuisine. The Tunisian spice rack is a treasure trove of:

  • cumin
  • harissa
  • chili pepper
  • sumac
  • fennel
  • garlic

Each adding a distinctive taste to traditional Tunisian dishes. These spices are not shy; they make their presence known in dishes like merguez, a spicy sausage, where they come together to create complex layers of flavor that are emblematic of Tunisian cooking.

The mastery of spice blends in Tunisian cuisine is a testament to the nation’s culinary traditions, where even a simple dish is transformed into a celebration of taste. The rich combination of spices weaves through each traditional Tunisian dish, from the spicy kick of Tunisian harissa in a chickpea soup to the subtle warmth of cumin in a couscous prepared with love, highlighting the diverse and vibrant character of Tunisian food.

Tunisian street food brings a taste of local life

As you meander through the streets of Tunis, the air is thick with the aromas of local life, a scene where the sizzle of the grill and the chatter of satisfied diners are as much a part of the city’s fabric as the cobblestone streets. Tunisian street food is a window into the heart of its culture, offering popular dishes that range from:

  • the sweet, doughnut-like bambalouni
  • the vegetarian delight of kafteji, a medley of deep-fried vegetables
  • tabouna sandwiches
  • fricassée
  • kaskrout

Each bite is a discovery, and as you explore further, you encounter a variety of ingredients that showcase the versatility and rich flavors of Tunisian cuisine.

The Tunisian street food scene is a testament to the culinary traditions that have shaped the nation’s palate. It’s where the traditional Tunisian dish meets the everyday hustle, creating a blend of flavors that are as accessible as they are delicious. Whether it’s a quick snack or a hearty meal, street food like the Tunisian chickpea soup known as lablabi offers a comforting embrace, especially welcomed during the cooler months.

Brik is the quintessential street snack

The streets of Tunis whisper tales of a beloved appetizer – the brik. A traditional Tunisian staple, brik is the epitome of street food, adored for its delicate pastry dough that encases a treasure trove of fillings. Some popular fillings include:

  • Tuna
  • Eggs
  • Cheese
  • Spinach
  • Potatoes

Brik is traditionally eaten during the holy month of Ramadan. The art of brik making is a dance of finesse, where the chosen ingredients are swathed in malsouka or warka, and then delicately deep-fried to golden perfection.

Brik’s allure lies in its versatility. The popular fillings feature a medley of tuna, parsley, coriander, and eggs, but the creativity doesn’t stop there. Variations can include shrimp, boiled potatoes mixed with capers and preserved lemon, cheese, or the beloved raw egg yolk, each adding a unique twist to this national dish. It’s the kind of snack that tells a story with every crunch – a story of tradition, community, and the simple joys of Tunisian cooking.

Lablabi is a chickpea soup comfort

On a chilly evening in Tunis, there’s nothing quite as comforting as a bowl of lablabi. This traditional Tunisian chickpea soup has warmed hearts and stomachs since the days of the Ottoman army, its rich history as nourishing as the dish itself. At its core, lablabi is a humble yet hearty soup, a blend of dried chickpeas swimming in a broth flavored with garlic and cumin, symbolizing the warmth of Tunisian hospitality.

Lablabi is a canvas for personal expression, a dish that invites diners to customize their bowl with toppings like:

  • olives
  • capers
  • tuna
  • hard-boiled eggs

Spices such as cumin, coriander, paprika, and fresh garlic add depth, while a dollop of spicy harissa paste ties the flavors together, encapsulating the essence of Tunisian cuisine in a single spoonful.

Whether served for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, this chickpea soup is a traditional Tunisian dish that comforts as it satisfies, a reminder of the simple pleasures found in a bowl of well-made soup.

Tunisian salads and starters are fresh and zesty

Transitioning from the bustling streets to the refreshing realm of Tunisian cuisine, one encounters a world of fresh and zesty flavors in a Tunisian salad. These dishes, such as the Salad Tunisienne and S’han Tounsi, burst with the freshness of tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and the bright notes of fruits and hard-boiled eggs, creating a symphony of tastes that awakens the palate. Contemporary takes on these salads may even introduce a tart sweetness with diced green apple, all dressed in a citrusy lemon dressing that complements the Tunisian dialect of flavors.

The Tunisian table also offers unique side dishes like Omek Houria, a spicy carrot mash, and Slata Mechouia, a grilled vegetable salad, each embracing traditional spices that are a testament to the nation’s culinary creativity. With every bite, one experiences the essence of traditional Tunisian cuisine, a cuisine that celebrates the bounty of the land with every dish, be it a starter or a side.

Mechouia salad and its grilled goodness

Delving deeper into the world of Tunisian salads, we come across the iconic Slata Mechouia. This traditional Tunisian grilled salad is a vibrant medley of:

  • onions
  • garlic
  • tomatoes
  • hot peppers

All charred to perfection, imparting a deep, smoky flavor that is utterly irresistible. The key ingredients, including eggplant and garlic, are grilled until tender, then finely chopped and mixed to create a harmonious blend that defines the essence of the salad.

The final touch to Mechouia Salad is the garnish, which includes:

  • a generous sprinkle of hard-boiled eggs
  • tuna fish
  • olives
  • capers
  • fresh herbs such as parsley or cilantro

These toppings not only add layers of flavor but also transform the dish into a feast for the eyes. Mechouia Salad is a popular Tunisian dish that can be enjoyed on its own or as a complement to a main course.

Fricasse are savory pastry pockets

Among the savory delights of Tunisian cuisine, one cannot overlook fricasse, a fried sandwich that encapsulates the essence of comfort food. This popular snack is a testament to the simple yet rich flavors of Tunisian cooking, made with a humble dough of flour, water, salt, oil, and bread yeast that puffs up to golden perfection when deep fried. Within these delicate pastry pockets, a variety of fillings come to life, including:

  • tuna
  • hard-boiled eggs
  • capers
  • olives
  • boiled potatoes

All held together by the fiery embrace of harissa sauce.

Affordable and widely loved, fricasse is a snack that speaks to the heart of Tunisia’s food culture. With each bite costing no more than 0.6 KD, it’s a treat that’s as kind to your wallet as it is to your taste buds, a reflection of the nation’s love for food that is both delicious and accessible.

The national dish is couscous

No culinary tour of Tunis would be complete without paying homage to the national dish, Tunisian couscous. Referred to lovingly as kosksi in the Tunisian dialect, this staple has woven itself into the fabric of the nation’s culture, a dish that is enjoyed in homes and restaurants alike. Couscous, with its fine-grained semolina, is lovingly steamed and then served with a stew-like sauce brimming with vegetables and a choice of lamb, beef, or seafood, reflecting the diverse bounty of Tunisian land and sea.

The process of making couscous is as traditional as the dish itself, involving a special double boiler known as a kiskas that imparts a unique texture to the semolina grains. This distinct steaming process is a labor of love, a culinary ritual that ensures couscous prepared with the utmost care is a centerpiece at any Tunisian table.


The preparation of Tunisian couscous is an art form, a meticulous process that involves:

  • searing onions and garlic
  • browning meat with a blend of spices
  • simmering tomato paste with boiling water until the vegetables and meat are tenderly cooked

This creates a rich, flavorful base for the steamed semolina grains, which are then fluffed with a fork to separate and aerate them, resulting in a dish that is as light as it is satisfying.

To assemble the couscous, follow these steps:

  1. Shape the grains into a mound with the meat nestled at its heart.
  2. Surround the mound with the vibrant colors of the cooked vegetables.
  3. Sprinkle chickpeas over the top.
  4. Serve a side of meat broth for diners to drizzle over their serving.

It’s a dish that’s not just eaten but experienced, a traditional Tunisian dish that symbolizes hospitality and the coming together of family and friends.

Main courses are the soul of their cuisine

The soul of Tunisian cuisine is found in its main courses, a diverse array of dishes that showcase a variety of meats and seafood. Some authentic Tunisian dishes include:

  • Rouz jerbi
  • Kammounia
  • Marqa jelbana
  • Kaftaji

These traditional dishes offer a taste of the nation’s rich culinary heritage, each with its own distinct flavors and ingredients.

The Tunisian coast’s bounty is celebrated in seafood dishes like kabkabou, where the fish is cooked in a flavorful tomato sauce, a testament to the Mediterranean’s influence on Tunisian cuisine. Even egg-based dishes like Ojja and Tunisian tajine are staples, combining spicy tomato sauce, eggs, and optional merguez sausage or seafood for a rich and satisfying meal.

Tajine is not your Moroccan stew

Tunisian tajine, not to be confused with the Moroccan stew of the same name, is more akin to an Italian frittata, baked to perfection and offering a hearty slice of Tunisian culinary tradition. The dish is a blend of beaten eggs, cheese, and an array of fillings that can include potatoes, chicken, or vegetables, all spiced with a combination of cumin, turmeric, and paprika for a burst of flavor.

Parsley lends its fresh, herbaceous notes to the tajine, while the blend of mozzarella and emmental cheese adds a creamy, indulgent texture. For those with adventurous palates, variations may include additional ingredients like:

  • ground lamb
  • chopped hard-boiled eggs
  • black olives
  • tomato paste
  • a touch of harissa paste for heat

These variations make each tajine a unique culinary experience.

Seafood specialties from the Mediterranean bounty

The Mediterranean Sea is not just a stunning backdrop for Tunisia, but also a source of culinary inspiration, particularly when it comes to seafood. Some common Tunisian seafood dishes include:

  • Grilled whole fish, reflecting the freshness and quality of the local catch, and often served with traditional accompaniments like potato chips and tastira—a combination that delights both locals and visitors alike.
  • Seafood couscous, a flavorful dish made with a variety of seafood, vegetables, and aromatic spices.
  • Stuffed squid, filled with a mixture of rice, herbs, and spices, then cooked until tender and flavorful.
  • Fish tagine, a slow-cooked dish made with fish, tomatoes, onions, and a blend of spices.

The Tunisian approach to seafood is simple yet sophisticated, allowing the natural flavors of the sea to shine, complemented by the subtle complexity of spices and herbs.

Kabkabou, in particular, is a traditional Tunisian fish dish that captures the essence of the nation’s seafood cuisine. Prepared with varieties of fish such as grouper, tuna, or mackerel, the dish is cooked in a rich tomato sauce that is both comforting and flavorful. This dish exemplifies how Tunisian cooking honors its Mediterranean roots, showcasing the bounty of the sea in a style that is distinctly Tunisian.

Tunisian desserts give sweet endings to meals

As the savory journey through Tunisian cuisine draws to a close, the time comes to indulge in the sweet finales that are Tunisian desserts. These confections, which include:

  • Zalabia
  • Baklava
  • Makroudh
  • Zrir
  • Masfouf
  • Tunisian zgougou

are a testament to the creativity and unique flavor profiles that characterize the country’s sweet offerings. Each dessert, whether soaked in honey syrup or filled with nuts, embodies the importance of sweet treats in Tunisian culture, especially during festive times like family gatherings, weddings, and the holy month of Ramadan.

Masfouf, a sweetened couscous dish, exemplifies the versatility of couscous beyond the savory realm. Often made with a creamy texture and included with raisins or peas, this dessert is savored at traditional occasions, showcasing the Tunisian penchant for transforming simple ingredients into extraordinary delights.

Meanwhile, Tunisian zgougou, a special porridge made with pine tree extract, highlights the nation’s inventive spirit, bringing forth flavors that are as unique as they are delectable.

Makroudh are date-filled delights

Among the pantheon of Tunisian desserts, Makroudh holds a place of honor. This traditional North African semolina cookie, diamond-shaped and often enjoyed during celebrations, has its roots in the city of Kairouan and has gained fame far beyond its origins. Whether fried or baked, Makroudh is typically filled with almonds or dates, offering a sweet, textural contrast to the semolina dough that ranges from fine to coarse grains.

Coated or soaked in honey, these cookies are often adorned with sesame seeds or almonds, adding a touch of elegance to their rustic charm. The sweetness of the honey syrup, combined with the richness of the filling, makes Makroudh not just a dessert but a celebration of traditional Tunisian cuisine in every bite.

Asida is a traditional treat

In the realm of traditional Tunisian desserts, Asida stands out as a dish reserved for special occasions such as the birth of the Prophet Muhammad. The preparation of Asida is a simple yet profound process that involves mixing flour, water, sugar, salt, and olive oil, culminating in a dish that is garnished with honey and dates stuffed with pistachios. This dessert is not only a treat for the taste buds but also holds cultural significance, reflecting the deep-rooted traditions of Tunisian cuisine.

The variation of asida known as Assida Zgougou is particularly cherished during the festival of Mouled. Made with ingredients like:

  • Aleppo pine nuts
  • flour from hazelnuts
  • pistachios
  • sesame seeds

It offers a unique taste that is emblematic of Tunisian culinary ingenuity. Asida, in all its forms, is a dessert that speaks to the heart of Tunisian heritage, a sweet ending to any meal and a cherished part of the nation’s gastronomic identity.

Drinks in Tunisia go from mint tea to fruit cocktails

The Tunisian dining experience is complemented by a diverse array of beverages that range from the traditional to the innovative. Mint tea is a symbol of Tunisian hospitality, traditionally served with pine nuts or almonds and savored in the country’s countless coffee bars. This refreshing brew, along with the strong and dense Tunisian coffee often enhanced with rose water, represents the welcoming spirit of the Tunisian people.

While Tunisia is predominantly Muslim and some may abstain from alcohol, options like locally brewed beer like Celtia and Boukha, a fig-based spirit, are available for those who partake, especially in tourist areas and hotels. Tunisian wine, with a legacy dating back to the Punic era, continues to flourish in vineyards such as Domaine Neferis, offering a sip of history with every glass.

Jouajem is a fruity refreshment

On a hot Tunisian day, nothing refreshes quite like a Jouajem drink. This exquisite concoction of fruits, including lemon juice, and ice cream, hailing from the southern city of Sfax, has won the hearts of locals and visitors alike. As a beloved street food and a favored dessert beverage during Ramadan, Jouajem is a testament to the Tunisian love for sweet, fruity flavors that cool and delight the senses.

The popularity of the Jouajem drink has spread beyond Sfax, capturing the essence of Tunisian refreshment in every colorful layer. It’s a celebration of local fruits, combined with the creamy richness of ice cream, that makes for an irresistible treat on any day, especially during the warm months or after a day of fasting.

Commonly eaten in Tunisia

From the spicy tang of harissa-laced dishes to the sweet notes of honey-drenched desserts, Tunisian cuisine is a journey of the senses, a reflection of its rich history and cultural tapestry. This culinary voyage through Tunis has revealed not just the flavors but the soul of Tunisian cooking, where every dish tells a story of tradition, community, and a love for food that brings people together. As you set forth to explore these flavors in your own kitchen or on your travels, may the spirit of Tunisian hospitality and the richness of its cuisine inspire your own culinary adventures.

What is the most popular food in Tunisia?

The most popular food in Tunis is couscous, which is the national dish of Tunisia and can be prepared in various ways. It is a common dish throughout North Africa and consists of a stew-like sauce of vegetables, potatoes, tomatoes, and meat served on a bed of semolina.

What do Tunisians eat for breakfast?

Tunisians typically eat Tajine or Tunisian Frittata for breakfast, which is an egg base cooked with parsley, onion, cheese, turmeric, harissa, olives, and meat.

What is Tunis traditional dish?

Tunisia's traditional dish is couscous, known as kosksi, and it can be prepared in various ways.

What is Tunisian couscous typically served with?

Tunisian couscous is typically served with a stew-like sauce of vegetables and a choice of lamb, beef, or seafood, making it a hearty and flavorful dish.

Are there any vegetarian options in Tunisian street food?

Yes, Tunisian street food does offer vegetarian options like Kafteji, a dish made of deep-fried vegetables including tomatoes, pumpkin, potatoes, and bell peppers. Enjoy!