VEGETARIAN IN MAGHREB
If you are going to Maghreb and worrying about whether or not there will be enough tasty food for you to enjoy as a vegetarian, then stop being concerned. Algerians, Moroccans and Tunisians do love their meat, and often serve meat in their main meals, but there are many delicious options for you as a vegetarian! Here are some of our ideas for yummy vegetarian foods and somethings that you might want to avoid.
Maghreb has a huge variety of delicious salads, fresh or cooked. At one restaurant that my family loves, we have been served 20 different salads at one meal! At every meal that you eat, there will be salad, whether it comes as a sort of first course before the main meal or is served with the main meal on little plates. They are loaded with spices and are all very flavorful. Some people have said that they could live on Maghrebi salads alone during their trip to Maghreb !
An especially delicious Moroccan salad is zaalouk, which is made out of eggplant, tomato and garlic. Tk’touka is a common salad that you will be offered that is made of bell peppers, tomatoes and spices.
Another basic salad is made of chopped cucumbers and tomatoes with a vinaigrette dressing. There will certainly be a dish made out of steamed carrots, a potato dish, fava bean salad, and you may even be served a squash salad with caramelized onions and cinnamon. Beets can be found in salads as well.
Some salads in Maghreb are eaten with forks and others are eaten with the delicious bread that is served at every meal. Generally, the cooked salads are eaten with bread, but you can choose to do whatever you would like as they are yummy either way.
The bread in Maghreb is wonderful beyond compare. You will probably eat khobz the most, which is the flat round bread that most Maghrebis use as their silverware with the main meal or salad. However, there are other types of bread that you can try!
Kharsha is almost like cornbread. It is typically harder and you can eat it with honey, jam or butter. At some restaurants, you will find kharsha with oregano and olives in it! Delicious!
Other visitors have loved the Malawi, which is almost like naan bread but a little flakier. Some types of Malawi have onions and tomatoes cooked in it.
Since Maghreb was colonized by France, you will also be able to find fresh baguettes and croissants. I think you will find that these all make perfect breakfast foods and some of these will be served at the hotels that you visit.
If you go to Essaouira, a small fishing city, there will also be stores making crepes everywhere for you to try! These might be served with Nutella, jam or honey. Moroccan pancakes also might be served at your hotel or riad.
For main meals, the vegetarian choice becomes a little more restricted, but there are still tasty options. Many hotels and restaurants are starting to offer vegetarian couscous and vegetarian tagine.
Be sure to read our Don’ts section for warnings when ordering and eating these.
Vegetarian Tagine is basically vegetables, olives and spices that have been cooked in a delicious broth. You will find potatoes, carrots, chickpeas, and onions on it almost every time. Sometimes there will also be zucchini or squash, depending on what is in season. There might be olives and lemon on it to flavor it, or if you get the sweeter tagine, there would be raisins on top. No matter what is on it, this is a good warm meal to fill you up as you explore the Medinas and beautiful cities of Maghreb!
Vegetarian Couscous consists of the seminola grains steamed above vegetables. Again, you will be treated to all the vegetables that are in season, with chickpeas and a sometimes spicy broth. This is one of the only main meals in Maghreb not eaten with bread!
Other main meals that you will definitely want to try to sample during your travel to Maghreb are lentils(known as addis) and Loubia which is basically white kidney beans cooked in a tomato based sauce.
You can also order the Maghreb soup, harira, without meat. This soup comes filled with chickpeas, lentils, rice and herbs-very filling and cheap! Bisara is the thick split-pea soup that is also very cheap and well-liked.
There are no end to the delicious snacks that you will have access to on your trip to Maghreb.
Are you a fruit lover?
Maghreb’s fruit markets are unbeatable for both price and quality. Maghreb also has many wonderful dried fruit options that my kids love to eat: chewy dates, figs, dried apricots, prunes and more. You will pass stores that sell a range of salted nuts and other snacks that you can pick up along the way! Try the Berber figs (prickly pears) or the corn that is being roasted on the side of the road for some variety!
Olives are another highlight of travel to Maghreb. There are spicy olives, sour olives and bitter olives-really any kind of olive that you can imagine! Small dishes of olives might be served with the salads at the beginning of the meal, or garnishing the tagine. Tourists have been known to bring bags of the spicy olives back to their home country as they can be so addictive!
A snack that visitors to Maghreb love are their fruit salads. Fruit salads are made from whatever fruits (and nuts sometimes) that are in season in either an orange juice base or a creamy avocado base with milk and sugar added. They can be considered a meal in and of themselves! You can also get plain fresh squeezed orange juice or mint tea for other wonderful drinks.
Many of them have a nutty flavor and are quite beautifully designed. These are served with tea at the end of a meal. Try the shbakia which is made of fried batter dipped in honey. Sfinj are the Moroccan donuts that are sometimes dipped in sugar. Seasonal fruit is a healthier dessert option at many restaurants and homes.
Things to consider
Here are some things that you should consider and be careful of if you are a vegetarian going to Maghreb.
- Maghrebis might not understand vegetarianism. Meat is a sign of wealth to them, and it is considered hospitable to serve meat to you. Therefore your request may not be understood at a restaurant.
- Because of this, “Vegetarian” tagine and couscous may simply be the original tagine or couscous with the meat pulled off of it. Clarify to your waiter or waitress that you want it cooked without meat. This may especially be true in small towns.
- Another thing to beware of is that tagines and couscous are often cooked with a meat stock for the broth. If you can’t check this, steer towards the dishes that you know are vegetarian for sure.
- The couscous grain is steamed over the vegetables and meat together, so again, be aware that it could be steamed over the meat and vegetables and they could serve it to you with the meat taken out.
- Harira and Chorba, soup, is sometimes made with meat. This is another dish where the meat may simply be removed.
- When eating dishes that are fried, be aware that the oil used to fry may have fried meat in it as well.