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What to Eat in Tunisia: A Guide to Tunisian Food

Tunisia boasts an excellent culinary tradition, characterized by typical dishes and highly appreciated delicacies. While it’s often said that Italian cuisine has no rivals worldwide, it’s important to remember the famous saying “when in Rome, do as the Romans do,” and be open to tasting the local culinary specialties of the place you’re visiting. Choosing to travel to Tunisia instead of another destination is a great idea not only because it allows tourists to visit fantastic places like the Main Square of the Medina or the Mosque Square but also because it offers the opportunity to taste real delicacies. For these reasons, we will explore what to eat in Tunisia.

A trip to Tunisia can also become a culinary journey through gastronomic traditions. Thanks to its strategic position on the Mediterranean Sea, Tunisia has seen various populations over its history, each leaving a significant imprint not only culturally and economically but also gastronomically. The succession of such diverse populations has established Tunisian cuisine as a blend of different traditions. Its strategic seaside location has also developed Tunisia’s culinary tradition based on a Mediterranean diet, featuring farm-raised meat, fish, spices, tomatoes, and olive oil. After listing the most commonly used ingredients in Tunisian dishes, let’s discover what to eat in Tunisia, focusing on the most appreciated dishes.

Couscous

One of Tunisia’s most iconic dishes is couscous. It’s a famous dish even in Italy, made from steamed semolina grains and later seasoned with meat, vegetables, or fish, also steamed. In Tunisian restaurants, you can find couscous in various versions, all of them delicious.

Traditionally made with durum wheat semolina, couscous is now also made with different grains like millet, sorghum, spelt, corn, or rice. It’s generally used to accompany boiled vegetables or stewed meats and can be spiced up with harissa, a hot sauce made from red chili peppers and olive oil, used to season many Tunisian dishes.

 

Tajine

Tajine is a stewed meat dish, also known as braised meat, typical of Tunisian cuisine. The most commonly used meat for its preparation is lamb, accompanied by a mix of olives, vegetables, eggs, and cheese, cooked for many hours in earthenware pots. There are different types of tajine, with the most well-known being kefta, made with tomatoes and meatballs, mqualli with chicken accompanied by olives and lemon, and mrouzia with lamb, almonds, and prunes.

Additional ingredients can include sauces or spices such as garlic, pepper, saffron, turmeric, ginger, or cinnamon to enhance the flavor.

 

Brik

Another must-try dish when deciding what to eat in Tunisia is brik. It’s a fritter made with brik pastry, very similar to phyllo dough, which becomes particularly crispy and flaky when cooked.

This thin fritter is filled with ingredients like potatoes, tuna, turmeric, capers, coriander, and a raw egg. Tunisian brik, typically triangular, is mainly consumed on festive days and is accompanied by lamb, soups, Arabic bread, and couscous.

Mechouia Salad

Mechouia salad, a must-try dish during a stay in Tunisia, is a salad made with various ingredients.

There are many variations, but the most well-known is prepared with grilled peppers, peeled tomatoes, and onions, then seasoned with olive oil, lemon, garlic, cumin, powdered coriander, and sometimes harissa.

 

Merguez

For meat lovers, a typical Tunisian dish is merguez, small sausages made from lamb or beef, spiced with various seasonings.

Merguez, sometimes spicy, are ideal for making a variant of couscous. The sausages are usually grilled and enjoyed inside sandwiches with French fries.

 

A significant ingredient in Tunisian cuisine, particularly in pastries, also known in Italy, is the date, cultivated and harvested mainly in the southern part of the country, near the desert. It’s a particularly sweet fruit, eaten alone or used to make excellent Tunisian desserts, such as gazelle horns, traditional pastries made with puff pastry filled with dates and sesame, fried and dipped in boiling honey. Most Tunisian sweets are made using honey. Consider, for example, the classic Halwa and Baklawa, made from honey and almonds. There are also baklava, always made from dried fruit and honey.

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