Many historical, cultural, and geological elements have influenced North African dishes.
From Algeria to Morocco to Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, there seem to be similarities among the North African dishes.
Also, due to the presence of spice markets in places like Sfax and Tunisia, the cuisine of North Africa is renowned for its abundance of vibrant spice blends.
In terms of history and culture, the Maghreb and North Africa rank among the world’s most diversified regions.
The culinary customs of its inhabitants are evidence of the cultural diversity of the southern Mediterranean.
North African dishes are unquestionably one of the most complex and sophisticated cuisines.
Here are 12 North African dishes that would leave you craving more.
- Ful Medames
- L’hamd Marakad
The main dish of North Africa is couscous, a classic Berber dish made of steamed semolina. Couscous can be eaten alone or as a side dish with tajine or vegetable plates.
There are many regional variants of couscous. You can add harissa sauce, serve it as a dessert with almonds, sugar, and cinnamon, or make couscous royale by adding lamb, chicken, and meatballs along with a little saffron.
Unquestionably, couscous is the most recognizable dish in North Africa, and the entire Maghreb region enjoys this mouth-watering and filling dish.
Couscous varies in flavor from city to city throughout the Maghreb. For instance, in Morocco, raisins and sweetened onion sauce are occasionally added, creating a delicious contrast between sweetness and salty.
Given that historical evidence suggests that couscous has long been a mainstay of Amazigh and North African cuisine, it appears like it is one of the North African dishes that’s worthwhile trying.
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2. Ful Medames
Ful Medames is Egypt’s national dish and this meal is popular in places like Cairo and Giza.
Additionally, Ful Medames can be found in various regions of the Middle East and North Africa.
Fava beans are the main ingredient in this not-so-complicated dish. Ful Medames can be served with cumin, garlic, chopped onions, peppers, and a hard-boiled egg.
Another delicacy that is quite popular among North African dishes is Tajine.
Tagine is a fantastic North African/Maghrebi culinary dish that has traveled through time and space (just like Couscous).
This dish is also recognized as one of the most well-balanced dinners in Mediterranean cuisine and it is renowned across the world for this quality.
A typical tagine has protein in the form of meat (which might be any type of halal meat, including fish), healthy fats in the form of olive oil, vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and fiber from a range of vegetables and legumes, and it tastes unlike any other dish thanks to its unique spices.
The Tagine is one of the best dishes you can adopt from North African dishes if you’re into meals that really nourish the body.
Moroccan cuisine includes b’stilla, which is also referred to as pastilla. Although chicken or quail can be used, b’stilla typically consists of a sweet and sour pigeon pie. The b’stilla is usually given as an appetizer on special occasions.
It is filled with pigeon meat, onions, and spices like saffron and coriander before having almonds and beaten eggs added. All of it is encased in delicate warqa pastry, which cooks to an extremely crisp texture.
The elegant B’stilla is a representation of the cuisine’s elegance in Morocco and the Maghreb.
B’stilla, which had its beginnings in Fez in the eighth century, has come to symbolize excellent pastry throughout North Africa.
The B’stilla has a distinct flavor because of the crisp crust and rich core contents (meat, onions, spices like saffron and coriander, almonds, and beaten eggs).
The Tunisian dish shakshouka, also known as chakchouka, has become popular throughout North Africa and in Israel after being introduced there by Maghrebi Jews.
It can be had for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It is one recipe with the most color, made of chopped onions, chili peppers, tomatoes, and cumin, heated in a skillet to make a rich sauce in which a few eggs are poached.
Harira is the traditional Ramadan breakfast dish for Moroccans, Algerians, and Tunisians.
The ingredients used to make this soup are mostly tomatoes, chickpeas, lentils, fresh herbs, chopped meat, and robust spices like ginger and paprika.
In Algeria and Morocco, harira soup is a common dish that is always used to break the fast at dusk and it can be eaten as a snack or an appetizer all year long.
Making harira doesn’t have a specific procedure or recipe. It can be prepared using lamb, chicken, or beef parts, but typically lentils, chickpeas, and tomatoes are added.
Lemon juice and additional spices like ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric are frequently included. Chebakia, a traditional sesame cookie from Morocco, is frequently served with harira.
This soup is definitely a must-try North African dish.
One of the most recognizable and traditional ways to prepare for a feast in North Africa is with mechoui (grilled meat).
Roasting a whole lamb involves coating it with butter, oil, and seasonings.
In North African traditional families, it is customary to honor guests by offering a sacrifice of livestock as a welcome.
Yogurt, flatbreads, and dips can be served with Mechoui. Guests are served the offal and the flesh from the head, including the cheeks and eyes, which are considered a delicacy.
To prepare this at home, a lamb shoulder cooked with herbs like thyme, coriander, and cumin will do.
8. L’hamd Marakad
L’hamd marakad, or pickled lemon, is a core part of Moroccan cuisine. It is used in tajine and couscous preparations, as well as salads and vegetable dishes.
It is also used to flavor poultry meals. Citron beldi, the typical Moroccan lemons of the doqq or boussera kinds, should be used to make it.
The quartered lemons are kept in a solution of water, lemon juice, and salt, and are then given four to five weeks to ferment and soften.
Another North African dish that has made its way to Israel and Syria is matbucha.
It consists of a thick dip made with tomatoes, bell peppers, garlic, and chili pepper that is typically served as an appetizer with bread and olives.
The mixture is heated until it becomes an oily paste that is perfect for dipping or putting on flatbreads.
In Morocco, the food typically offered during the Eid al-Adha celebration is mrouzia.
The lamb used to make the mrouzia was slaughtered as part of the Islamic celebration of Eid al-Adha, which is known as the “feast of the sacrifice.”
The spice mixture ras el hanout, some honey, saffron, ginger, almonds, and raisins are cooked with the lamb in a tajine.
This meal also has a distinctive aroma of mrouzia and this is due to the combination of saffron and ras el hanout.
Mhadjeb, also known as mahjouba, is a common street snack in the Algerian cities of Algiers and Oran.
Mhadjeb is essentially a crêpe stuffed with a simmering tomato paste and diced veggies including carrots, onions, and chilies.
A piece of flat dough will be placed on a pan by a street vendor, who will then add the paste and fold the dough into a square for cooking.
M’hanncha is also referred to as “snake cake” or the “Moroccan snake.” The name refers to the dessert, which is made of a swirl of coiled filo dough.
The filo pastry is fried before being rolled out into a long tube and filled with almond paste, scented with pistachio and orange flower water, and cinnamon.