Tunisian gastronomy is world-famous for its colorful variety and wide array of flavors influenced by both Mediterranean and North African cuisine, and the large number of civilizations who have passed through the region, including the Byzantines, Romans, Turks, and Arabs. Those who visit the country are not only able to enjoy the fantastic traditional food in Tunisia in abundance but are also able to enjoy a range of gastronomic tourism experiences.
Foreign citizens who wish to travel to the country and indulge in its rich gastronomy should first check if they require a visa for Tunisia before departure. Citizens of 97 countries are able to visit Tunisia visa-free for up to 90 days, while all other nationalities are currently required to apply for a visa for Tunisia from their nearest Tunisian embassy or consulate.
However, this will soon change when an online Tunisia visa application form is implemented in the near future, allowing eligible citizens to apply for and receive travel authorization for Tunisia exclusively online. The online application will significantly simplify the application process, allowing travelers plenty of extra time in which to plan a gastronomic trip in Tunisia.
Traditional Food in Tunisia
The majority of travelers to Tunisia will have already eaten plenty of one of the country’s basic staples, couscous, before arrival in the country.
However, it is worth trying one of the many couscous dishes served in the country as they usually come accompanied by delicious stews including varied ingredients such as lamb, chicken, swordfish, or red snapper.
However, Tunisian gastronomy is about much more than just couscous, and there are a variety of traditional dishes you should make the effort to sample during your stay, including:
A popular staple found in almost every restaurant in Tunisia, Brik is made of a delicate pastry dough called Malsouka, which is fried and stuffed with tuna, parsley, and egg, and served with generous amounts of lemon.
An intensely popular street food in Tunisia, Fricassé is a kind of lightly fried savory doughnut stuffed with tuna, egg, boiled potatoes, olives, and harissa paste.
Often served as a condiment or dip, Harissa is a spicy paste made with copious amounts of chili peppers and garlic, and a popular traditional food in Tunisia. A pot of Harissa also makes for an ideal souvenir or gift to take back home after your trip.
A thick soup or stew made with chickpeas and egg and flavored with cumin, lemon juice, and garlic, served over pieces of stale crusty bread, this is a hearty dish full of vibrant flavors.
Mechouia Salad – An intensely colourful dish made with grilled red peppers, tomatoes, onions, tuna, and hard-boiled eggs. Mechouia salad can either be served hot or cold, and can often be very spicy so it’s best to ask about the spice level before tucking in.
Made with beaten eggs, cheese, meat, and vegetables, and usually baked like a cake, Tajine is a Tunisian variant on a quiche or frittata. It is usually served as a snack before meals but can also be served as a main dish.
A popular treat in Tunisia, Bambalouni is a kind of doughnut fried in oil and coated in liberal amounts of sugar and honey, perfect for those with a sweet tooth.
Those who visit Tunisia for a gastronomic trip will quickly become aware that bread is an important component in every meal. Not only do restaurants usually provide patrons with more than enough free bread for the meal, but it is also common to use bread in place of cutlery.
Visitors should feel more than free to join in with this tradition – not only will it show respect for local customs but it can also be incredibly fun as well.
The Best Gastronomic Experiences in Tunisia
Due to the rich variety of cuisine and extensive agricultural practices, gastronomic experiences are some of the most popular tourist attractions in Tunisia, and something foodies who visit the country will want to take full advantage of.
For starters, every town and city in Tunisia has a central produce market that should be one of the first stops on any travel itinerary.
Smaller towns usually reserve a certain day for markets, but those who visit the capital, Tunis, will be able to visit the huge central market, Marché Centrale, any day of the week.
Those who are even more motivated to explore Tunisian gastronomy are able to delve deeper through a variety of unique activities centered around Tunisian cuisine and produce, including:
- Enjoying a traditional Tunisian meal at a dar – Dar means ‘home’ in Arabic, and these traditional hotels certainly offer up a homely vibe, as well as plenty of traditional home-cooking far more ‘authentic’ than that found in the typical tourist restaurant. Some dars also often traditional cooking classes, so you can learn how to replicate your favorite dishes to impress your friends back home.
- Sampling the quality olive oil in Tunisia – Olive oil is one of Tunisia’s most exported products, which makes sense when you consider that almost a third of the country’s landmass is covered in olive groves. Visitors who want to learn more about the production of this important export and enjoy a workshop on olive oil tasting are able to do so at the Ben Ismail family farm in Toukaber in northern Tunisia, which is home to the county’s first ever olive oil bar and tasting room.
- Taking a wine tour in Tunisia – Tunisia’s long history of wine production dates all the way back to Phoenician times, and so, accordingly, wine tourism is becoming an increasingly popular pursuit in Tunisia. Visitors to the country are now able to tour the seven main wine-producing regions in the north of the country as part of the Magon Wine Route, launched in 2018. The tour comprises tastings at some of Tunisia’s top wineries interspersed with visits to sites of cultural and historical importance, meaning that visitors are able to combine learning about Tunisian gastronomy and history in one fantastic package.