If you are traveling from Europe or North America, you will find that the food in Tanzania differs significantly, and although it isn’t one of the front runners for world-class cuisine, there are certainly some dishes you have to try when you are there. A lot of the food in Tanzania is very traditional.
One of the best ways to learn about local variations is by connecting with a local ‘Tanzania Destination Expert,’ who can share their top local dishes with you and many other valuable pieces of information.
In the meantime, to give you a little head start on your travel plans for Tanzania, precisely things to add to your food bucket list, here are some top dishes you need to try when in Tanzania.
If there is one thing you will notice about the food culture of Tanzania, it is that it is heavily starch-based, and many meals will include main ingredients such as rice, maize, potatoes, beans, pilaf, or cornflour as well as various meats and fish. Tanzania has one of the largest livestock populations on the content of Africa, so as you can imagine, meat-eaters will thrive here, with the variety of meat stews, kebabs, and various other meat dishes.
With meat and starch being the most significant contributors to Tanzanian meals, you can guarantee you will not go hungry here, considering the meals are wholesome and very filling. Due to the many influences, Tanzania’s food has evolved and changed. For example, the Portuguese introduced the cassava root vegetable, the Germans introduced coffee plantations, and the Muslims introduced herbs, spices, and citrus fruits to the country, not the British tea influence.
While in Tanzania, you will most likely go out to eat or have a home-cooked meal at some point, and we are here to give you an overview of the typical dishes you might come across and which ones are the best to try.
So let us take a look.
If there is one thing you will see on every plate in Tanzania, it is the staple ingredients of Ugali, which is, in fact, the national dish of the country. It is made of cornmeal and served with various meats, vegetables, beans, and sauces. Don’t try to eat this with cutlery.
Ugali has to be eaten with your hands -your right hand to be precise, and the dough-like meal has to be rolled into a ball, dipped in the sauces, combined with the meat or vegetables, and eaten. Simple! This polenta-like ingredient is almost used as a utensil of its own, and if you watch locals, you will notice that no one will be using a knife and fork when eating this, so do as the locals do and enjoy.
This local donut-like food is very typical all over the country, and you are likely to see it at street vendors, hotels, and restaurants, but unlike a donut, it is less sweet and not covered in sugar. It can be served with tea, used as a dipping bread, or eaten as a snack, so get yourself some mandazi when you are on the go and are looking for a traditional boost of energy.
The meaning of Nyama Choma is ‘roasted or barbequed meat’ in Swahili, and that is precisely what you will get if you order this. Unlike other African countries, Tanzanians consume very little meat and tend only to eat it on special occasions, so you must oblige if you find yourself being offered nyama choma. This is a real delicacy in Tanzania and is generally cooked over the fire, giving it a delicious smoky flavor.
Known as bananas cooked with meat, Ndizi Nyama is worth trying, if only for the unique combination. Tanzania grows a variety of bananas and plantains, and you will find many meals containing them, but for this meal, in particular, green bananas are used.
Coconut Fish Curry:
In Tanzania, you will find the best fish and seafood along the coast, but if you go to the island of Zanzibar, you will be spoilt for choice. One of the best dishes to try is the coconut fish curry, which is delicious when made with freshly caught fish and fresh coconut.
If you are on the mainland and you try this dish, it will most likely be made from the tilapia fish caught in Lake Victoria. However, in Zanzibar, you will be served freshly caught ocean fish, but be sure to try both variations while traveling around the country.
Tanzania has not only been influenced by India in terms of their spices and curries, but of course, the chapatti came along for the ride too. There are many similarities and uses to the Indian chapatti, and it is used as a side dish in combination with stews or curries. However, unlike the Indian version, the Tanzanian chapatti is thicker and more filling. This is something you will come across everywhere during your time here.
Otherwise known as a beef stew, made with coconut milk, this is one of the heartiest meals you will find and is great if you are hungry. This popular dish contains very tender meat, which has been slow-cooked and is a meal you will find everywhere in the country.
Street Foods to try:
One of the most extraordinary things about Tanzania is that you can almost always find food on the go, whether you are walking along the street, or even sitting on a bus at a rest stop, while someone sells you food through the window, you will never have to search for food here.
The convenience of street food in Tanzania is excellent, and some of the main foods you will find as ‘on the go snacks are fried cassava, fried plantain, meat skewers, samosas, grilled bananas, and even hard-boiled eggs. In addition, sometimes, you can buy small bags of freshly cut fruit, avocados, and bread, which is a great way to have a varied and somewhat balanced diet while traveling around.
Coffee & Tea:
In Tanzania, you must try the coffee, which the Germans introduced and is mainly produced in Moshi, Arush, and Kilimanjaro. Coffee is, in fact, the country’s largest export crop, and it is all grown on the foothills of Africa’s highest mountain. One of the best things to do is to try different coffees as you travel around, especially if you get to visit these regions
Tea was first introduced by the British and is one of the country’s main agricultural products. There is no doubt that you will have the opportunity to have a cup of the local brew when traveling around, so give it a go.