Tanzanian Foods

Food in Tanzania is simple, hearty, made with seafood, meat, rice and spices. The cuisine is a mixture of national African dishes and European cuisine. Here you can taste exotic culinary masterpieces for every taste.

Features of the national Tanzanian cuisine

80% of the entire range of food consumed is fish, shark meat and seafood:

  • shrimps;
  • lobsters;
  • oysters;
  • squid.

Agriculture in Tanzania is not very developed, the locals grow mainly potatoes, nuts, and cloves. Tomatoes, bell peppers, zucchini are rarely seen here. Vendors offer mangoes, juicy pineapples, unsweetened bananas, durian. There are more fruits than vegetables on the market.

Garnish with corn, lentils, beans, peas, beans, celery, carrots, rice, fries and sauerkraut. For a snack, unsweetened bananas with peanuts are offered fried and stewed in the oven. Besides local spices, Indian spices are popular.

The dishes are simple to prepare, yet hearty and reflect the local flavor. The presentation and decoration are original, each chef strives to surprise guests, especially tourists.

Historical background

For a long time, Tanzania has been at the crossroads of trade routes, thanks to which its cuisine has become a whimsical interweaving of many food traditions, while not losing either the vibrant flavor of Africa or the breadth of the local soul.

The first inhabitants of Zanzibar were Bantu fishermen. As now, their diet consisted of seafood. Among the first ingredients were also beans, sweet potatoes, cassava and bananas.

A new stage in the culinary history of Tanzania began with Arab colonization. At that time, spices, coconut, citrus fruits and rice appeared on the tables.

In the XV century. the territory of Zanzibar was conquered by Portugal. Thanks to her influence, Tanzanian cuisine has been enriched with cassava, corn and pineapple.

In the second half of the 17th century. Tanzania again gave up under the rule of the Arab sultanate, and its cuisine was replenished with Indian products and recipes. Chutney, masala, biriani, curry, fish cakes and samosa are popular foods that are still available to residents and tourists today. Original Indian recipes have been modified to suit the climatic conditions of Zanzibar. Today, local cuisine cannot be imagined without fragrant seasonings – spicy, but not very spicy.

The protectorate of Germany and Britain have donated their culinary traditions to Tanzania. And today tea is served here with milk and sugar, and steaks appeared on the tables.

The already independent Tanzania has developed a strong relationship with China, which has resulted in some recipes and ingredients such as soy sauce becoming a natural occurrence on the island.

Culinary traditions

Traditionally in Tanzania, eating with the fingers of the right hand folded together. However, tourists will always be offered cutlery in restaurants.

In restaurants and cafes, young shoots of a clove tree are placed on the tables. They are used by diners to freshen their mouths, which enhances the flavor of the food.

The establishments have a relaxed and quiet atmosphere that does not distract from the taste and original design of the food served. In the restaurant, guests will find a friendly attitude and unhurried fulfillment of orders.

Serving and etiquette

In Tanzania, there is no single set of rules for behavior at the table: customs and traditions of food consumption differ in tribes and regions. For example, women are not allowed to eat eggs or chicken. In other tribes, men do not enter the kitchen. In Muslim families, men and women eat separately.

As far as the traditions of the Zanzibar family are concerned, the Islamic influence is felt here. Only women are allowed to cook. They cook either on wood in the yard or in a separate room where men are not allowed to enter.

There are no unusual traditions in table setting. European style prevails in restaurants and cafes, so there will always be cutlery on the tables.

At home, they will eat with their hands. Most often they sit on the floor, food is placed on a rug or low table. A mandatory attribute is a bowl of water, where they wash their hands before eating. The container is passed to the next person with the right hand, and it is also used for food. The Muslim left hand is considered unclean.

Breakfast in Tanzania is rather scarce, mainly flatbread with butter and jam. The main meal is at a late afternoon snack or dinner. Sometimes 2 meals are mixed into a hearty, hearty meal so that you have enough energy for a day.

Typical products and traditional dishes

The combination of African folk traditions and European recipes is reflected in the national cuisine of Tanzania. In Zanzibar, Arabian, African and Persian culinary customs are intertwined.

From meat

In Tanzania, you can rarely find pork and beef dishes, since this meat is quite expensive. More often they serve exotic dishes for us, such as roast ostrich, stew of elephant, buffalo or warthog steaks. In Zanzibar, you will be offered to taste the fried locust. Among the meat treats popular are game in dough, chicken and pea puree soup, veal with vegetables, sausages from various types of meat, which are fried over an open fire.

From fish

In Tanzania, seafood is common. Popular are shrimp fried with lemon, octopus stew, grilled sea fish on charcoal (sometimes wrapped in banana leaves), various shells, especially oysters, and much more. It is worth trying the grilled octopus: with this method of preparation, it will be served whole, not cut into pieces.

Dorado, sea bass, barracuda are fried in a large frying pan or baked in the oven.


Most often, yogurt is eaten. In the interior of the island, far from civilization, cheese, cottage cheese and dairy products cannot be found. In resort towns, pasteurized cow’s milk is used.

The basis of popular African dishes is coconut milk.

Salads and snacks

Seafood is served as an appetizer. For example, try a crab roll or a deep-fried octopus roll. The composition of the salads includes banana leaves, spinach, but you can also find a more “European” version – tomatoes with onions and oil. For example, nditsi kaanga made from fried plantains – green bananas. They are cooked both salted and lightly sweetened with sugar.

Bakery products

Bread is represented by flat unleavened cakes. For their preparation, flour from wheat, corn or cassava is used. On the coast, flatbreads are replaced by Indian samosa pancakes.

At the end of Ramadan, residents of Zanzibar traditionally eat bread with dates and hazelnuts.

Indian samosa pancakes.


Tanzania is one of the leading exporters of tea and coffee, which is why these drinks are of high quality. Spices are traditionally added to coffee, which reveals the nuances of taste. Tea is served in English: with milk and sugar. Freshly squeezed juices with ice are also popular.

Despite the strong influence of Islamic traditions, alcohol is represented by both imported and national drinks. The locally produced light beer is distinguished, as well as strong gin, cognagi, wine and liqueurs.

With drinking water, everything is more complicated, so it is worth using only bottled or disinfected water.


The selection of sweets is not very large. Desserts are prepared mainly using coconut milk and cane sugar, traditionally adding spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg. The sweet table includes banana custard cakes, maandazi (rather sugared cakes) and fresh fruit.


Unlike Indian food, Tanzanian food is not nearly as spicy. Spicy flavor mixes are used in all recipes. No chef

Swahili is not complete without turmeric, nutmeg, allspice and pepper, thyme, garlic or curry.

According to local chefs, a mixture of cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, cloves, ginger, dried mango and red curry is best for chicken.

Must-haves to try in Tanzania

In the preparation of traditional African food, spices and exotic fruits are used. The combination of Arabian and Indian gastronomic influences can be seen well in some common foods.


A dish similar to pilaf. It is based on rice, which is boiled in broth with spices. It can be supplemented with meat, seafood, hard-boiled eggs. Saw is served on a festive table.


The dish is of Portuguese-Indian origin. Prepared with beef, beef heart, liver and tongue. Tender meat is obtained by first steaming and then stewing in a vinegar marinade.

There are no children

Traditional stew made from vegetables and meat. From herbal ingredients, unsweetened bananas, onions, tomatoes, carrots, and bell peppers are added. The meat component is represented by goat meat or antelope fillet. They can often make such a seafood stew.


Biryani is based on rice, which is prepared with ginger, thyme, cloves, a mixture of peppers and fried onions. Chicken or seafood is stewed separately. The finished ingredients are combined into one dish, once again sprinkled with abundant spices.

Ugali porridge with naan bread

Ugali is the main side dish for meat or vegetable treats. It is prepared from grain crops, less often from a mixture of cassava and millet flour, thick in consistency. Most often, porridge is served in the form of rolled balls, but they can also offer crumbly with naan flat wheat cakes.

Spinach salad

A fresh and light treat. For its preparation, different varieties of spinach are used, for example Mangold. Season the salad with a mixture of coconut milk and peanut butter. The curry gives the dish a delicate aroma and spicy taste.


These are donuts made with flour, yeast, coconut milk and canola oil. Given the special attitude of Tanzanians to spices, you can find cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg in the composition. Deep-fried African sweetness.


Unleavened grain cakes can be served with the main course or as an independent dessert. In the second case, they are coated with sweet syrup or jam. Chapatis are often used to collect leftover curry from the plate.


Swahili analogue of kebab. Prepare a dish of beef or seafood marinated in a mixture of sauces and spices. Mishkaki is a popular grilled street food in Tanzania.

Mishkaki – Tanzanian kebabs.

Cassava with octopus

Served as a snack. Cassava, or cassava, is a root vegetable that resembles a potato. It is deep-fried with chopped fresh octopus. Season with pepper, salt and spices.

Shark in pepper

Delicate juicy fillet seasoned with a mixture of peppers. Leopard, blue, gray and herring sharks are mainly eaten.

Sugar cane ice cream

Ice cream is made from coconut milk and brown sugar. Both local fruits (mango, pineapple) and unusual fillers: baobab fruits, hibiscus, masala tea are added to it.

The harvest

This is a spicy coconut milk soup. Chicken, seafood, potato balls, legumes can be added to it – it all depends on the institution where it will be served to you.

In Tanzania, it is difficult to stay hungry, because the range of dishes surprises with its variety. Vegetarians, meat-eaters and seafood lovers will find their treats.