Traditional North African food draws inspiration from the culinary traditions of Europe, Africa, and the Arab Middle East. From the rich tagines of Morocco to the harissa-spiced dishes of Tunisia, the sea-meets-desert cuisine offers of wealth of hearty, comforting, and complex meals worth getting to know.
Harissa is a rich, garlicky chile paste hailing from Tunisia that serves as a base for dishes across North Africa. You can buy prepared versions, but it’s easy to make at home. One of our best stew recipes calls on harissa to amp up earthy lamb and cauliflower.
French colonialism in the region is apparent in its food: take for example the Tunisian sandwich
casse-croute tunisien, an obvious example of French cooking, being essentially a classic pan bagnat with the addition of harissa. The influence reverse-migrated way too: today, you can find all manner of North African fare in France, such as couscous royale, the common celebratory dish of fluffy couscous lavished with a hefty mountain of assorted meats.
To help you take a brief tour without leaving your kitchen, we’ve rounded up our favorite North African recipes.
Syrup-Soaked Pastries with Hazelnuts, Pistachios, and Pine Nuts (Deblah)
“There are as many ways to make gumbo in Louisiana as there are cooks,” says chef Frank Brigtsen of Brigtsen’s restaurant in New Orleans, “but the thing they all have in common is the use of a roux.”
Get the recipe for Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo »
Braised Egyptian Greens With Crispy Chicken (Egyptian Molokhia)
Tunisian Braised Veal With Dried Greens (Tunisian Molokhia)
Tahini’s nutty, luxurious properties don’t stop at hummus. Keep the sesame paste flowing with this bright red purée of boiled beets, lemon, and garlic.
Get the recipe for Tahini-Beet Dip »
Similar to pita, but made with whole wheat flour, this Egyptian flatbread is traditionally baked in scorching-hot ovens in Cairo’s bustling markets. Home cooks can achieve similar results with a baking stone and an oven cranked to high.
Tahini’s nutty, luxurious properties don’t stop at hummus. Keep the sesame paste flowing with this vibrant, creamy carrot purée.
Get the recipe for Carrot-Tahini Dip»
Egyptians love tart flavors like the bracing, floral herb sumac, which is rubbed all over this juicy chicken.
Get the recipe for Sumac Roast Chicken with Lemon and Garlic »
Purslane, a sour-tasting green, forms the backbone of this refreshing herb salad from cookbook author Suzanne Zeidy, but watercress can be used in its place.
Get the recipe for Purslane and Herb Salad »
Grilled Vegetable and Barley Salad
B’stilla, a North African meat pie, is traditionally made with poultry. Cookbook author
Suzanne Zeidy’s take includes veal and caramelized pearl onions. When ordering the veal for this recipe, have your butcher remove the bone. Get the recipe »
Ras el hanout, the North African spice blend, along with fresh orange zest and juice, mint, and cilantro, give Israeli cous cous a fresh feel and flavor in this simple weeknight meal.
Get the recipe for Israeli Cous Cous with Ras el Hanout, Fennel and Carrot »
Cumin- and paprika-spiced
kefta (lamb meatballs), baked eggs, and kalamata olives are the hallmarks of this elegant tagine from the Moroccan restaurant Le Timgad in Paris. Get the recipe for Kefta Tagine (Lamb Meatball and Egg Tagine) »
Vibrant, verdant, and refreshing, this Moroccan condiment is an exceptional marinade for most meat and seafood and addictive enough to eat with a spoon.
Get the recipe for Moroccan Charmoula »
Moroccan Carrots with Aleppo Pepper and Mint
Morels with Mint, Peas, and Shallot
In North Africa, cooks have long relied on this garlicky chile paste to lend depth to cooked meats and vegetables.
Get the recipe for Harissa »
For this Middle Eastern–spiced stew, cauliflower stems are minced and sautéed in the mirepoix to add flavor, while the florets are broiled and added at the end of cooking to offer crunch and body.
Get the recipe for Lamb and Cauliflower Stew with Harissa »
A plate of fluffy couscous is lavished with meatballs, lamb chops, chicken skewers, merguez sausage, and a saffron-scented chickpea stew in this celebratory dish, a staple at Moroccan restaurants in Paris.
Algerian Crepes (Mahjouba)
Lamb shanks are braised for hours in a sumptuous sauce of honey, almonds, and raisins in this centuries-old Moroccan dish served at the restaurant Mansouria.
Get the recipe for Honey-Braised Lamb Shanks »
Sticky-sweet almond pastries drenched in a syrup of honey and orange flower water are typical of the rustic desserts of Tunisia.
Get the recipe for Fried Almond Pastries (Samsa Feuille de Brick) »
Best known as Egypt’s national dish, ful medames is a hearty stew of warmed fava beans stirred with olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic, usually eaten for breakfast.
Casse-Croute Tunisien, a North African take on a French
pan bagnat, requires two hands and a big appetite. Get the recipe for Casse-Croute Tunisien »
The flavors of a richly spiced Moroccan tagine come together in this pasta salad, savory and bright with olive, lemon, and cinnamon.
Get the recipe for Moroccan Pasta Salad »
Fresh or canned sardines can be used in this spicy, crispy Moroccan snack. Eat ’em like french fries.
Get the recipe for Charmoula-Stuffed Sardines »
Pigeon is traditionally used to make this slightly sweet, savory Moroccan pie, but chicken thighs, quail, or Cornish game hens make excellent substitutes.
Get the recipe for Moroccan Pigeon Pie (B’stilla) »
Moroccan Meatballs with Arugula