Welcome to the world of Moroccan cuisine. Layered with spices, rich in history, and humble in its approach to cooking. The diverse food scene here can be overwhelming. Markets are fast-paced, crowded, and packed with different ingredients. From the Sahara desert to the imperial cities of Fez and Marrakech, the souks and streets are just waiting to be discovered.
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As a vegan traveller, you may wonder what food is on offer and how you will navigate the complexities of ordering plant-based meals. Don’t worry, this Vegan Travel Guide has been created with the plant-based foodie in mind and will help you to navigate the diverse flavours of Moroccan cuisine.
The concept of veganism is not yet well understood in Morocco. In fact, meat is often seen as an essential part of Moroccan cuisine. Veganism has become more popular in Morocco over the past few years. Whilst the vegan lifestyle might not be widely accepted, the Africa/Middle East region is the second-most vegetarian-friendly region in the world after Asia.
The good news is the vegan movement is growing in popularity around the world. In fact, Morocco hosts its very own VegFest each year where a panel of vegan activists discuss a range of issues and promote the vegan lifestyle.
The tourism industry is constantly adapting and the demand for vegan options is only going to see popular tourist cities in Morocco, like Marrakech, jump on board. However, in the meantime, there are still plenty of incredible dishes to enjoy on your journey.
Moroccan cuisine uniquely combines Arab, Berber, European, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern flavours to create staple dishes that are widely enjoyed around the world. Family is at the heart of Moroccan cooking, and people gather together at meal times to share plates of food with the community. Mint tea or strong Arabic coffee is served to guests along with dates or sweet pastries.
Morocco is home to one of the largest populations of Indigenous Berber People, also known as the Amazigh. The Berbers are the descendants of the pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa and the Berber cuisine in the north includes dishes that are said to be over 1000 years old. Today, Moroccan cuisine is based on many of the traditional cooking methods centered around meat, seafood, spice blends, grains and bread.
Herbs & Spices
There is a long list of commonly used spices in Moroccan cooking, including cumin, cinnamon, fennel, caraway, saffron, clove, black pepper, paprika, ginger and nutmeg. Herbs including mint, sage, parsley, verbena, and coriander are widely used across the region. Ras El Hanout is an authentic spice blend made using the shop’s best spices as per the shop owner’s or chef’s request. The blend can contain over twenty different spices and is used to flavour meat in savoury dishes.
Dried & Preserved Fruit
Dried fruits including dates, apricots and figs are delicious and widely used to flavour several traditional dishes.
Medjool Dates are just one of more than a hundred varieties of dates found in Morocco. You will see them overflowing in the markets particularly during the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims break their day of fasting by eating dates before prayer.
Tea & Coffee
The art of tea drinking in Morocco is a very important part of everyday life. Mint Tea is served as a sign of respect and to welcome guests and should never be declined. Tea is poured as high as possible from the pot to oxygenate the tea improving the overall taste and health benefits. In addition, the height at which the tea is poured can also represent how important a guest is to the server.
Arabic coffee is also part of everyday life served all throughout the day including after dinner. Spiced with cardamom and sweetened with sugar the taste is rich and robust. Prepared in a small pot called a Briki, and then transferred to a serving pot called a Dallah, the art of Arabic coffee is something all visitors must experience. For vegan travellers, mint tea and Arabic coffee can be enjoyed at leisure as both beverages are served without milk or cream.
Vegan Food Morocco
Perhaps one of the most important dishes in Moroccan cuisine known the world over is the slow-cooked stew called a Tagine. The word Tagine is derived from the Beber word Tajin meaning ‘shallow earthen pot’. This method of cooking dates back to when water supplies were low across the region or unavailable. The clay pot is designed so that steam is gathered at the top of the lid and the liquid returns to the base of the pot and continues to cook over time. The main ingredients of the Tagine have always been based on meat or poultry cooked with vegetables and spices. The vegetarian version is usually made with potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, chickpeas, tomatoes and lots of spices such as sumac and fennel. A vegan option is usually found only in vegan-friendly restaurants or cafes.
Couscous is often served with meat and seafood, but it can also be prepared as a healthy and flavourful salad. It is delicious with roast vegetables and can be enjoyed hot or cold. This dish is sometimes cooked in a meat-based broth, so make sure you check if this is the case before you order.
A popular breakfast dish is a fava bean dip called Beyssara or Bessara. It is served with fresh bread and can be enjoyed with traditional Moroccan mint tea or coffee. The fava beans are blended with garlic, cumin, olive oil and paprika to create a thick and creamy dip, but it can also be served as a soup at dinner time.
M’semen flatbread is served with various toppings, including butter, minced meat, onions and cheese, but the recipe can also be made with olive oil or vegan butter. Top the dough with onions, mushrooms, and spices for a vegan-friendly version of this dish. For a sweet alternative, date syrup, jam, and dried fruits are ideal, but you can add any toppings you enjoy. The bread is lightly fried and almost resembles a crepe, so sweet and savoury flavours work well.
A savoury meat or seafood pie traditionally served in North Africa is called the Pastilla. Spanish for ‘little pastries’, it is rare to find a vegan Pastilla outside a speciality vegan cafe. Pastillas are made with a flakey filo-type dough, and the recipe often requires eggs, milk, butter and honey. A homemade vegan version of this dish would be delicious, so check the menu for them as you travel around Morocco.
Mezze is a sharing platter consisting of vegetables, bread, dips, fruit and traditional salads. Bread, salad and a selection of sides create a vegan-friendly main meal at most restaurants and are a good choice if you are unsure of the other vegetarian options. Although the Mezze did not originate from Morocco you can find variations of this style of dish across the region.
Many of the condiments are vegetable-based and vegan including:
- Za’alook (eggplant)
- Tatouka (roasted tomato & green pepper)
- Ras al Hanout (roasted carrots)
- Mloukhia (okra & zucchini)
- Khobz (Moroccan white bread)
Non-Vegan Ingredients In Moroccan Cuisine
As vegan travellers, it is important to be aware of the ways in which animal products are used throughout Moroccan cuisine. As you explore the region you are likely to find dishes using staple ingredients such as lamb, beef, chicken, goat and mutton. Seafood is also abundant in Morocco so it is likely that you will see local fish markets along the coast.
Although vegetarian dishes are easy to find, eggs and dairy can be difficult to avoid. Dairy is usually presented in the form of yoghurt or cheese. In addition, butter is used to cook and flavour a variety of dishes such as couscous or tagine. Dairy products are also used to prepare sweets and beverages. A type of fermented butter called Smen is often served with bread or added to meals during the cooking process. Eggs are a staple ingredient especially when it comes to breakfast and are used to bake desserts and make pastries.
Vegan Restaurants In Morocco
La Famille | Marrakech
Hidden away in the Marrakech Medina, this vegetarian gem has a range of healthy, vegan, gluten-free options. The calm shady terrace at La Famille is a welcoming oasis from the crowded and bustling streets.
World Storytelling Cafe | Marrakech
A 100% plant-based cafe is a dream for vegan travellers, and the World Storytelling Cafe does not disappoint! Enjoy falafel, hummus, lentil stew, tomato salad, and plenty of bread and olive oil. The best part is the welcoming and friendly atmosphere; it’s a great spot to meet other travellers.
Mandala Society | Marrakech & Essaouira
If you are searching for a place that cares about sustainability and ethically sourced products then the Mandala Society should be on your list. This is the perfect place to stop in for a fair-trade coffee. Although the menu is not 100% vegan they offer wholesome meals with vegetarian and vegan options.
Nomad | Marrakech
A modern Moroccan restaurant with a few delicious vegan and gluten-free menu options, Nomad is set in an incredible location with rooftop dining. All vegetarian and vegan dishes are clearly highlighted on the menu making it easy for plant-based travellers to order. The raspberry rose sorbet for dessert is also vegan!
Henna Art Cafe | Marrakech
This beautiful artistic space serves Moroccan fusion cuisine and caters to a variety of dietary preferences. After noticing a lack of vegan options at local restaurants, the owners of Henna Art Cafe decided to make their own business and offer plant-based dishes. This is also one of the safest places to find 100% natural henna.
Koulchi Zine | Marrakech
The menu at Koulchi Zine has a number of vegetarian and vegan options including a vegan tajine, a vegan burger, and a selection of Moroccan salads. The rooftop terrace is the perfect place to spend lunch or watch the sunset.
Shyadma’s Vegan Food | Essaouira
A humble family-run establishment located in Essaouira, Shyadma’s Vegan Food serves up traditional Moroccan dishes with a plant-based twist. The main menu is based on vegetable tagine but you can also order couscous, soup, falafel, hummus, salads and fresh juice.
Vegan Friendly Hotels in Morocco
A Riad is an ancient Medina home where rooms are designed around an open-air courtyard. Whilst we have yet to discover a 100% vegan Riad, you can find vegan-friendly menus at the below options in Marrakech.
Riad Dar Zaman Marrakech
The complimentary vegan breakfast spread available on request here is said to be one of the best in the city. Fresh salads, fruits, mint tea, bread, and mezze, the food on offer here is simply delicious. Staff can also organise a vegan cooking class during your stay. For visitors not staying at Riad Dar Zaman, try and stop by for dinner. Be sure to book in advance, request the vegan menu as everything is cooked fresh to order, and note any allergies for the chef. https://www.darzaman.co.uk/
Marrakech Riad is a collection of three gorgeous boutique hotels, Riad Cinnamon, Riad Spice and Riad Star, located in the heart of the city. The owner is third generation vegetarian, offers vegan-friendly dining options, and is also the proud owner of the only 100% vegan cafe in Marrakech, World Storytelling Cafe.
A vegan-friendly accommodation option that serves up a fully vegan breakfast on request. The on-site restaurant has a gluten-free, vegetarian menu that can be customised for vegans. Guests who book a trip on our upcoming A Planted Escape Tour to Morocco will have the chance to experience a special vegan cooking class at the incredible Monriad. https://monriad.net/en/home
Animal Welfare in Morocco
In Marrakech, the main city plaza is an exciting place to visit, but it can be overwhelming to see the conditions many animals are subjected to. Live animals are available to purchase as a food source and exploited for tourism. The markets also sell live animals (for food), which can be a challenge for vegan travellers.
In addition, camels are very important in Moroccan culture, transporting goods across the country; however, when riding camels for tourism, many are poorly treated and overworked. The high demand for camel trekking has seen camels trained in harsh conditions using methods considered cruel for trainers to control the camel’s behaviour. Whilst there are several ethical camel trekking companies in Morocco, verifying the well-being of the camels is never easy and is best avoided.
The Getaway Co will help you uncover the best vegan food that Morocco has to offer whilst exploring the sights with a group of like-minded travellers. If visiting Morocco has always been on your bucket list, but you feel overwhelmed going solo, the upcoming group tour is just for you! Visit the traditional Berber Village, explore the many souks, watch the sunset in the desert and learn to cook vegan dishes in the heart of Marrakech. A Planted Escape Tour is almost fully booked. Join the Getaway Co and your host Rose Lee of Cheap Lazy Vegan in Marrakech, Morocco. https://thegetawayco.com/vegan-in-morocco-2023/