Culture Food

10 Mouth Watering Tanzanian Dishes You Must Taste

popular tanzanian food
Written by Jesca

Tanzania is renowned for its breathtaking tourist attractions, such as the iconic Mount Kilimanjaro and the Serengeti National Park, but what food is popular in Tanzania? The country is not only a paradise for nature lovers but also a haven for food enthusiasts. Its rich culinary heritage offers diverse traditional Tanzanian dishes popular among locals and visitors.

Tanzanian cuisine reflects the country’s cultural diversity, with distinct regional ingredient variations and cooking methods. Coastal regions and the island of Zanzibar offer a wide range of mouthwatering flavours influenced by Bantu, Persian, and Indian cuisines.

Spices and flavours such as turmeric, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, saffron, black pepper, and nutmeg and herbs such as cilantro, lemongrass, and ginger, are standard. Whether you want to enjoy hearty and energy-packed ugali to the aromatic spices of Zanzibar Pizza– the options are endless. With its proximity to the Indian Ocean, Tanzania is never short of exotic and innovative seafood dishes.

What is the Main Food in Tanzania?

Rice and ugali are the main foods in Tanzania. Ugali, a national dish, is a must-try for anyone seeking an authentic Tanzanian culinary experience. Tanzanians commonly pair ugali and rice with beans, vegetables, soups, or various types of fish. It is highly favoured by individuals engaged in labour-intensive work, such as farming, construction, fishing, and factory jobs, due to its high-energy content.

What Do Tanzanians Eat for Breakfast?

Some popular breakfast options in Tanzania include mandazi (fried bread or doughnut), chapati (flatbread), Mtori (Banana Soup), ugali (maize porridge), tea, coffee, and fresh fruits. Breakfast choices can vary, with some opting for a light meal while others prefer a more substantial breakfast. The one thing people in Tanzania share is their love of tea and coffee.

What is the Most Famous Food in Tanzania?

When it comes to exploring Tanzania’s vibrant cuisine, one dish stands out as the epitome of traditional and beloved food. Walking the streets of port Dar es Salaam in the evening, you will find many food and snack dishes among these sellers. Below are the iconic Tanzanian dishes; discover how it is enjoyed throughout the country.

1. Wali wa Nazi

popular food in Tanzania Wali wa Nazi

popular food in Tanzania Wali wa Nazi. Photo/Will Fly for Food.

Wali wa Nazi is one of the popular foods in Tanzania that showcases the influence of Indian cuisine. This fragrant rice dish is cooked with coconut milk, water, and salt. The delicate flavours and creamy texture make it a delightful accompaniment to various curries and stews. It is cherished in Tanzania and widely enjoyed in neighbouring countries like Kenya and Uganda.

2. Mtori (Banana Soup)

Tanzania Mtori (Banana Soup)

Tanzania Mtori (Banana Soup). Photo/Chef’s Pencil.

Mtori, also known as Banana Soup, holds a significant place in the culinary traditions of the Chagga tribe residing in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania. This hearty soup serves as a vital source of starch, providing essential energy for a day’s labour in the fields and offering valuable nutrients for nursing mothers.

The authentic preparation of mtori involves the use of Kilimanjaro green bananas, known as ndizi mshale, which have a distinct arrow-shaped appearance and a slightly milder flavor compared to their counterparts from the northern region of Kagera and the southern highlands of Mbeya.

3. Sukuma Wiki

Popular food in Tanzania Sukuma Wiki

Sukuma Wiki. Photo/We Eat At Last.

Sukuma Wiki, a popular dish often paired with ugali, features sukuma, a leafy green vegetable similar to kale. The name, “push the week” or “stretch the week,” speaks to its affordability and availability year-round. Sukuma Wiki is prepared by sautéing the greens with tomatoes, onions, and a blend of spices such as cumin, coriander, and saffron powder. The result is a nutritious and flavoursome dish that perfectly complements the staple foods of Tanzania.

4. Irio

Mashed potatoes and peas with corn Irio

Mashed potatoes and peas with corn Irio. Photo/Lacademie.

Irio, originating from the Kikuyu tribe in Tanzania and central Kenya, is a comforting and wholesome dish. It combines mashed potatoes, corn, peas, and greens like watercress or spinach. The ingredients are cooked together to create a harmonious blend of flavours. Irio, meaning “food” in the Kikuyu language, is commonly served as a side dish and is equally cherished in the cuisines of Kenya and Uganda.

5. Matoke

Tanzania Ndizi.

Tanzania Ndizi. Photo/TasteAtlas.

Ndizi, meaning “banana” in Swahili, refers to plantains, a popular Tanzanian food. The Chagga tribe, as well as the Wasukuma, Wahaya, and Wakurya tribes of the Lake Zone regions, particularly relish this versatile ingredient. Plantains are used in various Tanzanian dishes, such as supu ya ndizi, a tantalizing soup made with mashed green plantains and chicken stock. Plantains are also fried into chips or incorporated into soups and stews, adding a unique flavor and texture to these dishes.

6. Zanzibar Pizza

Zanzibar Pizza

Zanzibar Pizza. Photo/BBC.

When exploring the coastal regions of Tanzania, indulge in Zanzibar Pizza, a classic local delicacy that has gained popularity in recent years. Despite its name, Zanzibar Pizza more closely resembles murtabak than pizza. It consists of a wheat flour-based dough filled with a spiced mixture of ground beef or chicken, onions, garlic, and Tanzanian black pepper (pili pili manga).

The savoury filling is complemented by ingredients like cheese, mayonnaise, carrots, and green peppers, resulting in a delectable flavour profile. The filled parcel is folded and fried until crispy, and it is commonly served with a spicy mango-chilli sauce, adding a delightful kick to every bite.

7. Mshikaki

Popular food in Tanzania Mshikaki

Popular food in Tanzania Mshikaki. Photo/TasteAtlas

Mshikaki is a mouthwatering Tanzanian dish made with marinated beef. They season the meat with ginger, lemon, and hot peppers, skewered, and grilled over charcoal. You can enjoy Mshikaki as a snack, either alone or paired with roasted potatoes (“chips mshikaki”), smoked/roasted plantains, or fried cassava. It is also relished with smoked or roasted plantains and fried cassava.

Tanzanian street food vendors grill and sell mshikaki along the roadside, making it a popular choice among locals and visitors alike. Pairing mshikaki with a cold beverage or other alcoholic drinks enhances the dining experience.

8. Ugali

Popular food in Tanzania. Ugali

Popular food in Tanzania. Ugali. Photo/Delishably.

Ugali is the most popular food in Tanzania and is considered a national dish. It is a staple food made by mixing flour (usually maize) with hot water to achieve a stiff consistency. Often served with beans, vegetables, soup, or fish, ugali is a high-energy food and a favourite among labour-intensive workers and office-goers alike.

9. Chapati

Tanzania Chapati

Tanzania Chapati. Photo/Nisi’s Kitchen.

Influenced by Indian cuisine, chapati(flatbread) is a well-known Tanzanian dish—made from wheat flour, oil, and water. Chapati is a popular street food and can be found in many local eateries and Indian-owned restaurants. The natives often serve it with curries, stews, or eaten on its own.

10. Mchemsho


Tanzanian food mchemsho. Photo/Will Fly for Food.

Mchemsho, a flavorful broth graces the tables of households throughout Tanzania. It is a protein-rich delight and is renowned for its remarkable ability to alleviate hangovers. As the weekend mornings roll around, many individuals seeking solace from the previous day’s festivities turn to a steaming bowl of mchemsho for revitalization. This invigorating culinary creation is significant for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and hospital patients, offering them a nourishing and refreshing experience.

The preparation of mchemsho involves a meticulous process where meats are simmered for hours, allowing their flavors to infuse the broth. Subsequently, an array of fresh vegetables is added to enhance the depth and nutritional value of the dish.

Common ingredients include a choice of beef, tripe, locally sourced free-range chicken, or goat, along with potatoes, green bananas, carrots, onions, and green peppers. For an extra kick of tantalizing taste, slices of fresh green scotch bonnet chillies are incorporated, while a squeeze of lime or lemon juice adds an explosive tang that leaves taste buds longing for more.

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About the author


Besigye is a Ugandan writer and a teacher by profession. She loves adventure and travelling that's why she loves writing travel blogs.

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