As the biggest country in Africa, Algeria is home to the great Sahara Desert, which is also the world’s largest hot desert. Algerian food has been influenced and shaped by the country’s encounters and exchanges with different cultures and nations in the past. Berbers, Arabs, Turks, Andalusians, French, and Spaniards are among the cultures that have merged and become a part of the cuisine of Algeria.
Algerian cuisine varies according to place and season, although vegetables and grains remain at the heart of food culture. The majority of Algerian recipes include bread, meats (lamb, cattle, or fowl), olive oil, veggies, and fresh herbs.
Let’s dive into the wonderful world of desserts, pasta, and traditional Algerian cuisine!
What Makes Algerian Food And Cuisine So Special?
The many influences and landscapes that Algerians live in, have contributed to the diversity of the popular Algerian foods in this Arab nation. Dishes and meals that adorn the tables of Algerian families have distinct flavors, fascinating cultural roots, and interesting connections in global history.
Algeria has a long history of olive trees dating back to ancient times and is one of the world’s major producers of olives and olive oil. The olive tree is one of the country’s most significant agricultural commodities. That said, Algerian olive oil is highly valued for its quality and flavor, and it is widely used in cooking and as a condiment in Algerian cuisine.
One of the most special aspects of Algerian food traditions is that meals are very important aspects of the country’s culture; great value is placed on coming together to share a meal.
National Dish Of Algeria
Couscous, the Algerian national dish, is an excellent addition to any meal. It is made out of steamed semolina pellets (durum wheat) topped with meat, veggies, and other seasonings. This staple food is commonly enjoyed on Fridays, as part of a centuries-old tradition of giving couscous to the country’s poor residents.
Algerian couscous has various regional varieties, and the particular ingredients and cooking methods are different depending on the location and the cook’s tastes.
Preparing this Algerian food can be a time-consuming task as there are multiple phases involved. In the meantime, while the couscous is cooking, the meat and veggies are simmered in a separate pot with spices like cumin, coriander, and turmeric. The stew is then mixed with the cooked couscous, and the meal is usually topped with onions or fresh herbs like parsley or cilantro.
Traditional Algerian Food And Dishes
Merguez (Spicy Algerian Sausage)
Algerians are known to love their sausage hot, spicy, and seasoned to perfection. Most often, the sausage has pepper and chili to give that well-known bite, and garlic that ties together the fragrant richness. As one of the most popular and loved Algeria food dishes, it’s no surprise when you taste it!
Merguez is produced from a lamb intestine that has been stuffed with raw lamb, beef, or a mixture of the two. It is intensely spiced with cumin and chili pepper or harissa, which give it its distinctive stimulating spiciness and red color, as well as sumac, fennel, and garlic. This dish, without a doubt, is at the heart of Algerian food and cuisine.
Kabkabou (Traditional Fish Dish)
Kabkabou, sometimes known as Kabkabu, is a classic Tunisian fish and tomato stew but is widely popular in Algerian cuisine for many long years. The meal is a much-loved choice because it is so healthy and simple to prepare.
It consists of a spicy sauce and grilled fish steak, as well as capers, olives, and lemons. Many different types of fish can be used for this Algerian dish, including grouper, tuna, and mackerel.
Kabkabou is also known for its use of many spices which include olive oil, garlic, harissa, cumin, saffron, and more. This dish is arguably one of the most popular Algerian foods.
Chakhchoukha (Bread And Tomato Stew)
Chakhchoukha is a savory Algerian stew prepared with broken pieces of rougag (round flatbread) added into a stew made with diced lamb, tomatoes, chickpeas, onions, and traditional spices like caraway, galangal, and red chili peppers.
The name loosely translates to ‘torn flatbread,’ which points to the main element of this phenomenal cuisine of Algeria. The dish is extremely popular during parties and festivals.
Shepherds, who required a substantial dinner when they returned home on chilly evenings, are thought to have first made this classic Algerian food dish.
Mhadjeb (Traditional Algerian Savory Pancakes)
Mhadjeb is an Algerian flaky pancake made from semolina. It is typically stuffed with onion, tomatoes, and often dried meat or minced meat seasoned with harissa (a paste made with red chilies, garlic, and olive oil).
This Algerian food has an old myth attached to it, thought to be made for the first time by a woman who never went out. As the story goes, no one knew anything about her. She was named Mahjouba, and among Algerians, this phrase signifies both the unknown lady who does not leave the house as well as the honorable woman.
Although there is dough in it, the pancake is fairly thin and includes a well-cooked variety of veggies. This classic and famous Algerian cuisine has long been popular among Algerian families because of the simplicity of its ingredients, quick preparation, and delicious taste.
M’shewsha (Classic Algerian Breakfast)
This is a typical family meal enjoyed across Algeria. M’shewsha is a tasty Algerian food cooked with a lot of eggs, a little semolina, and flour. Warm honey is poured over it so it can soak and absorb the delicious sweetness.
M’shewsha is a popular Algerian breakfast or afternoon coffee treat that tastes like a combination between a fluffy pancake and French toast. Regardless if you have a sweet or savory tooth, you can’t go wrong with this choice of food in Algeria!
Traditionally, it is supposed to provide a lot of energy – manual laborers eat it frequently, as do new mothers because of the healthy boost that you get from eating this delicacy.
Zviti (Algerian Vegetarian Chili)
As one of the tastiest Algerian food choices, Zviti is a local favorite because it is both delicious and economical. If you enjoy the heat, Zviti is an extremely spicy meal made with green pepper baked with the dough and then traditionally served in a wooden bowl. Sliced tomatoes, coriander, green olives, and sometimes garlic are used to make this delightful dish.
It’s also known as Slata Mahras, after the large wooden mortar and pestle that’s used to prepare and serve the meal. This traditional Algerian food is offered on special occasions and throughout the holidays.
Pasta Dishes In Algerian Cuisine
Berkoukes (Classic Algerian Pasta)
Berkoukes is a hand-rolled semolina-based pasta made in the shape of little balls and is considered a favorite Algerian delicacy.
It is typically cooked in Algeria or the North East of Morocco throughout the winter, to commemorate the abundance of the crop harvest during the end of the summer months. It’s a highly popular food in Algeria loved for its full richness, warmth, and classic taste.
This traditional Algerian food combines large couscous grains with chicken, veggies, and lentils made into a thick tomato sauce. It’s common to make it spicy by adding harissa paste, which is made from chili and traditional spice.
There are countless variations with different vegetables or types of protein. It is a hearty Algerian comfort dish and a wonderful winter necessity!
Rechta (Traditional Algerian Noodles)
Rechta is an Algerian food made of thin and flat noodles mixed into a flavorsome chicken sauce. The noodles are made with flour, salt, water, and ghee, while the sauce contains chicken, onions, garlic, olive oil, chickpeas, potatoes, and other vegetables and spices
The word is derived from the Persian ‘rista’, which means ‘thread’ and is widely used to refer to pasta. When the Rechta noodles are done, they are served on a huge plate and covered with the sauce. This traditional Algerian food is particularly popular during weddings, the end of Ramadan, and Ashura.
Makrouna (Saucy Pasta)
Makrouna, also known as Mhajeb, is a classic traditional Algerian food that is prepared by many families and locals across the country.
It is a savory pastry stuffed with onions, tomatoes, and minced beef or lamb. Semolina flour is used to make the pastry dough, which is usually molded into a round or oval shape before being cooked on a griddle or in a pan.
Pasta sauces typically incorporate the spice mix tabil, which is prepared from rich spices such as cumin seeds, red pepper flakes, caraway, and ground coriander. Dried garlic powder and dried onions are sometimes added for convenience and extra flavor; this is in addition to an abundance of fresh garlic.
Makrouna is a popular Algerian street food that is often served as a fast and cheap meal. It’s also a popular meal to prepare during Ramadan, a month-long Muslim fast from dawn to sunset.
In addition to the customary savory filling, Makrouna can be filled with sweet ingredients like dates or honey and eaten as a dessert. Overall, it is a varied, highly popular, and incredibly tasty Algerian food.
Delicious Algerian Desserts
Ghribia (Sweet Almond Shortbread Biscuit)
Ghribia, also known as Qurabiya, is a shortbread-style cookie prepared with crushed almonds and is a fantastic choice of delectable sweet treats. Its origin may be tied to Ottoman Empire nations of past conquerors, but today, there are various forms and recipes.
Different versions can also be found in most Arab and Ottoman cuisines; Algeria food has transformed itself into many forms and recipes.
There is some disagreement over where the words came from. Some claim that the name has origins in Turkish cuisine, while others claim Arabic or Persian roots. One thing is for sure, this dish is now baked into Algerian cuisine and is considered a favorite and traditional delicacy.
M’semmen (Traditional Algerian Flatbread)
This multilayer flatbread, known as M’semmen in Arabic, is full of personality and widely popular in Algerian cuisine and desserts.
The dough is coated with seasoned oil, spiraled, flattened, and baked on a griddle – producing surprisingly substantial flakiness. If you’re a savory person who enjoys the combined sweetness of pastries, M’semmen won’t disappoint.
M’semmen is a classic flatbread from the Maghreb that is also popular in Morocco and Tunisia. It is considered one of the most popular Algerian foods and desserts. The pastry is typically served with honey or a cup of fragrant morning mint tea or coffee.
M’semmen can be filled with either meat (Khlea) or onion and tomatoes. Or more commonly, served with sweet syrup and honey and eaten during breakfast.
Algerian coffee is usually strong, thick, and flavorful. Coffee is frequently prepared in a traditional coffee pot known as a “dallah,” which is a tall, narrow, and slightly curved brass or copper pot. Arabica beans are most often used to make coffee, which is roasted till dark and oily.
Algerian coffee is an essential aspect of Algerian cuisine, and it is frequently provided to guests as a show of hospitality and welcome. Coffee is also a popular beverage at social occasions, and it is frequently offered with pastries, sweets, and other Algerian food dishes.
Ktayef (Traditional Ground Almond Pastry)
Ktayef is similar to baklava because it’s packed with ground almonds and/or walnuts that have been flavored with orange blossom water and baked before being bathed in pure honey.
As one of the easiest and flavorsome Algerian food choices, this dessert is a must-try if you enjoy nuts and pastry! Shredded phyllo dough is filled with sweetened cheese, almonds, or a mixture of the two.
Ktayef is usually eaten during major events like weddings, Eid al-Fitr, and other religious festivals. Because of this, Ktayef is highly important in Algerian cuisine. It is frequently served with a sweet syrup consisting of sugar, water, and orange blossom water, which imparts a sweet and flowery flavor to the pastry.
Popular Algerian Sweets
Zlabia (Honey Pastry)
Algerian Zlabia is a traditional dessert that is cooked in abundance during the holy month of Ramadan and given to the locals to provide charity or distribute food and goodwill in mosques. Because of this, Zlabia has become an essential Algerian food.
In fact, Zlabia remains one of Algeria’s oldest dishes. The classic Zlabia is made by putting the liquid dough through a funnel to create either circles or spiral shapes and then cooking it in very hot oil.
The best way you can enjoy this stable Algerian cuisine is by submerging the hot Zlabia in a honey syrup immediately after frying, leaving it so that the honey permeates deep inside, giving it a lot of flavor and crispness.
Djouzia (Walnut Nougat)
Djouzia is a typical dish originally from Constantine and made primarily from walnuts, which is where it got its name. When you think about Algerian cuisine, it’s hard not to mention this delectable and mouth-watering treat.
Djouzia is without a doubt one of the best Algeria foods that serve as a perfect example of the traditional sweets in Algeria. It’s famous for being produced by Ahmed Salah Bey, the Ottoman ruler of Constantine. Furthermore, because it is made of honey and nuts, the delightful sweet is also one of the most costly in the country.
Baklava (Algerian Sweet Pastry)
In most Algerian regions, Baklava is the centerpiece of any sweets table. Despite its origins in the Middle East, Algerian Baklava is distinct in that the regular filo dough is not utilized. Instead, it is made up of multiple layers of very thin dough that has been meticulously handcrafted.
This Algerian food is packed with ground almonds and walnuts and flavored with orange blossom water before being baked and drizzled in pure honey. You’re guaranteed to enjoy every single bite!
Baklava may be traced back to the Ottoman Empire, which brought it to Algeria and other parts of North Africa during its reign many years ago. However, Algerian Baklava has acquired its particular style and flavor through time, distinguishing it from classic Baklava. Thus, it has become an integral part of the cuisine of Algeria.
Makroud (Honey And Date Pastry)
Makroud is Arabic for ‘diamond,’ which describes the shape of this semolina pastry popular in North Africa and the Middle East. This country has the most variety and is one of the most traditional Algerian foods. Stuffed with dates and dipped in a honey/orange flower combination – you might just find your favorite dessert!
Most American chefs are unfamiliar with orange blossom water, yet it’s rather prevalent in the cuisine of Algeria. Surprisingly, it does not taste like orange and instead has a delicate floral flavor.
Algerian Food Enjoyed During Ramadan
Karantita (Algerian Chickpea Quiche)
Karantita is a chickpea flour-based Algerian cuisine. Some people call it a tart, some people call it flan. Some even refer to it as a sandwich spread.
Known as one of the most simple and inexpensive Algerian dishes – it appeals to both the affluent and the needy. It is a fast food for folks at noon, as well as a supper snack. Karantita also acts as a “budget rescue” supper for Algerian impoverished households.
It is said that a Spanish cook in the 1500s, besieged in the fort of Santa Cruz came up with the dish. He called it Kalentito torta, meaning hot in Spanish, referring to the nourishment the protein-packed chickpea offered the troops.
While this has happened so long ago, the memory of this legend still lives on. And the legacy of Kalentito has entered into the popular culture of Algerian foods.
Chtitha Djedj (Algerian Chicken With Chickpeas)
Chtitha is one of the most enticing choices of food in Algeria, which is always offered throughout Ramadan. A simple and flavorful dish with chicken and chickpeas that is heavily flavored with garlic and other traditional spices.
In Arabic, ‘djedj’ means ‘chicken.’ – and ‘Chtitha’ is connected to the Arabic word ‘chtih’, which means ‘dance.’ The tale is that this Algerian cuisine is so hot that it makes you dance, and it generally applies to all dishes beginning with Chtitha. So, be on the watch if you are not good with heat and spice!
Tajine Zitoune (Chicken With Olives)
Tajine Zitoune, also known as Chicken with Olives, is an Algerian food that is typically eaten during Ramadan and on special occasions.
It gets its name from the clay pot in which it is prepared, known as a tajine pot. Tajine Zitoune is often made with lamb or chicken and olives, as well as onions, carrots, mushrooms, or other vegetables – and is commonly seasoned with thyme, bay leaves, lemon juice, and saffron or turmeric.
If you’re looking for an Algeria food that has both rich flavor and cultural significance, Tajine Zitoune is your hero!
Mesfouf (Steamed Sweet Couscous)
Mesfouf is a traditional Algerian food, similar to couscous and Chekhchoukha, and is commonly served at weddings and funerals. It’s made with finely ground semolina, olive oil, and butter.
This popular dish in Algerian cuisine is made with couscous, cooked with finely crushed semolina and butter. Depending on the added components, the meal can be made sweet or savory and all depends on your preference.
As a side dish that originated in Tunisia, it is now widely popular across Algeria. It’s considered an integral part of the cultural cuisine because it can be enjoyed during Ramadan.
Salade Mechouia (Algerian Salad)
Salade Mechouia is a salad made of grilled peppers that have been cleaned of their skins and sautéed in olive oil with tomatoes and garlic. It’s one of the most beloved Algerian dishes because it is a simple, fast, and tasty appetizer.
During the month of Ramadan, Salade Mechouia is cooked as an appetizer or salad drizzled with olive oil and served with excellent handcrafted traditional bread.
Dolma (Stuffed Vegetables)
This Algerian food is made for special occasions. Dolma is almost always cooked during Ramadan. Thought to be brought to Algeria by the Ottoman Empire, Dolma has now become an essential and traditional part of Algerian cuisine and is often enjoyed during the holy month of Ramadan.
It is an umbrella name for hollowed-out vegetables filled with stuffing, and the filling is often minced beef and rice.
Baghrir (Algerian Pancake)
Baghrir, also known as Beghrir, is considered one of the most popular and delicious Algerian food choices. They are little spongy pancakes prepared with semolina that are riddled with tiny holes when cooked properly. During Ramadan, Baghrir is one of the best Algerian dishes you can enjoy and can be found throughout the country.
In Algeria, the most frequent way to consume them is to dip Baghrir in a honey-butter combination and eat them warm.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Algerian Food: A Combination Of Traditional And Foreign Flavors
If you’re starting your journey on the different tastes and flavors of Africa’s cuisine, one of the best places to start is Algerian food. From pasties and traditional sweets to creamy pasta and delectable meat dishes, there is something for every taste and preference.
And if you’re not a master in the kitchen and want to recreate a meal you found enticing, there are some very simple Algerian dishes you can start with!