Libya, best known for its ancient Greek and Roman ruins and Sahara desert landscapes, is the fourth-largest country in Africa and is bigger than the state of Alaska.
Most Popular Libyan Dishes
Libya’s geography and ethnic makeup have a significant influence on its cuisine, with influences from the Mediterranean, its native Berber population and its North African neighbors playing a role in shaping the typical dishes, spices and flavors of Libyan cooking. Algerian, Tunisian and Egyptian cuisines all influence many of the traditional dishes of Libya.
Libya has a coastline on the Mediterranean Sea and so seafood is abundant in regions closest to the sea, including the capital Tripoli. Whilst pork is not eaten by Libya’s predominant Muslim population, popular meats include lamb and mutton.
Other staple ingredients include a variety of breads, couscous, olives, figs, dates and chickpeas.
So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try traditional dishes of Libya, along with recipes for you to try for yourself.
Bazin is an unleavened bread speciality which is prepared with flour dough and meat. Either lamb, camel, chicken, fish is used in addition to typical Libyan vegetables and spices.
As one of the most popular dishes that Libya is famous for, especially in the western regions, Bazin is usually served at major parties and family events, as well as during most days of Ramadan, so much so that it hardly leaves the table of Libyans in that month.
This dish is commonly accompanied by potatoes, eggs, mutton and sauce. It is typically eaten with just the hands, and is often consumed communally.
Mabkaba is a dish that consists of macaroni with onions, peppers, tomatoes and Libyan spices. Meat or fish is sometimes added. Mabkaba is characterized by the simplicity of its components and the ease of preparation.
It is a very popular dinner or lunch meal, especially in the winter. The name Mabkaba comes from the sound of pasta boiling over a fire.
Rushda Al Barma
Rushda Al Barma is a dish that consists of chickpeas, lentils, beans or any kind of legumes, dough, and either chicken or another meat. Rushda Al Barma, believed to have Persian origins, is usually served on the day before the occasion of the Prophet’s birthday.
The name of the dish varies from one region to another in Libya, where the people of eastern Libya call it “al-Maqta'”, while it is known as “Rashdah Al-Burma” or “Rashdah Mouss” among the residents of the western regions.
Couscous is a dish prepared by steaming granules of crushed durum wheat. It can form the basis for many dishes but is most commonly served with a stew. Couscous is usually consumed during festivities and weddings, and some even consider it to be the national food of Libya.
Shorba is a soup with various combinations ranging from oranges, olives, onions, curry and paprika, among other rich ingredients. This simple-to-prepare soup is eaten as a first course, and can sometimes contain lamb or other meats.
Dishishah, or barley soup, consists of mashed barley (that is ground and turned into coarse grains), olive oil, chopped onions, garlic, tomatoes, peppers and spices. Some also add meatif they want to eat it as a main dish.
Dishisha is a popular dish throughout the Maghreb. It is the most common soup dish that is served alongside meals, especially during the blessed month of Ramadan.
Shakshuka is an egg dish that is cooked in a pan with vegetables (tomatoes, onions, chili peppers) and lamb. It is considered a traditional breakfast dish in Libya.
Tagine is a dish consisting of lamb cooked with spices in a sauce of tomatoes and paprika in a special ceramic pot, traditional to Maghreb countries including Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and Tunisia. There is also a version where minced meat is fried with spices, and then mixed with potatoes and eggs and baked in a pot until golden brown.
Ikerkoushen is a dish consisting of cubes of sun-dried meat, fried in oil. The preparation can take several days.
Portions of meat are cut into long strips, sprinkled with salt and chilli powder and then left uncovered in the sunlight for a few days. Then they are cut into the shape of a cube, stir-fried in oil and stored in jars made of clay.
Ikerkoushen is often served with crispy bread for breakfast. Dried ikerkoushen meat is also used to flavor vegetable dishes when meat is not available.
Bureek (or Burek) is a fried pie with a filling, the most common of which is minced mutton. In Libya, bureek is usually made flat like a chebureki, in contrast to most Maghreb countries, where the bureek is often shaped like a roll.
Lebrak is a dish consisting of grape leaves stuffed with a mixture of rice, tomato puree, herbs, spices, garlic, salt and small pieces of meat or minced meat. They are served hot, sprinkled with olive oil, or cold.
Camel burgers are, quite simply, burgers made from camel meat – most popular in countries where there is a large population of camels.
The meat from the hump is considered to be the most delicious but all of the meat is quite lean, rich in protein and contains less cholesterol than other red meats. The taste is comparable to beef with a slightly more sweet aftertaste.