Let me say this at the beginning. Morocco is a country of meat-lovers. When you decided to visit this wonderful country as a vegetarian or a vegan, you should be aware of that fact. Especially red meat like beef is expensive in Morocco, and eating it is a symbol of wealth. Hospitability is celebrated, and food plays a big role in Moroccan life. As you want to offer your guests only the best, meat is the product of choice. Fish is a good alternative, but a vegetarian meal, no way!
This mentality is, of course, also reflected in the menu of Moroccan restaurants. Vegetarian street food in Morocco exists, but it has to be primarily regarded as a marginal phenomenon. Vegetarian dishes are not always but mostly either side dishes either so-called “poor people’s plates”. When you say “I don’t eat meat”, it happens that dedicated waiters answer something like “kain djaj oula kefta” (we have chicken or minced meat) to offer a “vegetarian” alternative.
The attitude of meat-eating Moroccans towards vegetarians
When you reveal to a Moroccan that you are a vegetarian, some of them will start to pity you empathetically. You will be titled with the expression “Miskeen” (m) or “Miskeena” (f) which means something like “poor you”! In the eyes of a Moroccan, a vegetarian has to be pitied as he or she misses the special indulgence of eating meat.
Vegetarians are viewed also skeptical by some Moroccans. The skepticism has its roots in the religious influenced views of some people. Some people think vegetarians disdain the generous gifts (meat) of Allah (God). Vegetarians are not regarded as simple plant-eaters but as followers of vegetarianism who are somehow “on the wrong way”.
Admiration and Astonishment
A lot of people in Morocco are suffering from health issues such as diabetes. Doctors recommend to reduce meat consumption but often the power of habit is stronger than the attention of changing the diet. When you reveal to people of that kind that you are a vegetarian, they even admire you because you are so strong to resist the temptation to eat meat. On the other hand, they wonder how you manage to stay alive on plant foods.
The term “meat”, a misunderstanding
When a vegetarian speaks of meat he or she means, in general, all types of meat including all types and forms of red meat, poultry, sausages, offal, and so on. Some vegetarians use the term “meat” even more widely to describe all edible products obtained from dead animals including fish, seafood, etc.
In contrast to that, when a Moroccan uses the term “meat” she or he means chunks and slices of red meat. Therefore, when you say “I don’t eat meat” for a Moroccan chicken and minced meat is a suitable alternative.
What to eat as a vegetarian in Morocco
When you come to Morocco as a vegetarian you should be relaxed in the first place. In a lot of articles, you can read that it is great to be in Morocco as a vegetarian. For me, this is only one part of the truth. Yes, Morocco is full of wonderful vegetables. Moroccan cuisine is rich in flavor and contrast. But in fact, the understanding of vegetarians is not present everywhere. It might very likely happen that you get some meat inadvertent.
You order some salad and find it decorated with tuna or shredded sausage, the so-called mortadella. Vegetarian couscous might be only meat couscous served without meat. Harira, the famous Moroccan soup, might be served without meat, but the broth is made with bones or non-vegetarian soup cubes. Though it’s not what you are looking for, it’s not the end of the world! What do you travel for? I think most people travel because they want to experience foreign cultures and because they want to widen their horizons and their view on life.
Traditional Moroccan Restaurants (menu varies depending on restaurant and region)
safe dishes to eat
Moroccan white beans in tomato sauce
Lentils cooked in spices
Fava bean soup
Vegetable tajine is a vegan Moroccan main course. Different vegetables like carrots, potatoes, zucchini; and squash are cooked with olives, spices, herbs, and water in the traditional Moroccan clay pot. Make sure that vegetable tajine is pure vegetable tajine and not meat tajine with vegetables.
Berber Omelette is Eggs cooked on a sauce made of tomatoes, bell pepper, onions, and spices
cooked eggplant and tomato salad
cooked bellpepper and tomato salad
mauve leaves salad, similar to spinach, with Moroccan spices
Vegetable Plate (“plat de légumes”)
mixed boiled vegetables fried in some olive oil
The Moroccan bread is the standart supplement in restaurants. Some restaurants offer also the “khobz tafarnout”, a very delicous Berber flatbread. It is baked on hot stones in a wood burning oven.
The Moroccan national dish, might be cooked with meat and only served without meat. In many restaurants, you find couscous only on Friday at lunchtime! In very touristy places, it’s different.
The traditional Moroccan soup with tomatoes, herbs, and legumes might be cooked with meat
Cold salads are often decorated with tuna or mortadella, but you can simply ask for a salad without tuna
Rice as a side dish might be cooked with chicken broth
International / Fast Food
Falafel (single falafel balls or a sandwich with falafel)
Hummus (chickpeas dip)
Baba Ghanoush (roasted eggplant dip)
Fatayer Spinach or Cheese (Syrian/Lebanese pastries)
Salads like Tabouleh (parsley salad) or Fattoush (salad with crispy pita bread)
Pasta with cheese
Pasta with tomatoes or other vegetables (less frequent)
Risotto with cheese
Modern Moroccan restaurants food court style
In Morocco, you find nowadays especially in cities large restaurants in a food court style. These restaurants contain different stations like Traditional Moroccan, Italian, Barbecue and have more variety on their menu. The exact menu is depending on the restaurant, of course, but I’ll give you an impression of what you might expect.
Panini (grilled sandwich) with cheese
Street Food Snacks (depending on the region)
The best time to find street food snacks in Morocco is the time after the afternoon prayer “Asr”. This is the time when locals take a walk and amuse themselves. The time for the “Asr” varies. In summer it’s between 5 and 5.30 pm, in winter it is already at about 4 pm. You can find street food sellers in busy areas where people come to hang out and in and arround markets. Local bakeries also offer a lot of fresh sweet and salty snacks at that time.
Chickpeas (boiled chickpeas seasoned with salt and cumin)
Fava Beans (boiled fava beans seasoned with salt and cumin)
Chickpeas in Broth (boiled chickpeas served with their broth)
Kalenti (baked chickpea flour porridge, can be served as a slice or in a baguette)
Boiled Potatoes, seasoned with salt and cumin
Grilled or Boiled Corn (summer)
Saikuk (cold buttermilk with cold steamed rye couscous)
Fresh Potato Chips
Fresh Salty Popcorn
Briouat with Cheese (Briouat are Moroccan triangle-shaped pastries)
The regular salty fillings in the bakeries are chicken or fish. In the north of Morocco, you can find also cheese briouat. Cheese briouats are more on the sweet side.
Sfenj- Moroccan Doughnuts
Msmen Stuffed with Onion
When you want a stuffed msmen, ask exactly what is in the filling as sometimes fillings don’t look meaty, but they often are. Pure onion msmen, however, is vegetarian.
Fresh Baked Goods
The fresh baked goods like harcha (semolina bread), batbout (pan bread), msmen/ghraif (Moroccan layered pancakes) can be spread with triangle cheese for example.
The Market Sandwich-Habibas Vegan Tip
When you visit a large market area such as “souk el had” (Agadir),” bab el had” (Rabat) or “casa barata” (Tangier) for instance, you can make yourself a soothing, affordable, and vegan market sandwich. Buy some bread at a bread seller, some boiled chickpeas and/or fava beans at a mobile chickpea seller, some olives (slices) and some harissa, if you like it spicy, at a olive stall. Then, you can open the bread with your hand and fill it with the ingredients. If you don’t like it spicy, you can try to find instead some mini tomatoes at a vegetable stall. Wash them with some of your drinking water, and crush them a little.
When you are in Morocco, you will find many mobile juice stalls. Often, they sell freshly squeezed orange juice, but depending on season and region you can also find pomegranate juice. Sometimes the orange juice is already ready prepared and mixed with other ingredients. You should only buy from stalls where you can see how the seller squeezes the oranges. Sometimes you can also find fresh sugar cane juice. As a tourist, you should be careful with this juice as it can cause diarrhea.
Beside mobile juice stalls, there are also little juice shops. You can recognize them because they are decorated with many fruits. There you can have different fruit juices and milkshakes. A very rich Moroccan milkshake is zaza. It is made with milk, sugar, avocado, nuts, and flan (pudding) or whipped cream. This drink is so rich that it is as soothing as a meal. In cafes, there is often also a good selection of juices. However, the juices there are usually more expensive.
In this article I have given you a general overview of the vegetarian street food in Morocco. When you are looking, however, for restaurant recommandations, check out happycow.net. There you can find recommendations for restaurants that offer vegetarian options sorted by cities.
Amanda from Maroc Mama has written this interesting article about locations for veggie food in Marrakech.
Vegan in Morocco
Is it possible to visit Morocco as a vegan? Yes, of course, it’s possible. But when you want to live strictly vegan during your stay in Morocco, you should think of cooking your meals yourself, at least from time to time. Eating vegetarian food in restaurants is possible, eating vegan is not impossible but options are very limited and you might not always find the right places to eat. Often you find cheese or mayonnaise in the food or an egg on top.