The food of Libya originates from a blend of traditions from North African, Berber, and Mediterranean cuisine. Foods such as couscous, lamb, dates and olives feature heavily in Libyan cuisine. I tried to taste as much of this cuisine as possible during my visit to Libya. The food was much tastier than I imagined and Libyan sweets are something special.
The most popular and common food of Libya is couscous. This is also very well-known as a Maghrebi dish. Essentially, couscous is semolina or small balls of crushed durum wheat. Couscous is easy to prepare.
Simply cover it in boiling water or liquid stock from meat or vegetables to add more flavour, cover it and let it steam. It doesn’t take long at all to cook.
Couscous is typically served with some kind of stew. I enjoyed couscous with this chicken, chickpea and fried onion dish below just after I visited the incredible ruins of the ancient Roman city, Leptis Magna.
Food of Libya is all about couscous!
I love shakshuka, and I’ve eaten many variations of this dish in other countries like Morocco, Turkey and Tunisia. The ingredients to prepare shakshuka are quite simple.
A tasty sauce of onions, tomatoes, cumin, cayenne pepper (for a little heat), paprika and nutmeg is simmered down then eggs are added. The eggs poach in the sauce. It’s common for lamb or Merguez sausage to be added to the dish too, it adds another depth of flavour. The food in Libya is wonderful, always loads of flavour.
Libyans eat this dish at breakfast time, usually with a big basket of fresh bread to soak up all that delicious sauce. This is a simple, yet delicious food of Libya that I will cook at home.
Shakshuka! I really love this tasty food in Libya
Traditional biscuits in Libya, and something you shouldn’t miss! I was lucky enough to try some incredibly fresh ghoriba cookies in the city of Gharyan.
They were home-cooked, warm and delicious. Ghoriba is a shortbread biscuit that is prepared using butter, flour, almonds, and sugar.
Some different varieties of ghoriba cookies use pistachios, walnuts, and peanuts too. The best time to enjoy ghoriba is with some Arabic coffee or fresh mint tea.
Ghoriba cookies on the right side of the plate.
For all the meat-lovers out there, kebabs are food in Libya that you will enjoy. These are pieces of marinated meat (lamb, lamb liver or chicken), threaded on a skewer and chargrilled.
The best part is the smoky taste from the herbs used in the preparation and the way it has been cooked.
Expect bread or rice, salads and chips served alongside kebab. I enjoyed kebab in Libya, however the best one I’ve eaten was the Aleppo kebab in Syria.
Kebab is food of Libya found just about everywhere!
Asida, also known as flour pudding is one of the most well known and loved foods in Libya. It is often found served during religious holidays and ceremonies.
Asida is prepared by taking a cooked ball of wheat flour or dough. Butter and honey (or sometimes date syrup) is then added to it.
Traditionally, Asida is eaten with the right hand. Both the middle and index fingers are used to scoop up and enjoy this sweet Libyan dish. Asida is similar to a dish named ‘fufu’ which is predominantly found in many countries in West Africa.
From my experience of visiting Libya, I’d say that lamb is the number one meat eaten in the country. The Libyan tagine typically uses lamb, or chicken and sometimes just vegetables and chickpeas.
Ingredients such as spring onions, tomatoes, carrots, butter, ginger, and fenugreek paste are cooked down to produce a lovely sauce.
Spices such as coriander leaves, cinnamon, pepper and salt are added too. Once prepared, lemon wedges and olives are served with the tagine. Bread, rice or pasta are served alongside this dish. I love that the food in Libya always has more than one option.
Food of Libya that is sure to please! Libyan tagine
This is unleavened bread and popular food in Libya. It is prepared by boiling barley flour and salt in water, then beating it until it forms into a dough. Then, it is steamed or baked.
The bread has a tough crust, at first, I thought bazin was sweet bread or a type of muffin. Once you break it open, the inside is soft and is perfect when eaten with a Libyan stew, tagine or grilled lamb.
I enjoyed bazin for breakfast with a slab of butter, boiled eggs and spicy bean stew.
This food of Libya is much loved by the entire nation and many Libyans cook this at home.
Bazin – The best bread in Libya
8 ) Basbousa
Another delicious food in Libya. A sweet cake from semolina flour that has been soaked in rosewater syrup or honey and lemon. Afterwards, it is topped with slivered almonds and shaved coconut.
It’s perfect when eaten with a pot of fresh tea, or Arabic coffee.
Basbousa was my favourite sweet food of Libya
9) Rice Pilaf with raisins and almonds
If you get the chance to eat rice pilaf with raisins and fresh almonds in Libya, do it. The rice for this dish is delicately spiced with cumin, cardamom, and cinnamon. Plump sultanas or raisins are mixed through this fragrant rice and then topped with freshly toasted almonds. I’ve noticed that the food in Libya always has textures and colours.
Rice pilaf can be eaten as a complete dish or stewed lamb or meat can be served alongside. The food of Libya that I enjoyed most was this rice pilaf in the town of Gharyan.
Rice pilaf is a delicious food of Libya
10) Libyan Soup
This soup is fantastic and I consumed many bowls of it during my time in Libya. This Libyan dish is a lamb and vegetable/chickpeas tomato-based soup.
Spices such as coriander, chilli powder, turmeric and salt and used also. The distinctive herb stirred into flavour this dish once cooked is dried mint, and it works perfectly.
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Rach is a self-confessed travelling foodie. Her passion for food and culture has seen her eat her way through 190 countries. She's currently on a big food adventure to visit EVERY country in the world!
When Rach isn't travelling, you can find her at the beach, drinking coffee or wine with friends or chowing down on the best eats around her home city of Melbourne, Australia.