The tropical island of Zanzibar has more to offer than just beaches. The local food in Zanzibar is one of the most important highlights that a traveler should enjoy to the fullest.
The cuisine of Zanzibar is shaped by centuries of migration and trade with its neighboring African countries and the world. Zanzibari food offers distinctive ingredients, techniques, and dishes. So, here are the must-sample dishes in Zanzibar.
This post is reader-supported which means it may contain affiliate links. Read our full affiliate disclosure for more information.
- Somali Food: 20 Best Dishes You Need to Try
- Algerian Food: 30+ Algerian Dishes Everyone Should Try
- Ethiopian food: 30+ Amazing Foods To Try in Ethiopia
- Persian Food: 30 Delicious Persian Foods To Try In Iran
Must-Try Foods in Zanzibar
1. Octopus Coconut Curry
They say Octopus has healing powers, so there is no better place than Zanzibar to heal yourself! In Zanzibar, you can have Octopus grilled, smoked, or roasted but one of the famous Octopus delicacy dishes to try on the Island is the octopus coconut curry.
If the Zanzibar food was known for one thing only, it would be seafood. Zanzibar has an incredible variety of seafood including prawns, calamari, octopus, kingfish, lobster, and many more.
3. Zanzibar Pizza
We all know pizza but the one in Zanzibar is something else. The Zanzibari specialty street food pizza might include meat chicken or fish, chopped onion, and peppers, processed cheese, mayonnaise, and an egg. The mixture is put into a thin layer of dough, pan-fried, and served with tomato or chili sauce.
Ugali is a type of stiff maize flour porridge made in Africa. Ugali is the traditional food in Zanzibar.
5. Fish Biryani
Food in Zanzibar is known for the Swahili Biryani, another version of the popular Indian Biyani. You can have Biryani with chicken or meat but fish Biyani is certainly a must-try food in Zanzibar. The spiced Basmati rice with the heavenly fish sauce is just too much for the soul.
6. Zanzibar Pilau (Rice Pilaf)
Pilau is another rice dish that the Zanzibaris are proud of. Originally an Asian and Middle Eastern dish, the Zanzibar Pilau is made with Basmati rice that is infused with aromatic spices like cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves, sauteed onions, and then cooked in coconut milk for added richness. The Zanzibar Pilau is usually paired with vegetables, beans, meat, or fish stews such as the Octopus curry.
7. Tropical fruits
The local markets of Zanzibar are full of all kinds of tropical fruits such as mango, guava, citrus fruits, avocados, and bananas. Most of these fruits are cultivated for the local market only and rarely exported. Tropical fruits are considered an important part of Zanzibari cuisine and food.
8. Chipsi Mayai (Zanzibar’s Egg & Chips)
Chipsi Mayai is the most popular comfort street food found all over Tanzania and Zanzibar island. In its most basic form, Chipsi Mayai is a simple potato-egg omelet that can be accompanied by kachumbari salad and chili sauce.
9. Zanzibar Tandoori Chicken
Super crispy tandoori chicken is a must-eat when in Zanzibar. In case you have no idea, the Tandoori chicken is an Indian spiced chicken roasted in a tandoor, a cylindrical clay oven. However, you don’t need to travel to India to try the Tandoori chicken, because this dish is one of Zanzibar’s famous street foods. The hearty chicken is always paired with Piri Piri and other sauces.
10. Urojo (Zanzibar Mix)
Zanzibar Mix is a popular Zanzibar food. A blend of Indian and African flavors, Urojo is a bowl mix of a variety of ingredients and toppings. Some of these ingredients are potatoes, chickpeas, fried Bhajias, peanuts a creamy curry sauce. As for the toppings, potato chips, fresh coconut chutney, and Piri Piri sauce are always adding the final flavor to the Urojo.
11. Pani Puri
These weird-looking eggs are a famous fast food in Zanzibar. Pani Puri is little hollow chips filled with spiced potatoes and chickpeas and then submerged in flavorful herby liquid. They are usually sold by street vendors in
12. Vitumbua (Zanzibar’s Coconut Rice Balls)
Vitumbuas is a part of Zanzibar food but they can be found also in many other African countries. The Super delicious and spongy balls are made of rice, cardamom, and coconut and can be served as a snack with the special Zanzibar tea or along with other Zanzibar dishes. Vitumbuas are better served hot.
13. Mandazi (Zanzibar’s Donuts)
Mandazis are another well know authentic food among locals in Zanzibar. The triangle-shaped pastries can be enjoyed for breakfast, or as a snack with tea or coffee. If you like sweet treats, the golden soft Mandazi is a must-try. They are basically made of very simple ingredients including eggs, milk, cardamom, and a lot of margarine, and sugar.
14. Zanzibar Coconut Bean Soup
Are you looking for a soup on the menu? Just order the hearty coconut bean soup. Traditionally served as a main dish in Tanzania and Zanzibar, this war soup is super creamy and delicious. It usually includes cornmeal, millet, rice, cassava, plantains, goat, yogurt, beans, fish, and coconut.
15. Boflo (Zanzibar Local Bread)
Boflo are small, soft white loaves of bread in Zanzibar. They are usually the size of your hand, which makes one of them a wonderful snack sandwich or a breakfast option with some Zanzibar tea or spiced coffee.
16. Mishkaki (Zanzibar Beef Skewers)
Zanzibar Mishkaki are skewers of grilled beef that are popular in Zanzibar. They are also popular in many other East African countries. The beef is marinated in a mixture of spices and then grilled over a charcoal fire. Mishkaki is often served with a dipping sauce made from tamarind, chili peppers, and peanuts.
Popular Beverages in Zanzibar
Zanzibar has some of the most exotic and delicious drinks that you should try. From zesty lime juice and sweet passionfruit juices to spicy teas and strong coffee, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
1. Zanzibar Ginger Tea
This Zanzibari zesty and spicy tea is made with fresh ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. It’s the perfect pick-me-up in the morning or afternoon. Zanzibaris usually have their tea with Kashata, sweet little crackers.
2. Zanzibar Spiced Coffee
A refreshing way to start your day, Zanzibar spiced coffee is brewed with cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon. The strong taste of the coffee is balanced by the sweetness of the spices and sugar. It’s frequently enjoyed with milk cold or hot.
3. Dawa Cocktail
A Dawa cocktail is a drink made with passion fruit juice, honey, and lime. It is a popular choice among locals and visitors alike and can be found at many restaurants across the island.
4. Sugarcane Juice
Popularly known as ‘Sukari Nusu’ in Swahili, Sugarcane juice is one of the most refreshing drinks in Zanzibar. It is made from freshly squeezed sugarcane and is often served with a slice of lemon or ginger.
FAQs about Food in Zanzibar
Zanzibar’s National Food
Zanzibar’s national food is Ugali. Ugali is the kind of food that is found on every table of Zanzibari families. Ugali is like bread in Middle Eastern culture. It’s served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with meat stews, vegetables, and salads.
Another national food in Zanzibar is the Zanzibar Pizza. It’s very popular among locals as street food and it’s considered the signature of Zanzibar which means if you visit you have to try it whether you like it or not.
Famous Food in Zanzibar
Apart from the national food, Zanzibar boots a lot of widely famous foods and dishes. The islands are really known for their exotic fruits with weird shapes and shockingly delicious tastes. Also, seafood is another popular Zanzibar food.
The scenes of freshly caught fish cooked in all forms and exhibited in the whole town, make fish lovers want to live there forever.
Zanzibar’s Food ingredients
In Zanzibar, you will find a lot of special ingredients and spices and the taste of the food in Zanzibar reflects the uniqueness of these ingredients. Zanzibar people love using a lot of fresh ingredients in their food such as fresh fish and fresh vegetables and fruits.
If you visit Zanzibar visit the local markets and taste all the local Zanzibar food and see if you like the taste or not. You will never know until you try and the adventure is in having new experiences and tasting new foods.
Zanzibari food on Instgaram
Looking for some food inspirations, look up this Zanzibar food tag on Instagram: #Zanzibarfood. It includes some local and traditional Zanzibar and Swahili dishes and even some Zanzibar food memes. It’s unfortunate that the rich Zanzibar food and Tanzanian food, in general, don’t get the necessary attention they deserve from the social world.
Zanzibari food cookbooks
I checked if I can find some good Zanzibar cookbooks for you on Amazon and I could find a great East African Cookbook. Written by a Tanzanian local food lover, this cookbook includes the writer’s own recipes of Tanzanian food influenced by the East African fool culture as well as other food cultures from around the world.
Cooking the East African Way is another great buy if you want to learn not only Zanzibar/Tanzanian cooking but also other East African foods including Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya.
We still have more! this cookbook is more for people that are interested in African food and Middle Eastern food cooking techniques and recipes.
Like it? Share on Pinterest