27 Jan Being vegan in Marrakech
Veganism is becoming more popular in Marrakech, where the restaurant scene is constantly changing. Growing tourism in the city has made the food industry much more aware of vegetarianism and veganism, no more considered as modern western phenomena, offering dishes which reflects the increasing importance of a meat-free diet.
Moroccan cuisine for vegetarians and vegans has much more to propose than you might first assume and can still be a delight for gourmets. Lots of Moroccan staples are accidentally vegan, including fresh pita bread as a day-to-day basis, which is super popular and available at every meal.
We’re definitely not suggesting you just eat bread and water: appetizers play an important role in Moroccan cuisine. In addition to the mandatory green olives, plenty of vegan snacks are available to keep your energy up as you explore the beautiful country of Morocco: many varieties of dried fruit from figs to apricots to the famous Moroccan dates. There are also lots of nuts, called hanuts, which are everywhere.
Moroccan starters also include a range of salads, pastas, grilled vegetables, spreads and lentil and tomato dish. Other classic dishes include Harissa carrots, carrot and cinnamon jam, malven spinach (Bakoula), broad bean paste (Bissara) and, of course, the well-known aubergine caviar (Zaalouk).
Anyone accustomed to eating meat substitutes like tofu, soy or seitan, will need to change a bit their expectations when in Morocco. Adapting traditional foods slightly is the other side to find vegan food when travelling in Marrakech. Apart from obvious vegan staples such as fresh fruit, herbal teas and 100% pure juices, here are a handful of traditional Moroccan meals that are suitable for a healthy vegan diet.
First among all, the couscous is one of the must-try dishes that vegans don’t have to miss out on. Traditionally eaten on Friday’s and special occasions in Morocco, couscous is prepared with slowly cooked vegetables and meat. But, again, a veggie-friendly option that is becoming more prominent in local restaurants is a couscous with vegetables, served completely meat-free without compromise on taste and infused with lovely spice combos and sweet apricot and prune jams to boost the flavor.
In addition to couscous, tagines can be made using many different ingredients, including carrots, zucchini, eggplant, potatoes, and more, and prepared as yummy vegetarian dishes. And if it they’re vegetarian they’re vegan too, because dairy isn’t really a tagine thing. The tagine is 100% meat-free and 100% Moroccan with delicious spices enhancing its flavor.
Don’t miss out on the soups either when you’re in Morocco. In addition to traditional chickpeas soup (Harira), you should also try the pumpkin soup (Rabartahro).
Moreover, prepare your taste buds with many different vegan-friendly options. For example, a vegetarian delicacy, among many, in our on-site restaurant, La Table du riad, is the Millefeuille, made up of very thin layers of baked pepper, turnips, confit tomatoes, zucchini and eggplants and dressed with potatoes croquettes and the pungent joy of saffron and pumpkin sauce.
Moroccan confectionery is wonderful as well. It features the flavours and armoas of orange and rose petal oil. Amlou is also used as an ingredient, a marzipan-type paste extracted from almonds and argan oil. In addition to cakes and pastries, fruits often feature in desserts, for example oranges with cinnamon, or perfumed sorbets.
The vibrant Marrakech culinary scene is now attracting a new crop of restaurateurs and chef offering a better-than-average selection of vegetarian or vegan dishes, conveniently fairly evenly distributed over the city. And isn’t it great to see veggie restaurants in such high demand!
Just to name a few, located into the Medina, La Famille is a beautiful 100% vegetarian restaurant and a popular favorite with tourists. It’s only open at lunch and, here as well, make sure to book in advance as this place gets packed. The food is lovely: the menu boasts modern day French cuisine. Take the veggie salad, which is a mix of hearty greens, chickpeas, citrus fruits and dried figs and grab yourself a detox water while enjoying your convivial meal sitting at one of the large teak tables with other groups of diners in the beautiful ambiance of the garden courtyard.
Located into Gueliz neighborhood, the European area of Marrakech, Gäia is the place to go for a fancy vegan brunch or a regular dinner. With a vibrant interior design concept and colorful plant-based food, you can’t go wrong no matter what you order here. You’ll be able to eat good vegetable picked directly from the garden of its owner. He’s really passionate about what he’s doing and you’ll feel it in the dishes that they propose. The desserts are decadent and the falafel is worth the money.
A special mention goes to Ayaso, also located in the district of Gueliz. It’is our first choice when talking about vegetarian and vegan restaurants and cafes. Dishes are prepared using exclusively organic products. The owners Monika and Kamal are just amazing. They will not only advise you what to take, but they will make you think about what you eat and the importance of the choice of the ingredients. As per their motto “You are what you eat”. The café comes with a concept store where finding first choice and organic Moroccan food and a selection of traditional beauty products, vitamins, olive and argan oil, and healthy snacks and food.
On balance, while Moroccan people might not completely understand all the elements of being vegan, it is definitely possible to have a wonderful trip to Marrakech as a vegan!
From our side, our on-site restaurant La Table du riad is increasingly open to experimentation and contamination with plantbased trends and permanently offers in its à la carte menu a large selection of delicious vegan-friendly dishes enhancing the natural flavors and authentic taste of Moroccan vegetables, fortunately here still persisting. More still, as a new challenging concept for Marrakech culinary scene, La Table du riad is definitely serious to represent the future of vegan Moroccan cuisine on the plate, now preparing, with its defined Italian roots, a wide selection of fresh made vegan pasta, a culinary staple across many cultures and its versatility means it can be as healthy and nutritious or as indulgent and comforting as vegan lifestyle likes.
No doubt, something not to be missed. Stay tuned!
COVER IMAGE The signature (6 hours) hand-rolled couscous at La Table du riad