Are you wondering what’s the best food to try in Zanzibar? During my trip to Zanzibar, I had the same question in mind. After staying there for a little over a week and also taking a street food tour, I discovered the absolute must-try foods and the best places to find them.
History of Zanzibar Food
Zanzibar, majorly famous for its white sand beaches, was a famous stop amongst the traders from the 17th to the 19th century, which brought a lot of different cultures to the island. You will find a lot of food influenced by the Arabs, like the spices that were brought by the Omanis in Zanzibar. Because of its apt location for trading in the Indian Ocean, a lot of food was also influenced by Indians who kept traveling there.
Later on in the 19th and 20th centuries, it was ruled by the UK, because of which you’ll also find a lot of English culture in food. In all, Zanzibar has a lot of diverse food which you should try when here.
Also Read: Ultimate Zanzibar Travel Guide(2023 Edition)
Here is a list of some of the best street food that I tried in Zanzibar.
Best foods to try in Zanzibar
1. Zanzibar Pizza
Zanzibar pizza is a popular street food dish in Zanzibar. It is made by filling a thin dough with a mixture of minced meat, eggs, vegetables, and spices, and then folding it over and frying it until crispy. This is the traditional Zanzibar pizza but you can also have it with Nutella and different kinds of fruits with chocolate syrup.
Where to try Zanzibar Pizza: You should try the Zanzibar Pizza at the Forodhani night market in Stone Town. You will find several stalls selling them there.
Price: 5000 TZS(~$2)
2. Urojo Soup
Urojo is a popular street food that originated in Zanzibar. It is a hearty and flavorful soup that is often referred to as Zanzibar mix. Urojo is made by using various ingredients such as lentils, potatoes, meat, and spices like turmeric, chili, and cumin. The dish is typically served with crispy bhajia (fritters) and a tangy tamarind sauce. The soup is garnished with toppings like grated manioca crumbs, coconut chutney(similar to what we have with dosa in India), and lime juice. The best part is this dish can also be vegetarian.
Urojo is very filling and can be had as a meal as well. This is one of the best street foods I tried in Zanzibar and you should not miss it. It tastes very similar to Indian Kadhi but still very different.
Where to try Urojo: While you might find a lot of shops serving this around Stone Town, it’s best to have it at the Forodhani Market. Even at the market, try it at shop no 7(the most crowded shop at the market).
Price: 2000-3000 TZS(~$1) onwards
3. Sesame bread and Mishkaki (Chicken Skewers) with Tamarind and Chilli Sauce
Sesame bread, also known as mkate wa ufuta, is a popular snack made with flour, yeast, water, and sesame seeds. It is typically grilled or baked, resulting in a crispy exterior and a soft, fluffy interior. Mishkaki, on the other hand, is a type of street food skewer that is commonly found in Zanzibar. It consists of succulent pieces of marinated meat, such as beef or chicken, threaded onto skewers and then grilled over an open flame. The meat is often marinated in a mixture of spices making it burst with flavour
Sesame bread and Mishkaki are two different street foods but the combination of both of them when served with tamarind and chili sauce results in one of the best street foods I have ever had.
This was introduced to me by Mussawir who was my guide during the tour. I even went the next day to the same shop to have it again!
Where to have Sesame bread and Mishkaki: Both street foods are very commonly found in Zanzibar. My favorite spot would be a stall a little away from the Anglican cathedral(Google Link)
Price: 2000-3000 TZS(~$1) onwards
It is a deep-fried doughnut-like bread that is soft, fluffy, and slightly sweet. Mandazi is typically made with flour, sugar, yeast, coconut milk, and spices such as cardamom or cinnamon. It is often served with tea or coffee and can be enjoyed plain or with various toppings such as powdered sugar or jam. Majorly enjoyed as a snack or for breakfast, it can be found everywhere in Zanzibar and East Africa.
Where to have Mandazi: All street shops and stalls
Price: 500 TZS(20 cents) per piece onwards
Octopus is a typical luxury street food in Zanzibar because it’s very expensive. The octopus is usually grilled or cooked in a flavorful sauce, resulting in a tender and flavorful seafood experience. The locals generally have a piece or two when in the market using skewers or toothpicks. For others, they also have it with fried cassava like a salad and add some chili sauce to it.
If you like seafood you should try it in one of the local stalls or along the beach.
Where to have octopus: Anywhere in the smaller shops during the evening or night market.
Price: 500-1000 TZS(20-40 cents) per piece onwards
6. Zanzibar Biryani & Pilau
This flavorful rice dish is a fusion of Swahili, Arab, and Indian influences, resulting in a tantalizing blend of spices and aromatics. Zanzibar Pilau is typically made with basmati rice, mixed with a variety of spices such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and cumin. It is often cooked with meat such as chicken, beef, or goat, and sometimes includes a mixture of vegetables and dried fruits. While it is not as spicy as its Indian counterpart, the dish is sure to be tried when in Zanzibar.
Price: 4000 TZS (~$1.5) onwards
7. Fried Chips
Fried chips, or what we also know as french fries, are the most popular snack not just in Zanzibar, but all of East Africa. These crispy and golden delights are made from fresh potatoes, thinly sliced, and then deep-fried to perfection. Served majorly with ketchup or chili sauce, these can be had any time of the day and this is one dish that can never go wrong. Another famous dish that you must try is Chips Mayai.
When you are trying chips, you should also try Chips Mayai which is not on this list but is an amazing dish to try when in Zanzibar. It’s an Omelette and fried chips made together.
Where to have fried chips: You will find them everywhere from the smallest of the stalls to big restaurants.
Price: 2500 TZS(~$1) onwards
Vitumbua is a popular snack in East Africa, particularly in countries like Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. It is a traditional dish made from rice flour, coconut milk, and sugar, which is then deep-fried until golden brown. Vitumbua are small, round, and have a soft and fluffy texture. They are often served as a breakfast treat or a snack during tea time. The dish is loved for its sweet and aromatic flavor, with hints of coconut.
These are exactly what we have in India just that they are not sweet and are served with a coconut chutney. You might know them as Paddu or Appe in India
Where to find Vitumbua: They can be found in almost all the small shops in Zanzibar mostly during breakfast time.
Price: 200 – 500 TZS(~20 cents) onwards
While the island is predominantly influenced by Swahili cuisine, it has also been influenced by Indian flavors and spices due to historical trade routes between the two regions. Samosas in Zanzibar are typically filled with a savory mixture of spiced potatoes, minced meat, or vegetables, and are often deep-fried to perfection. They are loved by locals and tourists alike for their crispy exterior and delicious fillings. You’ll find samosas with meat and rarely with potatoes.
And just like chips, you can have them as street food or in big restaurants.
Where to have samosas: You will find them everywhere from the smallest of the stalls to big restaurants.
Price: 500 TZS (20 cents) onwards
Chila is a savory pancake-like dish made from rice, coconut, and spices like cardamom. The dish is loved by locals and visitors alike for its unique flavors and hearty nature. Again something popular to be had with tea during breakfast or as snacks. The best part is that this dish is vegan. Chila which is also inspired by the Indians is commonly known as Appam.
Where to have Chila: The best place to try Chila would be in Lukmaan restaurant in Stone Town.
Price: 1000 TZS (40 cents) onwards
These sweet dumplings are a popular street food snack that can be found generally during the month of Ramadan in Zanzibar. Made from a mixture of flour, sugar, and spices, these dumplings are deep-fried until golden and crispy. The result is a delightful combination of sweetness and crunchiness that is guaranteed to satisfy your taste buds. Whether you enjoy them on your own or with a cup of hot tea, Kalimati fried sweet dumplings are a delectable indulgence not to be missed on your culinary adventure in Zanzibar.
Where to have Kalimati: During Ramadan, you can find Kalimati in a lot of places around Zanzibar, but otherwise the only place I was able to find them was in Lukmaan Restaurant
Price: 300 TZS(~20 cents) onwards
12. Sugarcane Juice
Sugarcane juice in Zanzibar is a popular and refreshing beverage that is enjoyed by both locals and tourists. It is commonly found at street vendors and local markets, where fresh sugarcane is pressed to extract its sweet and tangy juice. The juice is often served chilled and can be enjoyed plain or with a splash of lime or ginger for added flavor. Especially during the summer or during the day the sugarcane juice is refreshing
Where to find Sugarcane juice: You can find sugarcane juice sold by the street vendors or at the Forodhani night market
Price: 1000 TZS (~40 cents) onwards – Medium Glass
2000 TZS (~80 cents – $1) onwards – Large Glass
What’s also possible is to get a clean bottle with you so you don’t use the plastic cups and straws, so as to reduce a little bit of plastic 🙂
13. Zanzibar Coffee
Zanzibar coffee has a special place in this list because of the unique experience I had while trying it. Known for its distinctive flavor profile and rich aroma, Zanzibar coffee has gained popularity among the locals. I was taken to the most local place in Stone Town to try the Zanzibar coffee. The place was only occupied by men and was being served in these very small cups.
Where to try Zanzibar coffee: While the best spot is known only by Mussawir there are other small shops that can give you the same experience.
Price: 200 TZS(~10 cents) onwards
14. Wali na Maharage
“Wali na Maharage” is a traditional Swahili dish that is popular in East Africa, particularly in countries like Tanzania and Kenya. It consists of rice (wali) cooked with red kidney beans (maharage) and various spices and flavors. This dish is a staple in many households and is often enjoyed with accompanying side dishes such as vegetables (spinach) or meat. Wali na Maharage is a delicious and nutritious meal that showcases the diverse flavors and culinary traditions of the region. This staple dish is also vegan.
Where to have Wali na Maharage: This dish can be found in a lot of local restaurants in Zanzibar, Lukmaan and Seven Spice are a few restaurants to name.
Price: 3000-5000 TZS(~$1.2 -2) onwards
This sums up some of the best local dishes to try when in Zanzibar. Now, I do understand that food is a concern for a lot of you and a lot of these street food dishes can not be tried anywhere on the street. This was one of the reasons I also took this tour to have a local guide me to try the best food items from the best local shops, and not make me sick for the rest of the trip.
If you want to have the same experience as me and want to try the local food of Zanzibar, I would highly recommend taking this tour and if you are a cat lover, you are going to love it even more because of Mussawir who’ll be taking you to a few extra spots to which are not included on the tour. Find all the details below for the tour.
Website: Amo Zanzibar Tours
Whatsapp: +255 774 590 020
Also sharing some of the best places & restaurants that you need to try when in Zanzibar
- Forodhani night market – Best place to try street food in Zanzibar and it’s also close to the famous jump spot. Post-sunset would be a great time to enjoy the food at the night market
- Lukmaan Restaurant(Stone Town) – Best restaurant in Zanzibar for Local food
- Seven spice(Stone Town) – Local food
- Zanzibar coffee house – Coffee with a view
- Harbour Indian Kitchen by Chili & Lime(Stone Town) – Indian food
- Africana BBQ(Paje) – Nightlife and Local food
- Panyopa Restaurant(Jambiani) – Seafood and Local Food
Planning a trip to Paje? Read about the best things to do in Paje
Are you planning to travel to other African countries, remember to take a yellow fever vaccination before. Here is the detailed guide on how to get Yellow fever vaccination in Bangalore
Have any other questions regarding street food in Zanzibar, drop them in the comments and I’ll try my best to provide you with the details!