Despite popular belief, Tanzania is full of vegetarians. That is, of course, if you include the millions of wildebeest, the hundreds of thousands of Thompson and Grant gazelles, and every zebra, giraffe, and innumerable other intelligent herbivores that roam the Tanzanian wilds. It might appear to be a plant-based paradise.
And it’s true that Tanzania wouldn’t be the same without these plants and the animals that depend on them. There would be no Great Migration, for example, if fresh grasses didn’t keep wiggling up every season. Plants are what sustain our planet, just as they sustain our safaris.
But can you be sustained exclusively on plants during your bucket-list experience to Tanzania? What are the options here for leading a plant-based diet, for those concerned about the ethical, environmental, and/or health implications of a meat-heavy palate? Can you thrive in Tanzania on just plants?
The short answer: YES.
Let the following overview be not exclusively for die-hard veggie-heads, but also for the diet-conscious, for the culinary-sensitive—herbivore or omnivore—who wish to simply know their options in-country.
Your 60-second tour of Tanzania's food scene
First thing: the country is full of delicious. Due to East Africa’s long, complex history of tribal and colonial ebbings and flowings, what’s emerged is an intersecting smorgasbord of spice and flavors.
Ugali, a national favorite made of corn meal, might be easier to find than bread, bananas, and beer combined. This stuff is everywhere and it’s delicious. Any typical meal in Tanzania might include mounds of ugali, soup, sides of greens and fruit, and, yes, meat—goat, fish, or chicken. Here’s a more comprehensive look at your typical food in Tanzania.
A quick note on cultural etiquette
For many Tanzanians, eating meat can be a sign of status. To afford meat is something most everyone aspires to, and many Tanzanians will not refuse meat when available. In fact, for millennia tribes like the Maasai have subsisted primarily on cow milk, meat, and blood.(source)
Vegetarians (or vegans) on safari? No problem
On Easy Travel trips, vegetarians and vegans can be easily accommodated. At our lodges and bush camps, experienced chefs and partnering kitchens will provide mouth-watering menus–both traditional and western foods–and they always include vegetarian (and/or vegan) options. With enough notice, we can work with any dietary requirements. Just let us know!
We invite you to pack some of your favorite plant-powered protein sources from home to ensure that you receive adequate nutrients during your stay. Days on safari or on Mount Kilimanjaro can be long, intense, and forever life-altering, so you ought not to miss a moment’s focus!
Here's the 5 best vegetarian foods to eat in Tanzania
- Ugali – I said it earlier and I’ll say it again: this stuff is everywhere, scooped and dipped and devoured by the truckload all across the country. It’s what fuels the country, so dig in.
- Maharagwe – These red kidney beans are a staple in Tanzania, prepared spicy or savory and cooked in coconut milk (drooling) and paired with chapatti or, you guessed it, ugali (more drooling). – (Source)
- Pilau – Tanzania’s favorite rice pilaf dish originated in India, but its Tanzanian version includes more spices. Restaurants will often cook pilau using chicken broth, so if that is a problem please tell our Easy Travel staff in advance so we can make necessary arrangements.
- Fresh Fruits, Nuts, and Vegetables – You will quickly discover Tanzanian markets and roadside stands overflowing with colorful, plump produce as well as cashews, eggs, and other non-meat proteins. Remember the old adage: if you can’t peel it, boil it, or cook it, forget it!
- Indian Fare – There are over 50,000 Tanzanians of Indian origin living in the country today, due to an influx of Indian traders in the 19th century. As a vegetarian you’ll want to sniff out some of these Indian restaurants, especially in larger cities like Arusha. Simply put, Indian cuisine has mastered vegetarian dining. – (Source)
To navigate Tanzania as a vegetarian is totally possible. With a little flexibility and creativity, there will be plenty of plant protein sources, fresh fruits, and vegetables to make it work. Easy Travel accommodates any dietary restriction, so just let us know in advance.