The foods eaten by the people of Mauritania

Mauritania, a country primarily in the Sahara desert in West Africa, has a food history influenced by both its indigenous populations and various foreign influences. Over the past 500 years, the Mauritanian diet has been shaped by the geography, culture, and trade connections of the region, with influences from North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Arab nations.

Staple Foods

  1. Millet and Sorghum: These drought-resistant grains have been staple foods, usually served as a porridge or made into bread.
  2. Rice: Grown in some regions and imported, rice has become more prevalent in modern times.
  3. Dates: Especially important in desert regions as a high-energy food.


  1. Fish: In coastal regions and along the Senegal River, fish plays a significant role in the diet.
  2. Lamb and Goat: Meat from these animals is consumed, particularly on special occasions.
  3. Chicken: More common in rural areas.
  4. Beef: Less common but still consumed.
  5. Dairy: Camel and goat milk are traditional sources of dairy.

Vegetables and Fruits

  1. Root Vegetables: Potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes are common in some regions.
  2. Onions and Tomatoes: Used as a base for many dishes.
  3. Melons: Popular in the hot climate.

Legumes and Nuts

  1. Beans and Lentils: Consumed in stews and as accompaniments to grains.
  2. Peanuts: Used in some dishes and sauces.

Spices and Seasonings

  1. Salt: Often used in high quantities due to the hot climate.
  2. Spices: Influenced by Arab and North African cuisine, including cumin, coriander, and saffron.
  3. Herbs: Mint and parsley are sometimes used for flavoring.

Traditional Dishes

  1. Thieboudienne: A dish of fish, rice, and vegetables, showing the influence of Senegalese cuisine.
  2. Mechoui: Roasted lamb or goat, often served at celebrations.
  3. Mafé: A peanut stew that can contain meat or fish.
  4. Zrig: A traditional drink made of goat or camel milk and water, sometimes slightly fermented.

Sweets and Desserts

  1. Dates: Often consumed as a natural sweet treat.
  2. Honey: Used in some traditional desserts and sweets.


  1. Tea: Strongly brewed and usually flavored with mint, tea is an important social ritual.
  2. Coffee: Consumed but less common than tea.
  3. Fruit Juices: Sometimes consumed, especially in more urban areas.

Foreign Influences and Modern Foods

  1. Arab Influence: The use of certain spices and cooking techniques reflects historical ties with the Arab world.
  2. French Influence: As a former French colony, elements of French cuisine, like bread and some pastries, have been incorporated.
  3. West African Influence: Dishes like Thieboudienne and Mafé are shared with neighboring West African countries.
  4. Modern Foods: In urban areas, international foods, including fast food, are becoming more available.

Over the past 500 years, Mauritanian cuisine has adapted to its harsh climate and nomadic lifestyle while incorporating flavors and ingredients from trading partners and colonizers. While modern foods are becoming more prevalent, especially in urban areas, traditional foods and cooking methods remain integral to Mauritanian culture.

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