Top 10 Yummy Libyan Main Courses To Light Up Your Days

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Initially, let’s fill your stomach with these delectable dishes from Libya. From Shorba to Imbakbaka, they will satisfy your hunger.

1. Bazin (Libyan Unleavened Bread)

Libyan Food

Bazin is a special kind of bread in Libya usually made from barley, salt, and other ingredients. The boiled barley dough is mashed with a special stick called ‘Magraf’. After being baked or steamed, the outcome has a dumpling-like appearance with a lovely hard texture.

Libyans usually enjoy this dish together using their right hand. You can pair Bazin with boiled eggs, tomato sauce, and mutton (sheep meat). There is a version paired with meat-and-potato stew. Place a raw egg in the soup or stew while still hot.

Ingredients

The sauce: In a big bowl, put the following:

  • Some oil
  • A medium chopped onion
  • Big lamb chops
  • Tomato paste 4 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 1 large spoon of turmeric
  • 1 large spoon of cayenne pepper
  • Salt is salt
  • Water

The sides:

  • Boiled potato wedges.
  • Optional: boiled eggs (optional).
  • You add them at the end. Make sure they’re covered with the sauce fat.

The Dough:

  • 750kg of barley flour
  • 1/2 large spoon of salt
  • Some water to knead the dough
  • A bowl with some water in it (to boil the dough in)

Directions Method of preparation:

The sauce:

  1. Heat the oil and then add all the above ingredients in order
  2. Then add the salt after the sauce has been boiling for about half an hour
  3. Add boiling water (what you see fit – make sure the water covers the lamb)
  4. Leave on low heat until the lamb is well done
  5. An important side of the sauce is ready is the fat that can be seen on the sauce.

The Dough:

  1. Knead the dough very well until it becomes soft.
  2. Make some rectangular-shaped pieces of dough and put them in the boiling water.
  3. Leave the dough in the boiling water until it is done (it takes about 3o minutes).
  4. Use the ‘mughruf’ / kitchen spatula to knead it. It’s better to use a flat bowl so that you can shape the dough into a dome.
  5. Put the shaped dough in the serving bowl. Then, add the sauce, potatoes, eggs & chili pepper around the dough.

2. Pilaf Or Pilau (Libyan Rice Pilaf)

Do you want to try an impressive Libyan meal for lunch? Pilaf will be an ideal choice for you. This is a popular dish in the Middle Eastern and in some Asian countries, like in Indian food menus.

This rice has its authentic flavor from being soaked in stock or broth for a long time. Vegetables, meat, and spices are added along with a sophisticated technique to form perfect rice that does not adhere.

In Libya, people usually add raisins (or plump sultanas) and almonds to their rice Pilaf. Cinnamon, cumin, or cardamom are added to perfume the rice with a delicate aroma. You can serve the dish standalone or pair it with stewed lamb or meat.

Pilaf uses thin and longer rice compared to ordinary ones. Moreover, there are countless varieties of Pilaf worldwide with differences in flavor and cooking methods.

Some versions do not use meat or vegetables. These styles are popular in Turkey and some Persian countries. On the other hand, the chef will add saffron for a beautiful yellow color on special occasions.

3. Shakshuka (Poached Eggs)

Yummy! The dish is an ideal breakfast choice in Libya. Shakshuka is a dish with a creamy taste from eggs and a bit tangy with flavorful tomato sauce.

The ingredients are straightforward with simple preparation, so Shakshuka is the best choice for a busy morning meal. Shakshuka appeared in North Africa in the mid 16th century and was brought to Israel by Libyans and Tusnians.

The dish is one of the most famous dishes in Libya and other countries in the North African region.

Shakshuka started gaining its reputation in the region thanks to the Jewish immigrants to Israel in the 1950s and 1960s. Then, in 2012, Israeli chef Yotam Ottolenghi mentioned the international recognition of Shakshuka in his book.

Minced lamb, potatoes, parmesan cheese, and chorizo are some common ingredients to create other variants of Shakshuka around the world.

Ingredients

  • 3 jalapeños stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 small yellow onion chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic crushed
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. paprika
  • 1 28-oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes, undrained
  • 8 eggs
  • 1 ⁄2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Warm Libyan bread Khubitz howsh for serving
  • 1 ⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add chilies and onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 6 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is soft, about 2 more minutes.
  4. Put tomatoes and their liquid into a medium bowl and crush with your hands or a wooden spoon. Add crushed tomatoes and their liquid to skillet along with 1⁄2 cup water, reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened slightly, about 20 minutes.
  5. Season sauce with salt.
  6. Crack eggs over the sauce so that eggs are evenly distributed across the sauce’s surface.
  7. Cover skillet and cook until yolks are just set about 5 minutes.
  8. Using a spoon, baste the whites of the eggs with the tomato mixture, being careful not to disturb the yolk.
  9. Sprinkle shakshuka with feta and parsley and serve with Libyan bread, for dipping.

4. Couscous (Libyan Couscous Stew)

If you are looking for stable food in Libya, you should try Couscous. Customarily, the dish contains rolled durum wheat semolina with steamed granules. Couscous is packed with nutrients and vitamins that might be suitable for your diet.

The dish’s origin is in the North African region and is recognized by UNESCO in the Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Cereals like Bulgur, sorghum, and pearl millet are usually added to make the flavor more memorable.

In Libya, you will find two common types of Couscous: Couscous Belbulsa and Couscous Belkhodra. The first one only has onions, chickpeas, meat, and spicy sauce, while the second one has extra veggies for a wonderful taste.

Couscous first appeared in the 11th century by the Berbers from Algeria and Morocco. Then, the dish started to get its reputation across the European and Mediterranean region.

You will find the dish in most Western supermarkets in pre-steamed status. Most products you find in supermarkets will be a mechanized version. However, quick-preparation packages of Couscous are available if you want to make it.

5. Imbakbaka (Libyan Chicken Pasta)

Want to twist your dinner table with a Libyan dish? Imbakbaka will change your perception of ordinary pasta. This dish proves that Italian cuisine plays an important role in Libyan culinary culture.

Italian food culture was adopted in Libya between 1910 and 1947. The dish is a simple recipe that you only need one pot to cook. Sweet and spicy flavors harmonize splendidly in this spectacular dish.

Traditionally, people use chicken to add a savory flavor to the dish, but the veggies version like peas, chickpeas, and carrots will fit your ‘green’ diet.

Ingredients

  • 4 lb. chicken cut into 8 pieces
  • ½-1 lb. pasta cooked al dente and drained
  • 3 tablespoon canola oil or other flavorless oil
  • 1 yellow onion diced or sliced into half moons
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 jalapeños sliced in half lengthwise

Instructions

  1. Bring 5 cups of water to boil in a kettle.
  2. Sautee the onion in 3 tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat until translucent.
  3. Add the chicken, season with all the spices including salt and pepper, and brown on all sides.
  4. Add 5 minced garlic cloves, 3 ounces of tomato paste, 3 jalapeños sliced lengthwise, and 5 cups of boiling water or hot broth/stock. The chicken should be covered, so add more if necessary.
  5. Raise the heat to high, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 25-40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
  6. Bring back to a boil and the cooked and drained pasta. Cook for 3 minutes and serve.

6. Mafrum (Libyan Stuffed Vegetables)

Jews in Libya have created a unique dish that you will admire for its sophisticated and savory flavor. Mafrum combines juicy meat stuffed in potatoes and bathed in a tasty sauce. Some versions of Mafrum even use eggplant and cauliflower to substitute potatoes.

Or, if you are a veggie-lover, you can make a dish full of these spectacular ingredients. The sauce for Mafrum usually has a beautiful red color, and the entire dish is perfect to pair with Couscous.

This dish is often a weekend meal instead of a weekday meal because of the preparation and cooking duration. However, the fruits of your effort are a dazzling meal for your family.

Ingredients

FOR THE SAUCE:

  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil (like canola, grapeseed, or safflower)
  • 2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium vine ripe tomatoes, cut into wedges
  • 1 small zucchini, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons Ras El Hanout
  • *The onion and tomato are musts, for the rest of the vegetables you can use whatever you have on hand. You want to create a bed for the mafrum that fills the bottom of the pan. You can also add the scraps from the potato and eggplant as you are making and stuffing the mafrum.

FOR THE MAFRUM

  • 4 medium russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled
  • Kosher salt

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • ⅓ bunch cilantro, washed, leaves and tender stems only
  • ½ bunch parsley, washed, leaves and tender stems only
  • 1 lb. ground beef, 80% lean (use beef with at least 15% fat)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Ras El Hanout
  • 1 ½ teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ cup plain breadcrumbs (not always necessary)

FOR FRYING:

  • 3-4 cups all-purpose flour, for dusting
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 1-2 quarts canola oil

Preparation

STEP 1

In a large, deep pan (a 4 qt. braiser works well), heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion, tomatoes, zucchini, bell pepper, and garlic and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the water and Ras El Hanout and stir to combine. Cover and cook over medium-low heat while you prepare the Mafrum.

STEP 2

Place 2 tablespoons of kosher salt in a large bowl. Dissolve the salt in ½ cup of hot water and then fill with cold water. Place the peeled potatoes in the salt water to soak for about 25 minutes (it will help the potatoes stay together when stuffing them later).

STEP 3

Shape the eggplant: Cut the eggplant in half crosswise. Take one half of the eggplant and stand it on its larger end. Start to cut a ¼-inch slice lengthwise – but don’t cut all the way through – leave about a ½-inch connected at the bottom. Go back to the top and cut another ¼-inch slice lengthwise this time cutting through all the way at the bottom. The result should be around a 4-inch long pac-man shape. Repeat the same technique with the remaining eggplant. Each eggplant half should make about 2-3 shapes depending on the size of your eggplant. Place the shaped eggplant pieces in a large dish and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt. Let sit for at least 20 minutes.

STEP 4

Make the filling: Place the onion and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse 4-5 times. Add the cilantro and parsley and pulse until coarsely chopped, about 10-15 more times. Take the mixture by the handful squeezing out as much liquid as you can, and place it in a large bowl. Add the meat, egg, Ras El Hanout, salt, and pepper. Knead the meat and herb mixture together with your hands until evenly combined. You want to be able to make a ball with the filling and have it hold together. If it’s too wet add some bread crumbs 1 tablespoon at a time until the consistency feels right. If the mixture seems too dry, add an additional egg. Set the mixture aside to rest.

STEP 5

Prepare your workstation for frying: Place the flour on a large plate (or on a plastic bag, like Nitza and her mom, gathering and throwing out the bag with the leftover flour when done). Place the water, egg, and tomato paste in a shallow bowl and whisk until well incorporated. Pour the oil into a large heavy-bottomed pan with high sides (a 5 qt. Dutch oven works well) until it reaches 1 ½-2 inches up the side of the pan. Heat the oil over medium-high heat while you stuff the vegetables. The ideal temperature range for frying is between 350-375°F which can be measured with candy or instant-read thermometer.

STEP 6

Stuff the eggplant: Rinse the eggplant pieces and dry them on a towel. Stuff each one with ~¼ cup of the meat mixture, as if the pac-man now has a meat smile. Make sure it is packed well and is flush with the edges of the eggplant. Repeat with the rest of the eggplant slices. Coat each stuffed eggplant with flour on all sides tapping off any excess and set aside.

STEP 7

Shape and stuff the potatoes: Drain, rinse, and dry the potatoes. Using the same technique as the eggplant, cut a ¼-inch slice lengthwise without cutting all the way through, leaving it attached by a ½-inch. Repeat the lengthwise ¼-inch slice, cutting through all the way to create a pac-man shape. Each potato should make ~3 mafrum shapes. Stuff with the meat mixture in the same way as the eggplant, dust with flour, and set aside until ready to fry.

STEP 8

When the oil is ready (you can check with a thermometer or by sprinkling some flour into the hot oil – if it bubbles and evaporates it’s hot enough), take one of the well-floured eggplant pieces and quickly dip it in the egg batter-making sure to coat evenly on all sides. Carefully slide into the oil (as low and close as you can get to the oil so that it doesn’t splash). Working quickly, repeat with the remaining eggplant pieces, being careful not to overcrowd. When the first side is browned, after about 2 minutes, flip and fry on the second side for another 3-5 minutes until golden brown on both sides. Use a slotted spoon or a spider and transfer to the pan where the sauce has been simmering. Repeat with the potatoes.

STEP 9

The saucepan should be crowded. Gently shake the pan from side to side, so that – like Nitza’s mom used to say – ”every mafrum finds its home”. Once all of the mafrum are in the pan, the liquid from the sauce should cover the mafrum halfway. If this is not the case add ½ -1 cup of water to the pan. Bring to a boil, then cover and cook at a low simmer for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Uncover and continue cooking for 30-45 minutes until the sauce thickens and most of the liquid has evaporated. A perfect mafrum is served with a very thick sauce, and may even be a bit scorched on the bottom.

STEP 10

Serve hot, either on a bed of couscous or with some bread.

7. Rishta (Libyan-Style Pasta)

In the North of Africa, Rishta or Rishda is a spaghetti-like dish with an exquisite flavor. In Libya, it is a popular pasta dish with thin noodles bathed in Busla – onion-rich sauce in this country.

Rishta in Libya is often known as Rishdat Cascas (Couscousiere Rishda) and Rishda Imbaukha (steamed Rishda). In Tripoli (the capital city of Libya), the dish is a heat and is loved among the local citizens.

A dish called ‘Makaruna Imbaukha’ (steamed pasta) can be misrecognized with Rishta. However, they are quite different because Makaruna Imbaukha uses a special pasta called ‘dry angel-hair pasta’.

INGREDIENTS

For the pasta:

  • 750 g white flour
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 tea spoon salt
  • 200 ml water enough to make a hard dough

Base sauce to cook meat:

  • 4-6 lamb meat pieces
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 3-4 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoons each of: black pepper, turmeric, red chili powder, ginger, cinnamon
  • 11/2 liter boiling water

Busla/Onion sauce:

  • 4-5 medium onion cut into thin wings
  • 2 cups chickpeas soaked over night
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 2 sticks cinnamon or 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Mix the flour with the egg and salt. Add water gradually till you get a hard dough.
  2. Knead the dough. On a clean surface sprinkle cornflour under and over the dough, and roll out.
  3. Cut into strips and put through a pasta machine repeatedly, first to thin out and the second time to produce thin noodles similar to angel hair pasta.
  4. Put onions, spices, tomato paste, and oil at the bottom part of the couscousiere.
  5. Stir and add the meat till the meat is cooked.
  6. Cook the chickpeas. Slice the onions into rings and add to the sauce.
  7. Place the rishda in the couscous are and cook uncovered for around 15 minutes. Take down the couscous are and pour the rishda into a bowl to fluff or separate the noodles to make sure they are not clumping. Put the rishda back in the couscous are and cook again till fully cooked around 20 minutes.
  8. Add potatoes and pumpkin to the sauce at the bottom part of the couscous here.
  9. Take off the rishda, and pour into a wide bowl if communal or separate plates. Pour the sauce over the noodles/pasta, and then add the meat and potatoes and pumpkin.

8. Mbakbka (Libyan One-Pot Pasta Dish)

Mbakbka is a North African specialty that is influenced by Italian cuisine. In Libya, people usually make the dish in just one pot, so convenient, right? In the early to mid-20th century, pasta arrived in Libya, and this specialty was born.

Traditionally, the pasta is paired with tomatoes, spices, and chicken. Although sometimes, other types of meat are used for this dish too.

Harissa is often a top-chosen sauce to make this Mbakbka tastier. However, if you love a mild taste, you can adjust the number of piquant ingredients. The pasta is a perfect dish to treat your family on winter days.

Ingredients

  • 4 lb. chicken cut into 8 pieces
  • ½-1 lb. pasta cooked al dente and drained
  • 3 tablespoon canola oil or other flavorless oil
  • 1 yellow onion diced or sliced into half moons
  • 5 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 oz. tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoon corriander powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 pinch ground cloves
  • 1 pinch nutmeg
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 1 pinch ground cardamom
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 jalapeños sliced in half lengthwise

Instructions

  1. Bring 5 cups of water to boil in a kettle.
  2. Sautee the onion in 3 tablespoons of canola oil over medium-high heat until translucent.
  3. Add the chicken, season with all the spices including salt and pepper, and brown on all sides.
  4. Add 5 minced garlic cloves, 3 ounces of tomato paste, 3 jalapeños sliced lengthwise, and 5 cups of boiling water or hot broth/stock. The chicken should be covered, so add more if necessary.
  5. Raise the heat to high, bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for 25-40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
  6. Bring back to a boil and the cooked and drained pasta. Cook for 3 minutes and serve.

9. Haraimi (Spicy Fish Stew)

Yummy! Harraimi will change your perception of fish stew. This stew dish is a cuisine of Libyan Jews that was created back when Italians colonized Libya. The dish has a spicy tomato sauce that you can pair with bread, rice, or Couscous.

If you are afraid of the fishy smell, don’t be worried. Fragrant spices like onions, garlic, and pepper will eliminate the smell of the dish. The spicy flavor will complement the fish flavor, giving you the most sophisticated taste.

You can make this dish to warm your family table on freezing winter days.

INGREDIENTS

Fish Stew

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 thinly sliced onion
  • 3 large tomatoes pureed
  • 2 Jalapenos
  • 4 minced garlic
  • 1 medium cubbed potatoes ( optional)
  • salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon caraway powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 pounds Cod or halibut fish fillets ( cut them into 6 portions)

Fish Marinate

  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon salt

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a bowl, add the fish, lemon juice, cumin powder, salt and mix. Let the fish marinate for 10 – 15 minutes.
  2. In a medium pan on medium / low heat, add the olive oil and sliced onion. Cover the pan and allow the onions to cook for 4 minutes.
  3. Then add the spices ( caraway, cumin, cayenne and paprika powder) to the onions and stir. Add the jalapeños and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. In a separate bowl, add the tomato puree, tomato paste, minced garlic, spices and mix.
  5. Add the tomato mixture into the pan and stir. Let the mixture to come to a very light simmer and then add the hot water and then add the potatoes. Cover the pan and let the potatoes cook ( 10 minutes depends on how large you cut the potatoes)
  6. Once the potatoes have cooked through, place the fish fillet one at a time and cover the pan and allow the fish to cook. This will take anywhere between 8-12 minutes. Again it depends on how large and thick your fillet is.
  7. Once the fish has cooked and is firm to the touch, remove the pan from the heat and serve the fish stew with a side of bread and enjoy!

10. Tajine Or Tagine (Slow-Cooked Stews)

In Libya and other North African nations, there is a special stew recipe that is slow-cooked in a unique earthenware pot. Tajine originates from a Berber word ‘ṭajin’ means ‘shallow earthen pot’.

The pot is heated on burning charcoal with a small space separating the pot and the heat. So, the dish is slow-cooked until all the ingredients reach the perfection of texture and flavor.

Tajine is an antique dish that was popular in the 9th century. There are many ways to prepare Tajine, but the most famous way is written in Ibn al-Adim with sheep’s tail, lamb, and other spices.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg beef ribs
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups dried apricots
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp sized ginger paste
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 2 tsp chopped mint
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 300ml orange juice
  • 600ml beef stock
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • salt

Instructions

  1. In a container marinate beef in ginger, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, coriander, mint, black pepper, salt (according to your liking) and honey for at least 24 hrs.
  2. In a heavy pan, add oil and sauté onions and garlic then add beef.
  3. Once beef is evenly browned on all sides remove it from heat and set aside.
  4. On a sauce pan add the orange juice, beef stock and flour, mix evenly until free of lumps, heat in low heat until thick.
  5. Place beef and liquid on casserole, cover and bake for 2 hrs. on a preheated oven at 160C.
  6. Add apricots and mix together then bake for 30 more minutes.
  7. Remove from oven then serve with couscous or rice.
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About the Author: Jenny Kristy

Spice Seeker, Recipe Weaver, Nomad Chef |With a passport bursting with stamps and a pantry overflowing with global spices, Jenny Kristy isn't just a cook, she's a culinary nomad. Her travels fuel her passion, transforming exotic flavors into recipes that tantalize and transport. She weaves magic in her kitchen, sharing her adventures through meals that whisper of Marrakesh markets and Tuscan trattorias. From teaching sushi to whipping up Moroccan masterpieces, Jenny ignites wanderlust and connects cultures, one delicious bite at a time.

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