Meat plays quite an important role in the Moroccan diet. Nontheless you are also very likely fo find vegan options wherever you go. You might want to avoid the days around the Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, during which you get to see a lot of tied up animals lying on the streets… before they are slaughtered.
This guide is still under construction, so don’t expect it to be complete. I’m working on the pictures. Until then the foods and meals mentioned here are linked to external contents (taken from: http://www.about.com/food/). Here you can also find a glossary for Moroccan food provided by about food (which I don’t work for by the way, I just found it randomly on the internet).
If you are missing some information you were expecting to find here, feel free to leave a comment.
Especially near touristic places you can often find at least vegetarian options such as Tajines, Couscous and salads (make clear that you don’t want any mayonnaise in it … triple exclamation point!). Be aware that veganism (or rather vegetarianism) is probably considered being a weird western preference and not an ideological issue. Some meals are considered as vegan/ vegetarian even if they aren’t. Soups could have been prepared with meat broth, other meals might have contained meat at some point, and some people are convinced that fish and chicken are vegetarian.
Tajines and Couscous
If you order a vegetarian tajine or couscous you should know that it might have been cooked with meat. At least this is what you are told by a lot of tourists and blogs. I honestly don’t know if it is true. Apart from that couscous is very often prepared with butter and sometimes sweetened with honey. According to this web page the chickpea-carrot tajine you get to buy is vegan. So is the zucchini-carrot-potatoe one. In some restaurants, especially in non-touristic areas, you can also bring your own vegetables and have them tajined. Could be an option.
I once asked for extra oil for my Tajine and judging from the taste I was sure that there had been some goat cheese in it. It took me a while to find out that argan oil can taste like this. So if it tastes like goat, it might be just because of the argan oil.
Generally even a „vegetable soup“ might contain meat broth.
I had a long discussion with two hosts about the soup they prepared. They were absolutely convinced it was vegetarian although it was a typical Moroccan lamb soup („harira„) – and definitely tasted like it. There are different soups made of peas or beans that usually have vegetable oil in them such as Bessara or Serrouda. Same rule here: Sometimes it might also be made with meat broth. I’ve also read that Bessara can be served with butter. According to my experience this shouldn’t happen too often.
Just read the ingredients and, just to play safe, ask if there is mayonnaise in the salad. You should be fine with a Moroccan salad made of cucumber, tomatoes and onions.
If you want to order juices, always ask for the version without milk. Even if your main drink will be water, especially in summer, you will also want to have some (more – a lot – addicted!!) of the ultra sugared Moroccan mint tea. It is vegan, but maybe not the healthiest choice…
Yeah uhm, bad news. Morocco has supertasty looking pastries, which as supernonvegan. As to vegan desserts, the offer is limited to seasonal fruits, oranges with cinnamon, and pasta covered with powdered sugar and cinnamon. If you don’t mind honey, you can try the sweet amlou dip mainly made of argan oil and almonds.
Markets and street food
Morocco is a paradise for self-caterer. You will find a lot of vegan food on the food markets („souks“). You can buy any kinds of nuts, fruits, vegetables, … . I would reccomend the olives. They are amazingly tasty and cheap. Sometimes you will see people selling something out of big pots. Could be snails, but could also be chickpeas and beans. Try the latter! With cumin! A good snack for just a few Dirham. You can also buy your own Tajine (the typical Moroccan clay pot) and cook your own meals if your hotel provides a stove.
Bread (and the like)
The plain and simple bread („khobz„) you can get on the markets, in kiosks and in almost every restaurant is usually vegan. There is supposed to be one with honey that looks like this. Whenever you see some sweetish greasy bread, it is probably made with butter, such as the semolina flatbread (which might also contain milk).
You will also find different kinds of pancakes, among which there are some vegan versions as well. The beghrir can be vegan, although I also found recipes that list milk and/ or eggs. The sweet dip that is often served with beghrir and other pancales is a mix of honey and butter. The msemen pancakes are vegan as sto their ingredients. They might be fried with butter though. Just ask for the oil instead.
Other tasty vegan things: Sfenj, Moroccan doughnuts fried in vegetable oil. Same rule for the dip as mentioned above!
From city to city
If you have enough of vegetarian Couscous and Tajines, visit the Djemaa El-Fna Square in Marrakech. Find an overwhelming variety of… food and orange juice stalls, yey! Almost every stand has exactly the same food: Grilled meat, grilled vegetables, olives, bread. It actually doesn’t really where you eat, so try to negotiate! You should ask for free bread, free sauce and free olives (why not also free tea?!), because otherwise they will charge you for all that even if you don’t order any of it. They slightly change this trick every now and then (give you olives instead of sauce ’n stuff). If they charge you for something you didn’t expect they would, just try and get it for free next time.
About the sauces: I cannot give you any guarantee because the selection of sauces served with bread varies. Anyway, if you get a spicy dark red one, it’s a „harissa“ and vegan! The sweet and light red tomato dip on the contrary contains honey.
The food stalls offer some grilled vegetables barbecued on the same grid as the meat and the fish. Alternatively just switch to Tajine or Couscous.
Especially in the center of Essaouira you might be surprised by often you get to read „Vegan“. Don’t get too euphoric, it just means something like „containing vegetables“. Here’s what I have experienced:
Guy working for the restaurant: „Can I help you?“
Me: „Yeah, I am just trying to find out which of your pizzas is vegan.“
Guy: „What do you mean?“
Me: „There’s written that you have vegan pizza, but all I can read is ‚chicken‘, ‚tuna‘ , …“
Guy: „Every pizza is vegan! With vegetables from Morocco!“
Alright, so yeah, I went inside and had a look at the menu again:
Me: „So why is there a vegetarian pizza if every pizza is supposed to be vegan? Could I have a vegan version of the vegetarian one?“
Me: „Yeah, a vegetarian one without cheese!“
Waiter: „Without cheese??“
Me: „Or do you have a proper vegan pizza? Without meat, fish, cheese, …?
Waiter (quite confused): „No…“
Here is a little résumé that prevents you from starving: Buy your own food on the markets: bread, sfenj, msemen (watch before buying: is it fried with butter or oil), olives, fruits, veggies and nuts. In the restaurants, vegetarian tajines and some salads are likely to be vegan (check the ingredients!). Couscous ist often made with butter. Even if you are ok with honey, you should know that the sweet dip you often get with your pancakes (msement and maybe also beghrir) ist made with butter. Moroccans are also open to special requests, so always feel free to ask.
Keen on what others write about travelling in Morocco? Here you can find some interesting blog post about vegetarian travelling. And here and here are two other inspiring blogs (vegan!) with lots of pictures.
Looked tasty though…
„Not being vegan“ isn’t necessarily synonymous with „not looking tasty“. This section will contain some recipes for vegan adaptions of preselected Moroccan dishes that normally do or might contain non-vegan ingredients. If you want to kill time till then, have a look at some competitors‘ blog.