Four Multicultural Influences That Make Tunisian Vegan Bakeries Exceptional

As a historical trade center, Tunisia has been welcoming different cultures with open arms and learning from them for millennia. 

Moorish, French, Italian (Sicilian), and Spanish (Andalusian) influences left the strongest mark on Tunisian culture. The meet and greet of different languages and their mutual impact left these cultures all stronger, richer, and more unique. 

These mutual influences that resulted from clashes of cultures in the past are visible in Tunisian architecture, art, language, and the way Tunisians prepare their food. 

The cuisine has always been one way Tunis writes love letters to different cultures that shaped it into everything modern Tunisia is today. 

As a vegan, you might not have had access to this deeply connecting and important part of the Tunisian culture. 

If you went to Tunis, you’d have to look long and hard to find a bakery that sells traditional Tunisian desserts and pastries that are vegan.  

The recognizable taste of Tunisian sweets and pastries derives from unique combinations of ingredients—such as almonds, hazelnuts, rosewater, dates, orange, lemon, and cloves. 

However, these ingredients are commonly combined with milk, eggs, and honey—and thus inaccessible to vegans.

To make sure you don’t miss out on delicious Tunisian desserts, here at Layla’s Delicacies we veganized a lot of desserts that bring delicious Tunisian culture to your home. 

While doing so, we honored the key ingredient that makes Tunisian cuisine special—the multicultural influences that shaped its culture. 

Our vegan recipes are a nod to different parts of the world, including:  

  • The Moors of Spain hidden in our dessert stuffing techniques
  • The Berbers of North Africa from which we got the use of almonds
  • The Middle East that inspired us to use pistachio 
  • The Italian way of dessert making  

How did that happen exactly, and which of our unique blends of multicultural tastes will create something entirely new for you to experience and bring the Tunisian spirit straight to your home? 

Table of Contents

#1 Migration of Moors of Spain That Changed Tunisia

#2 Berbers of North Africa Brought Almonds

Almonds as Main Ingredient in Limited Edition Vegan Box

#3 Middle East Introducing Pistachio

Samsa Sweets That Salute the Middle East

#4 When in Tunis, Do as Tunisians Do

Tunisian Dessert in Which Italian Roots Are Showing

Our Take on Vegan Tunisian Sweets

1 Migration of the Moors of Spain That Changed Tunisia  

Moors from Northern Africa invaded Spain in 711 AD. Nowadays, their impact is still perceptible in modern Andalusian (Spanish) culture, language, and food preparation.

Cooking from the Andalusian part of Spain, as it’s recognized nowadays, owes a lot to the Moors introducing:

  • Irrigation—which allowed them to grow staples of modern Spanish cuisine such as saffron and rice 
  • Zesty new ingredients such as lemons and oranges
  • The almonds you’ll find in most modern Andalusian desserts

This influence went both ways. Spain changed the Moors as well by creating generations that are today known as the Moors of Spain.

Generations of moors that inhabited Spain developed a recognizable identity of their own—a way of living and being distinctly influenced by Spain.

Moors of Spain Returning to Tunisia

Fast forward to 1609, the last of the Moors from Spain started heavily migrating due to religious persecution and found their home by returning to their ancestral roots of North Africa—specifically Tunisia.

Why Tunisia, exactly?

Most Moors that were exiled from Spain in that period were heavily skilled but uneducated farmers. They were invited to Tunis and settled in the most fertile part of the country where they used their advanced agricultural techniques and contributed to the prosperity of Tunis.  

In these regions, the customs of the Moors of Spain didn’t blend in with existing Tunisian culture. Instead, they built villages that were distinctly Arabic-Andalusian.

Those villages still surround Tunis, and communities hold onto their identity that had a major impact on Tunis becoming the prosperous land that it is today.

If you walk through this area today, you can recognize those communities by the colorful tiles, intricate patterns decorating their houses, and blooming gardens typical for Andalusia.

Tunisian Dessert That Captures the Andalusian Spirit

Modern Andalusian sweets and desserts are rich in almonds that Moors introduced into their diet. The Moors of Spain picked up a couple of culinary tricks from Andalusians as well. One of them is their dessert stuffing technique.

Our popular Vegan Gift Box of Tunisian sweets contains a treat filled with soft and delicate hazelnut and almond mixture.

gift box of vegan Tunisian pastries and sweets

One of our treats is wrapped in a way that resembles Holy Bones/Huesos del Santo (AKA: bones of a saint)—a typical dessert for Spain served on All Saints' Day. 

Vegan sweets filled with a mixture of almonds and hazelnuts

Serving Tip: Serve with a warm cup of tea and share with loved ones. 

2 Berbers of North Africa Brought Almonds 

Berbers, indigenous inhabitants of North Africa, introduced almonds to Tunis—and ultimately our desserts.

While traveling with camel caravans and trading with big cities from which the goods such as almonds would be further distributed around the globe, Berbers spiced up North African cuisine with fresh new ingredients and herbs.

Berbers refer to themselves as Imazighen (meaning free) and many people still think of them as free-spirited nomads crossing the Sahara desert on camels. In reality, the majority of them nowadays are farmers settled in African mountains and valleys.

Besides mountainous parts of Tunisia, Berbers live in Morocco, Algeria, and Libya.

Almonds as Main Ingredient in Limited Edition Vegan Box

As a nod to Berber culture's contribution to Tunisian cuisine, you’ll find almonds in every single one of our desserts in the Vegan Limited Edition box.

We used almonds as: 

  • Coating for the soft fillings to get some crunch
  • A part of a soft mixture to create delicate sweets 
  • Crushed mixture coated with hazelnut 

Limited edition of vegan Tunisian Sweets

Serving Tip: Berbers have a strong sense of community within their tribes. Family comes first and they strongly believe that one is nothing without their community. Enjoy our delicious almond-packed treats with your tribe over a cup of coffee or mint tea.

3 Middle East Introducing Pistachio 

Pistachio is the star of the dish in many of our Tunisian dishes as a nod to Middle Eastern influence on Tunisian cuisine.

One of the goods that got into Tunisia via trading was pistachio—a plant that originated in the Middle East.

Considering that pistachio is a plant that thrives in a desert climate, it also became popular with farmers in Northern Africa.

Samsa Sweets That Salute Middle East 

Samsa treats are similar to Samosas that most likely originated in the Middle East—its exact origins are still up to debate. Our version has creamy hazelnut and almond mixture wrapped with a phyllo sheet and a crispy pistachio outer layer.

This is one of many dishes that are popular in Tunisia, but similar to traditional sweets in the Middle East. 

Vegan Samsa desserts coated in pistachio

Serving Tip: Samsa’s nutty flavor is complemented by mint tea. Serve it at family gatherings.

testimonial from Heather Harris

4 When in Tunis, Do as Tunisians Do

Colonization and migrations in the last century resulted in many Italians settling in Tunisia. During that time, Sicilian cooking has left a strong mark on Tunisian food preparation and vice versa.

Italians put a lot of love and care into their food preparation because cuisine is an important part of their culture, but as it is with most cultures—a powerful way of connecting with other people.

It’s no wonder Italians and Tunisians connected over the passion for the preparation of different delicacies.

Some ways Tunisians and Italians think alike and influence each other in the kitchen are obvious in the food they share. The table explores three of them.

Common Culinary Specialty How It Got on Tunisian Plates
  • Pizza is similarly prepared in both Italy and Tunisia—it's also a traditional food in both countries
  • Italians got tomato plants from America and after migrations to Africa, it found its way to Tunisia
  • Pasta is instantly associated with Italian cuisine nowadays, but it has its origins in Tunisia
  • Tunisia is one of the top three countries in the world when it comes to pasta consumption
  • Gelat (from the Italian word gelato) is popular street food in Tunisia
  • Tunisians accepted this artisanal ice cream from Italians and created unique flavors featuring rose/orange or pine seeds

Tunisian Dessert in Which Italian Roots Are Showing

Our soft almond mixture embraced with a crispy phyllo sheet is our spin on an Italian dessert called Ditti Di Mandorle.

The Italian version of almond fingers requires baking, and almonds are mostly in the crunchy coating. 

Vegan almond finger dessert coated in filo sheets

Serving Tip: Tunisians and Italians agree on how to prepare a proper cup of hot coffee. Make some espresso to enjoy with this almond pastry in the morning to start your day right.

Our Take on Vegan Tunisian Sweets

Our sweet desserts are an homage to different cultures that influenced Tunisian cuisine. They're culinary footprints that prove nations crossed paths. 

Desserts are also a testament to all the wonderful ways cuisine connects cultures and impacts people who are part of it—leaving them richer and never the same as they used to be when they first met them. 

Want to try out a vegan take on traditional Tunisian sweets packed with nutrients and multicultural history? 

Our handmade vegan Tunisian delicacies are one bite away.  

This is what our lovely customer says about our Vegan Gift Box

“The little delicacies are not only delicious but a work of art. They would definitely be a great addition to any dessert table for all holidays.”
— Jeanette Gold

Check out our store to discover the vegan sweets we have for you to enjoy with your friends and family in packages made and wrapped with love.

Pinterest pin 4 Multicultural influences

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