Mali Food and Drink

Though dishes vary from region to region along roughly tribal lines, Mali’s staple ingredients – all carbohydrate – include rice, millet and sorghum prepared in a variety of ways. Meals generally take the form of one of these carbohydrates served with a meat or fish sauce. Chicken and lamb are the most popular and readily-available meats.

Since the majority of Mali’s population is Muslim, most people tend to drink fruit juice rather than alcohol, and as a result there is a good range of fresh fruit juices as well as the fruits, including mango and banana, themselves.

Desserts are few and far between. In order to satisfy a sweet tooth you’ll need to turn to Malian tea, or one of the patisseries in the capital.


Capitaine sangha: Nile perch served with hot chilli sauce, whole fried bananas and rice.
Djablani: Juice made from hibiscus, ginger, or the fruit of the baobab tree.
Gumbo: Thick green musty-flavoured sauce made from okra pods.
Tigadéguéna: Meat served in a peanut sauce.
Pouletyassa: Fried chicken in a chilli sauce.
Alabadja: Traditional Tuareg recipe that mixes white rice and minced meat in a butter sauce.
Chouo and Touru: Stewed beans, and fried onions, respectively. Though separate dishes they are almost always served together, frequently with spaghetti.
Saga saga: Leaf vegetable sauce flavoured with onion and spicy stock.
Fakoye: Lamb with herbs, a speciality of the Songhay region.
: Solid starch made from pounded millet used as a vessel for a number of sauces.
Juices: Tamarind and guava are particularly delicious.
Tea: Drunk in three stages; the first is very strong ('as bitter as death'); the second is slightly sweetened ('just like life'); the third is well sugared ('as sweet as love'). A fourth means you’ve overstayed your welcome.


A 10% tip is customary in restaurants and bars.

Drinking age

Mali has no known minimum drinking age.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.