Tanzanian sambaro is a spicy carrot salad popular across much of North and East Africa that's guaranteed to add a kick to any meal.

What is it?

Few African staples add zing to a meal quite like Tanzania’s carrot sambaro, a dish in which the humble carrot swims in the flavors of the Indian Ocean spice trade.


In the 1960s, newly independent Tanzania's president Julius Nyerere made a virtue of agricultural self-sufficiency. Home-grown vegetables became a national obsession. Important for Tanzania’s export earnings are the spices grown on or imported into Zanzibar, a key spice hub in ancient times. Marry the two and you have carrot sambaro: a symbol of Tanzania’s culinary diversity.


250g (9oz) carrots, peeled and finely chopped
4 tbs oil
1–2 tsp mustard seeds
1⁄2 tsp turmeric
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or finely chopped
1⁄2–1 green chili, seeded and finely chopped
1 tbs salt
1 tsp caster sugar (optional) 2 tbs lemon or lime juice

How to cook

Step 1: Bring to the boil a large pot of water and add the carrots. Boil until the carrots are almost cooked, but still firm. Drain and set aside.
Step 2: In a heavy pan, heat the oil and mustard seeds, stirring so that the oil coats the seeds, then add the turmeric, garlic and chilli. Simmer gently for at least 1 minute.
Step 3: Stir the carrot into the spice mixture until the carrots are coated in the spices, then add the salt and sugar. Cover and allow to simmer gently for 5 minutes.
Step 4: Just as you’re about to serve, splash the lemon or lime juice over the carrots.
Top tip: This dish is pulled in two directions: one sweet, the other spicy. The latter’s influence will depend on which type of mustard seeds you have to hand – black mustard seeds are strongest, white mustard seeds are milder, while the in-between brown mustard seeds will give your dish a hint of Dijon mustard.

Person jumps from a cliff into the ocean at sunset
Tanzania always serves sambaro with laughter © Marisa Ferro / Lonely Planet

Tasting notes

Never have carrots tasted this good! There is an intensity of flavors, each of which is discernible above the whole. Savor the subtle and familiar bite of garlic, the sharper edge of chili and the aromatic pungency of mustard seeds. Then, to confound everything, you’ll be hit by an undercurrent of sugar, giving the dish a moreish quality that makes the next bite irresistible. Tanzanians love to share meals, so sambaro is invariably accompanied by much laughter and a cacophony of Swahili. Whether set against a backdrop of traffic noise in Dar es Salaam or the farmyard sounds of rural Tanzania, the effect is the same; one of everyone being welcome as hungry hands dip into the communal pot.

Other recipes in this series:
Chennai Chicken 65
Russian Bliny
Greek avgolemono

Have you recreated any of the dishes featured in this series so far? Share your pictures with us on Twitter and Instagram by tagging @lonelyplanet. For more great recipes, check out Lonely Planet’s book The World’s Best Spicy Food.

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