This week our culinary adventure is taking us to West Africa. West Africa includes everything from the coast of Guinea (Mauritania) to Niger and everything between Mali and Ghana. This part of Africa is rich in root vegetables and exotic spices, which makes it a great place to explore new cuisine. Check out some of my favorite West African food and let me know which is your favorite!
Authentic Recipes For West African Food That Are Delish!
West African Recipe 01: Cassava Fritters
This recipe is great for beginners. It’s quick to pull together, has really versatile flavor, and is meatless and gluten-free! These can be served as an appetizer with a tomato-based salsa or as a side dish. Cassava is a pretty tough root veg, so make sure that you have a good knife and grater at your disposal. I’d also suggest having a good fryer to make whipping up large batches of these a sinch!
- 1 medium/large cassava (yuca)
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 3 tbsp. chickpea flour
- salt and pepper, to taste
- chili flakes, to taste
- sunflower or vegetable oil, for frying
- Start by cutting off the ends of the cassava, you can throw these away. Then cut the remainder crosswise into lengths that are about 15cm long so that you have large cylinder pieces. Next, you should peel the cassava using a sharp knife or potato peeler. The skin is pretty tough, so don't be afraid to put some effort behind it.
- When the skin is removed, it's time to cut away the outside pieces so that you can throw away the fibrous center of the vegetable. When you've prepared the cassava appropriately, it's time to grate it into a large bowl and toss in the remaining ingredients. Mix using a wooden spoon until you have a rough batter/dough.
- Take some of the dough and form a fritter that is about 6cm in diameter. Set aside and continue forming fritters until you've used up all of your dough. While you're making the fritters, heat the oil in a fryer or pan over medium heat. When the oil is to temperature, begin frying the fritters 2-3 at a time for about 5-7 minutes on each side. You want them to be golden brown and crispy.
- Last, remove from the fryer and allow to cool on a plate with paper towels. Serve with tomato salsa, sour cream, or other toppings of choice and enjoy!
West African Recipe 02: Groundnut Soup
This soup is a pretty traditional Ghanian recipe. You can adjust the creaminess/heaviness of the soup by adding more or less peanut butter. If you’re a fan of slightly sweet main dishes, then this is definitely a great go-to! Grab some beautiful soup bowls here to serve your Groundnut Soup.
- 1 large onion
- 3 large tomatoes
- 1.5 lbs chicken Thighs or breasts
- 12 okra trimmed
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper or kpakpo shito
- 1 small piece ginger
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 rosemary sprig
- 1 box chicken stock (1.75L)
- 4 tbsp peanut butter
- water (as needed to thin peanut butter)
- Start by peeling the skin off the onion and trimming the ends. Then place the whole onion (unchopped), pepper, tomatoes, and chicken pieces into a stockpot and cover with chicken broth, ginger, rosemary, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. When the veggies are tender, remove from the stockpot and either place them in a food processor to puree or use an immersion blender. Return the veggies to the pot, reduce to a simmer so that the chicken will continue cooking.
- To make the peanut butter sauce, begin by putting the peanut butter in a saucepan and adding a little water to thin it out. Cook the peanut butter, stirring constantly, over low heat as it can burn pretty easily. Add more water until you have a thin sauce that has a uniform texture. Allow the mixture to come to a soft boil before reducing the heat and simmer for a few minutes. You want to see the oil rise to the surface of the sauce before moving on to the next step.
- When the peanut sauce is done (the oil has risen to the top), then stir it into the chicken and veggie soup. Allow this mixture to simmer for about twenty minutes. You'll know it's done when the peanut oil rises to the surface again. Adjust the seasoning to your preferences. Serve with a carbohydrate of your choice: boiled potatoes, sliced yams, or cassava patties.
West African Recipe 03: Jollof Rice
This dish is considered a West African staple. It can almost be the main dish on its own due to its hearty makeup. You can also serve it as a side dish and omit the chicken if you’d like. Almost every West African country has its own twist on this dish, so you’ll find lots of variations.
- 2 c. rice
- ¼ c. olive oil
- ⅓ tbsp. butter
- 1 tsp. thyme
- ¼ tsp. curry powder
- 1 onion sliced
- 1 celery stalk diced
- 1 green pepper seeded and diced
- 2-3 garlic cloves
- 1 c. diced chicken breast
- ½ inch ginger peeled and grated
- 1 tbsp. ground paprika
- 2 tbsp. cayenne
- 3 tbsp. tomato paste
- 2 large tomatoes finely chopped
- 1 carrot cubed
- 1 cube chicken bullion
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 c. chicken stock
- 2 c. water
- ½ c. portabello mushroom chopped
- 1 c. peas
- ¼ c. cilantro
- Start by heating up the oil and butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. When the butter starts to melt, add the chicken, paprika, cayenne, onion, celery, green pepper, garlic, and ginger and saute for about 3-4 minutes. Next, toss in the carrots with a pinch of salt and saute for a minute or two before adding the tomatoes, paste, curry, bay leaf, and thyme.
- Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes soften (about three minutes). Then add in the peas and rice and saute for a few more minutes before adding in the stock, bouillon, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for about 30 minutes. When the rice is cooked but still firm, the dish is ready. Garnish with cilantro and serve!
West African Recipe 04: Puff Puff
This dish is a common street vendor recipe that can be found throughout West Africa. Puff puffs are served both as a side dish/dessert and for breakfast in most West African countries. Whether you choose to serve this for breakfast or dessert, you really can’t go wrong with puff puffs! They are slightly sweet and perfect for groups large and small.
- 2 c. water (warm)
- 2 ¼ tsp. active dry yeast
- 3 ½ c. flour
- ½-¾ c. sugar
- ½ Tbsp. salt
- Oil for frying
- Start by mixing the salt, sugar, water, and yeast together. Set aside and allow the yeast to activate for about 5 minutes. When the yeast is foamy, mix in the flour. Then, cover and allow to rise for about 1-2 hours until it has doubled in size.
- When the dough has had a chance to rise, heat at least 3-4 inches of oil in your saucepan or fryer. There isn't an exact temp for this, but to test and see if the oil is ready, drop a small ball of dough into the oil. It should rise to the top of the oil and start crisping. If the oil isn't hot enough, the dough will stay at the bottom. When the oil is ready, using a spoon, scoop a portion (a tablespoon or so) of dough. Then, using a second spoon, push the dough into the oil. This should create a ball-shape. Allow to cook for 2-3 minutes before making sure to flip it so that it can cook on the other side. When the dough is golden brown, remove from the fryer and allow to dry on a paper towel-lined plate. You can either shake some powdered sugar over the top or roll them in granulated sugar. Serve and enjoy!
And there you have it! Hopefully, this foray into West African cuisine leads you to find some new favorite dishes. Happy cooking!