Food around Africa: Guide, Facts & Recipes

I. Introduction:

The African cuisine is both diverse and surprising, mostly consisting of what the area was providing. So fruits, cereals, vegetables, milk and meat, both from farming and hunting, are a part of this cuisine. The flavors may differ from one region to another in Africa, some even having strong influences from the colonies that settled there in time. But one thing is for sure, the African cuisine will always surprise us through its uniqueness and simplicity.

II. List of African Cuisines:

1. Central African cuisine

The plantains and cassava are the stars of this cuisine. Starchy foods, an example would be fufu, are commonly served with grilled meat and various accompanying sauces. Greens and vegetables stews are famous here as well. Concerning meat, chicken and beef are widely preferred, although crocodile, warthog, monkey, antelope and other game meats is served as well.

2. East African cuisine

Agriculture is a big part of East Africa, so corn and other cereals will be met here. Beans and manioc are other ingredients found in this cuisine, even millet in some areas. But spicy foods can also be found, together with coconut milk as the main ingredient. So dishes can vary from being utterly simple, like maize-meals and milk, to several course dinners, made out of staple foods serve with meat and various sauces.

3. Horn African cuisine

In the Horn of Africa, the most preferred dish is stew served with a type of flat bread, almost like pancakes, called “injera”, and vegetable paste. This bread can be made out of wheat, barley, corn, sorghum, any cereal that is available. Jewish cuisine is also present here, pork and shellfish being forbidden. Alcohol is also not served, the meat is not consumed from an animal that died on its own, and the foods are served from a large central dish.

4. North African cuisine

The cuisine in North Africa resembles in a certain degree the Mediterranean cuisine, as it has some countries around the Mediterranean Sea. Couscous is a very common staple food, served with vegetable and spices. Stews, dishes that are similar to quiche and sweet pastries can be found. The flavors range from hot to rich and simpler ones. Read more here!

5. Southern African cuisine

It is also called the “rainbow cuisine” because it is a mixture of so many different cultures, each of them leaving its imprint on the way food is prepared here. So the dishes are very diverse, various types of meat and seafood being served, together with vegetables and grains. Fresh fruits are also available and very much appreciated.

6. West African cuisine

The cuisine of West Africa is simpler but full of taste. Here, a meal usually consists of starchy foods, which are served with meats, herbs, and spices. Couscous, fufu, banku, and other staple foods are present in the area as well, being served alongside a stew or soup.

African Cuisine Food

III. List of Main African Cooking Ingredients

• Plantains – they are the starchy cousins of bananas, being slightly longer, with the aspect of a green banana. It is not sweet and cannot be consumed raw. It is cooked in various ways, being considered a local substitute for potatoes.

• Cassava – it is a large tuberous root, used as well as a replacer for potatoes. It is a staple food, and can be sweet or bitter, according to type.

• Couscous – it is similar to pasta, as it is made out of semolina, which is durum wheat flour. It has the role of bread, being a side dish, served with various stews.

• Fufu – a dense mash staple food made out of plantains, corn, or yams. It is used as bread, accompanying various dishes.

• Palm oil – it is a thick red oil, with a nutty flavor, used for giving color and taste to stews and soups.

• Biltong – it is something similar to jerky, made from various meats, such as beef or game, like the ostrich, cut in thin stripes, cured, and left to dry.

• Chickpeas – similar to beans and larger than typical peas, the chickpeas are slightly sweeter. They are used in vegetable stews.

• Coconut milk – it comes from grating the pulp of a coconut, having a rich coconut flavor, with rather sweet taste and oily, due to the high content of fats. It is used both for dessert and for preparing savory dishes.

IV. List of African spices and herbs

• Ginger – it is a root with a spicy hot and tangy taste, used for stews, soups or sauces.

• Curry powder – it is a spice with a very complex taste, being sweet and a bit spicy, very rich in flavors, due to the high ingredients composing the curry powder. It gives food a yellow color, being used in various stews and sauces.
• Chili – having a strong hot spicy flavor, the chili comes from grinding the chili pepper. Used both for spicing various foods or sauces.

• Egusi – it is a spice coming from melon seeds, having a particular melon seeds taste. It is used for preparing soups in Africa.

• Grains of Paradise – also known as Guinea pepper, it is a spice obtained from a plant coming from the ginger family. The seeds are grounded to obtain the grains of paradise, having a peppery flavor with subtle hints of citrus. It is used similarly with pepper, in various recipes.

• Dried shrimp – it is very small shrimp that is sundried. The flavor is released through simmering, this spice being used in recipes with vegetables.


V. Most Popular African Dishes


1. Jollof Rice – Nigeria comes with this dish, loved very much in the entire West Africa. Rice, onions, tomatoes and peppers, compose the dish. It is served in various ways, like together with fried plantains, fufu, or egusi soup.

2. Piri Piri Chicken – another spicy dish that comes from Mozambique, containing spicy hot chicken served with matapa and cassava leaves, cooked in peanut sauce.

3. Bunny Chow – a well-known dish made out of a quarter loaf of bread, which has its middle half scooped out and filled with very hot curry. It can be found as street food all over South Africa, being very much appreciated.

4. Egusi Soup – a famous type of soup, particular to Nigeria, made out of melon seeds, called egusi. It is a thick soup, made with various spices and herbs, and served with fufu.

5. Cape Breyani – found in South Africa, specific to Cape Malay, it is a very perfumed dish. It contains rice, lentils and marinated meat, and spices. It may be served with fried onions and boiled eggs.

6. Nyama na irio – coming from Kenya, this is a comfort dish. Made with mash potatoes, peas, beans, and onions, all served with spicy pieces of roast.

7. Koshari – found in Egypt, this dish is something everybody eats at home. It contains rice, lentils, chickpeas, macaroni, and garlic, topped with a hot tomato sauce and fried onions.

8. Potjiekos and Stew – this is a pot food of South Africa, made out of chicken or mutton, served with vegetables, beans, dumplings or baked bread. The recipe can vary according to preferences.

9. Peppered snails – appreciated dish in Nigeria, it is usually served at parties. Still, do be careful about the pepper, as it tends to be abundant in this dish.

10. Achu and Yellow Soup – Achu is made out of mashed cocoyams in Cameroon, also known as Fufu is other areas. It is mainly served with soup, such as yellow soup or green soup.

VI. Most Popular African Desserts

1. Milk tart – a beautiful soft dessert, made with milk, eggs, butter, sugar, and flour, as main ingredients. The particular taste is given by the almost and vanilla extract, plus the cinnamon.

2. Sweet rice – this dessert is made with coconut milk, white rice, and cinnamon. It is a delicious and healthy dessert.

3. Malva pudding – a tasty buttery cake, made with eggs, milk, butter, sugar and improved with apricot jam and Amarula, a type cream liquor specific to South Africa.

4. Coconut ice – a type of simple iced dessert, made with condensed milk, desiccated coconut, cream of tartar and icing sugar. Extremely refreshing and tasty.

5. Guava ice cream – made out of guavas, this dessert particularly found in South Africa, is perfect for the hot African days. Cream or simple yogurt, lemon juice, lemon zest and cinnamon, make the dessert refreshing and flavored as well.

6. Crunchies – a highly appreciated dessert, made with oats, shredded dried coconut, butter, sugar, cinnamon, honey or golden syrup, low-fat milk, and flour. Chocolate chips are occasionally added.

7. Peppermint Crisp fridge tart – a fast and refreshing dessert, perfect each time you wish to enjoy something sweet and light. All you need is tennis biscuits, chilled whipping cream, caramel and chocolate with peppermint crisps.

8. Koeksisters – a dessert that consists of dough softened by a lot of syrup, perfect for a cup of tea. The dough is made in a classical manner, the syrup making the difference here. Flavored with ginger, lemon and cream of tartar, it makes an exquisite treat.

9. Lemon meringue pie – it is a fast and soft dessert, made out of tennis biscuits, butter, condensed milk, lemon juice and zest, sugar, and vanilla essence.

10. Mocha Fly African cake – it is a beautifully layered cake that looks like the print of a zebra. Vanilla essence, butter, and chocolate give the specific flavor of this cake.

VII. African Cooking Utensils, Cookware, Serve Ware & Cooking Stove

Africans use a variety of utensils when cooking. Among these utensils, there is the cooking pot, made out of metal, ceramic or other materials, used for preparing stews or soups. The mortar and pestle are also used, for pounding various cereals.

Mingling sticks are also found in African kitchens, a family having quite a collection, used for stirring the food. To your surprise, the Africans use fruit as a container. The gourd is a climbing plant, which makes round fruits, which are almost like wood when mature.

The interior is taken out and washed, then used as a container for food. Just like in any other kitchen, knives are present here as well, because they are needed for preparing food. Sieves are also used, being made either out of plastic or metal. Any of these cooking utensils are usually offered as a gift to a bride, at the wedding.



Are you from Africa? Maybe you visited there? Please feel free to comment and add your own thoughts on African ethnic food.

Lulu Jelani


6 Most Popular African Dishes