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West African Food

Slofoodgroup Team noviembre 09, 2023

Getting to Know West African Cuisine

West African cuisine is diverse and flavorful, with bold flavors, hearty dishes, and use of many wholesome, fresh ingredients. Some of the most popular West African dishes include jollof rice (a spiced rice cooked in tomato broth), maafe (peanut stew), fufu (dough made from root vegetables and plantains), egusi soup (egusi is a seed that both thickens and flavors this soup), ogbono soup (wild mango seed flavored soup), suya (meat skewers), and couscous.

West African food is also known for the many layers of flavor included in single dishes, with several potent ingredients paving the way. Some of the most common ingredients include chile peppers, ginger, garlic, cumin, coriander, paprika, ground nuts, tomatoes, yams, cassava, plantains, rice, okra, and palm oil.

While West African food may seem exotic to some, it is becoming increasingly accessible across the globe. Many West African ingredients are easily found in mainstream grocery stores, and there are a number of African restaurants in major cities. 

Even if you aren’t in a major city, though, West African food can be accessible to you. Most of the dishes heavily lean on starchy vegetables, meats, and other easy-to-find ingredients, but if there is something you aren’t able to source, just replace it with something else. Here are some tips:

  • Use more common ingredients, such as olive oil or vegetable oil instead of palm oil, and pre-made fufu flour or straight cassava flour instead of pounding cassava and plantains.
  • Start with simple recipes, such as jollof rice or maafe.
  • Don't be afraid to experiment with different flavors and ingredients.

With a little effort, you can easily enjoy the delicious flavors of West African food at home. To get you started, we’ve put our spin on a couple West African favorites—maafe and fufu—and provided the recipes here. 

How to Make FuFu with Plantain and Cassava Flour

Making fufu is simple and, actually, quite therapeutic. In it’s simplest form, only cassava (also known as yucca) and water are needed, but oftentimes plantains or sweet potatoes will be added for added flavor. For ours, we used cassava flour to make preparing the dough even easier. We also used a blender instead of mashing our plantain by hand.

To make 4 servings of fufu, start by boiling water. To a bowl, add about 2 cups cassava flour and 1 puréed plantain. If desired, you can also add a pinch of salt at this time. Mix together. Pour about 4 cups boiling water to the bowl, stirring into the flour mixture. Once it is thoroughly combined and forms a sticky dough, start pounding and kneading the dough with your hands until it feels like the consistency of pasta dough and can be rolled smooth with your hands. If desired, knead in a bit of oil to help with the smooth consistency. If, at any time during kneading, you feel that the dough is either too wet or too dry, feel free to add a bit more water or cassava flour.

Divide the dough into 4 equal parts and roll each into a ball with your hands. Slightly flatten them to form a somewhat bulbous disk. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap until it is time to serve.

How to Make Maafe (Peanut Stew) 


  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil (palm oil is a popular choice in West African cooking)
  • 1 16 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 large onion, chopped and divided
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 large potatoes, chopped
  • 1 ½ cup chopped cabbage
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • ¾ cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper, fresh ground
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 3 cups broth
  • 1 tablespoon of ginger powder
  • 1 ½ pound beef, lamb, chicken, or whatever meat desired, chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • ½ teaspoon ground habañero powder (use pasilla powder for a milder version)


    1. Blend together the paprika, half of the onions, the garlic, ginger, and the tomatoes.
    2. Heat a pot with oil over high-heat, sprinkle salt and pepper on the meat, and sear the meat on each side to form a slight crust. Remove meat from pan and set aside.
    3. Add the remaining onions to the pan and turn the heat down to low. Cook until they are slightly caramelized. Turn heat up and cook for 2 more minutes.
    4. Add the tomato mixture and stir to pull up the fond from the bottom of the pot.
    5. Stir in the broth, meat, and vegetables, place a lid on the pot and bring the heat down to simmer. Cook for approximately 35 minutes.
    6. Add the peanut butter and pepper powder into the stew and stir to melt and thoroughly mix it in.
    7. Add additional salt and pepper to taste and serve topped with fresh chopped cilantro. Serve alongside fufu for dipping/scooping.