31 Popular African Foods To Try

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The continent of Africa is home to some of the most diverse recipes in the world. Each part of Africa offers its own unique flavors and ingredients that can tantalize even the most trying of taste buds.

With this in mind, we are going to be taking a look at some highly popular and extremely delicious African foods from across North, South, East, and West Africa. 

From Ghanaian dishes like Akara (stewed yam) to Nigerian delicacies such as Eba, these are some of the best and tastiest African food you will find anywhere! 

Let’s first take a general look at African cuisine. 

31 Popular African Foods To Try -

What Is African Cuisine?

African cuisine has evolved over time through the influence of many cultures. It has been influenced by the countries it has passed through, which include Egypt, Spain, Portugal, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Turkey, India, China, and Japan.

The main staples of traditional African diets were grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. These foods have remained integral parts of the diet throughout history.

However, there was also an abundance of meat including beef, goat, chicken, lamb, fish, pork, and game. This combination of protein-rich and carbohydrate-heavy meals made up the bulk of the diet.

As the years went on, the introduction of new spices and ingredients began to change the flavor profile of the diet.

In addition to the usual suspects such as garlic, ginger, and turmeric, other exotic ingredients were added to the mix in African cuisine, including cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, saffron, cumin, coriander, cloves, pepper, paprika, and more.

These additions helped create a more complex flavor profile that became very popular with consumers.

Today, African cuisine still includes a wide variety of staple foods, but has become much more varied than it used to be due to the influx of foreign influences.

There are now many different types of cuisines within the African continent, each with its own distinct characteristics.

For example, Ethiopian cuisine is known for being rich in spice and having a heavy emphasis on lentils, while Nigerian cuisine tends to favor seafood and rice.

As mentioned above, this article will focus on some of the most popular and delicious African foods. We will start off with a look at some of the classic dishes from each region of Africa. Let’s get started!

North African Cuisine

1. Harira

Harira

This soup has a long history in Morocco and is considered by many Moroccans to be the perfect dish to cure what ails you.

It is known for its fragrance and zest, with a tomato base that tends to be seasoned with a wide range of herbs and spices including pepper, ginger, and even cinnamon.

Chickpeas are another important ingredient that gives it a healthy amount of body and helps to balance out the zesty flavor.

2. Ful Medames

Ful-Medames

This vegetable dish is made from a combination of onions and fava beans, alongside some rich and fragrant spices. A lot of people tend to confuse ful medames with hummus, but they are two very different things.

Ful medames is much more savory than hummus and is often served on its own or alongside other Egyptian dishes.

3. Tajine

Tajine

Tajines are stews that originated in North Africa and have been around since ancient times. They are usually slow-cooked over low heat and contain a variety of vegetables, meat, and seafood.

There are many regional variations of tajines throughout North Africa, such as Moroccan Tajine de Poulet, Algerian Tagine d’Agneau, Tunisian Tajine D’Aubergines et Fenouil and Libyan Brik Tagine.

4. Matbucha

Matbucha

Matbutcha is a traditional North African dip that is made primarily from tomatoes and peppers as well as paprika, garlic, and olive oil. As well as being a great accompanying dip, Matbutcha is also an excellent starter meal.

However, it does tend to be incredibly spicy, so make sure to adjust the spice level to your own tastes accordingly.

5. Shakshuka

Shakshuka

Shakshuka is a traditional Tunisian breakfast dish that consists of eggs poached in a spicy sauce made up of peppers, onions, tomatoes, and various spices.

Although it may seem simple, shakshuka is actually quite complex and takes time to prepare properly. 

6. Couscous

Couscous

One of the most well-known dishes of North Africa, couscous is made from semolina flour that is steamed until soft before being mixed with water and then allowed to dry.

Once dried, it is ready to eat and can be used as a main course or accompaniment.

7. M’hanncha

Mhanncha

This delicious Moroccan dessert is also known as a “snake cake” due to its design, made from coiled filo pastry in a whirl shape.

The pastry is filled with almond paste and then flavored with a bit of pistachio and orange flower water. Once cooked, an M’hanncha can be made complete with a sprinkling of cinnamon.

South African Cuisine

8. Malva Pudding

Also known as Malva kaross, this is one of the most popular desserts in South Africa. It is typically eaten during the winter months, although it’s not uncommon to see it all year round.

Malva puddings are traditionally made with a thick custard-like mixture that is baked inside a flaky pastry case.

9. Biltong

One of the most popular snacks to come out of South Africa, biltong is a type of jerky made from cured beef. It is typically prepared using coarse salt and spices, which gives it a unique texture.

Today, there are many types of biltong available depending on the region of origin. Some popular varieties of biltong include Limpopo biltong, Bushbuckers biltong, and Karoo biltong.

10. Milktart

Milk tart is another classic South African dessert that has become extremely popular when it comes to sweet treats.

Typically, milk tarts are very similar to pies and are made up of a sweet, pastry crust and a cream filling that is made up of eggs, flour, milk, and sugar.

11. Chakalaka

Chakalaka

Chakalaka is a spicy vegetable relish that is commonly associated with South African cuisine.

It is typically served as an accompaniment to other foods such as meat, bread, and stews and is often seasoned with hot pepper flakes, ground coriander, curry powder, turmeric, and other spices.

12. Bobotie

Another famous South African food, bobotie is a simple dish made up of curried meat that is topped with a milk and egg mixture before being baked. Bobotie is a great dish if you are looking for something simple and easy to make that is still delicious!

13. Boerewors

Boerewors is a spicy sausage with a unique flavor that originated in South Africa. These sausages are typically made with beef and a combination of various spices and seasonings.

14. Pap

Pap refers to either cornmeal oatmeal or polenta that is cooked in boiling water. Pap is traditionally eaten with a variety of different meats and vegetables, since it helps cleanse your palate and aids in digestion.

15. Cape Malay Curry

A traditional Cape Malay dish, curry is usually made by frying onions in oil, adding spices and herbs, and finally adding stewing meat like chicken or lamb.

This aromatic curry is a must-try when it comes to South African dishes and African foods in general.

East African Cuisine

16. Sambusas

Sambusa is a savory snack that is typically prepared throughout East Africa and India. Similar to Indian samosa, sambusas are a deep-fried pastry stuffed with vegetables- such as lentils-, spices, and minced beef.

The savory yet small nature of the Sambusa makes for a perfect appetizer or snack.

17. Mandazi

Mandazi is an African donut that is typically cut into triangle shapes and made from lightly sweetened fried dough. These pastries are hollow on the inside but crispy on the outside, making for a wonderful treat.

18. Injera

Injera

Injera is a type of Ethiopian flatbread that is used as both a utensil and a plate, as well as a food item in its own right! Injera is often used to scoop up soups, sauces, salads, and even desserts.

What is unique about Injera is that it is made from teff flour, which is the world’s smallest grain. This offers a unique texture and flavor that makes the Injera

19. Matoke Curry

This Ugandan Curry is one of the most well-known East African cuisines today. Matoke is a variety of plantain that is indigenous to southwest Uganda, as well as some areas of Burundi and Rwanda.

As is to be expected, this curry- otherwise known as a spicy green banana mash- is loaded with a wide range of spices and offers a tangy, spicy and buttery flavor.

20. Ugali

Ugali is a type of cornmeal oatmeal that is made simply with cornmeal and water. This creates a stiff, maize flour porridge- with a dough-like consistency- that is very much a staple in East African diets, frequently being used as an accompaniment for means such as curries and stews. 

21. Tilapia

Tilapia is an excellent choice when it comes to an East African fish dish.

Often served in a casserole, tilapia is a kind of fish that can be cooked in various ways, commonly being coated in a creamy sauce that contains turmeric, ginger, garlic, and other spices. It can then be baked until golden brown and flaky.

22. Kitfo

Kitfo is another popular East African meat dish that originated in Kenya. Essentially, kitfo is much like a hamburger made of minced and raw lean beef with niter kibbeh – a herby clarified butter – and a classic Ethiopian spice called mitmita.

Kitfo is considered to be a delicacy of sorts and is known for its tenderness and luxurious texture.

West African Cuisine

23. Waakye

Waakye is a well-known Ghanaian breakfast meal made up of rice and beans along with spaghetti, stew, and ground cassava, also known as moist gari.

The rules aren’t too strict for Waakye though, as you can choose your own protein to accompany it such as boiled eggs, fish, or meat.

24. Jollof Rice

Jollof Rice is a delicious West African dish that originated in Senegal. The name jollof means “to boil” in Wolof, so jollof rice is basically a simple rice dish that is simmered over low heat.

Traditionally, Jollof Rice is made with long grain rice and combined with various spices, tomatoes, onions, and peppers as well as meats and vegetables.

25. Fufu

Fufu is a traditional West African food that is usually made out of mashed yams. However, fufu can also refer to any type of starch-based product including cassava, potatoes, plantains, etc.

Fufu has become increasingly popular around the world due to its versatility and health benefits because of its high fiber content.

26. Cachupa

Cachupa is a West African stew that is traditionally made from a combination of sweet potatoes, cassava, slow-cooked ground corn- also called hominy- and a choice of seasoned meat or fish. This is a super versatile dish that can be eaten hot or cold and can easily be customized to suit one’s personal taste.

27. Thieboudienne

Thieboudienne

This rice and fish dish originated in Senegal in West Africa and is made with smoked fish, layers of vegetables, and tomato sauce. The stew is then flavored with a spice known as Netetou, carrots, cassava, cabbage, peanut oil, and spiced onions.

The dish has a striking similarity to the dish known as Savannah Red Rice, which comes from the deep south in the United States.

Because of this, it is thought that the dish traveled to America and was subsequently adapted to the tastes of the Creole people.

28. Egusi Soup

Egusi soup is a thick, spicy soup that originated in Nigeria. It is made by blending dried and grounded egusi (seeds of the melon family) into a paste before adding stock and seasoning.

After cooking, the paste is strained and added back to the soup base where it creates a rich, tangy flavor. The soup is made complete with a mixture of fish or meat along with leafy veggies.

It is also relatively popular to eat the soup with pounded yams. This is another staple in East African cuisine, especially in Nigeria amongst the Ibo people.

29. Efo Riro

Efo Riro is a Yoruba dish that originates from the city of Lagos in southwestern Nigeria. It is a one-pot stew that contains a great deal of stewed spinach (which isn’t much of a surprise, as Efo Riro loosely translates to “stirred spinach” in Yoruba).

The stew is known for its variety of ingredients and flavors, resulting in an aromatic and delicious dish. Some of the ingredients that can be used alongside spinach include tomatoes, peppers, okra, onion, garlic, ginger, palm oil, and other spices.

30. Yassa

Yassa is a dish from Senegal that typically contains cabbage, onions, peppers, and garlic and is finished off with lemon marinated chicken and more onions!

This dish is typically served with rice and makes for a delicious, savory meal with an aromatic, zesty flavor thanks to the addition of lemon chicken. 

31. Puff Puff

Puff Puff is a Nigerian drop donut dessert that is also referred to as Bofrot in Ghana. These donuts are the definition of simplicity and can easily be whipped up in around 15 minutes.

They consist of yeast dough that is fried until golden brown and filled with coconut cream. The dough can then be left plain or paired with anything from jam to cream to powdered sugar.

The Puff Puff is a highly popular African dessert treat that is incredibly versatile, served as street food, as a snack, or as a dessert in its own right. 

Final Thoughts

So there you have 31 popular African foods from across the continent! African food is such a diverse culture and there are so many different foods that originate from all over the continent.

If you’re looking to add some new dishes to your culinary repertoire or try some foods from a different part of the world, these are just a few suggestions! 

If you are feeling brave enough, why not give one of these recipes a try? You may just find your new favorite food!

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