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Traditional African Recipes

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In this Lesson you will Learn

  1. What are typical ingredients in African cuisine?
  2. What foods are native to Africa?
  3. What are traditional African dishes and recipes?


African cuisine encompasses traditional dishes prepared with ingredients native to the continent's different regions as well as dishes using ingredients introduced from Europe and other parts of the world as the result of Africa's colonization and trade networks. This mixing of ingredients is perhaps the one unifying factor among Africa's many regional cuisines, which are otherwise separate and distinct.1

Typical Ingredients

Africa's wet and dry seasons have a huge impact on which ingredients are available throughout which parts of the year. Putting this seasonality aside, typical native ingredients in African cuisine include its staple grains—African rice, sorghum, millet, and teff. Corn, though not native, is also a common grain.

Yams, cassava, plantains, peanuts, and spicy peppers (e.g. Scotch Bonnet peppers and "piri piri" or "pili pili" peppers) are other African staples that were introduced to Africa by other cultures.2 Fish is commonly eaten on the coasts, while meat is generally eaten in small quantities, particularly in West and Central Africa. Common meats include sheep, chicken, and goat, and in some regions also "bush meat", such as antelope, monkey, wild pig, and snake.2

Traditional African recipes may also incorporate greens, such as sorrel, spinach, mustard greens, and collard greens, as well as cabbage, carrots, eggplant, green beans, onions, okra, and black-eyed peas. Palm oil is a common cooking fat.

Typical African spices and herbs include baobab leaves, carob, ginger, lemongrass, and thyme. North African and East African cuisines use a variety of Eastern spices, such as saffron, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, and black pepper.3

Traditional African Recipes

Main Dish: Couscous (North Africa)
Main Dish: Lamb Tagine (North Africa)
Main Dish: Piri Piri Chicken (Southeast Africa)
Main Dish: Jollof Rice (West Africa)
Main Dish: Peanut Stew (West Africa)
Side Dish (often for stew): Fufu (West Africa)
Main Dish: Bunny chow (South Africa)
Main Dish: Bobotie (South Africa)

Recommended Read

The Soul of a New Cuisine

A Discovery of the Foods and Flavors of Africa contains 200 traditional or African-inspired recipes.

check it out »


  1. Stirring the Pot: A History of African Cuisine
  2. Food and Nutrition: Soup to yogurt
  3. International Cuisine


  1. Typical ingredients in African cooking (native to Africa): rice, sorghum, millet, teff, eggplant, okra, black-eyed peas, baobab leaves, carob, and palm oil, among others.
  2. Typical ingredients in African cooking (introduced by other cultures): corn, yams, cassava, plantains, peanuts, and spicy peppers.
  3. Traditional African recipes include couscous, tagine, piri piri chicken, jollof rice, peanut stew, fufu, bunny chow, and bobotie.
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