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25 African Foods You Need to Try

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Africa is a vast continent of vibrance, beauty, and splendor, and as these African foods show, there’s oodles of all of them in the various cuisines found throughout the motherland.

From the fire and spice of the north to the color and earthiness of the south, great food that speaks to the heart and sings to the soul is abundant in Africa, no matter what country you are visiting.

So let us take an epic journey like no other through this breathtaking land and discover Africa through 25 of its most beloved, popular, and iconic dishes.

African Foods You Need To Try

North African

1 – Mhadjeb (Algerian Crêpes/Flatbread)

Mhadjeb (algerian crepes) with sides on two plates on a tray on the table

Mhadjeb is a popular North African dish of Algerian origin. It’s a common street food, also known as Rhayefs Maamrins in Morocco.

This mouth-watering flatbread is made from a base of semolina and can be stuffed with tomatoes, shredded vegetables (optional), onion, oil, spices, and dried or minced meat, among many other fillings. It is a very popular choice for breakfast.

Mhadjeb can also be made with sugar, nuts, and spices, making a sweeter variation that’s perfect for dessert. When in north Africa, you must try this hearty, diverse, and flavorful street food.

Read more: Algerian Foods You Need to Try

2 – Shakshouka/Chakchouka/Tchouktchouka

Shakshouka in a pan on a table

Shakshouka, believed to originate from Tunisia, is popular across North Africa, as well as Israel and other parts of the Middle East.

It is a delicious vegetarian dish of poached eggs in a sauce of tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil, and spices such as cayenne pepper, paprika, and cumin.

This meal can be consumed at any time of day. Because of its popularity, shakshouka has many variations of the basic sauce, including additions such as yogurt, lamb mince, and fresh herbs. Whichever option you choose, you’re in for a truly flavorful experience.

Read more: Tunisian Foods You Need to Try

3 – Couscous

Couscous on a plate in the middle of a table with place settings around it

Couscous is a North African staple food, that is widely consumed in Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Mauritania, and other parts of the world.

It consists of small steamed durum wheat or semolina flour granules. Many people enjoy couscous because of its high mineral and vitamin content.

Couscous is traditionally prepared in North Africa with a special food steamer called a kiskas or ataseksut. In some regions, it is served with vegetables, such as carrots and potatoes, cooked in a hot, spicy, or mild stew, as well as some meat (lamb, chicken, beef, camel, or seafood).

4 – Ful Medames/Foul Mudammas

Ful Medames in a bowl on the table

Ful Medames is an Egyptian national dish that is also popular in other North African and Middle Eastern countries. It’s made with stewed fava beans that have been seasoned with olive oil and cumin. It can be served with fresh herbs, warm pita bread, lemon juice, and vegetables if desired.

This tasty meal is high in fiber and protein, and its creamy texture and nutty flavor are truly divine.

Read more: Egyptian Foods You Need to Try

5 – Tajine/Tagine

Tajine in a the traditional ceramic pot tajine in the middle of a table

Tajine, also known as tagine, is a hearty North African stew, named after the ceramic or clay pot in which it is prepared. It’s a traditional Moroccan dish that combines meat (chicken, lamb, or fish) with vegetables and fruits.

The distinctive design of the ceramic or clay pot ensures that all of the flavors from the various ingredients are sealed in, resulting in a sumptuous dish that stimulates the senses.

Tajine is traditionally eaten with the hands and accompanied by Moroccan bread to scoop up the vegetables and meats. It’s a filling meal that goes well with fresh hot bread, couscous, or steamed rice.

South African

6 – Chakalaka and Pap (Vegetable Stew and Corn Meal)

Chakalaka on a white plate

Chakalaka is a spicy and delicious South African vegetable stew, made with tomatoes, peppers, onion, carrots, spices, and beans. This dish is quite popular in Lesotho. It is traditionally served with pap (a national dish), which is a corn porridge.

The beauty of this dish is that it is very inexpensive to make, and can be eaten at any time of day, or for any occasion.

You should definitely try chakalaka and pap with boerewors, which is a South African sausage. A cold beverage complements this dish nicely.

Read more: South African Foods You Need to Try

7 – Bobotie

Bobotie in a baking dish on the table

Bobotie is a national dish of South Africa. It is made of layers of minced meat (beef, pork, or lamb), seasoned with curry, dried fruit, herbs, and other spices, and topped with an egg and milk mixture.

Despite the fact that it is thought to have originated from Asian settlers, bobotie is also popular in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Kenya.

Try it with yellow rice for the best South African cuisine experience. The combination of these delectable dishes is sure to excite your taste buds and leave you wanting more.

8 – Sadza (Porridge)

Sadza in a glass bowl

Sadza is a traditional Zimbabwean dish with many cultural connotations. In different African countries, it is known by various names such as ugali (Kenya and Tanzania), posho (Uganda), and nshima (Zambia and Malawi). It’s a type of porridge made from ground corn or millet.

It is often eaten with the hands, accompanied by a meat or vegetable stew; the sadza is rolled up in the hand and dipped in the sauce or stew. Traditionally, it is cooked over an open fire in a three-legged clay or cast iron pot.

Read more: Zimbabwean Foods You Need to Try

9 – Seswaa (Pounded Meat Dish)

Seswaa with pap and spinach on a plate on the table

Seswaa is a traditional and national dish of Botswana. It is made from leftover cuts of beef and goat meat, which are first salted, boiled until tender, and pounded.

It’s a ceremonial dish that’s typically cooked in a three-legged cauldron over an open fire. The bone-in meat is traditionally cooked with onions in boiling water, which is cooked so slowly the meat practically melts off the bone once ready.

The delicacy is best enjoyed and frequently eaten with pap, which serves as a base and vegetables. Seswaa is a must-try for any foodie!

10 – Potjiekos (Small Pot Food)

Cooking Potjiekos

Potjiekos is a South African dish that literally translates to “small pot food.” It is a stew of rice or potatoes, meat such as lamb or pork, spices, and vegetables including carrots and cabbage.

Potjiekos is traditionally cooked in a three-legged pot over an open fire with little stirring, creating a rich and flavor-packed broth that’s loaded with nutrients. If you want a meal that has a variety of flavors, this is the dish for you.

East African

11 – Matoke/Matooke (Native Banana)

Matoke

Matoke is a meal made from the same-named green bananas, which belong to the East African Highland banana family. This dish is popular throughout East Africa, and it’s Uganda’s national dish.

Typically, the matoke are boiled, until their white flesh becomes yellow in a color. The dish can be paired with meat, vegetables, beans, or a sauce. In Kenya, it is commonly served with curried beef stew and vegetables. 

Interestingly, matoke can be cooked with or without meat, making it suitable for both vegans and non-vegans. 

12 – Ugali (Maize Porridge)

Making ugali

Ugali is a thick, firm dough prepared from maize (corn), millet, sorghum, or cassava. It is a common staple in East Africa and other parts of Africa.

As a result, it comes in a wide variety of forms and is known by various names such as pap, nshima/nsima, fufu, sadza, posho, and so on. 

This delicacy is often served with vegetable stew, sauce, meat, or seafood. However, ugali with kachumbari and nyama choma is a classic combination that you definitely must try.

13 – Chipsi Mayai/Zege (Chips-Egg Omelette)

Chipsi Mayai (Chips-Egg Omelette) up-close on a plate

Chipsi Mayai is a delicious and well-known Tanzanian street food. It literally translates to “chips and eggs”, and is Tanzania’s unofficial national dish.

The eggs are often whisked and seasoned with salt and pepper, before being layered on top of the chips (French fries) in the pan to form an omelet that is cooked on both sides. Other ingredients, such as meat and vegetables, can be added to the mixture.

Chipsi Mayai is best served at any time of the day with kachumbari, a complementary local salad. 

14 – Kachumbari (Fresh Salad)

Kachumbari salad served with fish and ugali

Kachumbari is an East African fresh tomato and onion salad, served as a side dish. It is especially well-liked in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Uganda. Avocado, cucumber, chili pepper, and habanero are commonly added to the salad.

Served fresh and uncooked, kachumbari can be paired with ugali, nyama choma (barbecued/roasted meat), or rice. It is a refreshing and flavorful salad, and a great choice amid the sizzling heat of the African sun.

15 – Nyama Choma (Barbecued/Roasted Meat)

Nyama Choma on a platter served with kachumbari salad, sukuma wiki, chapati and roast potatoes
Nyama Choma served with kachumbari salad, chapati, and roast potatoes

One of Kenya’s most popular dishes is nyama choma. It is a meat (chevon or beef) dish eaten in many East African countries. Although traditionally seasoned with salt and pepper, the meat can also be marinated with garlic, onions, ginger, and lemon juice.

People gather around nyama choma joints in Kenya and Tanzania to socialize while waiting for the slow-roasted meat to finish.

This meal is typically eaten with the hands and is sold by both street vendors and fine restaurants. You do not want to miss out on this!

West African

16 – Waakye (Ghanaian Rice and Beans)

Waakye (Ghanaian Rice and Beans)

Waakye is a contraction of the Hausa phrase shinkafa da wake, which means “rice and beans.” It is a widely known Ghanaian dish that can be eaten at any time of day.

It is a wholesome dish of rice and beans, cooked with red sorghum leaf stalks, also known as “waakye leaves.” After cooking, the waakye leaves, which give the dish a reddish-brown color, are removed.

The meal is then wrapped in plantain leaves and served with chicken, shito (fish sauce), boiled eggs, fried plantain, stew, talia (spaghetti), vegetable salad, garri (cassava flakes), or fried meat, resulting in a truly appetizing dish.  

17 – Fufu (Fermented Cassava)

Fufu (Fermented Cassava)

Fufu is a fermented or fresh cassava, yam, or plantain swallow. This dough-like staple is common in West and Central African cuisine, as well as Caribbean cuisine. It is also known as fou fou or foo foo, which means mash, or mix in the Twi language of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.

Fufu is frequently served with meat, fish, nut, or vegetable stews and soups. This means you can pair it with Nigeria’s egusi soup, Ghana’s abenkwan (palm nut soup), or any other delectable West African soup.

18 – Jollof Rice

Jollof Rice with an assortment of dishes on the table

Jollof rice is a popular West African dish, with variations unique to each country in the region. Although it is traditionally served at weddings, parties, and large gatherings, it can also be eaten at home for any occasion.

Jollof rice is a dish of rice cooked in a spicy tomato sauce, with onion, meat, vegetables, pepper, and other seasonings.

Jollof rice pairs well with boiled eggs, fish, beans, meat, among other sides. The classic combo of jollof rice, fried plantains, and coleslaw is simply a must-try if in West Africa.

Read more: Nigerian Foods You Need to Try

19 – Cachupa (Slow-Cooked Stew)

Cachupa in a pot

The national dish of Cape Verde is cachupa, a slow-cooked stew of hominy corn, beans, cassava, vegetables, bay leaves, garlic, onion, sweet potato, and fish or meat (pork, chevon, beef, sausage, or chicken). The various islands that make up the country have their own variations of this dish.

Cachupa rica, which is made with local meat varieties, and cachupa pobre, which is made with vegetables, are the two main versions of this beloved dish.

Cachupa is often prepared in large quantities. Commonly in Cape Verde, the leftovers are eaten for breakfast the next day, fried with eggs, mackerel, and sausages.

20 – Thieboudienne/Tiep/Chebu jen (Senegalese Rice and Fish)

Thieboudienne in an oval-shaped dish on the table

Thieboudienne, which literally translates to “rice and fish,” is Senegal’s national dish. It is believed to have been the original inspiration for jollof rice.

This flavourful dish consists of broken jasmine rice, cooked in a tomato sauce with vegetables, spices, and oil, then served with marinated fish.

Thieboudienne is traditionally eaten with your hands from a communal dish, and the act of eating it this way is very important in Senegalese culture. This dish is typically made with fish, but it can also be enjoyed with chicken or beef.

Central African

21 – Ndolé (Bitter leaf Stew)

Ndolé and an assortment of Cameroon dishes
Ndolé (in the upper right corner) with an assortment of Cameroon dishes

Ndolé, a bitter leaf stew, is Cameroon’s national dish. Bitter leaf is a nutrient-dense and medicinal shrub. It is a common ingredient in Central and Western African cuisine.

Traditional ingredients for the stew include bitter leaf, spinach, onions, peanuts, beef, and spices, and it can be eaten with boiled (ripe) plantain, yam, or rice.

The ideal balance of the creaminess of the peanuts and the bitterness of the bitter leaf makes this a truly unique and textural dish that you definitely must try if visiting Cameroon.

22 – Poulet Nyembwe/Poulet Moambe/Moamba de Galinha

Poulet moambe

The national dish of Gabon, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is poulet nyembwe/poulet moambe/moamba de galinha. It is a dish of spicy chicken cooked with palm butter sauce (njembwe), and is famous throughout Central Africa.

The chicken used in the dish is first smoked, then sliced into fairly large pieces to cook in the njembwe sauce, which is made from the red ripe fruit of African oil palm, and seasoned with onions, tomatoes, peppers, okra, and salt.

Pairing this delicacy with rice, fufu, plantain, or yam will leave you craving for more. 

23 – Chikwangue/Kwánga

Chikwangue is the national dish of both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo. It is a cassava dough roll that is cooked in multiple layers of large, fresh banana leaves, and then tied with string to be steamed and, if necessary, stored.

In fact, this cassava-based food can be stored in a cool, dry place for up to 20 days. Chikwangue is commonly served with beans, vegetable or meat stew, or a range of both vegetable and meat sauces. You should absolutely try it with ndolé

24 – Calulu de Peixe (Fish and Vegetable Stew)

Calulu de Peixe (Fish and Vegetable Stew) on a white plate

Calulu de peixe is a popular fish and vegetable stew in Angola and São Tomé e Principe. The stew is made with okra, sweet potato or cassava leaves, garlic, palm oil, tomatoes, and onions.

Dried whitefish (cod or tilapia) is traditionally used in this dish. The fish can be prepared in two ways: it can either be placed on top of the stew to simmer, or it can be mixed in the stew to absorb the flavors.

However it’s prepared, this is one scrumptious stew you’ll want to try again and again.

25 – Kanda (Pumpkin Seed Meatballs)

Kanda is a spicy pumpkin seed meatball delicacy that is popular in the Central African Republic (CAR). It is regarded as the national dish of the country. There are two kinds: kanda ti nyma (made with okra and peanuts) and kanda (made with pumpkin seeds).

The meatballs are made by either rolling okra and peanuts or pumpkin seeds in ground beef, giving the meat a distinct texture and flavor.

Once shaped, the meatballs are cooked in a tomato and onion sauce and served with rice. This is simple, resourceful, and truly delicious African cooking at its purest.

African Foods Summary

Sumptuous food is abundant throughout Africa, and many of this wonderous continent’s foods reflect the diversity, colors, styles, and geography that can be found across this awe-inspiring continent.

Whether you’re strolling through the sounds and bustle of a Moroccan food market, or gawping at the vastness of the savannah on a Kenyan safari, incredible food will always be around you, no matter where you go.

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Author: Grace Famurewa is a writer and artist from Ile-Ife, Nigeria. She is deeply passionate about Nigerian culture and portrays its colors, culture, and cuisine, through her creative writing and art.