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Embark on a flavor-fueled adventure like no other with these African fruits, and experience the star ingredients in some of Africa’s most beloved dishes in their purest, juiciest, and most raw form.
1 – Bitter Kola
Bitter kola is a fruit found primarily in the West and Central African Tropics. It has brown skin that hides a whitish or yellowish flesh beneath. This fruit, as the name suggests, has a sharp, bitter taste. However, it does sweeten as you chew.
Consumed for its medicinal and anti-viral properties in Africa, bitter kola is seen as a very healthy fruit for your body. Many people confuse bitter kola with kola nut, but they are not the same thing.
2 – African Star Apple
This is a West African fruit with a small, round, orange, chewable skin and a whitish sap that surrounds five brown seeds arranged in a star formation, hence the name.
When unripe, the African star apple is green with a tart flavor, but as it matures, it turns orange, sweeter, and less tart.
The African star apple is a superfood, and other names for it include African cherry, Agbalumo, Udara, and Alasa.
To eat this delectable fruit like a local, squeeze open the fruit, suck out the juice, then split the fruit open to reveal the pulp, which you can eat.
African star fruit can be made into jams, fruit juices, syrups, and soft drinks, and the juice can be fermented into wine or distilled into spirits.
3 – Kola Nut
The kola nut is a fruit that has cultural and religious significance in various West African countries. It’s nearly the size of a chestnut and comes in brownish-white, light pink, or dark purple hues. Kola nut has a bitter taste that gradually becomes sweeter as it is chewed.
Surprisingly, this fruit was once used as an additive in the world-famous beverage, Coca-Cola. This fruit’s caffeine content, flavor, and energy-boosting properties have made it a common ingredient in the production of sodas, energy drinks, and other beverages.
Traditionally, this staple is thought to alleviate hunger, fatigue, and aid digestion. Kola nut, with its sweet nut aroma, is commonly enjoyed as is or in beverages.
4 – African Walnut
The African walnut is a seasonal fruit native to Gabon, Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, the Central African Republic, and other African countries. Kaso, Asala, Ukpa, and Okwe are some of the other names for it.
It is a small, round fruit with a dark brown or black shell that houses a crunchy, tasty cream or milk-colored nut. Because the taste is bitter when eaten raw, it is best cooked, baked, or roasted before being eaten, which helps unleash its earthy, robust flavor.
The shell is easy to crack and must be removed before eating the flesh. Many Africans enjoy this tasty favorite as a snack or something to eat in between meals.
5 – Matoke
Matoke, a banana variety, is a staple in East Africa, particularly Uganda. This variety, also known as green cooking banana, is shorter than regular bananas. It has green skin and white flesh that, when cooked, turns to a luscious yellow hue.
Although the fruit can be consumed when ripe, it is frequently regarded as a waste when consumed raw, as its starchy, slightly sweet flavor allow matoke to play a similar role in African cuisine to that of the potato.
Hence, matoke is also the name of a hugely popular dish, common in many African cuisines. It is a dish of cooked and mashed matojke, served with vegetable stew, meat, and ground peanuts.
6 – Date
Dates are a staple in Sudan, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Iraq, Libya, and other African countries. Dates come in many varieties, but the two most common in North Africa are the Deglet Noor and the Medjool. It is a sweet stone fruit with an inedible seed and a fleshy outer skin that can be golden yellow or reddish-brown in color.
Date fruit can be eaten in salads or desserts and can be used as a substitute for honey as a sweetener. You can also eat dates both fresh or dried.
Tajine, a Moroccan cuisine delicacy sometimes combined with dates, should not be overlooked, nor should the Nigerian dish of tiger nuts, dates, and coconut. Both are absolutely delicious!
7 – Ackee
This West African pear-shaped fruit has an inedible green (unripe), yellow (ripe), or red (ripe) pod, a cream-colored fleshy seed covering (aril), and three black seeds.
Ackee cannot be consumed while unripe due to its high toxicity level. When the ackee fruit is ripe, it splits open to reveal the seeds.
This delectable fruit is also found in Central Africa. It is high in vitamins and low in calories, making it ideal for a healthy lifestyle. Local names for it include Akee apple, Feso, Otousi, Ankye, and Gwanja kousa.
Ackee can be eaten raw, but its delightfully nutty and slightly sweet taste make it an ideal fruit to cook with meats and other ingredients, or eaten fried.
8 – Plantain
Plantain is a staple in Africa’s Western, Eastern, and Central regions. It looks like a banana, but it’s longer, has more starch, and a thicker skin. Whether the fruit is green (unripe) or yellow (ripe), it is frequently cooked before eating.
Plantain, when unripe, can be fried to make chips or cooked as a meal and eaten with soups. This sweet, wholesome fruit can be boiled, roasted, fried, or ground into flour when mature.
Make sure to try some of the many delicacies made from plantain. Fufu (made from plantain flour), Dodo (fried plantain), Igbekere (plantain chips), Boli (roasted plantain), and other dishes are examples.
9 – African Pear
The African pear, also known as Bush butter fruit, Ube, Atanga, and Safon, can be found in West, Central, and other parts of Africa, including Angola and Uganda. It has pale green flesh and dark blue or violet skin.
This fleshy, luscious fruit is high in nutrients and is commonly used in traditional medicine in Africa, including to treat wounds. It can be consumed raw, cooked in salted water, or roasted, and when cooked has a buttery taste when cooked that’s milder and more balanced than its tangy, acidic flavor when raw.
African pear and roasted or cooked corn in particular is a fantastic combination that many Africans enjoy, and is definitely worth trying.
10 – Tamarind
Tamarind has many different names, including African or black velvet tamarind, Awin, Yoyi, Veludo, and Icheku. It is a seasonal fruit with a black velvet shell and edible, sticky orange pulp, renowned for its sweet-sour flavor.
The fruit grows in West Africa and reaches as far north as Sudan in North Africa. It is frequently used to season dishes and can be consumed raw or soaked in water to make tamarind juice, a popular African drink.
Tamarind contains a lot of fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients, and is known for its low-fat content.
11 – African Baobab
African baobab is known as the “queen of super fruits.” It is a large egg-shaped fruit with dried and hardened pulp inside. The baobab tree is both huge and resilient, with its leaves, roots, bark, and fruits having numerous applications and being consumed for their health benefits.
Surprisingly, the African baobab is the only fruit in the world that naturally dries while still on the branch. It is found in Senegal, Sudan, South Africa, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Ethiopia, Mali, and most African countries.
This fruit has a chalky texture and a citrusy flavor. It can be consumed as a beverage, used as a seasoning in food, or eaten raw.
12 – African Breadfruit
The African breadfruit is large, round, and greenish in color. When ripe, it becomes spongy and contains a large number of seeds, which are the edible parts of the fruit. It can be found in Tanzania, Zambia, Uganda, Malawi, Senegal, Mozambique, Congo, and Gabon, among other places in Africa.
The seeds are high in nutrients and can be eaten as a meal, made into porridge, ground into flour, or used to flavor alcoholic beverages. They can be dried and roasted as a snack.
The African breadfruit has a distinct and starchy flavor, similar to that of freshly baked bread laced with a subtle sweetness, hence the name.
13 – Pepper Fruit
Pepper fruit is a berry that is peppery, pungent, and known for its medicinal properties. It is native to many West and Central African countries and has a green (unripe), pink, or red (ripe) pod. The fruit can be eaten raw or used as an ingredient in many dishes.
Pepper fruit can be used to season and flavor foods such as hot soup, spicy fish, white soup, stews, and sauces. Insecticidal and antiviral properties are known to exist in pepper fruit.
This spicy fruit pairs well with garden eggs, palm wine, bitter kola, and kola nut, and is especially popular at ceremonial and cultural gatherings.
14 – Madd Fruit
Madd fruit, also known as Saba, Wèda, Malombo, Dhangalow, Kuguissai, and Zaban, is widely available in Gambia, Ghana, South Sudan, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and other African countries.
The fruit’s hard, yellow or orange skin conceals large seeds beneath a soft, yellow, juicy pulp. It has the acidity of tamarind, with a sweet-sour taste.
The fruit can be eaten fresh or with salt, pepper, and sugar. The pulp produces a tasty juice when mixed with water and sugar. You should definitely try this fruit when it is mature because it is much sweeter and can also be used in savory dishes.
15 – Papaya
While native to Central and northern South America, papaya does in fact grow naturally in Africa and is found in Senegal, Sierra Leone, Guinea, The Gambia, Nigeria, Guinea-Bissau, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Togo, Cameroon, and Niger. Many Africans frequently plant papayas in their backyards.
This well-known fruit is renowned for its large oval shape and succulent pulp. Its skin color varies from green to yellow or orange as it matures.
It has orange or yellow, soft flesh that contains many black seeds. In Africa, this sweet fruit can be eaten raw, made into jam, added to a fruit salad, or blended with other fruits to make a smoothie.
Papaya’s fleshy and less sweet melon-like flavor makes it a fruit that’s perfect for breakfast or in many desserts.
16 – Clementine
The much-loved clementine is in fact a citrus fruit native to North Africa, specifically Algeria. It is a tangor, which is a cross between a tangerine (mandarin orange) and a sweet orange. The round fruit has a shiny, orange skin that peels easily.
There are two types of clementines: seedless clementine and Monreal. The seedless clementine has no seeds, as the name implies, whereas the Monreal has more than ten seeds per fruit. This fruit is high in vitamin C and a variety of other nutrients.
When visiting Algeria, Morocco, or Egypt, be sure to try this sweet, juicy fruit as a snack or as a dessert. Its highly sweet and refreshing taste is far less tart than that of an orange.
17 – Marula
Marula is a historical stone fruit native to North, West, East, and Southern Africa. When the fruit is green (unripe), it falls to the ground and in time turns yellow (ripe) while on the ground. It’s succulent and has a strong, sweet-sour flavor.
This fruit is also known as Maroela, Cider tree, Morula, Cat thorn, and many other names. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and it can be used to make juice, jam, and alcoholic beverages. Marula is legally protected in South Africa and is used to make Amarula, a popular cream liqueur.
18 – African Oil Palm Fruit
The African palm fruit is a highly valuable fruit in West and Central Africa. Depending on the variety, the fruit skin changes from green (unripe) to orange or orange with brown/black cheek colors (ripe).
This fruit has an oily, fleshy outer layer as well as a single seed (kernel). It is primarily known for crude palm oil extracted from the outer flesh and palm kernel oil extracted from the kernel (seed).
Palm oil is used in cooking, frying, and the production of margarine and confections. In contrast, palm kernel oil is used for inedible purposes and its various health benefits.
You should try African palm oil delicacies like Mbanga, Banga soup, and Banga rice, to truly enjoy its rich and earthy flavor in combination with other ingredients.
You can get African palm oil on Amazon or specialized shops.
19 – African Wild Mango
The African wild mango, also known as Bush mango or Dika, is a fruit with greenish-yellow skin, firm flesh with a mildly sweet taste, and seed kernels. It is not to be confused with the common mango fruit.
This fruit is native to West and Central Africa, where it is used in a variety of traditional soups, stews, sauces, jam, flavoring, and juice.
This fruit has a variety of health benefits, while its seed kernels are used as a seasoning in meat and vegetable dishes. When visiting Nigeria, Ogbono (African mango seed) soup made from seed kernels is a must-try.
20 – Yellow Monkey Kola
The yellow monkey kola is a wild cousin to the kola nut. It thrives in countries of West and Central Africa. Other common names include Ochicha and Obi edun. The fruit’s brown, rough skin encloses the edible, yellow flesh, which resembles a boiled egg yolk, and encases an inedible seed.
This fruit is the most well-known of the monkey kola varieties. It has a deliciously sweet taste with plenty of crunch and contains plenty of fiber and minerals. You can’t afford to miss out on this delectable fruit.
African Fruits Summary
A world of unique, exotic, and incredible flavors await when you put the fruits of Africa to your lips and let their sweetness, earthiness, and tartness invigorate your senses.
Hit up food markets, try dishes from street vendors, and embrace and try as much locally produced food as possible. There’s a dazzling world of fruity flavor, just waiting to capture your heart across Africa.
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Author: Grace Famurewa is a writer and artist from Ile-Ife, Nigeria. Hugely passionate about African cuisine, she is eager to share more of its dishes and flavors with the world through her writing.
Images licensed via Shutterstock