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Embrace a plethora of indigenous techniques, pure ingredients, and wholesome, vibrant, and earthy dishes with these Ghanaian foods, and discover one of Africa’s underrated culinary gems.
Ghanaian food is built on a bed of wholesome grains and carbohydrates and elevated with more than a little heat, spice, and tropical ingredients. These hearty dishes not only taste great, but are also loaded with nutrients and energy to supercharge you for plenty of exploring and discovery.
Together, let’s embrace the color, rawness, and passion of Ghanaian cooking and see this beautiful country through 20 of its must-try dishes.
1 – Hausa Koko
One of the most popular breakfast dishes in Ghana, hausa koko is the go-to dish for so many Ghanians to fuel them for the day ahead. The dish’s origins trace back to the Hausa people, who are spread across many West African countries, particularly in the northern regions of Ghana.
Hausa koko is a spicy porridge made from fermented millet and sorghum, ground into a fine paste, and mixed with spices. If you want to truly enjoy Hausa koko, you must eat it piping hot with kose (fried bean cakes) fresh from the oven bread, and bofrot or torgbei (puff puff or donuts).
2 – Tombrown
Tombrown is made from millet, corn, soybeans, groundnuts, and, occasionally, ginger and cayenne pepper. It is a porridge eaten for breakfast, and it is commonly used to wean babies because of its nutritional content.
A dish with variations in many African cuisines, including Nigerian cuisine, tombrown often comes packaged in powder form. You can simply add it to water and cook it for a simple and nourishing meal, with a little heat and spice.
Ghanaians love to get a little creative when it comes to tombrown. You can enjoy it with fresh bread, preferably butter bread, fried or boiled vegetables, and even topped with a fried egg.
3 – White Koko
White Koko is Hausa Koko’s first cousin, twice removed! The only difference between these two foods is in their constituents, although they all belong to the cereal family.
White koko is made from fermented corn meal, and prepared in the same way as tombrown. The corn meal is mixed with water and strained until all its chaff has been separated. White koko is made by then boiling the mixture. The dish is enjoyed by Ghanaians all over the country, and like hausa koko, is commonly eaten with torgbei, fresh bread, or kose.
4 – Ekuegbemi
Similar to grits from the southern U.S., ekuegbemi is a wholesome dish of roughly ground corn, cooked in water until a thick, porridge-like consistency is achieved.
Thin it out to your preference, but just know that the Ghanaian ancestors will be peering at you from the corner of their eye in your kitchen! Served with butter or sugar bread, this is an authentic Ghanaian meal that fuels a population every morning.
5 – Oblayo
Oblayo or corn grits is made from ground corn, in a similar vein to ekuegbemi; the only difference is in how coarse the ground corn is. Oblayois is made from ground corn that is more coarse than ekuegbemi and is prepared by first boiling then corn in water until it thickens.
Like all our other breakfast porridges, you can enjoy this creamy delicacy with sugar and evaporated milk for a rich and wholesome breakfast, while a side of fresh bread is also a common pairing. Oblayois a universal Ghanaian dish, and not confined to one ethnic group.
Appetizers or Snacks
6 – Nkatecake (Literal Translation – Groundnut Cake)
Nkatecake is a sweet and sticky toffee, made from roasted peanuts bound with a simple syrup, served in square or triangle cuts, and eaten as a snack. It is popular in many countries in West Africa.
If you are ever in Accra’s famous traffic jams, flag down a hawker selling this delicious treat and you won’t be disappointed – in fact, you may even forget that you’ve been stuck in the same place for hours! Just be sure not to eat too much of this rich and sweet nougat in one go.
7 – Kofi Brokeman (Roasted Plantains and Groundnuts)
Traditionally, kofi brokeman was the food of the poor working class in Ghana. This filling dish of roasted plantain and groundnut was plentiful and inexpensive, and workers would queue up at lunchtime to get a plate of this dish.
Today, however, kofi brokeman is very much a delicacy, enjoyed by Ghanaians from all walks of life. For many of us Ghanaians, there is nothing quite like stopping by the food stall of a middle-aged woman with a large straw hat perched on her head selling kofi brokeman, and getting a plate of this delicious food to go.
Washed down with a bottle of ice-cold water, when in Ghana you simply have to seek out and try this historic food. Culturally significant, it is such a rich and filling dish despite its simplicity.
8 – Aburow ne Kube (Corn and Coconut)
If you ever visit Ghana and you don’t try aburow ne kube, you have very much missed out on an authentic Ghanaian experience!
Aburow (either roasted or boiled corn) ne (and – you’ve learned a new Twi word here!) kube (coconut) can be eaten as a snack, an appetizer, or even as a main. Whoever thought of this combination must be honored because it is truly a one-of-a-kind dish.
9 – Fried Yam/Yam Chips
One of the country’s must-try on-the-go foods, fried yams or yam chips pack quite the flavorful punch. Popularly sold by street vendors, yam chips can be both thinly cut or thick, depending on preference, and are fried in hot oil.
You can snack on these piping hot chips as they are, or cover them in our famed red, green, or black chili sauces and a protein of choice. This is food at its simplest, and most delicious.
10 – Fufu
You’ll know it’s Saturday in Ghana when you hear the usual thumping sounds echoing from houses, restaurants, and chop bars (street kitchens) of vendors and chefs pounding cassava to make fufu.
Fufu is native to many African countries and goes by many different names. In Ghana, it is the ethnic food of the Akan people, but today enjoyed by all. Fufu is made from a sticky dough of pounded boiled cassava and unripe plantain and is best enjoyed with soup.
What type of soup? I’m glad you asked! Palm nut soup, groundnut soup, or my personal favorite, light soup with thick chunks of cow or goat meat, smoked fish, wele (cow hide), crabs and snails, are all perfect pairings for fufu. Some ethnic groups in Ghana even add steamed okra or garden eggs to the dish.
Traditionally, fufu is eaten during lunchtime but can be eaten at any time of the day. Just be prepared for a well-deserved post-food nap after eating this hearty main!
11 – Banku
Another wholesome dish of Ghanaian cuisine, bankuis are made from fermented corn meal and cassava meal. The two ingredients are mixed with water to a specific ratio, based on how soft or how hard you want the consistency, and strained until the mixture is smooth.
The mixture is then stirred while being cooked until the water starts to evaporate. At this point, making banku requires plenty of physical strength. As the mixture begins to thicken, it is ‘driven’ with powerful strokes to smooth out the lumps. Water is added intermittently, but not too much.
Banku is often served with okro stew, or the typical Ghanaiain red, green or black chilli sauce and tilapia – grilled or fried.
12 – Tuo Zaafi
It’s little wonder Ghana is one of the most peaceful countries in Africa; our food is so heavy we spend all our time digesting, so there’s no time to do anything else!
Tuo zaafi is actually three separate dishes combined into one. It consists of meat stew, ayoyo sauce (boiled okro leaves) and tuo (a sticky dough made from either corn or millet). This dish also has to be served in a specific order.
First the tuo is placed in a deep bowl, then a generous helping of ayoyo sauce is poured all over it, and finally, the meat stew is added to complete this truly delicious Ghanaian dish.
13 – Waakye
If you are looking for a quick-to-go meal on the streets of Accra, then waakye is definitely your go-to choice. Waakye is a dish of cooked rice and beans, commonly black-eyed beans and red dried sorghum, which give the dish its authentic color.
My family often calls waakye “United Nations”, because there is so much color in this dish. Waakye is also a very diverse food and can be paired with so many other dishes and sides, including spaghetti, “gari fotor”, fried chicken, goat or fish, boiled eggs, wele (steamed cow hide), and tomato gravy and shito (Ghanaian black chili sauce), among others.
Wander through the streets of Accra, and you will commonly see people queuing up for their waakye fix. While waakye go-to packs do exist, for the true Ghanaian experience you simply have to try it served in cleaned plantain leaves.
14 – Jollof
No party in Ghana is complete without jollof. As one of the most popular rice-based dishes in West Africa, jollof is usually served with fried or grilled chicken, pork or goat meat, fried plantain, and a generous helping of coleslaw.
The ultimate one-pot dish, jollof rice is made with any long-grain rice, such as jasmine or basmati rice, and a spiced, stew-like sauce of tomatoes, onions, and any meat stock.
Such is its popularity, its preparation differs from household to household and country to country, and there are long-standing feuds between the different West African countries on how this dish should be prepared.
Ghanaians and Nigerians both claim the best tasting jollof, resulting in heated discussions on Twitter and Instagram!
15 – Kokonte
Kokonte is a dish popular among both Togolese and Ghanaian people. In Ghana, it used to be called “Face the Wall’ because it was a dish associated with the lower class, but today is enjoyed throughout the country.
Kokonte is made from dried cassava or yam, and it is known for its deep brown, grey, and sometimes even dark green color. Like fufu, it is best enjoyed with spicy groundnut or palm nut soup.
16 – Akple
Akple is native to the Ewes, who mostly live in the Volta Region in Ghana and the Togolese people. It is made from a mixture of corn and cassava flour, which is mixed with water and salt and then cooked, similar to banku.
The only difference in their preparation is that when making akple, the mixture is continuously stirred, and not “driven” like banku. Once prepared, the mixture is rolled into oval spheres and usually served with fetri detse (okro stew) or red chili sauce and fried fish.
17 – Gobe
I will be doing a great disservice to my country if I do not mention gobe! This dish is part of the reason why Accra, the capital city of Ghana, has very bad morning traffic jams. Everyone has a special place they visit to get their morning fix of gobe.
Gobe has many names, including yor ke hari, bober, and even red-red. In essence, it is a simple dish of gari (cassave flakes) and beans. It is an affordable dish, and served by a wide array of different street vendors and restaurants.
The cooked black eye beans are served with a sauce consisting of caramelized onions, blended ginger, garlic, and scotch bonnet peppers. Served with ripe fried plantain, this is the go-to dish for breakfast or lunch for busy Ghanaians from all walks of life.
18 – Ampesi
Like many Ghanaian foods, ampesi or ampesie has several variations. It can be made with slices of yam, cocoyam, or a special type of plantain, commonly known as apem in Ghana.
Essentially, ampesi is a wholesome dish of boiled yam, cocoyam, or apem, served piping hot with garden egg stew or kontomire (a variation of spinach) stew, and lots of boiled eggs. Ampesi can also be enjoyed with rich tomato gravy.
Traditionally an Akan food, today Ghanaians across the country prepare, enjoy, and love this simple yet filling dish.
19 – Kenkey
Like banku, kenkey is made from fermented corn and is a staple dish of the people of the southernmost part of Ghana: the Gas and the Fantes. In fact, both of these ethnic groups have their own variation of this dish, named after them.
Ga kenkey is wrapped and boiled in discarded but clean corn husks, while Fante kenkey is wrapped in plantain leaves. Each of these wraps also lends a distinct flavor to the kenkey.
Kenkey can be enjoyed with green, red, or black chili sauce, and fried or grilled tilapia, cuttlefish, squid, or octopus. Wholesome and hearty, be sure you have a comfortable place to caress your food baby and sleep off your food coma after finishing this one!
20 – Fante Fante
Named after the famed, self-professed aristocratic ethnic group of the country (of which I am a proud member of), Fante Fante is a simple but flavorful dish to prepare.
It starts with a base of onions, caramelized in palm oil. To this base, a blended mixture of fresh tomatoes, ginger, garlic, chili peppers, and additional onions are added, along with any fresh fish of choice, such as red snapper.
The dish is then simmered for up to three-quarters of an hour until the fish is soft and tender. Fante fante is usually enjoyed with fante kenkey, boiled rice, or yam. The possibilities are endless with this flavorful Ghanaian favorite.
Ghanaian Food Summary
A culinary experience like no other, the foods of Ghana not only deliver on heartiness and flavor but also offer a truly unique insight into the history and culture of this vast and beautiful country.
Ghanaian food is simple, pure cooking, utilizing the resources you have at your disposal. It takes the freshest ingredients from the earth and melds the different flavors and textures together into dishes that fuel the body and make the soul smile at the same time.
Any trip to Ghana simply isn’t complete with embracing the country’s cuisine. Be it in humble eateries, or by watching and eating the food prepared by passionate street vendors, on a future visit seek out and try as many of these dishes as you can, for a truly authentic taste of Ghana.
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Author: Nana Oye Djan is a freelance writer by day and an avid foodie by night. She loves trying dishes from different cultures around the world when she can. She lives in Accra, Ghana, with her attention-seeking bull mastiff who loves food as much as she does.
Images licensed via Shutterstock