About African Food

See the list of traditional African food and what they eat both in Africa and beyond. Also see why African cuisines offer many health benefits and where to shop for such foods. We would also provide you with some African breakfast, Lunch and Dinner ideas as well as African Desserts.

If you are new to African cuisines and food, you will be pleasantly delighted at what awaits you. 

Many have wondered: What do Africans eat and what does traditional African food looks like?

African foods are plentiful and varied. Rich in dietary fiber and often organic, they present a healthy choice when eaten in the right combination.

African food recipes are centered round a list of ingredients easily found all over the continent. These are natural unrefined food items,easily grown at subsistence farms not far away from home.

In the whole of sub Saharan Africa, from Dakar (Senegal) to Dar es Salam (Tanzania), southwards to Cape Town (South Africa), most foods from Africa are based on common foodstuffs like cassava, yam, cocoyam, rice, beans, maize, sorghum, millet, groundnut, coconut, plantain, melons, sea foods, poultry, beef, goat meat, bush meat, palm oil, potatoes, lentil, vegetables, vegetable oils, and a wide selection of tantalizing spices. Out of these seemingly few list of items comes a literally unending array of various delicacies.

A sample of traditional African Food - Jollof rice served with moi-moi, shrimp and fish with salad.

African foods are mainly starch based, with generous amount of vegetables and fresh or roasted fish or meat. This means that they are devoid of refined sugars and excess food additives and rich in bulk and fibre. Again, 90% or more of African foods are organic.

These foods are often grown behind the house at subsistence level, helped by the beautiful tropical weather, which means that different varieties of vegetables, fruits, cereals, tubers, nuts, and grains are grown all year round.

Fish, milk, meat from poultry or cow, goat, lamb, or game ("bush meat") as well as other sea foods provide their animal protein in all African communities.

Whether in the bushy savannas, typical rain forest, or coastal riverine settlements, access to such primary source of protein is not in short supply in stable traditional African setting.

There is simply no where in African you would not find farmers, hunters, herdsmen or fishermen...from Yaounde, Sapele, Lagos to Port Alexandria.

The African Food History

The authentic African food history has been described by both African and Western early writers with immense elegance. Africans have always given serious attention to what they eat. All African societies are replete with a long list of original and adapted cuisines that reflect their historic interactions and cultures.

Olaudah Equiano, a.k.a Gustavus Vassa (1745 – 31 March 1797), one of the earliest black African writers in the United Kingdom, testified in his narrative, that the traditional African food is "free from refinements in cookery which debauch the taste".
He was captured and taken to America as a slave at 11 years of age, from what now came to be known as Nigeria, and later bought his freedom for £40.00.

Contrary to what some want the world to belief, the very balanced style of cooking seen in many African communities today has been indigenous to Africa thousands of years even before the slave trade, or even before the incursion of Arabian tradesmen into that continent.

The narrative of Olaudah Equiano (Gustavus Vassa the African), as well as the same preserved manner of cooking still seen in newly found African societies testifies to this fact.

Where ever they went, Africans took along with them their cooking. Thus today, all over the world, Africans still cook alike with some little variations.

Like their Asian counterparts, most cuisines of Africa are quite spicy, prepared with very hot chillies a common trend in most hot countries.

In the West Indies, the afro-Caribbean food is thus not a great deviation from traditional African dishes.

In North America, the African American foods are now generally referred to as soul food. Soul food was thus new to America, but not to the Africans who brought with them the ideas, despite been deprived of the proper ingredients with which to prepare these meals.

Thankfully, soul food is now very popular, and eaten all over black communities in America.

See what African food looks like in specific terms as we take a ride through the various African countries and visit their traditional food stuff in the African foodstuff section.

Breakfast In Africa

Breakfast is sacrosanct in Africa. It is a meal taken very early in the morning. In farming communities, breakfast is obviously so important to provide energy for the work ahead. Breakfast is often light and could vary greatly, depending on the part of the continent as well as the culture.

The typical African Breakfast could be:

  • Kunu or millet porridge in Northern Nigeria
  • Ogi or maize pap (also called akamu) served with akara also called beans cake in Southern, Western and Eastern Nigeria
  • Boiled yam and plantain, served with fresh fish pepper soup in Southern Nigeria / Midwest
  • Koshari - Egyptian and northern African food
  • Couscous served with a choice vegetable sauce
  • Beans and fried plantain
  • Matoke and fresh fish
  • Rice and African stew
  • Ga kenkey and shitto pepper
  • Rice and shitto pepper
  • Yam and shitto pepper
  • Hausa koka
  • Baked or roasted breadfruit with butter
  • Sweet potatoes boiled and served with fish and vegetable sauce

Lunch

A plate of starch and banga soup - typical lunch in Southern Nigeria.

Lunch is eaten at any time from mid day to 4pm. It is often the heaviest meal of the day.

Lunch in Africa is easily prepared from any of the main staples, depending on the part of the continent you are in.

Most African lunch menus are made from rice, cassava, millet, sorghum, yam, plantain, beans, or potatoes. They are made into fufu (much like mashed potato) or boiled and served with one of the numerous African stews or soups. A ready example would include:

  • Cassava products like Gari akpu or starch (usin served with vegetable soup or banga soup or egusi soup or Ofe Onubu.
  • Pounded yam or semolina or ground rice (tuwo shinkafa) or corn meal (tuwo masara) or amala made from elubo served with any of the above soups or ewedu or abula or gbegiri soup in the south of Nigeria, or Miyan kuka or Miyan kabewa.
  • Jollof rice served with moimoi and fried plantain (see picture above)
  • Nshima served with red beans, fresh fish, and vegetable souce
  • Koshari
  • Ugali served with vegetable soup

Lunch is usually served with a wide variety of African dessert, including fermented goat milk (yogurt), assorted fresh tropical fruits, traditional African drinks (sobo drink for example).

As in most hot climates, Lunch is followed by an afternoon nap for an hour or so, if condition allows, before going back to work or farm.

Supper or Dinner

Roasted chicken and rice meal for dinner

Hmm. What is it for dinner? You can be guaranteed that you would be spoil for choice. Supper is eaten any time from 5pm to 10pm.

Africa is a very fertile continent with a huge variety of food crop and fauna. During peace time, and with good rainfall, most communities are able to feed themselves just by farming at subsistence level - by means of small farms at the back of their homes or medium sized farms not far away from home.

On the way back from farm, dinner could be a combination of:

  • Roasted yam and palm oil
  • Rice and fried plantain
  • Roasted plantain and home made sauce
  • Rice and roasted chicken
  • Rice and tomatoes stew
  • banku mix
  • Ga Kenkey
  • Sweat potatoes and greens
  • Coconut and roasted or boiled maize
  • Pepper soup and boiled plantain or yam
  • Breadfruit and sauce
  • Gari foto
  • Nshima
  • Koshari
  • Millet meal

... and more and more.

What Is Your Favourite African Food Dish?

Are you into African foods? What is your favourite African dish? We would love to hear from you!

Please let us know which part of Africa you are from or that the dish is from, what it is made from (actually, we wouldn't mind if you include a brief recipe or guide on how the meal is prepared), what time of the day this meal is commonly eaten and why it appeals so much to you.

You could just send us a list of common dishes in your region and get them included here on this very page.

The more information you provide about your choice dish the better. About 400 or more words is generally required to be suitable for publishing, though please feel free to send it less than that.

Thank you for taking the time to sharing your experience with African food.

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