Get To Know the Flavors of African Food

Publish Date December 1, 2023 2 Minute Read

Exploring African Food

Thanks to African immigrants, the flavors of Africa are part of the vibrant food culture of not just the US, but the world. From the Tagines of Morocco to the Bobotie of South Africa, the best African food offers a taste of the many traditions of the continent.

What Are the Best African Foods?

Africa encompasses 48 countries and 6 island nations, and every region has its own best African dishes. Grains that grow well in arid regions, like millet, sorghum, teff and fonio are important foodstuffs. All over the continent, okra, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and leafy greens are incorporated in local favorite dishes.

Try Some Easy African Dishes

If you are new to African food, try out some dishes that are popular with Westerners, like Jollof Rice and African Style Chicken Stew. Popular spice blends like Berbere Spice from Ethiopia, Harissa Paste from North Africa and the Zaatar of Egypt are an easy way to incorporate the spices and flavors of African food into your meals.

North African Cuisine

North Africa is part of the Mediterranean Basin and shares many staple foods and flavors with its European neighbors to the North. Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco are North African countries, but often considered as part of Middle Eastern food traditions, as well. The ancient nomadic Berber tribes ate wheat, fava beans, lentils, dates and honey, and invented couscous, which is still a staple across the region. The spice trade brought saffron, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and other spices. Olives and olive oil, citrus, dried fruit, yogurt and butter, and lamb are eaten across the region. New World foods like tomatoes, peppers and chilies join eggplant and cucumbers in the cuisines.

Moroccan food is known for sophisticated spicing, with nuanced and complex flavors in tagines and stews. Tunisia is where Shakshouka originated, a breakfast or lunch dish of simmered tomatoes, peppers and spices in which eggs are poached just before serving, which in recent years seems to be everywhere.

North African Traditional Couscous with Chicken

Moroccan Salmon Bowl

Harissa Grilled Shrimp

East African Cuisine

East Africa encompasses Ethiopia, known for Injera flatbreads made with Teff grains, served with spiced stews like Doro Wat. On the coast, Kenya and Tanzania rely on more seafood, while Uganda is influenced by both. Cattle are raised for milk, and only eaten occasionally. British and Indian influences show up in the curries, flatbreads and pickles eaten across East Africa. Ethiopian-Inspired Yellow Split Pea Soup

Central African Cuisine

With Angola, Cameroon, Chad, and The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central Africa is historically more insulated from outside influences than coastal regions. Plantain, millet, rice, and cassava are staple foods, with peanuts, spices, and plenty of greens like cassava leaf or spinach. Chicken, goat, and wild game are popular, often spiced and grilled. Egusi Stew, made from ground melon seeds and greens, is popular, as is Fufu and Kanda, a meatball cooked in a peanut and tomato sauce with okra.

West African Cuisine

West Africa encompasses the popular culinaria of Nigeria, Senegal, and Ghana or Mali. Across the region Fufu, a starchy paste made from plantains, cassava or yams is served with well-spiced meats, beans, legumes, and vegetables. Senegal is known for Fonio, a tiny, nourishing whole grain. Jollof Rice Pilaf is a popular dish. Groundnut (peanut) stews are popular, as is a version of Egusi stew. Somali Sambusas are crunchy, appetizer-sized pastries filled with spiced meats, lentils or vegetables, and Sabaayad is a Somali flatbread served with meals.

African Style Chicken Stew

Southern African Cuisine Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa are at the Southern part of the continent. Here, the grain of choice is often corn, cooked like polenta, and called “Pap.” Southern African cuisine is very influenced by outside influences, from the Portuguese, Dutch and Indian settlers as well as global trade. Chakalaka is a vegetable relish, made of finely chopped tomatoes, carrots, onions, and usually cooked beans, with a mix of spices and a bit of heat.

Zimbabwean Chicken Soup

Tomato Bredie

It’s Time to Try African Food at Home

Whether you start with a fragrant Moroccan Beef Stew and Couscous, Berbere Lentils, or Himbasha Ethiopian Flatbread, you will certainly find favorites in any exploration of African Cuisines. Familiar, easy to find ingredients, like rice, meats, and vegetables shine in African dishes, prepared in ways that will add exciting new flavors to your meals.