40 Delicious African Food Dishes You Have to Try at Least Once
With 54 countries, Africa has a rich cultural, ethnic and culinary diversity. Yet, somehow, African food continues to be underrated.
The good news is that the world is finally realizing what it’s been missing. Whether you’re planning a grand tour of Africa or want a taste of the continent through its food, you have to try the 40 best African food dishes.
Main ingredients: Vegetables, coconut milk, peanut butter
Bottom Line: Mchicha
The Tanzanian dish par excellence, mchicha is a creamy sauce that combines the flavors of coconut milk and peanut butter for utter perfection.
Vegetables like spinach, tomatoes and onions are added in, making this a vegan meal travelers who don't eat meat definitely appreciate.
Mchicha is usually served with a starch like ugali or rice.
Country: Angola, Sao Tome and Principe
Main ingredients: Fish, vegetables
Bottom Line: Calulu
Calulu is a stew that will make you feel at home even if you've never tasted it before. The secret to its universal appeal hides in its heartiness and fresh ingredients. Who doesn't remember home with a hot stew?
Traditional calulu is made with fish or shrimps, and vegetables like eggplants, okra, onions, tomatoes and sweet potato leaves.
38. Afang Soup
Main ingredients: Afang leaves, dried fish, beef, onions, red palm oil, crayfish
Bottom Line: Afang Soup
The somewhat bitter afang soup is very popular in Southern Nigeria. It is made with different types of meats and grounded or pounded afang leaves, which give the dish its particular taste.
With meat, dried fish and crayfish, afang soup takes time to make well, which is why it's a popular dish for special days and celebrations like weddings.
Main ingredients: Chicken, flour, eggs, onions, almonds
Bottom Line: Pastilla
This sweet-and-savory pastry dish is usually served on special occasions in Morocco.
The pie is stuffed with chicken or pigeon as the main ingredient, accompanied by chopped onions and garlic as well as fried almonds.
Spices such as saffron and ginger are common, and powdered cinnamon is sprinkled on top to complete the fragrant dish.
36. Ful Medames
Main ingredients: Fava beans, lemon juice, garlic, spices
Bottom Line: Ful Medames
Ful medames was once Egypt's national dish before the Ottoman Empire took over. It is a fava bean soup that uses garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley and spices.
The breakfast staple is hearty and filling while also providing the nutrition you need to start the day. To experience it fully, serve it with pita bread on the side, so you can dip it in or mop what is left over on your plate.
35. Wali Wa Kukaanga
Main ingredients: Rice, vegetables
Bottom Line: Wali Wa Kukaanga
This simple dish is a rice lover's dream. It is basically rice and vegetables, spiced with turmeric and then fried.
The resulting texture is perfectly crunchy and the combination of spices and vegetables make for a truly tasty dish.
Wali wa kukaanga is served with chicken or other meats on the side.
Main ingredients: Dough, scallions, eggs
Bottom Line: Brik
This delectable savory pastry is stuffed with meat, the most common of which is tuna, and flavored with coriander, harissa, scallions, cilantros and chilis.
Once baked and ready, a raw egg is poured over the filling, so that it cooks just enough with the heat.
If you're in Tunisia, make sure you seek out the crunchy delight of this dish.
33. Mechouia Salad
Main ingredients: Onions, peppers, tomatoes, eggs, olives, tuna
Bottom Line: Mechouia Salad
For a light and refreshing meal in Tunisia, order mechouia. This simple salad is made with chopped tomatoes, peppers and onions, which are given flavor with salt, pepper, olive oil and olives.
To add some protein, complete the salad with tuna, hard-boiled eggs or both. You can also ask for bread on the side to make it more filling.
Country: Cape Verde
Main ingredients: Corn, beans, meat, vegetables
Bottom Line: Cachupa
This island country off the east coast of Africa is often ignored by both tourists and culinary enthusiasts. Let's just say that after tasting cachupa — the country's national dish — you'll be looking into tickets to visit the archipelago.
The dish is a corn and bean-based stew, cooked slowly with vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash and yams, herbs and spices, and your choice of meat. Chorizo, fish and pork are the most common meats used for cachupa.
The dish is incredibly filling, tastes like it was made by angels and is very affordable.
31. Vary Amin Anana
Main ingredients: Rice and vegetables
Bottom Line: Vary Amin Anana
The remote island of Madagascar receives less than 260,000 annual visitors, making it one of the least visited countries in the world. But the lucky few that do arrive here never skip the delicious rice dish, vary amin anana.
Similarly to Kenya's wali wa kukaanga, this traditional dish is rice with vegetables. Instead of being fried, however, the ingredients are steamed, making them soft, tender and comforting.
Vegetables can vary, but usually include tomatoes, collard greens, kale and onions.
Main ingredients: Couscous, onion sauce, sugar, cinnamon, raisins, ground almonds
Bottom Line: Seffa
Made with fluffy couscous, seffa stands out as a savory dish made with various sweet ingredients. Onion sauce and chicken are complemented with sugar, raisins, almonds and cinnamon for an unusual flavor — but in the very best way.
Seffa is usually eaten during festivities, even though it's a simple meal, proving that in the kitchen, simplicity oftentimes wins.
Country: Ghana and Ivory Coast
Main ingredients: Plantain, cassava
Bottom Line: Fufu
This staple food of Ghana and the Ivory Coast is extremely labor intensive, but the result is worth the effort. The food is made by pounding and stirring unripe plantain and cassava until it becomes doughy.
It is then rolled into balls that are served with spicy, flavorful meat stews. The fufu is used to soak up the stew.
Fufu is eaten with your hands, and it is so good you will literally be licking your fingers.
Country: The Gambia
Main ingredients: Peanuts, tomato paste
Bottom Line: Domoda
This peanut paste is honored as the national dish of Gambia. The stew is made by combining tomato paste and ground peanuts, with fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions, sweet potatoes and pumpkin added in for richness.
Dodoma isn't necessarily served with meat, but when it is, it is usually chicken or beef. Bushmeat can also be used.
The stew is served over white rice.
27. Kebda Eskandarani
Main ingredients: Liver, bread, tahini
Bottom Line: Kebda Eskandarani
This Alexandrian specialty is a favorite Egyptian street food. It is often enjoyed sandwich-style, with the fried beef liver stuffed into a long bread and doused with tahini sauce.
The liver is fried with numerous spices like cumin, peppers and cardamon, as well as garlic or onions.
You can also taste kebda eskandarani served on its own, with pita bread or rice on the side.
Main ingredients: Chickpeas, garlic, onions, ginger, tomatoes, chili peppers
Bottom Line: Shiro
This simple yet comforting stew is usually made with chickpeas, boiled with tomatoes, onions and garlic, and spiced with peppers and ginger. As with many Ethiopian dishes, injera bread usually accompanies it, serving as a scoop.
Shiro is enjoyed in many religious festivities like Ramadan.
Main ingredients: Chambo, nsima
Bottom Line: Chambo
Chambo is a popular fish endemic to Lake Malawi. Tourists and locals enjoy it grilled along the long shores of the lake.
The fish is accompanied by nsima, the Malawian version of ugali or fufu. It can also be served with ndiwo, a dish made with cassava leaves, nut powder and tomatoes.
Eating chambo is an absolute must-do when visiting Lake Malawi. After all, you won't find the fish fresh anywhere else on the planet.
Main ingredients: Rice, lentils, pasta
Bottom Line: Kushari
Kushari is a traditional Egyptian meal that mixes rice, pasta and lentils. The ingredients are cooked in a low simmer with a rich stock made with browned onions. Ground beef or lamb are often added to make a more filling meal.
Once served, a spicy sauce and vinegar are added to give a hint of tanginess and heat.
23. Mchuzi Wa Samaki
Main ingredients: White fish, vegetables, curry powder, lemon juice
Bottom Line: Mchuzi Wa Samaki
This Swahili dish is a favorite among fish lovers. The most important ingredient is white fish, which is boiled in lemon juice and water with tomatoes, garlic and onion. Coriander and curry provide added flavor.
White rice is served along it to complement the spices and saltiness of the fish.
Main ingredients: Boiled bitterleaf, meat, spices
Bottom Line: Ndole
One of Cameroon's two national dishes, Ndole is a stew that is usually accompanied by a carbohydrate such as yams, rice, fufu or bobolo, a cassava wrap.
The stew is made with boiled bitterleaf, peanuts, spices and melon seeds. You can use any red and white meat to add some protein and to enjoy the infusion of spices even more.
Country: Algeria and Morocco
Main ingredients: Stewed meat and vegetables
Bottom Line: Tagine
Though there are variations of tagine around North Africa and the Middle East, we'll focus on the more widely known Algerian and Moroccan tagine. The dish is made in a conical clay earthenware that gives it its name.
Vegetables, meats, potatoes, spices and nuts are placed on a small amount of water and steamed for hours inside the tagine casserole. The result is impossibly tender food that melts in your mouth.
Main ingredients: Fish, rice, vegetables
Bottom Line: Thieboudienne
Senegal's national dish, thieboudienne serves fresh fish with lime juice, accompanied by vegetables and rice. The rice is made in a tomato sauce that infuses it with the aromas of chili and garlic.
Vegetables are usually large chunks of onions, carrots and tomatoes also cooked in the sauce.
Main ingredients: Meat, berbere spice blend, vegetables
Bottom Line: Wat
Ethiopia's national food is made of a rich, spicy stew that contains meats — anything except pork — vegetables or lentils. It is flavored with berbere spice blend, which traditionally includes hot chili peppers, garlic, ginger, rue, basil, ajwain, nigella and fenugreek.
You'll find wat everywhere in Ethiopia, as well as in any Ethiopian restaurant abroad.
Country: Central African Republic
Main ingredients: Fish, onions, tomatoes, hot peppers, banana leaves
Bottom Line: Maboké
This delicious dish from Central African Republic is created by wrapping filleted fish in banana leaves to be steamed. The leaves are placed on top of flavorful mix of garlic, onions, hot peppers, tomatoes and parsley.
Once done, the tender fish is served with rice and plantains.
Country: Ivory Coast
Main ingredients: Chicken, vegetables
Bottom Line: Kedjenou
Kedjenou is made with chicken and vegetables like tomato, eggplant, okra, garlic and onions. The ingredients are placed in a canari, a clay pot that is heated over hot coals.
Herbs and spices like ginger and thyme are also added, as well as chicken broth to make sure the ingredients don't get dry.
Over a couple of hours, the ingredients cook over the hot coal and become tender and juicy. They are then served over attieke, a type of couscous typical of Ivory Coast, or rice.
Main ingredients: Raw beef, butter, spices
Bottom Line: Kitfo
If you have a refined palate and have discovered how good raw beef is, we definitely recommend kitfo. This Ethiopian food mixes raw ground beef with Ethiopian butter, chili, cayenne pepper, garlic, cardamon and black pepper.
It is usually served with injera, a fermented flatbread that is a staple food of the country.
Main ingredients: Salted fish, coconut milk, plantains, cassava, nutmeg
Bottom Line: Ladob
Any dish that uses coconut milk is bound to be fragrantly delicious and creamy. Ladob is a traditional food of the Seychelles, one of the smallest countries in the world.
It is made by boiling salted fish in coconut milk, along with cassava and plantains. Nutmeg is added for a sweet contrast to the saltiness. Ladob can be eaten either hot or cold, and there is also a dessert version that takes out the salted fish and adds vanilla and sugar. Yep, we're drooling, too!
Main ingredients: Tomato sauce, eggs, merguez sausage
Bottom Line: Shakshouka
Shakshouka is another dish that proves simple food is often the best food. The dish is made with a spicy tomato sauce at its base. Eggs are added directly to the sauce until they are poached. Merguez sausage, notorious for its juiciness, is often added.
Although popular in the Maghreb region and the Middle East, shakshouka is said to be originally from Tunisia.
Main ingredients: Goat intestines, goat blood, seasonings
Bottom Line: Mutura
Mutura is one of the best sausage dishes in East Africa. It is made with ground meat, goat blood, chilies and spices, which are stuffed into goat intestines. The sausage is then boiled and grilled for a perfect, smoky barbecue flavor.
As with most sausages, the best way to have them is with a glass of beer.
Main ingredients: Chicken, lemon, vinegar
Bottom Line: Yassa
The Senegalese national dish, yassa, is a chicken stew that stands out because of its citric, tangy flavor.
To make this dish the right way, you have to marinate the chicken in lemon juice, onions and vinegar for about eight hours, then cook it until the marinade forms into a stew sauce. Fufu, chickpeas and couscous are perfect sides for it.
Yassa's citric infusion also make it one of the absolute best hangover foods.
Country: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia
Main ingredients: Couscous, broth, vegetables
Bottom Line: Couscous
Couscous refers to both a North African dish and the wheat-based staple food it is made with. The dish cooks couscous — which is made of tiny wheat pellets — in a food steamer.
The choice of vegetables, meats and nuts are cooked in broth at the base of the steamer, which simultaneously cooks and adds flavor to the couscous.
The result is a juicy dish where several flavors meet to please your palate.
Country: South Africa
Main ingredients: Beef or lamb, herbs, spices, custard
Bottom Line: Bobotie
Originating from the Indonesian dish bobotok, bobotie is one of the most popular and mouthwatering South African dishes.
Ground lamb or beef is cooked in a casserole along with numerous herbs and spices, as well as sweet jams and vinegar. It is topped with egg custard and baked until crispy.
The dish is a harmonious marriage of sweet, salty, spicy and sour. It is often served with rice and vegetables.
Main ingredients: Flatbread, lamb or chicken, tomatoes, chickpeas, onions and seasonings
Bottom Line: Chakhchoukha
Chakhchoukha translates to "torn flatbread" and is made exactly with that. Complementing the flatbread are pieces of lamb or chicken, chickpeas, vegetables and a seasoning that includes ingredients like lavender, chili peppers and cumin.
The unique seasoning brings in fragrant flavors while the spices help get you warm from the inside.
8. Peri Peri Chicken
Country: Mozambique, South Africa
Main ingredients: Chicken, coconut sauce
Bottom Line: Peri Peri Chicken
This spicy chicken dish is marinated in a flavorful mix that contains chilis, cumin, garlic, paprika, lemon juice, vinegar, oregano and more.
It is then grilled to perfection and served doused in coconut sauce that adds a creamy texture as well as another layer of spice.
Main ingredients: Peanuts, tomato paste, meats, vegetables, spices
Bottom Line: Maafe
This popular West African food is thought to be originally from Mali. It is a traditional stew made with ground roasted peanuts, meats, vegetables and spices.
There are countless possible variations for making maafe, but you can expect goat, beef, lamb or chicken as the meat, and a fragrant variety of spices like coriander, ginger and turmeric.
6. Nyama Choma
Main ingredients: Beef or goat
Bottom Line: Nyama Choma
Translating to "barbecued meat" in Swahili, you'll find nyama choma pretty much everywhere in Kenya, from fancy restaurants in Nairobi to shacks along the country's roads.
But pretty much anywhere you go will serve perfectly roasted goat of beef. The BBQ is usually accompanied with ugali, cornmeal paste balls that are Kenya's most ubiquitous side dish.
We'd venture to say that this West African food dish is the second-best BBQ on the continent. The best one will come up further down this list.
5. Bunny Chow
Country: South Africa
Main ingredients: Bread, curry, beans, meat
Bottom Line: Bunny Chow
Despite what its name promises, bunny chow does not contain rabbit meat. Nevertheless, it is a dish you'll regularly crave after tasting it.
The South African food dish is made by hollowing out a half loaf of bread and stuffing it with meats cooked in curry. The meat can be anything from lamb to beef to mutton and chicken.
Kidney beans are usually included in the fragrant mix.
4. Poulet DG
Main ingredients: Chicken, plantains, tomato sauce
Bottom Line: Poulet DG
The DG in this dish's name stands for the French word for CEO. Random? Sure, but the name speaks to the food's history since it used to be mostly an upper-class dish, which in colonial times usually meant it was eaten by French people in power.
Poulet (chicken) DG serves chicken and ripe plantains in tomato sauce, enriched with vegetables like bell peppers, carrots, garlic and green beans. Though seemingly simple, the dish is as hearty as it is flavorful.
Main ingredients: Rice, beans, eggs, sorghum leaves
Bottom Line: Waakye
Waakye is a complete meal made with a variety of ingredients that guarantee you'll be full and satisfied.
When you order this meal, you'll be served rice cooked in tomato soup, beans, boiled eggs, avocados or other vegetables, talia (a kind of spaghetti), black pepper sauce, and mashed sauce made with cassava.
The meal is traditionally served on sorghum leaves, which have purported health benefits for the antioxidants they contain.
Country: South Africa
Main ingredients: Beef, chicken, lamb, seafood, ostrich, boerewor
Bottom Line: Braai
Braai, the South African word for "barbecue" is a way of life more than a simple dish.
Braai brings people together for weekly gatherings, where a variety of meats — including beef, chicken, fish and ostrich — are grilled over fire until they're perfectly charred and juicy.
Given that braii makes South Africa one of the best countries in the world for BBQ, we highly encourage you to try this dish as soon as possible.
1. Jollof Rice
Country: Nigeria, Ghana
Main ingredients: Rice, tomato sauce, meat
Bottom Line: Jollof Rice
The national dish of Nigeria, jollof rice is one of the most famous and most delicious African rice dishes.
The rice is cooked in tomato sauce, infused with spices and a fusion of flavors that can include ingredients like coconut milk and nutmeg. The rice soaks up the seasoning of the sauce to provide you with a taste of Nigerian food heaven.
Meat, fish and vegetables are typically added to the dish.