The variety of people in this continent shows in African cuisine from the ingredients to the techniques.
The African continent is home to people form hundreds of different tribes, ethnic and social groups. No wonder all this variety shows in African cuisine all the way through the ingredient used to the preparation and cooking techniques.
The Warmth of Food in Africa
Common to most of the continent are meals with little meat, plenty of whole grains and beans, and even more fresh fruits and vegetables. African cuisine may well become the new healthy way of cooking.
Cuisine of Africa
The food of Africa is a combination of local fruit, grains, vegetables, milk and meat products, their own traditions and Arab, European and Asian influences.
Eating habits of the different African regions vary greatly. Milk, curd and whey would make the bulk of the diet in some areas while in others milk cannot be produced due to diseases in cattle. Grains are staple food in the Eastern African diet, where they use cattle, sheep and goats as coin and rarely, if ever, eat their meat; while Central Africa residents not only eat beef and meat with gusto, when available, but hunt for other meats at the forest as well.
Food in North Africa
The food of the countries lined along the Mediterranean Sea is the most familiar to the Western between all African countries, probably because of the constant interaction with Mediterranean Europe.
North African cuisine often incorporates lamb, chicken, fish, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, along with spices like cinnamon, cumin, and coriander. Popular dishes include couscous, tagines (slow-cooked stews), and shawarma.
Think Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya and Egypt; one could say North African cuisine has its roots at the beginning of civilization. Couscous, main staple in North African diet, has become a familiar word for many and its popularity out of Africa grows by the day. Carthaginians introduced wheat and semolina. The Berbers, a Christian nomadic people, made semolina into couscous. Apart from couscous, count on olives and olive oil, known since before the Romans arrived, saffron, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and cloves, typical spices, incorporated by the Arabs, baking and sweet pastries, after Ottoman Turks, and some of the foods from the New World, like tomatoes, zucchini, potatoes and chili peppers, define North African cuisine.
Food in East Africa
East African food often includes grains like millet and sorghum, vegetables, dairy products, and meats. In Ethiopia, injera (a sourdough flatbread) and doro wat (a spicy chicken stew) are common. In coastal countries like Kenya and Tanzania, fish and seafood are more prevalent. Uganda takes inspiration from both sides.
People in the inland savannah keep cattle, but cattle heads are regarded as a symbol of wealth, not as food; meat products are notoriously absent from their diet. Sometimes cattle’s milk or blood might be drink, but meat is consumed only on the very odd occasion.
The rest of Eastern Africans rely on grains and vegetables; you will find ugali –a starchy corn based paste similar to polenta- served with soups and stews everywhere. Matoke, a dish of steamed, green bananas, provide the filling base in many of the Ugandan meals.
Swahili cuisine shows Arab influences, particularly at the coast, in their use of saffron, cloves and cinnamon, or their preference for spiced steamed rice and pomegranate juice.
Oranges, lemon, limes, chili peppers, corn, tomatoes, pineapple, and pork meat were introduced by the Portuguese and Spanish, from their countries and colonies in Asia and America. They also pioneered the techniques for roasting and marinating meats, and the use of spices to flavor otherwise bland dishes.
Finally, one can find curries, lentil dishes, chapattis and pickles brought by British and Indian settlers.
Food in Central Africa
Here we find Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo or Gabon. Central African cuisine often features root vegetables like cassava and plantains, along with peanuts, bushmeat, and fish. Ndolé, a Cameroonian stew made with nuts, ndoléh (bitter leaves), and often meat or fish, is one popular dish.
Remote and inaccessible, Central Africa has remained quite true to its traditional food, as it did not have many external influences until the 19th century, not taking into account that peanuts, chili peppers, and cassava, their staple food, were introduced from the New World. Very likely those items were incorporated into the local cooking techniques.
Plantain and cassava are the main ingredients in the diet. A starchy paste made from fermented cassava roots accompanies sauces and grilled meats. Meat is hunted in the forest adding an exotic touch when crocodile, monkey, antelope and warthog make it occasionally to the menu instead of beef or chicken.
You could find yourself in front of a meal of peanut casserole with chicken, okra, chili and other spices, with stewed spinach and cassava greens on the side. Bambara, a sort of porridge made from rice, peanut butter and sugar, could be the dessert.
Food in West Africa
That would be Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana or Mali, West African cuisine frequently uses fish, meat, especially goat, as well as beans, rice, yams, okra, and a variety of leafy green vegetables. Jollof rice, a dish made with rice, tomatoes, onions, and often meat or fish, is popular across the region. Fufu, a starchy side often made from cassava, yams, or plantains, is another staple.
Sitting down to a typical West African meal, one cannot help but noticing it is loaded with starchy foods, very light on the meat side, and well dipped in fat. Fufu a semi-solid paste, not unlikely mashed potatoes or Italian polenta, but made from root vegetables like yams or cassava, will accompany soups and stews.
West Africans love hot spices -including chili peppers, probably the only Western World influence in West Africa cooking along peanuts, and other ingredients from the New World- and they can boast of having grains of paradise, or Guinea pepper, their own native hot seasoning. Cinnamon, cloves and mint were incorporated through trade with Arab countries.
Seafood is eaten often and it can be mixed liberally with meat, usually chicken. Goat meat is the dominant red meat, as beef and mutton are tough and not very appetizing in that area.
Water has a special significance, particularly in very dry areas, and it will be the first offered to a guest. Palm wine is other beverage enjoyed in West African nations. Made from the fermented sap from various palm trees, it can be sweet or sour, depending on how long was left to ferment.
Food in Southern Africa
Where South Africa, Zimbawe, Botswana or Namibia are. In this region, you will often find corn (maize) featured prominently, often ground into a meal and cooked to a polenta-like consistency known as sadza in Zimbabwe or pap in South Africa. Meat, including beef, chicken, and in some places, game meat, is also popular. Bobotie, a dish of spiced minced meat baked with an egg-based topping, is a traditional dish in South Africa.
Southern African cuisine is cultural Technicolor with so many influences mingled in their food. Put together local ingredients, including game meats like antelope and ostrich, European contributions from Portuguese, Dutch or British settlers, and add Malay or Indian spiciness; you get the idea.
Seafood is very much appreciated, as are vegetables and fruits –grapes, mangoes, papayas, bananas. Fresh fruit is very often the dessert of choice, puddings served on occasion.
What do they eat in Africa?
Africa is a vast continent with a great diversity of cultures, ethnic groups, and climates, all of which contribute to a rich array of traditional cuisines.
What is African cuisine?
African cuisine refers to the traditional and modern foods and cooking methods of the people across the African continent, which is incredibly diverse. It varies greatly from region to region due to differences in climate, culture, and historical influences. For example, in North Africa, you might find dishes like couscous and tagines, flavored with rich spices, reflecting both indigenous Berber and Arab influences. Meanwhile, in West Africa, staples like jollof rice and fufu (a dough-like food made from cassava or yams) are popular.
In East Africa, sourdough flatbread called injera and spicy stews known as wats are common, particularly in Ethiopia. Central Africa often features dishes based on root vegetables and peanuts, while in Southern Africa, you'll find a lot of dishes made from cornmeal, like sadza or pap, served with meat and vegetables. The cuisine in each region has been shaped by local resources, traditional farming and cooking methods, and historical trade or colonization. So, when you're talking about "African cuisine," you're really talking about a whole world of diverse and delicious foods!
What is African food?
African food refers to the culinary traditions and dishes native to the various countries and cultures in Africa. The continent is hugely diverse, so the food varies significantly from region to region, reflecting local ingredients, cultural traditions, and historical influences. North African food, like that in Morocco and Egypt, is often filled with a variety of spices, with dishes such as couscous and tagine. Meanwhile, West Africa, including countries like Nigeria and Senegal, is known for flavorsome rice dishes like jollof rice, and a dough-like food called fufu made from yams or cassava.
Moving to the east, in Ethiopia, you would come across a sourdough flatbread known as injera and spicy stews called wats. In Central Africa, root vegetables and peanuts are central to many dishes, while Southern Africa, which includes countries like South Africa and Zimbabwe, often features dishes made from cornmeal, such as sadza or pap. Each of these food traditions reflects the unique environments, histories, and cultures of the regions they come from. So, African food is a rich and diverse mix of flavors and ingredients that tells the story of this vast continent.
Food in Algeria is a unique blend of flavors where couscous reigns supreme.
Food in Angola is a cultural experience not to be missed.
Food in Ethiopia is spiced. Read some words about Ethiopian cultural background, its food and a few typical recipes.
Food in Egypt comes from ancient tradition, and from ancient traditions to modern cuisine, Egypt offers amazing dishes.
Food in Kenya is more than just sustenance; it is a celebration, a form of expression, and a unifying thread that weaves through the fabric of its diverse communities.
Food in Madagascar is really flavorful. Best known for its vanilla beans, Madagascar offers an interesting blend of flavors and culture.
Food in Morocco is rich and highly spiced without becoming overly hot, a cuisine to enjoy with a very distinctive flavor.
Food in Nigeria is as rich and varied as its culture.
Food in South Africa is as colorful as the rainbow.
Food in Zambia is not known as being hot and spicy, the flavors are rather mild.
The baobab is a tree native to Africa. Baobab leaves are used as vegetables - eaten both fresh, or dry and ground to powder. Baobab leaves are an ingredient of kuka soup in Nigeria. The fruit is an excellent source of vitamin C and calcium and it is referred as sour gourd or monkey's bread - its dry pulp can be mixed with liquid to make porridge or coated in sugar and sold as a sweet and sour candy known as ubuyu.