Explore the best of African cuisine with authentic recipes for classic stews, curries, flatbreads, and more.
December 01, 2014
1 of 13Photo: Oxmoor House
The Flavors of Africa
Heavily influenced by imported spices, African recipes are known for their intense flavor. Many seasonings used in traditional African dishes can be made ahead in bulk and enjoyed for months at a time. Find your favorite combination in one of our African-inspired meals and bring the flavors of the region into your own home.
Beginning in the 17th century, slaves from Indonesia and India were brought to work the farms of Cape Town, South Africa, and became known as Cape Malays. As a result of their influence, Malay curry dishes are now enjoyed all over South Africa, combining sweet flavors such as dried fruit, ginger, and cinnamon with garlic and onions.
2 of 13Photo: Oxmoor House
Pan-Fried Fish Balls
When fish is plentiful in Senegal, cooks often make boulettes de poisson, according to African food historian Jessica B. Harris. The little round fish cakes are usually flavored with garlic, parsley, and chiles browned in a pan and served with spicy tomato sauce. This simplified version spikes up prepared cocktail sauce with chili powder.
3 of 13Photo: Oxmoor House
Fish in Coconut Curry (Mtuzi wa Samaki)
Tanzania sits at a crossroads in the spice trade routes from India. That's why Indian spices ended up in so many Tanzanian dishes like this fish curry. The dish originated in Zanzibar but is now enjoyed all over the eastern coast of Africa. Coconut milk enriches the curry and gives it a tropical flavor. Serve over boiled yuca, potatoes, or rice.
4 of 13Photo: Oxmoor House
Teff Injera Flatbread with Carrot-Ginger Chutney
Like sourdough bread, injera batter usually ferments for days, developing the flatbread's signature sour taste. Here's a streamlined version from award-winning Ethiopian-born chef Marcus Sammelsson. Yogurt adds sourness, while club soda aerates and lightens the batter.
Popular in West Africa, Chicken Yassa calls for simply marinating chicken in lemon juice, broiling the chicken, and then stewing it in the boiled-down marinade. “It’s the first West African dish I tasted,” says food writer Jessica B. Harris. “Now, it’s my good luck dish.”
6 of 13Photo: Oxmoor House
East African Braised Chicken
The Indian spice trade carried curry throughout East Africa. Popular curry dishes like this aromatic chicken braised in broth with dates and raisins also combines traditional African braising techniques. To save money, start with a whole bird (3 to 4 pounds), and remove the bone-in breasts, thighs, and drumsticks yourself.
7 of 13Photo: Oxmoor House
Red Whole Wheat Penne
According to chef Marcus Samuelsson, “A brief Italian occupation from 1936 to 1941 left a European presence evident in Ethiopia’s cathedrals and in dishes like pasta saltata.” Here is the chef’s modern version of the now-classic Ethiopian dish—minus all the butter and oil.
8 of 13Photo: Oxmoor House
Persian traders brought mangoes to East Africa in the 10th century. Serve this simple mango salad with any East African meal of stewed or braised meat. Jalapeños, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and cloves spice it up, and peanuts give it crunch. If you can’t find red jalapeños, double up on the green ones.
9 of 13Photo: Oxmoor House
Mashed Peas and Potatoes with Corn (Irio)
In the Kenyan language of Kikuyu, irio just means "food." But in daily use, it means a quick dish of the region's staples: mashed potatoes, corn, peas, and greens. Irio is perfectly at home alongside roasted or grilled meats, but if you want some meatless protein, stir about a cup of frozen and thawed lima beans directly into the mash.
10 of 13Photo: Oxmoor House
Spicy Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew
Berbere, Ethiopia's signature spice blend, includes garlic, ginger, coriander, femigreek, and allspice in addition to a big pinch of ground chiles. Look for it at well-stocked supermarkets. For a change of pace, skip the rice and serve with our Teff Injera Flatbread.
This flavorful Ethiopian-inspired chicken stew recipe uses Berbere, an Ethiopian spice blend. Store extra spice mix covered in a cool, dark place for up to two weeks. Use leftovers on salmon, flank steak, or chicken for fiery flavor. Serve with basmati rice.
12 of 13Photo: Nina Choi
Spicy North African Pork Tenderloin
Roasted red bell peppers, cumin, garlic and coriander set the stage for this delicious spicy pork tenderloin recipe. Serve with yogurt sauce for a complete main dish that's worthy of a special occasion.
13 of 13Photo: Jennifer Causey
West African Beef, Plantain, and Okra Stew
While not nearly as sweet as bananas, plantains do have a sweet flavor. In this African-inspired stew, we keep that sweetness at bay by using firm plantains with green skins rather than ripe brown-skinned ones—the sugars will have not yet developed, so the fruit will add starchy body to the soup without too much sweetness.