Given the possibility that the first “barbecue” took place in Africa, the continent might legitimately claim to have originated cooking. However, African foods, particularly those from south of the Sahara, remain grossly underrepresented in the global culinary scene.
Africa’s favorite foods offer something for everyone’s palate, from simple maize/grain porridges and root vegetables that form the basis of so many diets to big feasting delicacies like breyanis, tagines, stews, and aromatic curries.
This article focuses on the top ten African cuisines to try.
Pap en vleis/Shisa nyama, South Africa
Barbecued meat and maize porridge are a popular combination in many Southern African cultures, particularly in South Africa, where the braaivleis is a revered institution and a national sport.
“Pap en vleis” (literally, “maize porridge with meat”) is a broad word that refers to almost any combination of starch and braaied or stewed meat, served with a side of spicy gravy, relish, or chakalaka.
Shisa nyama, which means “burn the meat” in Zulu, has come to refer to a joyful “bring-and-braai” get-together; Shisa nyama restaurants are frequently placed adjacent to butcher shops, allowing clients to select their own meats and have them cooked to order over extremely hot wood fires.
Chops, steak, chicken, kebabs, and boerewors (a spicy farmer’s sausage) are served with a variety of maize porridges, including phutthu and stywe pap, krummelpap (crumbly porridge), and suurpap (sugar porridge) (soured pap). With a local beer, you’ve got South Africa on a plate.
Piri piri chicken, Mozambique
Mozambique’s cuisine is a fusion of African, Portuguese, Oriental, and Arab flavors, with hints of cashews and peanuts. Think fragrant spices, fiery piri piri, and creamy coconut sauces with hints of cashews and peanuts.
Visitors visiting Maputo frequently order sizzling, spicy prawns and seafood, but don’t overlook the renowned Mozambican dish Galinha à Zambeziana, a sumptuous feast of chicken cooked with lime, pepper, garlic, coconut milk, and piri piri sauce. Tourists simply call it grilled chicken piri piri, and it’s typically served with matapa, a delicacy of cassava leaves fried in a peanut sauce.
Jollof rice and egusi soup, Nigeria
Nigeria is a big country with many diverse regional cuisines, so identifying a national favorite meal is difficult. But one delicacy you must try before leaving Nigeria is jollof rice, a popular dish throughout West Africa that is claimed to be the origin of the Cajun dish jambalaya.
It’s a simple, spicy one-pot dish prepared with rice, tomatoes, onions, and pepper, and it’s frequently served at parties and other celebratory events alongside other Nigerian classics like egusi soup (made from pulverized melon seeds and bitter leaf), fried plantains, and pounded yam (iyan or fufu).
Thick, spicy broths made with okra and spiced with chicken or beef, as well as suya, which are hot Nigerian shish kebabs (similar to Ghana’s chichinga) cooked over braziers by street vendors, are other meals to try in Nigeria.
Bunny chow, South Africa
Nobody knows how rabbit chow got its name, but one thing is certain: this hollowed-out half- or quarter-loaf of white bread stuffed with a scorching-hot curry is one of South Africa’s most beloved street meals.
Indian indentured immigrants who arrived to South Africa in the 19th century to work on the sugar cane fields bought the meat and vegetable curries that go into bunny chows. Takeaways are available in all major cities, but Durban produces the best bunnies.
Kapenta with sadza, Zimbabwe
For many tourists visiting Zimbabwe, a stack of crisp-fried kapenta is the culinary highlight. Kapenta, a two-species tiny freshwater fish endemic to Lake Tanganyika, were introduced to Lake Kariba and are now a popular source of protein for Zambian and Zimbabwean lakefront residents.
Kapenta is frequently served with a mountain of wonderful maize porridge known in Zimbabwe as sadza, as is the case with many African cuisines. Kapenta comes in dried and fresh forms, and can be cooked with tomatoes, onions, and groundnut powder and served with fresh greens.
To consume your kapenta, don’t use a knife and fork; the traditional method is to scoop up the sadza with your hand and dip or roll it in the accompanying fish and relishes. Fresh bream or tilapia from Lake Kariba, grilled or fried with plenty of lemon butter, is another must-try dish for visitors to Zimbabwe.
Chambo with nsima, Malawi
When you utter the term “chambo” to a Malawian who isn’t from the country, their eyes may very well well fill with tears; it’s the most popular and well-known fish in Lake Malawi, and a wonderful national favorite. It’s commonly served grilled by the lakeshore with nsima (a stiff porridge comparable to pap in South Africa and sadza in Zimbabwe) or fries.
Ndiwo, a delightful relish consisting of pumpkin or cassava leaves, tomatoes, and groundnut powder, is a must-have accompaniment to chambo. In Zambia, nsima and ndiwo, as well as Ifisashi, a dish of greens in a peanut sauce, are revered staple foods.
Namibian venison, Namibia
Although good venison may be found throughout Southern Africa, Namibians will say that the best gemsbok, kudu, zebra, warthog, ostrich, and springbok can be found in restaurants and game lodges around the country.
Namibian cuisine is influenced by both German and South African cuisines, with classic German specialities like sausages, cured meats, sauerkraut, and Eisbein coexisting alongside South African-style potjiekos, biltong, and braaivleis. Serve your venison with oshifima (maize porridge) or mahangu (pearl millet), as well as a hearty tankard or two of superb Namibian beer.
Muamba de Galinha, Angola
This dish, like the traditional Caldeirada de Peixe (fish stew), demonstrates the tremendous influence of Portuguese cuisine on this former colony’s cuisine and is regarded as one of Angola’s national culinary treasures.
This spicy, slightly oily stew, also known as chicken muamba, is cooked with palm oil or palm butter, garlic, chilis, and okra. Chicken muamba in various forms, such as poulet moambé, may be found throughout the Congo River region, where it’s frequently served with cassava leaves and white rice.
Nyembwe chicken is a version that is the national meal of Gabon and is made with palm or macadamia nuts. Chicken muamba is a fantastic addition to central African starchy porridges that are bland to western palates since it is so rich and spicy.
Cape breyani, South Africa
Breyani is a fragrant dish made up of layers of marinated beef, rice, lentils, and spices, topped with crisp-fried onions and hard-boiled eggs. It is a revered classic of Cape Malay cuisine.
This one-pot, slow-cooked dish, popular for feeding huge audiences at special events and festivities, was brought to the Cape from the East alongside other “Malay” delicacies such bredies, pickled fish, denningvleis, and bobotie during the early days of the slave trade.
Zanzibari biryanis and pilaus, Zanzibar
As you savor these fantastic celebratory meals, both based on rice and the unusual assortment of spices typical with Zanzibar, you can almost feel the warm breath of the trade winds in your face.
There are many different types of biryani, ranging from simple vegetable assemblages to more complicated ones adding meat and seafood; pilau is typically a one-pot dish with a considerable amount of cardamom, cumin, and pepper.
Both are wonderful when served with kachumbari, an East African salad of fresh onions and tomatoes. Urojo is another iconic Zanzibar cuisine, a yellowish soup mixed with a variety of ingredients such as beef, chili, mango, ginger, tamarind, and lime that may be purchased from street sellers.
These are the most famous African cuisines which you should try. Tell us in the comments which are your favorite cuisines.