Your Senegalese shopping list: top 10 traditional foods of Senegal

Senegalese cuisine is known for its fresh fish, stews and grains. Here’s a list of ingredients that give Senegalese food its bold flavour.
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Johnny Garmeson
Jul 14
3.5 mins
Jul 14
3.5 mins

With over 500 miles of Atlantic coastline, Senegalese cuisine is known for its fresh fish, funky stews and flavourful grains. Here’s a list of some ingredients that give the food of Senegal it’s distinctive bold flavour.

1. Peanuts

Photo by Tom Hermans on Unsplash

You won’t have to break the bank for our first entry, in fact, it’ll cost...

...Peanuts, or groundnuts, are the number one crop in Senegal and this has had a huge influence on the cuisine. From flavourful soups, to classic stews like Maafé, peanuts add brilliant earthiness and richness to a host of slow cooked Senegalese recipes.

This common ingredient is often used in the form of unsweetened and unsalted peanut butter, bringing a silky texture without disrupting the harmony of the dish.

2. Cassava

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

If you haven’t tried this ingredient yet, we’re sure you’ll be seduced by this Cassava-nova (sorry)

Cassava was brought to West Africa from Brazil in the 16th Century and is now one of the most important foods in the region. Somewhere between a yam and a potato, it is used as a starch to be served alongside stews in Senegalese food.

One of the most common forms of Cassava is a fermented mash called Attiéke, although the root isn’t the only edible part of the plant. Cassava leaves also have their use, bringing a vegetal, herby flavour to soups and sauces.

3. Broken Rice

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Now before you try to return this next entry, just remember, that’s how it’s meant to look!

‘Riz brisé’ is the grain of choice in Senegal. Almost resembling couscous, these finely broken pieces of rice have their history in Senegal’s French colonial past.

Rice from Vietnam (another French colony) would often arrive crushed after being shipped thousands of miles. This hugely reduced the price it could be sold at. But due to this low cost and it’s satisfying texture, broken rice soon became Senegal’s favourite grain. To this day, it's necessary for long grain rice shipments in Senegal to contain a certain percentage of broken pieces!

4. Limes

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You’ll be feeling sour if you forget to put this ingredient on your shopping list.

The citrus fruit brings a lot of brightness to Senegalese cookery, and is a common addition to both sweet and savoury meals.

One of the most famous uses of lime in Senegal is in Yassa chicken, a braised one-pot dish, known for its marriage of sweet and sour. Made with slow cooked caramelised onions and plenty of lime juice, this simple dish is a must try Senegalese classic!

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5. Black Eyed Beans

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This item is the beating PULSE of Senegalese cuisine.

Black-eyed beans (or peas) are a great source of protein and fibre, and are commonly eaten alongside stews and grains to round out a meal.

Dishes like the fresh and zingy Saladu Ñebbe really showcase the pulse’s flavour and its texture, whereas others use the pulse as a base for a batter. A common Senegalese breakfast staple called Akara calls for the black-eyed beans to be pulverized into a paste that is then deep-fried into fluffy golden fritters.

6. Red Palm Oil

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Many chefs in Senegal have been caught red handed using this ingredient!

This vibrant red oil is a common sight in any Senegalese kitchen. Unlike the palm oil that is regularly used in many consumer goods, this ingredient is derived from the actual palm fruit rather than the kernel.

Providing subtle sweetness as well as colour, this oil contains carotenes (the compound that gives tomatoes and carrots their colour) and is vitamin rich.

7. Netetou

Photo by Goh Rhy Yan on Unsplash

This condiment is the seediest entry on our list - in the best possible way!

Likened to an African miso paste, Netetou is the Wolof word (Senegal’s most common language) for a pungent condiment made across West Africa. The paste is traditionally made from Néré seeds that have been washed and packed away with salt to ferment.

The balls or patties of Netetou are used to flavour dishes in a similar way to bouillon, and provide an umami kick to rice dishes and stews.

8. Yeet

Photo by Ákom Károly Áron on Unsplash

Now if you type ‘Yeet’ into Google, you may have to do some scrolling before you find anything other than videos of objects being violently flung around. However, we are here for something entirely different…

Yeet, or Yete, is actually the name of a Senegalese delicacy made from fermented sea snails. Known for its peculiar salty funk, this ingredient is vital to the flavour of Senegal’s national dish ‘Thiéboudienne’. Often substituted for Southeast Asian fish sauce, this mollusk may sound like something you would want to hurl away, but it packs a flavour punch that can’t be missed.

9. Gejj

If something here smells a little fishy - trust us, you're on the right track...

Senegal’s answer to Bottarga is made through fermenting and drying the flesh of various white fish. If you thought Yeet was funky then Gejj is a whole other level. Condensed blocks of this ingredient are often crumbled into stews and sauces to bring a salty fermented note to the dish. In a country well known for its seafood, Gejj is central to the flavour profile of many dishes with a marine focus to them.

10. Maggi Sauce

Nothing to do with the youngest member of the Simpson family, this next ingredient is nonetheless surprising.

Maggi is found all throughout Senegalese cuisine and is one of the more peculiar European imports to Africa. This salty condiment is similar to soy sauce, but is actually derived from vegetables rather than soybeans.

A stalwart of Senegalese home cooking, this sauce adds a savoury kick to any dish.

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