Senegal is a country located in West Africa, surrounded by Mauritania, Mali, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau. The country is home to several beautiful beaches, exceptional art, amazing music, captivating wildlife and many World Heritage Sites.
The population of Senegal is composed of several different ethnicities, including the Wolof (which is the largest single ethnic group in the country), the Fula and Toucouleur (the second biggest groups), followed by the Serer and many more, such as Jola, Mandinka, Maures, Soninke, Bassari and other smaller communities. Senegalese cuisine is undoubtedly a reflection of the country’s diversity, with many unique dishes to try.
Most Popular Senegalese Dishes
Senegalese cuisine is heavily influenced by North African, French, and Portuguese food. Islam, which initially entered the nation in the 11th century, also plays a significant role in the country’s diet.
Senegal is located on the border of the Atlantic Ocean; hence, fish is a very important ingredient in the country’s dishes. Meats including chicken, lamb and beef are most common, with pork being the rare because of the country’s large Muslim population.
Other ingredients that are added in recipes include peanuts (which is the primary crop in the country), eggs, couscous, white rice, sweet potatoes, lentils, black-eyed peas and several vegetables.
So without further ado, here are the absolute must-try traditional dishes of Senegal along with recipes to try for yourself.
Thiéboudieune is a dish prepared by cooking the rice with a tomato sauce and nokos. Nokos is a combination of spices and herbs, including parsley and plenty of garlic. The rice is accompanied by fish and several different vegetables, all of them simmered in the tomato sauce used to prepare the rice.
The vegetables added to the dish are very specific, only including carrot, cabbage, cassava, eggplant, okra and turnip. Thiéboudiene is considered to be the national dish of Senegal.
Traditionally, this dish is served on a large plate for the entire family to settle around and consume.
Soup Kandia (Okra and Palm Oil Sauce)
“Okra” translates to “Kandia” in Wolof, and kandia soup is a stew prepared using okra, palm oil and white rice. It is believed that the use of medium-sized okra instead of large okra is better for the dish, and it is also comparatively easier to cook.
This Senegalese delicacy is generally accompanied by souloukhou, a peanut butter sauce. Although the origin of okra is known to be in Africa, one can also easily find it in South America, Guyana, and even Haiti.
Yassa Guinar or Dieun
Yassa guinar is a dish prepared using rice as its base, served along with chicken or fish. Guinar translates to chicken in wolof and dieun refers to fish. The dish is generally consumed along with an onion sauce prepared with nokos, mustard, and plenty of lemons. A combination of various different spices is also added to the dish to enhance the flavour.
Yassa is considered to be one of the easiest dishes to prepare. It is typically served with braised or grilled fish or chicken, filled with nokos.
Domoda is a type of stew with a lemon sauce as its base. Ingredients used include beef, veal, lamb and balls of fish. The stew is allowed to cook in a sauce made of tomato paste, onions, vegetables and plenty of lemons. After cooking, the sauce is then thickened by adding a flour and water paste.
The dish is known to have originated in eastern Senegal. It is believed that domoda is more popular among women than men in the country.
Thiere is a millet couscous prepared using meatballs, potatoes, white beans, dates and sweet potatoes. People usually use any two kinds of meat to make this dish and it is always consumed with a sauce cooked by simmering meat and vegetables together.
The dish is sweet and savory in flavor and is generally prepared for big occasions such as tamkharitea. Thiere is a perfect example of Berber influences in Senegal’s cuisine.
Vermicelle Poulet: Broken Vermicelli and Chicken
Vermicelle poulet is a simple Senegalese dish prepared using steamed broken vermicelli, chopped onions and braised chicken or lamb.
Over the years, this Senegalese delicacy is believed to have become a dish that is especially preserved for festive events, weddings, baptisms and any other time people gather to celebrate anything.
Dibi is a popular Senegalese street food that is essentially just a piece of grilled lamb. The meat is marinated with many different types of spices and is then cooked over a wood-fire. The dish is then eaten along with mustard and hot peppers.
The specificity of this street food lies in its types of cooking: first en papillote, then grilled. It is later accompanied by onion rings. One can easily find this street food throughout the country.
Bouye juice is a popular beverage in Senegal. This drink is prepared using monkey bread (the fruit of the baobab, the most identifiable tree on the African savannah, generally in the sub-humid to semi-arid regions south of the Sahara).
The flavor is described as a little acidic. Monkey fruit is believed to have been an important fruit for hundreds of years not just in Senegal but also in several other African countries.
Bissap juice, also known as roselle juice, is a beverage prepared using hibiscus flowers. The drink is generally sweet in flavor and is consumed warm or cold.
Bissap is a Wolof word that refers to a species of hibiscus named Hibiscus sabdariffa. This Senegalese juice is commonly used in traditional medicine, which is made to treat men. Bissap juice is known to be packed with protein, lipids, minerals, Vitamin C and antioxidants.
It is also believed to be very effective in reducing blood pressure, which in turn helps with the reduction of cardiovascular diseases.