Best African Cookbooks
Given that humanity’s first barbecue might have taken place in a cave in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, the continent of Africa has a strong connection to food.
But despite that, many dishes from across the continent remain woefully unknown to the world culinary scene.
And that’s too bad—because African food is more than just grains, spices, and meat.
It’s actually an experience thanks to the countries’ different cooking styles and ingredients, which (when combined) give birth to a set of unique flavors and aromas.
So, if you, too, would like to taste what the “Motherland” has to offer, these eight African cookbooks will give you some ideas on what to serve for your next home-cooked meal.
It’s not easy pinning down a rule of thumb for Nigeria’s gastronomy as the country boasts a number of different regional cuisines.
But Hibiscus: Discover Fresh Flavors from West Africa epitomizes Nigeria’s cuisine like no other cookbook in the past.
By infusing old favorites with new ingredients and techniques (mainly influenced by the Brits), author Lope Ariyo brings West African food to the 21st century (and into the mainstream).
The cookbook is divided into 5 chapters, which focus on the country’s all-star ingredients, like grains, produce, and seafood.
Throughout the pages, you’ll also eye-feast on stunning photos of the dishes that’ll make you roll up your sleeves in the kitchen.
And yes, you may find yourself chasing down a few “exotic” add-ins at the local specialty store. But the “hunt” is well worth it as every bite is simply delicious.
- Moringa Beef Stew
- Frozen Watermelon and Cucumber Salad
- Hibiscus Drizzle Puff Puff
While Ethiopian food has gained traction in recent years, it is still considered a niche cuisine by many.
To right this wrong, chef Yohanis Gebreyesus created Ethiopia: Recipes and Traditions from the Horn of Africa, a cookbook dedicated to the hidden culinary gems of the “Land of Origins.”
The African cookbook is part recipe book and part travel guide, as it features both recipes and tidbits of Ethiopia’s culture and history.
It’s also rich in vibrant photos of the dishes and some enchanting landscapes that'll definitely scratch your travel itch.
The recipes are quite easy to make as most call for basic ingredients that you probably already have at home.
But keep in mind that if you want to enjoy the recipes Ethiopia-style, you have to make injera first. The spongy flatbread serves as a vessel for pretty much any Ethiopian meal, from entrees to stews.
- Kitfo (Steak Tartare)
- Gomen (Cooked Collard Greens)
- Injera (Sourdough Teff Flatbread)
Considering that Egypt’s culinary traditions stretch back more than 5.000 years, it’s a surprise that the local cuisine hasn’t caught on in the Western world.
But that may soon change thanks to Eat, Habibi, Eat!, a cookbook that blends Egypt's deep-rooted gastronomy with modern-day cooking.
The volume starts off as a crash course, introducing you to the basics of Egyptian cooking (like how to stock a pantry).
Then, the heirloom-quality recipes take you on a flavorful journey along the Nile and give your taste buds a pleasant surprise.
Some of the dishes even feature modern spins on classics, which means you won’t have to stray (too far) away from your cooking comfort zone.
In between the bites, author Shahir Massoud also shares a few heartwarming stories from his family’s kitchen that make the read even more enjoyable.
- Coriander Beef Ribs With Pomegranate BBQ Sauce
- Shawarma and Fattoush Salad
- Chickpea Fries With Harissa Mayo
Blessed with an abundance of seafood, tropical fruits, and the super-grain fonio, Senegal is the embodiment of farm-to-table in Africa.
And that's what chef Pierre Thaim celebrates in his latest cookbook, Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes From the Source to the Bowl.
Highlighting the benefits of locally grown crops, the volume proves it's impossible to have a bad Senegalese meal when the ingredients are fresh off the ground.
The pages also extend past what goes on in the kitchen, giving an anthropological view of the local food through the eyes and stories of fishermen, farmers, and even home cooks.
It's at this point we learn more about Senegal's culinary roots and its affiliation with Vietnamese/French cuisines.
And yes, some of the recipes require a little bit of legwork, but their punchy flavors make the effort well worth it.
- Spicy Kelewele Fried Chicken
- Salmon Yuca Croquettes
- Sweet Potato Mango Spice Cake
As one of Africa's most overlooked countries, mentions of Ghana's cuisine are far and few between.
But author Zoe Adjonyoh (and her debut cookbook, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen) prove that the country's food deserves a spot in the limelight.
With a mix of heritage ingredients and clear instructions, the self-taught cook hones in on the country’s most scrumptious traditional recipes (without, of course, neglecting all the usual palate pleasers).
So, while some of her dishes scream “Ghana," others are tweaked to match the needs of a Western kitchen.
The recipes are also accompanied by glossy photos and a list of songs to play when cooking (in case you want to appeal to all your senses as you chop, dice, and sizzle).
- Grilled Sardines in Spiced Roasted Tomato Sauce
- Aboboi (Bambara Bean Stew)
- Avocado and Divine Chocolate Mousse
Influenced by the multiple ethnic groups that inhabited the island over the years, the Mauritian cuisine is a mélange of flavors and cooking styles.
And if there’s one cookbook that illustrates this ambrosial medley like a pro, it’s The Island Kitchen: Recipes From Mauritius and the Indian Ocean.
The cookbook features 80 delicious recipes that serve as an entry point to the country’s exotic cuisine (especially for first-time cooks).
Despite their intricate looks, the dishes call for simple, no-frills ingredients. So, you can readily add them to your weekday meal rotation.
Author Selina Periampillai also breaks down some basic prepping techniques for minimum legwork and maximum flavor (i.e., how to prepare a crab easily).
And here’s a small bonus: Some of the treats are inspired by Mauritius’s neighboring islands, like Madagascar, Seychelles, and the Maldives. So, know there’ll be some (culinary) island hopping involved!
- Rougaille Saucisse (Sausages in Spicy Tomato Sauce)
- Dhon Riha (Maldivian Tuna Curry)
- Coconut Ice Cream With Caramelized Pineapple
With mainstays like harissa, couscous, and Tabil (a.k.a. Tunisia’s signature spice blend), it's fair to say that Tunisian food is a smorgasbord of flavors.
Luckily for our taste buds, Discovering Tunisian Cuisine puts this rich culinary background on full display.
Co-authored by Judith Hallet, Raoudha Ben Taarit, and Hasna Trabelsi, the cookbook serves as a comprehensive guide to the country’s gastronomy.
The recipes straddle the line between approachable and upscale, all thanks to their complex flavors but simple step-by-step instructions.
Most of them come with insightful headnotes that pass along folklore about their origins and offer alternatives for the more exotic ingredients.
And thanks to the wide array of options (plant- and meat-based), both vegetarians and carnivores can get in on the action.
The bright photos next to each dish will also make you wanna eat the pages (or grab your tagine and get cooking).
- Broudou (Vegetable Soup)
- Brik à l'Oeuf (Pastry With Shrimp, Parsley and Egg)
- Tagine Jben (Cheese Tagine With Lamb)
8. African American Cooking
Everyone who's ever stepped foot in the American South knows the magnetic pull of the land's cuisine.
And this is where Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries of African American Cooking truly excels. It evokes that very same (must-try-everything) feeling from page one.
Inspired by the culinary traditions of the African diaspora in North America, the cookbook offers a new narrative on African American cuisine.
In fact, author Toni Tipton-Martin chronicles not just the recipes she compiled through her research, but the black population's struggle to salvage its heritage and reinvent it in a new homeland.
From the hearty ingredients to the grandmotherly tips, the recipes err on the side of comfort food, which makes them perfect for a family gathering or a cozy dinner with friends.
- Gumbo Z’herbes
- Biscuit-Topped Chicken Pot Pie
- Peach-Buttermilk Ice Cream
Will You Try It?
Which of these African cookbooks would you like to cook from? Let me know your top picks in the comments down below!
© 2021 Kyriaki Chatzi