Benin is a West African country that hosts a large diversity of wildlife, making it a popular choice destination for safari vacations. The country’s wildlife has often overshadowed the food in the country. Though the dishes are often simple, the foods in Benin are a must-try for any foodie out there!
What Is Special About Benin Food?
Benin is bordered by Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso, and Togo, and as such, has seen its food is heavily influenced by the cuisines of these countries.
However, Benin foods are simple dishes born out of innovation. An unfortunate fact about Benin is that the country ranks as one of the poorest in the world. But that has allowed Benin cuisine to maximize all their locally grown crops to create amazing delicacies you won’t want to ignore.
National Food Of Benin
Kuli-kuli is the national dish of Benin. It is a snack made from ground peanuts formed into balls, biscuits, or flutes.
This dish is popular in African countries like Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana, and Guinea as well. The origin is unclear; however, there is an assumption that this food traveled between these countries during the infamous West African slave trade.
Kuli-kuli is a cheap and protein-packed food in the country. You can find them on the streets and in malls nationwide.
Famous Traditional Benin Food
Djewo Or Amiwo
This is a traditional Benin food originating in the southern part of the country. It’s a dough food made with corn flour, and it’s popular in many West African countries. Djewo is well seasoned with garlic, chicken bouillon cubes, onions, and chili.
It is only slightly less popular than kuli-kuli. Djewo goes well with onions, crushed green peppers, or tomato juice. If you are a meat lover, you can eat djewo with chicken or mutton as well, as they are popular meats in the country.
Watche Or Atassi
Watche, also known as atassi in many regions across Benin, is a local delicacy in Benin cuisine. It has grown to become a staple in many African cuisines.
Atassi is a local one-pot cooked dish of rice and beans. This versatile Benin food is good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
The simple dish can be prepared plain and enjoyed with traditional stews like Dahomey fish stew. It can also be mixed with all ingredients in the same pot to create a jollof version. Whichever version you decide to try, it is sure to be an African delicacy you won’t forget.
Typical Swallows In Beninese Cuisine
Tchokourou (Pounded Yam)
Tchokourou is what is referred to as a swallow. Swallows are often served with sauces or stews. To eat it, you take a small portion, dip it into the sauce, and swallow it whole.
This is a special traditional Benin food. It is so significant that it has a dedicated festival. Although not seasonal, this food is more common during the yam harvest season. It is a delicious food that serves as an energy source for the Beninese.
Tchokourou is made from yam boiled, pounded in mortar and pistol, and molded into fine white dough. It’s a dish you can enjoy alone, but for a better experience, try this Benin food with peanut sauce or okra stew.
Telibo (Black Paste)
This traditional Benin food is famous in other West African countries like Nigeria, albeit with a different name, “amala.” The origin is unclear, but it is a food that gained fame in the northern region of Benin before spreading across the country.
This food is prepared from yam pods and is typically black or brown. This food tastes pretty bland by itself but is delicious when enjoyed with stews, soups, or sauce accompanied by meat or fish. We recommend trying it with okra sauce or vegetable stew.
Piron or eba is a special swallow food of the Fon people in Benin. This food is made from cassava flakes (gari) and consumed nationwide in Benin.
This food is very versatile; you can soak gari and eat it with kuli-kuli or peanuts. The taste depends on the type of gari used; it can be sour or bland. Locals prefer to eat eba with okra sauce.
Fufu (Cassava Dough-Food)
Fufu is a sticky starchy dough food staple in Beninese food It is popular in West Africa, though it reportedly originated in Ghana.
Typically, fufu is made purely with cassava, but the Benin version has a twist. The cassava flour is mixed in equal measure with plantain flour.It has a mild taste by itself and therefore goes well with different Benin Soups and stews. To enjoy the African food experience, you can eat fufu like the locals by molding it with your hands and scooping your soup with it.
Soups, Stews, And Sauces In Benin Food
Dekounoun Sounnou (Seed Sauce)
Due to the many swallow foods in Benin cuisine, many sauces, stews, and soups are available to complement these foods. Dekounoun Sounnou is a staple Benin food made from palm nuts, loved by locals and visitors alike. This sauce is more popular in the country’s southern region than in any other region.
Beyond its rich flavor and creamy texture, dekounoun sounnou is rich in lipids. Some locals add crab and vegetables to their palm nut sauce to boost its nutrient content. Heavily seasoned with local spices, this is one of the most exotic foods in Benin cuisine.
You can enjoy this sauce with Djewo or any other swallow food in Benin.
Han Kpete (Pork Sauce)
Han kpete is a popular dish in Beninese cuisine. However, it is not enjoyed nationwide. Though one of the tastiest Benin foods, its main ingredient is pork, which is forbidden by Islam. Therefore the dish is only available in specific regions of Benin.
Han kpete is a tasty pork sauce common in the country’s capital “Porto-Novo.” This dish is prepared with pork marinated with local spices and can be cooked in tomato sauce or grilled. You can enjoy han kpete alone or with a bowl of rice.
Ninnouwi (Crincrin Sauce)
This is the poster boy of many amazing stews in Benin. This sauce is made of jute leaves and has a Benin origin, but it has been adopted in many other African countries.
Crincrin sauce is a nutrient-rich Benin food you can enjoy as a standalone or accompanying main dishes like eba, talibo, and dekoun sounnou.
This soup is made from local spices and crops like locust beans, ginger, onions, and garlic. For the best local experience, this stew should be eaten with your hands, alongside fufu or other swallow food.
This a traditional Beninese sauce enjoyed across the country. There are several variations of this food in the country due to the availability of ingredients in different regions, making it a dish worth trying many times.
The staple ingredients of this Benin food are mustard, vegetable oil, and onions. This food is tasty and simple to prepare.
You can enjoy monyo with eba or telibo. If you are a meat lover, you can also add meat or fish.
Gboman is a traditional vegetable stew cherished by the Beninese, and it is one dish vegetarians will love. This flavorful dish offers an irresistible aroma when garnished with other ingredients and local spices. Mustard is a standout ingredient in the dish.
The origin of this food is unclear, but it’s a Benin food popular across West Africa. This stew is very versatile, as you can accompany it with almost anything. Locals prefer to enjoy it with swallow dishes or rice.
Snacks, Light Dishes, And Street Food In Benin
Wagassi Or Wara
Wagassi is a popular cheese across West Africa that originated in the northern part of Benin. Known as wara in other countries, it is a specialty of the Fulani people in the country.
This Beninese cheese is made from fresh cow milk and has a mild flavor. You can enjoy it in different ways, though it is often cooked, boiled or stewed in tomato sauce.
If you are looking for fresh organic food in Benin, wagassi is one you should definitely try.
Dahomey Fish Stew
Dahomey fish stew is a traditional Benin food made with fillets from low-fat fish. This stew is garnished with local spices, giving it a special flavor and aroma.
The fish fillets are covered in all-purpose flour and fried in oil until they assume a golden-brown color. These fillets are allowed to cook in tomato sauce until they blend to perfection. This food goes well with local Beninese foods like rice and atassi.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Discovering Traditional Foods In Benin
Benin foods are designed for people who like to keep their food simple. While the dishes don’t sound or look exotic, you would be surprised at how delicious many foods in Benin cuisine taste.
Each dish tells a story of the people, their traditions, and their relationship with the land. Whether it’s the comforting simplicity of eba or the bold flavors of dekounoun sounnou sauce, Beninese cuisine offers a rich tapestry of tastes and textures that is sure to please.