As an Accra-native, I have some insider knowledge on what are the most popular Ghanaian foods. And while there are plenty of dishes originating from Ghana’s various regions, there are some that you can count on seeing in every kitchen. These recipes are the staples of Ghanaian cuisine and are found in homes from all over the country. So if you want to know what it’s like to eat “Ghanaian food”, here is your go-to list for 10 must-try dishes.
1.) Jollof Rice
2.) Fried Plantain (the original chips)
3.) Red Red
4.) Pepper Soup
6.) Fufu (chilled)
7.) Gulley Gullah
8.) Ackee and Saltfish
9.) Curry Goat
1.) Jollof Rice
Jollof rice is a dish that originates from West Africa and is very popular in Ghana. It consists of rice, boiled plantains, tomato, onion, carrots and a variety of spices. The dish gets its name from the word “jolof” which means "rice" in Wolof (a language spoken by Senegalese Muslims). Traditionally, the dish was prepared by cooking the ingredients together on an open fire or in a hole dug deep into the ground.
2.) Fried Plantain
Fried plantain is arguably Ghanaian cuisine's most popular side dish. This savory accompaniment is often eaten with stews to help cut through their strong flavors and make them go down easier. Sometimes they're also enjoyed as snacks or appetizers when fried alone.
3.) Red Red
This West African soup made with beans, tomatoes, onions and various seasonings like thyme and fresh peppers are cooked together until they form a thick sauce-like consistency. It's usually served with white or brown rice to accompany it.
4.) Pepper Soup
Pepper soup is another popular Ghanaian soup that gets its distinctive flavor from aromatic pepper pods such as nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and cloves. Other vegetables like cabbage are sometimes added for extra flavor and texture. The soup is then simmered until it becomes rich and creamy-looking with a dark orange hue from the roasted pepper skins.
If you’ve ever visited Ghana and had the pleasure of eating a plate of fried plantains, you know how addicting they can be. You might find fried plantains offered as street food in Accra, on the side of a plate of Jollof rice for dinner in Kumasi, or as a side dish with many other dishes. Fried plantain tastes great when it is fresh and hot, but it can also be made ahead of time and eaten cold. They are popular at breakfast time with coconut milk or any type of light soup.
Red Red is a tomato-ey stew with red palm oil, spices and assorted vegetables. The dish is popular in Ghana’s Northern Region, which is more heavily populated by the Fulani tribe. The Fulani people are nomadic and their cuisine has been influenced by the various cultures they have encountered on their journeys.
If you’ve ever eaten Ghanaian food, it’s likely that you’ve already tried some type of pepper soup. This is a dish that is found all over West Africa and has many incarnations. In Ghana, peppers are used in most dishes and the soups are typically made with red bell peppers, chili peppers and other spices.
But the most common version of this dish is made with a fresh pepper soup base, hot water and fried groundnuts. The pepper soup base can be made with different types of peppers, but the typical version calls for guinea peppers or any type of green chili pepper (which is also known as country peppers). They are blended together with a little bit of water and then simmered in a pot until they become soft enough to purée them into a smooth paste.
This often gets added to boiling water to make it into a light broth which is then served with fufu or banku. Pepper soup can be served as an appetizer or as part of the main course, but it's best when enjoyed at breakfast time on cold mornings.
Banku is a staple in any Ghanaian home. Most people have it at least once a week and some households may even have it every day! It’s usually eaten with some type of soup, like pepper soup, or simply with some fried plantains. Banku is made by cooking cornmeal with water until a dough-like consistency forms. Red palm oil is then mixed into the dough before frying it on both sides to get the signature red color.
Fufu is a Ghanaian dish made from cassava root and plantain, which are pounded into a dough-like consistency. It is served cold with sauces on the side. This dish is often served during Ghanaian celebrations, such as weddings, graduations, and birthdays.
Gulley Gullah is a popular, rich dish that is made with okra and spicy tomato sauce. Okra is a plant-based dietary fiber that helps to promote healthy digestion as it has probiotics, which help your gut stay healthy. This dish originated in the rural areas of Ghana and is often served with rice or fufu (pounded cassava).
Fried Ackee and Saltfish is a Jamaican dish of ackee fruit and salted cod. The dish originated in Jamaica, where it is most popular around the Easter season. Fried Ackee and Salted Cod was traditionally prepared with whole salted cod, but fish bones are now often removed before preparation.
One of the most popular Ghanaian dishes, curry goat is typically served at weddings and other formal events. It’s made by cooking a whole goat in a mixture of spices, including ginger, garlic, turmeric, salt, pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon. But it’s not just the meat that makes this dish special. The sauce is also an important element to the meal. The sauce is made with onions and tomatoes (all finely chopped) making for a rich and flavorful stew.
Oxtail is a soup dish that incorporates the tail of an ox and some vegetables. It is a hearty meal that is often eaten in the afternoon. The soup is made from onions, tomatoes, and other vegetables with pieces of oxtail thrown in for flavor. It is traditionally served with Ghanaian groundnut soup.
Oxtail starts by being boiled with water and salt until it’s tender enough to eat. It’s then cut into small pieces and fried before being added back to the pot. The vegetables are also fried before being added to the pot along with some more salt, pepper, and spices (usually curry powder). The ingredients are cooked over low heat for several hours until they create a thick broth.
There are many variations of this dish depending on what region it originates from as well as personal preference or cultural tradition. One variation includes using beef instead of oxtails while another will include both chicken and beef. Brussel sprouts can be used as a replacement for green beans or cabbage can be used instead of spinach or okra can replace peas or carrots in order to make it vegetarian-friendly.