Sierra Leone, located on the west coast of Africa, boasts a rich culinary heritage influenced by various cultures, including African, European, and Lebanese.

The culinary tradition of Sierra Leone predominantly relies on locally grown crops, including root vegetables like yams and cassava, along with leafy greens and spicy peppers. Palm oil, sourced within the country, is a commonly utilized cooking ingredient.

From hearty stews and flavorful soups to vibrant rice dishes and sweet treats, Sierra Leonean cuisine offers a unique and delicious experience for any food enthusiast.

STYLEAFRIQUE™•com takes a look at 9 must-try traditional dishes that will tantalize your taste buds and take you on a culinary journey through Sierra Leone.

1. Groundnut Soup

Sierra Leonean Groundnut Soup. Photo Credit: whereintheworldislianna.com
Sierra Leonean Groundnut Soup. Photo Credit: whereintheworldislianna.com

Groundnut Soup, also called Peanut Soup, is a beloved dish that showcases the influence of peanuts in Sierra Leonean cooking. Groundnuts are ground into a smooth paste and combined with tomatoes, onions, peppers, and other seasonings to create a rich and creamy soup. Often prepared with chicken, beef, or fish, this dish is bursting with flavor and pairs perfectly with rice or bread. Groundnut soup is not only delicious but also a source of protein and essential nutrients, making it a popular choice among locals and visitors alike.

2. Cassava Leaf Stew (Plasas)

Sierra Leonean Cassava Leaf Stew. Photo Credit: cookingwithclaudy.com
Sierra Leonean Cassava Leaf Stew. Photo Credit: cookingwithclaudy.com

A staple in Sierra Leonean cuisine, Cassava Leaf Stew, locally known as Plasas, is a hearty and comforting dish made from cassava leaves cooked with meat, fish, or seafood. The leaves are typically pounded or finely chopped and then simmered with palm oil, onions, garlic, and various spices until tender. This flavorful stew is often served with rice or fufu, a starchy accompaniment made from cassava or plantains, providing a satisfying and nutritious meal.

3. Jollof Rice

Sierra Leonean Jollof Rice. Photo Credit: blog.remitly.com
Sierra Leonean Jollof Rice. Photo Credit: blog.remitly.com

No exploration of West African cuisine would be complete without mentioning Jollof Rice, a dish that is beloved throughout the region and holds a special place in Sierra Leonean culture. This one-pot rice dish is cooked in a flavorful tomato-based sauce infused with onions, peppers, and a blend of spices such as thyme, curry powder, and bay leaves. Jollof Rice can be enjoyed on its own or paired with grilled meat, fish, or fried plantains, making it a versatile and satisfying meal that is perfect for any occasion.

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4. Pemahun

Sierra Leonean Pemahun. Photo Credit: thecookingwardrobe.com
Sierra Leonean Pemahun. Photo Credit: thecookingwardrobe.com

Pemahun is a healthy dish from Sierra Leone cuisine. It is a simple one-pot steamed rice dish, but the rice is not the secret. Rather it lies in the main ingredients of the dish – sweet potato leaves, garden eggs, and okra.

To prepare, you steam the rice together with the garden egg from the start., When it is almost cooked, add your potato leaves and okra, which tend to soften fast. You can add other necessary ingredients, allow it to cook well, and enjoy your pemahun. You can further enjoy this dish with fish, beef, chicken, and your choice of condiment. Fried fish is more popular in the country because of its proximity to the sea. 

5. Fufu

Sierra Leonean Fufu. Photo Credit: cheflolaskitchen.com
Sierra Leonean Fufu. Photo Credit: cheflolaskitchen.com

Fufu is famous in tropical Africa and goes by Foofoo in other countries. Depending on the location, the preparation method for this food differs. In Sierra Leone, fufu is made with fermented cassava.

The cassava is soaked and pounded with mortar and pestle, then strained to drain every moisture content. It is allowed to ferment for a couple of days before being cooked into a thick wet paste. It’s stirred and rolled into moldable balls you can eat with any soup of your choice. Fufu goes well with a variety of African dishes such as plasas and groundnut stew.

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6. Yebe

Sierra Leonean Yebe. Photo Credit: loispiration.com
Sierra Leonean Yebe. Photo Credit: loispiration.com

Yebe is a Sierra Leone food made with various root vegetables like cassava, plantains, yam, and potatoes. This healthy stew is made by boiling the vegetables and adding palm oil, seasoning, pepper, and even protein like fish or chicken. The vegetables are allowed to cook and soften so that their starch content can be broken down, which thickens the stew.

7. Akara

Sierra Leonean Akara Photo Credit: recipesfromapantry.com
Sierra Leonean Akara. Photo Credit: recipesfromapantry.com

Akara, also known as Bean Cakes, is a popular street food in Sierra Leone that is enjoyed as a snack or breakfast item. Made from black-eyed peas or beans, which are soaked, peeled, and ground into a thick paste, Akara is then seasoned with onions, peppers, and spices before being deep-fried until golden brown and crispy. These savory fritters are often served with bread or eaten on their own, making them a delicious and convenient option for a quick bite.

8. Fish Balls

Sierra Leonean Fish Balls. Photo Credit: thecookingwardrobe.com
Sierra Leonean Fish Balls. Photo Credit: thecookingwardrobe.com

Fish balls are considered a snack food and are popular at parties or sold as street food. Fish balls are a mixture of fine boneless fish and seasonings like cilantro, onion, garlic, potatoes and peppers. The mixture is rolled into balls then fried. The type of fish and seasonings used are based on the fish available and personal taste.

9. Coconut Cake

Sierra Leonean Coconut Cake. Photo Credit: Janejuma Kaikai/YouTube
Sierra Leonean Coconut Cake. Photo Credit: Janejuma Kaikai/YouTube

Beyond the main course dishes, Sierra Leone desserts are also enjoyed in the country. Coconut cake is a well-loved treat in Sierra Leone. This moist and flavorful cake is a delicious dessert made with coconut milk, flour, sugar, eggs, and spices.