Fufu is a starchy African food with a doughy, mashed potato-like consistency, usually eaten as an accompaniment to soups or stews. It forms an important part of various West African and Caribbean cuisines and is typically made from cassava root, yam, or other starchy ingredients, which are pounded with a pestle and mortar and mixed with a little water to form a smooth, elastic dough.
Because fufu is popular in so many different places, there are plenty of regional variations. It can be made using many different ingredients, including cassava, yam, eba, green plantains, amala, cocoyam (malanga), breadfruit, corn, semolina, or rice, all of which lend a slightly different texture. In some Caribbean countries bacon or lard may be added to the mixture, while in Nigeria it can be made using fermented cassava root.
History and origins
The name ‘fufu’ comes from the Twi language, which is spoken by the Akan peoples of central and southern Ghana and the southeastern Côte d’Ivoire. The word means to mash or mix, a reference to the way in which fufu is made, and may sometimes be spelled ‘foofoo’, ‘foufou’ or ‘fufuo’.
Like it’s name, fufu is thought to originate from modern-day Ghana, spreading from there to many other West African nations. It was then brought to the Americas by enslaved populations, where it was adapted to use locally-available ingredients, going on to become a staple food in many Caribbean countries including Haiti, Jamaica, Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Fufu can be made using almost any starchy ingredient, and while it is most commonly made using cassava root or yams, it may also be made using cassava, yam, eba, green plantains, amala, cocoyam (malanga), breadfruit, corn, semolina, rice, or a combination of 2 or more of these foods. In some cases it can be made with flours such as cassava flour, plantain flour or tapioca flour, rather than by pounding the vegetable itself.
The nutritional values of fufu vary depending on the ingredients used to make it. Because these ingredients are all selected for their starchiness, it is always extremely high in carbohydrate, and fairly high in calories. It is often virtually fat free, although this will not be the case if you add bacon or lard, and may provide a good source of potassium, particularly if it is made with yams or plantain.
What does it taste like?
Again, the taste of fufu varies depending on what is used to make it, but in general, it has a mild, slightly sour taste, and has been compared to both sweet potatoes and regular potatoes. Its subtle flavour makes it the perfect accompaniment for rich, bold African soups.
How to make fufu
This tasty yam fufu uses a food processor to do all the hard work, so it couldn’t be simpler to make.
Total time: 55 mins
Freshly ground black pepper,
Peel the yams and cut them into roughly 2 inch pieces.
Place the yam pieces into a large pot and add water until the water line comes to 2 inches above the yams. Salt the water well.
Bring the pot to a rapid boil over a high heat, and continue to boil for approximately 20 minutes, until the yams begin to soften.
Drain the pan, reserving 2 cups of cooking water, and set the yams aside to cool.
Once the yams are cool to the touch, place them in a medium-sized bowl, add the oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Mash the yams with a potato masher or a fork until roughly broken down. There will still be some lumps at this point.
Add the mixture to a food processor and pulse very briefly on the lowest setting to get rid of the lumps. You don’t want a purée, so be careful not to overdo it.
Tip the mixture back into the bowl and beat it against the sides with a wooden spoon until it becomes smooth and slightly elastic. Add a little of the cooking water at a time until you get the desired consistency.
Shape into 8 balls of equal size, or smooth the dough into one large domed loaf for sharing.
How to eat it
Fufu should be eaten with your hands and used to scoop up soup or stew. Pull a piece from the loaf with your right hand and hold it between your fingers, pressing slightly with your thumb to make a dent, so it will hold more food. Dip the fufu deep into your dish and scoop up some food, then put it into your mouth and enjoy.
What to eat with fufu
Fufu is usually eaten with African soups and stews, which include ingredients such as meat, fish, vegetables, okra, peanut butter, palm oil, ground-up melon seeds or sweet potato leaves. Popular choices include nkate nkwan or groundnut soup, abenkwan, or palm nut soup, abun abun, a green vegetable soup and egusi, which is made with ground melon seeds and leafy vegetables.
There are many ways to make fufu, with a huge number of different varieties in both Africa and the Caribbean. Generally speaking, there are a few differences between African and Caribbean fufu, but they can’t really be separated into two neat categories because there are so many different types from each place.
In general, however, Caribbean fufu has a denser, firmer consistency than its African counterpart, and is also more robustly seasoned for a fuller, more distinctive flavour. It may include salt, pepper or garlic, as well as diced bacon, lard or butter. In Puerto Rico, fufu is known as mofongo, and can be stuffed with meat or seafood and served with a sauce.