20 Most Popular Foods in Cameroon
Cameroon is a west-central African country well known for being bilingual (French and English) and for its very diverse culture – giving it the name Africa in miniature. Amongst all of this diverse culture, it is the food that has made the country known and loved around the world. Food has a huge role to play in the different regions of Cameroon, celebrating an upcoming event or season to binding ties in marriage.
Although times have changed and modern techniques have made their way into the country, most people still prefer traditional ways of cooking: using firewood, cooking in leaves (for papillote), or using traditional grinding stones. Elders say these add a distinct flavor to the food.
But the secret in the delight of Cameroonian dishes lies not only in the cooking methods. It also comes from the unique ingredients – dry local spices (grains, leaves, tree bark), dried shrimps, called écrevisses in French, habanero pepper, smoked fish, red palm oil, bouillon cubes, and many more.
The dishes you are about to see are not only some of the most popular in Cameroon but also the most loved by visitors – the dishes you need to get to know if you are new to Cameroonian cuisine.
Now buckle up because the ride is going to be delicious.
Ndolé is the most popular dish in Cameroon. You’ll find it at nearly all ceremonies and banquets. When asking tourists what they most loved about their stay in Cameroon, they’ll always name this dish.
Ndolé is a traditional dish of the Duala people of one of the coastal regions of Cameroon. It is a peanut-based stew made with ndolé leaves (also called bitter leaves), crayfish, beef, and spices. The whole thing is served with miondo (a starchy mixture of ground cassava tied up in banana leaves) or plantain.
2. Fufu and Eru
After ndolé, this is one of the most loved dishes in all Cameroon. In nearly all markets, you’ll find a Mami Eru; that is a mami (the pidgin word for mama or mother) who sells fufu and eru. Fufu and eru is a traditional dish from the northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon and its neighboring Nigeria.
The stew consists of eru (Gnetum africanum) stewed with spinach (commonly called waterleaf in Cameroon), palm oil, and either smoked fish, dried crayfish, cow skin (called canda in pidgin), or beef. It is served with water fufu (a slightly sour, boiled, and pounded starchy cassava) or pounded garri (roasted granular starchy food material made from cassava).
There are three varieties of okok dishes in Cameroon, from three different ethnic groups: the Bassa, Eton, and Yabassi. The two most prevalent are the Bassa and Eton.
Fun or nerdy fact: The scientific name of okok is Gnetum africanum – yes, just like eru (above). The reason why is that it is the same leaf but with different appellations. In the southwest and northwest regions of Cameroon, it is commonly known as eru, but okok in other southern regions (mainly littoral, center, and south regions).
Getting back to the dishes…
The last two okok meals are peanut and palm nut juice-based stews, the only difference being the seasoning. The Bassa people’s okok is salted and additionally stewed with either canda (cow skin), smoked fish, or beef, while that of the Eton people also has some salt but also sugar.
Sanga is a one-pot vegetable dish from the southern and central regions of Cameroon. The main ingredients are black nightshade leaves, commonly called zoom, palm nut juice, fresh corn grains, and sugar (optional).
Many people prefer adding sugar to this meal, but the fresh vegetables and corn give it a sweet aspect by themselves.
5. Njamah Njamah
Njamah njamah, also known as huckleberry or scientifically as solanum scabrum, is one of the most popular vegetables in Cameroon. It is commonly served with corn fufu (pounded fine ground corn) but also with unripe boiled bananas or plantains.
It is a staple meal but can be very expensive to cook during the dry season, as at this time vegetables are in short supply.
Cameroonian Soups and Sauces
6. Groundnut Soup
Groundnut soup, sauce d’arachide in French, is a peanut soup made by blending roasted peanuts (groundnuts) in a food processor.
People of the south and central regions of Cameroon traditionally cook this soup with minimal ingredients: peanut paste, either bifaga also called mbounga (a type of smoked fish) or chicken, ginger, garlic, onions, and pepper (optional).
Bifaga and chicken are best for this soup because they marry so well with the flavor of the groundnut paste. The soup is served best with rice or boiled plantain, sometimes pounded in a mortar, which is not an easy task but is well worth it.
7. Yellow Soup and Achu
This beautiful yellow soup is one of the most delicate of Cameroon. It is traditionally made by fusing red oil, beef or chicken, limestone (yes, the rock!) , and a variety of spices. It is paired with achu (pounded cocoyam) and sometimes a small portion of huckleberry.
No forks or spoons! Like many other African dishes, yellow soup and achu tastes way better when eaten with the fingers.
Editor’s Note: Ground limestone, used in this soup, is a controversial ingredient in edible products. For this recipe, limestone is crushed into a fine powder, removing any stones. Before you use limestone for cooking, please make sure to ask your MD or doctor whether it is safe for you to ingest.
The appearance of this soup can make people more reluctant than willing, but it is a highly flavored and tasty soup.
Mbongo, called mbongo tchobi when cooked with fish, is a spicy black sauce mainly eaten by the Bassa people. The crucial ingredient is mbongo spice, from which the stew got its name. Together with other dry spices, they are burnt then ground before cooking the sauce – the reason for its black color. It is served with boiled plantain or cocoyam.
9. Okro Soup
Of ten people visiting patients in hospital, at least seven will have this soup in their basket. Some say it is because of its sticky nature – so the patient can easily consume it – but rather it’s because it is so healthy.
Called sauce gombo in French, this vibrant soup consists of okra, tomatoes, onions, garlic, a small quantity of oil, pepper (optional), and either crayfish, smoked fish, or meat. Some people like to add ground egusi (melon seeds) to the soup, but that is totally up to the cook. It is served with fufu and traditionally eaten with fingers.
Puddings and papillote
”Leaves add a special taste to food,” grandmothers say.
Cameroonian papillotes can be cooked in several modern ways other than using the traditional plantain or banana leaves. However, most people still prefer leaves as they say cooking with them makes the dish taste way better.
This spongy and tasty pudding-like steamed meal is made with coarsely ground black-eyed peas. Its yellow color comes from the red oil added, which creates a moist koki.
The melange is traditionally cooked in plantain or banana leaves but can also be cooked in muffin cups or other alternatives.
11. Egusi Pudding
Known as met de pistaches in French, egusi pudding is mostly cooked for New Year and wedding ceremonies. Many ethnic groups, the Bantous principally, believe that it can predict how successful the year or the marriage will be – all depending on the leaves, taste, and texture of the pudding after being cooked.
The main ingredient of egusi pudding is egusi seeds, a type of melon seed. They are blended, then mixed with other ingredients, before being steamed in leaves. The dish is served with bobolo , miondo (both fermented ground cassava in leaves), or plantain.
Ndomba is a spicy papillote made with either fish, chicken, or pork as the main ingredient. The spices used vary depending on which ndomba you cook.
Fish ndomba, for example, takes pèbè (false nutmeg), country onions, white pepper, mesep (wild basilica), garlic, onions, black pepper, akpi grain, and pepper (optional but a key ingredient). The result is exceptionally delicious and served with bobolo, plantain, or any tuber of choice.
Cameroonian One-pot dishes
There are many one-pot dishes in Cameroon, undoubtedly because of the loving and creative minds that feed the children. But also because of the very diverse food crops that exist in Cameroon. In either case, there are numerous delicious dishes, like those below.
Kondré is a highly spiced one-pot dish that originates from the western part of Cameroon. It consists of plantain, meat (usually pork), tomatoes, onions, dry spices, and some oil. It is all placed in a pot and cooked for about two hours to allow the meat and plantain to soften and absorb the spices.
The meal is considered a success when you can see its sauce absorbed right into the plantain.
14. Poulet DG
Poulet DG is a dish for a special occasion. It is called poulet DG, in French, poulet is chicken and DG is the French abbreviation for Directeur General, which means CEO.
This melange of seasoned chicken and fried ripe plantain together with a flavorful tomato sauce creates a colorful gombo that tastes absolutely delicious. It is one of the best dishes to start with if you are new to Cameroonian cuisine, being easy to make and easy to find the ingredients in all markets.
15. Mashed Potatoes and Beans
Pomme pilé in French or banso tukuni in the northwest, mashed potatoes and beans is a staple dish in Cameroon – particularly in the west and northwest regions where it originates. It is not easy to stop eating it once you’ve started, but too much would leave you exhausted.
As its name suggests, the dish consists of mashed potatoes, beans (usually black beans, but you can switch), red oil, salt, and/or stock cubes. Some people like it with fried onions, as they gives it a beautiful flavor.
Cameroonian Street Foods
Cameroonians love spicy food. Anything with pepper sauce on the side is always appealing, especially where the food tastes best when eaten with fingers. That’s the case with Cameroonian street foods, consumed by all, but primarily by single men, during outings, or by people not fans of cooking.
16. Poisson Braisé (Roast Fish)
It isn’t easy to find someone who doesn’t like Cameroonian roast fish. It originated among the Duala people in the littoral region (coastal region), but today is eaten countrywide.
The key ingredients are local spices, such as pèbè (false nutmeg), country-onions or rondelles in French, akpi seeds, and white pepper. These, together with onions and garlic, are ground for the marinade, giving the fish a savory flavor. The fish is traditionally grilled with charcoal using a barbecue pot but can also be grilled in the oven.
It is served with fried ripe plantain, as in the picture above, or with bobolo, which is fermented ground cassava in leaves.
17. Puff Puff and Beans
Puff puff and beans, beignet haricot in French, is the most famous street food in Cameroon. It is very affordable and usually eaten with pap, a corn porridge.
Puff puffs are fluffy doughnuts, usually fried until they obtain a beautiful golden color. The beans, on the other hand, are fried with some highly flavored spices. The combination of the two gives your palate a very delicious taste.
18. Soya (Skewered Meat)
You cannot walk down a main street in Cameroon’s cities without coming across a stand of soya. They are mainly made by hausa men, who hold the secret of the powdery pepper and spices that accompany this delicacy. Soya is a spicy grilled meat, previously marinated and threaded on skewers.
Even though beef is very common, the meat used can vary between beef and goat depending on where you are. The skewers are sometimes accompanied by boiled and grilled plantain.
Cameroonian Desserts and sweets
19. Chin Chin (Croquettes)
Chin-chin, or croquettes, is a very famous pastry in west Africa. They are made with flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and a flavoring. Once mixed, the mixture is shaped – the most common shapes being small balls or cubes. They are very common at parties, as they are easy to nibble on.
20. Groundnut Sweets (Caramel)
Groundnut sweets, commonly called caramel in French, are peanuts coated with sugar. They are sweet, crunchy, and have a beautiful natural color.
They are straightforward to make (requiring only three ingredients) and are the perfect snack while watching a movie, working, or chatting with friends. This sweet must, however, be eaten in moderation, for the sake of your teeth.