Ghanaian culture, like many other cultures around the world, is centered around its gastronomy, and bringing people together over a meal. Food has an important place in the country’s dynamic history and its social activities, past and present. Traditional Ghanaian foods were long the domain of street vendors, but over time many restaurants have sprung up around the country to serve regional cuisine as well.
In general, Ghanaian cuisine relies upon starchy staple foods made from things like corn, cassava, plantain, or yam that are paired with various vegetable-based soups or stews. Rice, meat, and fish figure in heavily too, as well as ginger, garlic, tomatoes, and hot peppers. Shito, a spicy chili sauce made with dried fish and shrimp, is a popular condiment. There’s a lot of flavor here!
The local dishes themselves hail from different parts of the country. Some meals—like jollof rice, for example—are variants of what neighboring countries such as Senegal and Nigeria also enjoy. Other dishes, like konkonte, which became more ubiquitous during the 1980s famine, are uniquely Ghanaian and widely eaten.
Accra and other cities in Ghana such as Kumasi have, over the years, grown to become quite cosmopolitan, with a diversity of restaurants and dishes from around the world. But when considering what to eat in Ghana, the traditional foods are a must, and they remain easy to find, both via local street vendors and in restaurants across central places in Accra such as Osu.
Here are eight essential Ghananian foods to seek out, and where to find them in Accra.
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With a name fitting its cooking process, fufu is made by mashing or pounding boiled cassava or plantain, traditionally using a mortar and pestle. The process of pounding it eventually turns it into something like a dough that can be shaped into balls. Fufu accompanies beloved Ghanaian soups like palm nut soup (abenkwan), light soup (nkrakra; pictured above), and groundnut soup (nkate nkwan), among others.
Fufu is very much rooted in its colonial past: Cassava was introduced to the country by the Portuguese in the 16th century and has since become an essential ingredient for many Ghanaian meals.
Where to find it: While fufu is a traditional meal made at home, several restaurants offer it on their menus. Bush Canteen (locations at the Accra Tema motorway and in East Lego, map), for example, serves fufu among other local dishes in an inviting outdoor setting that’s popular among both visitors and locals.
Azmera (9 Sir. Arku Korsah Rd., map), offering indoor seating and delivery in Accra, is a buffet-style restaurant with Ghanaian interior design and local food including fufu (served in a number of dishes, or as a side with any soup). Expect a higher price point than more local joints.
Banku is a sour mash made from fermented corn and cassava dough that’s cooked and served with ground pepper and, typically, grilled fish (like tilapia, which is native to West African coasts). Enjoyed nationwide, it is a favorite dish among all Ghanaian tribes, but its roots lie with tribes like the Ga and the Ewes, in the eastern region of Volta.
Where to find it: Banku can be found in places like Chez Clarisse, an Ivorian eatery located in 8th Lane in Accra (map), not far from other eateries near Osu, and Azmera (9 Sir. Arku Korsah Rd., map), which makes banku from corn or millet and offers it alongside spicy tilapia or okra stew. If you are heading outside Accra to the central region, Tripple Hill Hotel at Choice Avenue, Weija (map), also has a great restaurant where local dishes like banku are served.
Konkonte is a traditional Ghanaian dish that became much more widespread during the 1980s famine that swept the country—the types of cassava used for it were among the crops available at the time. A mash made with pounded dried cassava (which gives it its brownish hue), konkonte is prepared in a similar manner to banku. However, it’s had an image problem in the past: Long associated with the poor people or lower class of (Northern) Ghana, it’s been called “face the wall,” a derogatory nickname that equated eating this dish with shame.
In reality, konkonte saved lives during tough times in Ghana. Nowadays, it is enjoyed by everyone alongside popular Ghanaian soups such as groundnut, palm nut, or okra soup.
Where to find it: Konkonte tends to be served at local eateries referred to as “chop bars,” a common term for roadside restaurants. One example is Amenuveve Chop Bar, based at Arctic Close, Accra (map). You can also find this at Bush Canteen (locations at the Accra Tema motorway and in East Lego, map) and Buka (10th St. in Osu, map).
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A popular Ghanaian breakfast or lunch that’s originally from northern Ghana, waakye is a mix of rice and beans (red or black-eyed beans) along with sorghum leaves, which gives it its reddish-brown color. The literal translation of the word is “waachay,” meaning beans. The meal comes with several other local accompaniments such as gari (made with grated cassava), spaghetti, and sometimes salad, meat, or fish.
Where to find it: Due to its long preparation time, many people prefer to buy waakye rather than make it at home, and it’s common both on the street and in restaurants. One of the most popular street vendors selling waakye in Accra is Aunty Muni Waakye, located at Orphan Crescent (map).
Waakye is also served in restaurants including Azmera (9 Sir. Arku Korsah Rd., map), pictured above, and Buka (10th St. in Osu, map), an eatery that spotlights Ghanaian, Nigerian, Togolese, and Ivorian cuisine. It has created a beautiful, modern indoor dining space right in the heart of town, and is especially popular among visitors to Accra. Buka’s waakye is offered with beef, goat, or fish.
Yam and Kontomire
Boiled yam slices served alongside kontomire, Ghana’s local sauce made with cocoyam leaves and palm oil, is a favorite meal in this country. The kontomire stew is alternatively referred to as “palaver sauce,” much like the plasas of Sierra Leone. Some people add sides to this pairing, like boiled eggs or avocado. Yam and kontomire as a meal originated from the Akan region, where yam is grown.
Where to find it: Yam and kontomire are commonly found in restaurants serving Ghanaian food, like Buka (10th St. in Osu, map) and Azmera (9 Sir. Arku Korsah Rd., map), or in local joints like Tom’s Kitchen and Bar (50 Adamafio link, Accra, map).
Kelewele is fried plantain seasoned with a variety of spices such as grated ginger and cayenne pepper, served with groundnuts, or peanuts. Plantains are revered in West Africa in general, which explains the popularity of this dish. This Ghanaian take on the plantain makes a great appetizer or snack that many people enjoy.
Where to find it: Kelewele is more of a street food in Ghana. Locals will tell you the best way to find good spots is simply word of mouth, by asking around. However, there are some popular, and easily accessed, places to know about, like Kelewele House (82 East Legon, Trasacco Estate Rd., map) in Accra.
Kenkey and Fried Fish
Like banku, kenkey is made with fermented white corn, wrapped tamal-like in either corn husks or plantain leaves. This beloved dish has its history in the region of Accra where the Ga people of Ghana are originally from. The slightly sour mash is usually eaten with fried fish and pepper sauce.
No Ghanaian food list is complete without jollof rice. It’s more associated with Senegalese cuisine, but through the cultural exchange between West African countries, the popular one-pot rice dish with tomatoes has made its way to other countries in the region, including Ghana. Today it’s one of the most globally recognized Ghanaian dishes.
Where to find it: Jollof is available in most Ghanaian restaurants, from upmarket eateries to local joints. For the former, try Coco Lounge (North Liberation Link, map), like Buka (10th St. in Osu, map), Azmera (9 Sir. Arku Korsah Rd., map), or Zen Gardens. Or try Jollof Guru, which offers deliveries around Accra of one of the country’s best meals.
About the author: Verostina Antwi, aka Tina Charisma, is a Ghanaian-British journalist and consultant who aims to shift cultural narratives globally. Find her on Instagram here.