About the food of Ghana

I flipped through the digital photo album, well-worn despite being only a few years old. Inside, snapshots of Ghana, from the capital and beyond. I immediately focused in on the food.

“What’s this? And this?” I asked, excitedly, pointing at the glossy pages.

The album belonged to my friend Tara’s husband, Ryan. He had been to Ghana for research for work and, in the two weeks he spent there, he was able to sample many authentic dishes.

Wait. Is that a goat on a bike?

I sipped my wine, listening to his travel tales. Here’s my favorite one:

After several days of eating like a Ghanaian, Ryan feels a bit homesick and pops into a pizzeria. He orders a pie with his favorite topping – bell peppers, hoping to get a taste of “home.” The waiter delivers the pizza, piping hot, covered with dozens of neatly sliced pepper rings. The only problem? They were habeneros.


When he calls for the waiter, the staff merely chuckle, stating the Indian tourists love their pizzas that way. Even after he picking the peppers off the pizza, each bite remained screaming hot, thanks to the juices that dripped down from the roasted habeneros.

Amazing. Needless to say, the pizza didn’t taste of “home.”

Ryan later sampled a more tame Ghanaian dish called Red Red – black eyed peas stewed with spices, peppers, onions, and a layer of red palm oil so thick it leaves a red ring around the plate (hence the name) [Recipe]. This would be a fun one to try on New Year’s Eve, instead of the typical black-eyed pea recipes. Red red is usually served with fried plantains [Recipe] – the ones in his photo album looked incredible, a deep golden brown – looking both sweet, salty and finger-licking good.

Peanuts are a big mainstay of Ghana – and make it’s biggest appearance in Groundnut soup (a.k.a. peanut soup) [Recipe]. This happy mixture of chicken, vegetables, and peanut butter can be found all over west Africa. Variations are made with fish and beef.

Then there’s the watermelons. There are so many watermelons, they pile up on the side of the road. Perfect for juicing [Recipe].

Photos: IngeligtvoetErik Kristensen, OneVillage Initiative, CIA World Factbook, Global Table Adventure.


  1. Brian S. says

    Someone once asked me to write something on the food of Ghana, and I sent him this:

    Yes, I spent six years traveling the back roads and forgotten places of Africa and Asia. I hitchhiked from Cairo through the Sudan, across the Congo, around every region of West Africa and up into the Sahara. But about the food, I remember little. I traveled through a bright and gaudy world, a deluge and cornucopia of visual, aural and emotional sensation. Food was just a part, and a small one. Besides, I was poor then, and the people I stayed with were poorer. Lately, my travels have been restricted to New York and Tulsa, but I’ve discovered a universe of food to voyage in. In part, food has become my Proustian madeleine, but in it I have discovered a symphony of infinite subtlety and wonder to replace the ever-changing kaleidoscope of travel lost.

    Two food memories do stand out, though. When I lived with nomads in the southern Sahara, a calabash brimming with camel’s milk still warm from the camel. In a village deep in the rain forest of the northeast Congo, a spicy patty made with big fire ants.

    Ghana is a tapestry of culture and tradition as fine and beautiful as Kente cloth. I stayed in an Ashanti village not far from Kumasi. Complex yet unspoken rules governed every social interaction; people often spoke in proverb and metaphor; gods, spirits and ancestors watched everything. One day a week, the roads were closed for the use of ghosts and spirits. The people shared their food with me and it bound us together. I remember that. But I don’t remember what we ate.

  2. Tara says

    We LOVED our dinner with you, Keith & Ava. Thank you for introducing me to Ghanaian food and for bringing back wonderful memories for Ryan.

    • Sasha Martin says

      Tara, you are more than welcome! I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone over the week -especially the groundnut soup.. amazing!

  3. Jessica Bennett says

    Did your friend mention fufu? I have a couple friends from Ghana, and they always gave me the impression it was kind of a staple in their cuisine.

    • Sasha Martin says

      Yes, yes – definitely – in fact, he had a picture of it with the groundnut soup. A shiny, wet ball – it takes a lot of work to make, apparently.

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