While most visitors to Ghana will leap at the opportunity to try fufu (a ball of mashed cassava, yam or plantain), the West African country has plenty of other traditional foods and drinks for travelers to seek out too.
From oily palm nut soup paired with starches like banku (cooked balls of fermented corn flour) to filling street snacks like rice water porridge, going hungry in Ghana will be the least of your worries. What’s more, the capital Accra has an ever-evolving dining scene that offers everything from top-notch sushi to gourmet burgers. Here’s what to eat and drink in Ghana.
Peanut-based ground nut stew is a Ghanian staple © Fanfo / Shutterstock
Start with a staple, groundnut soup
Groundnut soup should be one of the first meals you try in Ghana. This warming, mild-to-spicy dish is cooked with peanut butter, ginger, and either fish or meat and is served at lunchtime or dinner. Like many Ghanaian soups, it’s usually eaten with a carbohydrate like fufu or banku.
Where to try it: Most local roadside eateries, known as chop bars, will have this staple dish on the menu.
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Have palm nuts in soup form
Fashioned from tomatoes, ginger, garlic, chili pepper and palm nuts, this soup takes its bright red color from palm oil. The hearty dish boasts a thick texture and can be eaten with an assortment of meats like beef and chicken.
Where to try it: Oseikrom Aduanipa is a 24-hour restaurant in Accra that serves Ghanaian classics seven days a week. Palm nut soup is always available here.
Enjoy red-red with a side of fried plantains
You’ll learn quickly that Ghana is the home of stews and soups fused with flavorful spices, and red-red is no exception. A bean stew normally served with fried plantain, red-red is among the top food choices you should try in Ghana. The dish is a mixture of black-eyed peas, red palm oil, chili pepper and a host of other spices. It can sometimes include smoked meat or fish.
Where to try it: Known for its authentic African meals, Buka Restaurant offers some of the best red-red in Accra, according to many Ghanaians.
Swallow fufu at a chop bar
Mashed and mixed from cassava, plantain or yam to get its thick, sticky texture, fufu is used as an accompaniment for many soup and stew-based dishes in Ghana. You use the fingers on your right hand to separate pieces of fufu from their whole circular or oval shape and dip them into your soup or stew of choice.
Where to try it: Bush Canteen at the University of Ghana is known as one of the most popular local spots to eat in Accra – and an even better place to enjoy some freshly-pounded fufu.
Traditional banku is made from fermented corn that is formed into balls © Dietmar Temps / Shutterstock
Enjoy banku with your stew
Used as another accompaniment for meals in Ghana, banku is a carbohydrate composed of fermented corn and cassava dough shaped into golf-sized balls. The qualities of banku and fufu are not too far off one another and can easily be mixed up. Banku is distinguished by its slightly sour taste and thickness in comparison to fufu. It’s added to stews and soups and is eaten with a spicy pepper blend.
Where to try it: Another traditional restaurant in Accra, Dimaensa is worth stopping by for some banku.
Try the famous banku and tilapia combination
Besides soups and stews, banku is commonly eaten with a freshly grilled piece of tilapia topped with green and red peppers and onions. Usually served with a side of shito (hot pepper sauce) and green sauce, the banku should be dipped into both before diving into the tilapia.
Where to try it: Azmera Restaurant in Accra places a tasty spin on this dish with the option of corn or billet banku and a side of avocados.
Start the day with rice water
Breakfast in Ghana is served early in the morning and is easy to miss if you aren’t up and out before 7-8am. For those who are up early, get your hands on a cup of rice water, and you’re certainly in for a treat. This Ghanaian breakfast food has the consistency of porridge. White rice is usually boiled until it is completely soft and then mixed with sugar and evaporated milk for a filling start to the day.
Where to try it: Rice water can be found along the roadside at any breakfast food stand. Signs are often placed to indicate if the porridge is being served at that particular stand.
You can find jollof rice on almost any menu in Ghana © Junior Asiama / Getty Images
Indulge in all the jollof rice your stomach can handle
If you visit Ghana and don’t try jollof rice, did you ever really visit? It’s rare not to see this spicy, rice-based dish on any menu you can get your hands on. Mixed with a base of blended tomatoes and onions, jollof rice is usually served with meat. Depending on who is in the kitchen, the rice might be served plain or mixed with small vegetables.
Where to try it: Noble Chef serves Accra around the clock and has some of the best jollof rice in the city.
Sip on sobolo
Also known as hibiscus tea, sobolo is a popular drink in Ghana. Recognizable by its purple-red color and typically sold in labeled water bottles, sobolo can be found in restaurants, chop bars, or even on the roadside. The drink’s properties are stripped from the steeping of Hibiscus leaves, sweetened with sugar, and added ginger. Sobolo mimics a passion fruit drink with a hint of spiciness from the ginger.
Where to try it: Keep an eye out for any vendors selling bottles of sobolo on the road while you’re traveling around by car or tro tro (small minivan or bus).
Go for a gladd of akpeteshie
Akpeteshie is a drink whose roots go back to Ghana’s independence in 1957, when the drink was allowed to be distilled after decolonization. Derived from palm tree sap, akpeteshie is a strong palm wine both in taste and alcohol levels.
Where to try it: Akpeteshie can be found at most local roadside pubs.
Vegetarians and vegans
While Ghana is a meat-heavy country when it comes to food, vegetarians and vegans have plenty of options to choose from when visiting the country. Even Ghana’s most popular dishes can be meatless upon request. Many restaurant dishes are made to order, leaving room to substitute certain ingredients if needed. In the capital, Accra, and various cities beyond, vegan and vegetarian restaurants exist to cater to dairy and meat-free diets.
Vegan and vegetarian restaurants to check out around Ghana include Tatale Vegan Restaurant, Mahorgany and Purple Cafe in Accra; Baobab Vegetarian Moringa Restaurant in Cape Coast; and Saarnak Vegetarian Food and Health Shop in Kumasi.