Northern AfricaHeavily influenced by traders, nomadic tribes and Arab and Turkish neighbors, the cuisine of northern Africa is characterized by Middle Eastern and Asian spices like saffron, cinnamon, cloves and chiles. The region's wheat crops produce couscous, a pearl-shaped pasta often served with tagines and dried fruit. Regional olives and olive oil are everywhere, fragrant and unctuous. Taste the region with recipes for harissa chicken, Moroccan couscous and lamb tagine.
Southern and Eastern AfricaYou'll find flavors often associated with the Middle East, such as cinnamon, cloves and saffron in eastern Africa as well. In both the south and the east, indigenous cuisine is rooted in grains, vegetables and beans. When Indian and European immigrants arrived bringing curries, lentils, chapatis, pickles and meat dishes such as sausages and pies, the diet expanded. Fish and seafood from coastal, lake and river regions are prized sources of protein. For a taste of southern and eastern Africa, try a simple shrimp curry.
Western AfricaBoth spicy and starchy, the comforting cuisine of western Africa centers on fufu, a porridge made from root vegetables such as yams or cassava, often accompanied by sauces or stews. Discover the essence of western Africa with a recipe for grilled swordfish yassa with fermented cassava and moyo relish.
Central AfricaBecause the countries in central Africa remained mostly free of outside influence until relatively recently, the cuisine has remained largely traditional. Livestock is a costly luxury, so many families rely on wild game, called "bush" meat. Cassava and plantains are starchy staples, and ingredients such as okra, peanuts and chiles were brought to the region with the slave trade and incorporated into its cuisine. Taste the ingredients of central Africa with recipes for an okra gumbo made with chicken and greens instead of seafood and fried plantain chips.
Elizabeth Winslow is a writer, food blogger, culinary instructor and entrepreneur in Austin, Texas. She is a regular contributor to Edible Austin and creates compelling content for brands both large and small. She has an M.A. in Literature from the University of Texas at San Antonio and teaches cooking classes with Kitchen Underground. Winslow + co.