Comfort food from afar: Try your hand at making African “fufu”

Last week, I told you the story of Innocent, a SDSU student who came to South Dakota as a refugee from the Congo nine years ago.

In the beginning, at the young age of 13, Innocent found life in the U.S. strange and difficult. What he and his family missed the most was their native foods.

Perhaps there is nothing more connected to our homelands than the comfort foods of our childhood.

So what did Innocent miss the most? Fufu with stew.

Maybe, like me, you’ve heard the word “fufu” before, but aren’t quite sure what it is.

For those living in Central Africa, the word refers to either manioc or yams that are boiled, mashed until smooth, and then made into balls and eaten with vegetables. In Western Africa, fufu is made with cassava, corn, or semolina flour – or even with plantains.

Here’s a recipe for fufu from the Congo that is worth trying at home (from

African Fufu


What you need

  • two to four pounds of yams (use large, white or yellow yams; not sweet potatoes, not “Louisiana yams”); or equal parts yams and plantain bananas
  • one teaspoon butter (optional)

What you do

  • Place yams in large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until the yams are soft (maybe half an hour). Remove pot from heat and cool yams with running water. Drain. Remove peels from yams. Add butter. Put yams in a bowl (or back in the empty pot) and mash with a potato masher, then beat and stir with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. This might take two people: one to hold the bowl and the other to stir.
  • Shape the fufu into balls and serve immediately with meat stew or any dish with a sauce or gravy. To eat it, tear off a small handful with your fingers and use it to scoop up your meat and sauce.

Try this to go with the fufu (also from

Muamba Nsusu (Congo Chicken Soup)

congo chicken stew

What you need

  • one whole chicken, cut up, any parts, any amount
  • one large onion, chopped
  • palm oil
  • small can of tomato paste
  • one-half cup peanut butter (natural or homemade, containing only peanuts and salt)
  • hot chili pepper or red or cayenne pepper to taste

What you do

  • Fill a large pot with enough water for soup. Bring it to a boil. Add the chicken and boil it until the meat is done and a broth is obtained.
  • While the chicken is boiling, gently sauté the onion in several tablespoons of palm oil until the onion is tender.
  • Remove the chicken from the broth and remove meat from bones. (Save the broth and keep it at a low simmer.)
  • Combine one cup of the chicken broth with the peanut butter and tomato paste and stir until smooth.
  • Return the chicken meat to the broth and add the peanut butter-tomato paste mixture. Stir and continue to simmer until the soup is thickened.
  • Season to taste. Serve with fufu and more hot pepper.

What other recipes would you like to try from the Congo? Check out this great Congolese cookbook online to try more foods from this part of Africa – and see why Innocent missed so much of his homeland’s food.

Posted by Julie Boutwell-Peterson

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