Vegetarianism in Ghana is not very common, just as it is uncommon in many developing countries. Ghanaians LOVE their meat (check our Ultimate Accra Food Guide and see for yourself), however, it is still very possible to find vegetarian ghanaian food and dishes.
As time goes by, with the influence of the western world, vegetarianism in Ghana is becoming more and more common alongside the growth of world cuisines in general. This article is the ultimate survival guide for vegetarians and vegans in Ghana. Let’s have a look.
Cultural norms in Ghana
Before we get into the meal options, it will be useful to understand some of the cultural norms around the topic of vegetarianism in Ghana. This especially applies to the case of you visiting a local family, particularly in a more rural area where being vegetarian may not be as understood as it can be in the city of Accra.
You may find yourself in a situation where you are offered a meal by your local host that contains meat. In this case it is absolutely ok to decline it in a polite manner. We suggest you be more specific and say you do not eat a particular type of meat.
So for example, instead of saying “I do not eat meat”, say, “I do not eat chicken” or “I do not eat pork”. It always helps to mention that although you cannot eat a particular type of food, you do really enjoy the vegetables that were in that dish.
This will transmit the idea that you are open to trying local Ghanaian dishes but simply you cannot eat a particular part of that dish.
It is also useful to keep in mind that Ghanaians living in more rural regions may not have enough resources to access other types of products which are not the basic products in their area (meat is one of them).
Meat free Ghanaian dishes
These are some of the most popular ghanaian vegetarian recipes. You’ll be surprised at how many of these you can find in the best vegetarian restaurants in Accra.
Kontomire stew, Palawa stew or Okro stew
Kontomire stew is a dish consisting of cocoyam leaves, egusi (the ground seeds of a specific type of melon) and tomatoes. It is one of the most used local ghanaian ingredients. Palawa stew is very similar to kontomire stew, the difference being in the ingredients.
Palawa stew also has cocoyam leaves, with spinach, amaranth leaves (callaloo) and sometimes egusi is also added. Okro Stew is a tomato stew base made with red palm fruit oil, onions, tomatoes, spices and finely chopped okra.
All three stews are often served with fried or boiled plantains, yam and/or rice, or another suitable grain. Check out this delicious recipe.
Kenkey and Banku
Banku is a dumpling kind of food made from fermented corn dough and cassava dough. Kenkey is made from fermented white corn. Ghanaians love to accompany these with fish or meat but you can opt for beans instead or one of the stews we mentioned above.
Congo Cook Book gives us a great recipe on how to prepare both Kenkey and Banku.
A bean dish that gets its name and color from the tomatoes and red palm oil used to make it. It is usually accompanied by fried plantain and egg. If you would like to have a go at preparing red red, check the recipe in our article of the top 5 ghanaian dishes.
Also known as ‘akara,’ is a fried bean cake or bean fritter, that is traditionally made by blending soaked and peeled black-eyed beans (cowpeas or honey beans) with onions, ginger, scotch bonnet (or habanero) chillies, salt, and just enough water to blend the ingredients into a thick batter.
The batter is then fried in vegetable oil to make koose. It is often served with Koko, an aromatic spiced miller porridge.
One of the most popular Ghanaian dishes, Jollof rice is made with Jasmin rice, a tomato base, vegetables and a range of spices and herbs. It is advisable to ask beforehand if any meat (or meat stock) has been added to the cooking pot for flavour.
Also known as Egusi stew or Egusi soup, it’s a soup made with ground egusi seeds, similar to pumpkin seeds.
Also known as ‘Zowey,’ and ‘Adarkwa’, the recipe for Dzowoe features sweet and spicy peanut balls made using a combination of thick peanut butter (groundnut/peanut paste), sugar, salt, ginger, chili powder, and maize/cornmeal.
Also known as, ‘nkatie kwan,’ or ‘peanut soup, is a soup made from peanuts. There is a wide variety of peanut soups and stews across West Africa, the differences are in the use of tomatoes, specific spices, and the somewhat optional inclusion of okra in the dish.
A very popular Ghanaian breakfast option, it can be a great option for vegetarians as you are able to “customize” the dish to your taste. The normal ingredients that compose waakye are: black-eyed beans and rice, salad, boiled egg, fried plantain, spaghetti, fish or meat (or both) and the local hot pepper sauce “shito”. Take out the fish and meat, and you are good to go!
Street food is very popular in Ghana, both in the rural and urban areas. At any time of day or night, be sure to find street food.
In Ghana, trying the street food culture is a must as it is a big part of their lifestyle. You will find local street vendors throughout the streets of Accra who cook these fast to prepare and delicious local food options.
They will be cooked directly at the stall. For example, you will find that grilled plantain and grilled corn are being cooked directly on the grill in front of you. Can’t get more fresh than that!
Let’s have a look at some of these vegetarian street snacks.
- Grilled plantain with peanuts: Very healthy, filling and found at many street food stalls!
- Kelewele: Fried plantains flavored with ginger and other spices.
- Kaakolo: A delicious traditional Ghanaian snack made from very ripe plantain fritters.
- Grilled corn with coconut: Another very healthy snack option, which is very cheap and filling!
- Fried or boiled yam: Fried is not as healthy as the boiled yam option, but you can eat them plain or dip into a shito sauce (for those who love spicy) or freshly ground pepper.
- Bofrot with peanuts: Also known as togbeii, is a deep-fried snack dish made by frying a thick wet yeast-leavened batter. You can accompany this with some peanuts for a more filling option.
- Seasonal fruits: Of course the fresh, seasonal fruit option in Ghana is amazing, delicious and a very healthy option!
Now that you know all about vegetarian and vegan dishes in Ghana, why not give it a go? Step out of your comfort zone and discover new and exciting flavours that will surprise your guests!