Sénégalese food is very different from a North American diet. The staples in Sénégal include fish, rice, grain and vegetables.

Customs around eating

Lunch is the most important meal of the day. Many people eat lunch around 2:00 in the afternoon, which is commonly after the work day has ended. Sénégalese use spoons or fingers and rarely are there forks and knives. Instead of a kitchen table, families gather around a mat on the floor. A large, common platter or bowl is placed in the middle and everyone eats from a section in the platter. Most of the food rests in the center: fish, sauce and veggies on top of rice is common. The host or cook divvies out the portions equally to everyone. Finishing your area means you will be given more food, so leave some food when you’re full. Breakfast is a small meal and eaten early in the morning, because work and school begin early. Families commonly eat together. Usually it consists of bread and coffee. You will likely see baguettes because of the French colonial influence. Supper is eaten late, even as late as 10:30. French influence can be seen again with an afternoon or evening snack, called gouter. The food can be similar to lunch, but is usually smaller. Common suppers consist of mixtures of food: grain with milk or grain and yogurt with some sugar.

Common dishes

Thieboudienne — “fish and rice” is a staple meal of Sénégal and particularly common in Dakar, which rests on the coast. The dish includes vegetables, like egg plant, carrots, cabbage, manioc (a root). Usually there is a sauce, which is made from leftovers after making the rest of the dish.

Mafe — Made with either fish or beef. This rice and peanut sauce dish is another common dish in Sénégal. It is frequently served with sweet potatoes and other vegetables.

Cheere Yape — Wolof word for “cous-cous.” This dish combines cous-cous and a meat sauce. A special addition to cheere yape is condensed milk, which adds a sweet taste and creates creamier texture.

Yassa Poulet – a chicken dish cooked in onions and lemon with vegetables usually added.

Popular fresh juices are made from bissap (from hibiscus flowers), ginger, mbouye (fruit of the baobab trees, also known as “monkey bread fruit”), mango, and other fruits.