African Food Stories – Akara (Nigerian Black-eyed Pea Fritters)

Food experiences shared with friends often trigger our best memories. Whether it’s a quick bite on the street, lunch with colleagues, or a celebratory meal at your favorite aunt’s house. African food never ceases to be the source of life’s highlights. As we seek to capture and share these memories, we are beginning a series of blog posts from friends sharing their best African food encounters. In today’s post, we will be highlighting Mandy from Nigeria.

Story Background
After a long time away from home, Mandy decided to return to Nigeria to begin her professional life. Before she could start working, she was required to complete mandatory national service to her country. These unpaid services are common in many countries in Africa where young people are required to engage in volunteer work, as determined by the government. Although commendable, being a volunteer pays very little to nothing at all. Inevitably, Mandy often found herself broke and unable to afford eating out as frequently as she was used to. Fortunately, she was able to still enjoy certain foods that she had craved, such as Akara, a popular bean fried snack that is found on many streets in West Africa.  Akara can be eaten throughout the day, since it is delicious as a main for breakfast, or as a side dish for dinner. Akara is mostly prepared with black-eyed beans, but it can also be prepared with other beans.  Below, we have a recipe that will help you replicate this culinary goodness in your own home.

Recipe Ingredients

  • 1 cup of black-eyed beans
  • 1 habanero
  • 1 small red pepper
  • 1 small onion
  • handful of fresh herbs such as flat-leaf parsley or coriander, chopped
  • salt and pepper for taste
  • oil, for frying
  • 1 tsp baking powder (optional)

Recipe Instructions

  1. Place the black-eyed peas in a large container, and submerge in cold water. Cover, place in the refrigerator, and let the peas soak for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Rub the peas in your hands to remove the skins which will rise to the top. Slowly drain water from peas, allowing skins to drain with water. Discard the skins. Add more water if necessary, and repeat rubbing and draining process until all skins are removed from peas.
  3. Place peas in a blender along with baking soda and add a bit of water to form a paste.
  4. Pour the batter in a bowl and fluff it until it is airy and light.
  5. Put the onion, salt and pepper, herbs, habaneros, peppers, flat leaf parsley and 3 tbsp. water; purée, scraping down sides of blender if necessary, until smooth.
  6. Mix the batter with the vegetable puree.
  7. Separately, heat up the oil. Working in batches, use an ice cream scooper to drop the balls of batter in oil, and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. You can also wrap these in a banana leaf and steam them.
  8. Transfer fritters to paper towels to drain.
  9. Serve them when they are hot and with the optional sauce below.

Optional Sauce Ingredients

  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 3 long red chillies
  • 2 habaneros
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of white vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • olive oil

Optional Sauce Recipe

  1. Place the above ingredients in a large saucepan of cold water and bring to boil. Simmer for 25 minutes or until the tomatoes are soft. Remove from heat, cover with a lid, and set aside until cool.
  2. When cooled, pat dry the tomatoes and chillies and remove the seeds. Peel the tomatoes and chillies and place them in a food processor and blend to a paste. Press the mixture through a fine sieve to remove any remaining skin.
  3. Add the oil, sugar, vinegar and salt and mix together well.

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