African desserts: Do you know the various types?
It is hard to address African desserts in one single blog. Africa is a huge continent, with each country representing their own traditions and celebrations. With diverse cultures spread across Africa, it’s safe to say that desserts aren’t limited to one look. For simplicity, we broke down the continent into regions and then we highlighted a few countries within each region. Let’s start this culinary tour!
North African Desserts
- Krichlate: Krichlate (or Fkikssate) are cookies prepared with shortbread dough. For more flavour, aniseed and toasted sesame seeds are added to the dough. Krichlate are usually served during the Ashura Festival: the 10th day of the first months of the Islamic calendar. They are paired with dry fruits and nuts, either mixed in or served on the sides. The platter presentation is called fakia, derived from fakiha, which means fruit in Arabic.
- Ktefa: We can think of this as layered crêpes. Ktefa is essentially a layered dessert: thin sheets of fried warqa pastry. Each layer is stuffed with chopped almonds and sugar. To sweeten the dessert, it is covered with a custard sauce, known as “pastilla au lait” in France.
- Baklava bil jibna: Typically served during Ramadan (holy month of fasting, introspection and prayer), this is a baklava dessert made with rosewater. It is prepared with phyllo pastry, and is filled with cream. To top it all off, a honey syrup is poured over the delicious dessert.
- Basbousa bil tamr: Also a dessert that is served during Ramadan, this is a traditional Libyan cake. It is prepared with semolina flour and date filling. It’s sweetness comes from poured syrup and almond toppings.
- Mbesses: Mbesses is an Algerian cake made out of semolina flour, or farina flour. This is a very popular dessert in Algeria. The cake is shaped into a diamond/square. You can also enrich it with honey syrup.
- Tamina: Tamina is typically prepared when celebrating the birth of a child. This Algerian cake is sweet, mostly because of the honey in it. The semolina dough is toasted and is decorated beautifully.
- Shaaria: Made using pasta nets that are boiled, then fried and sweetened with sugar, raisins and coconut. It is typically served during Ramadan.
- Baseema: This is a traditional South Sudanese pastry. The word “Baseema” means delicious, which is how this cake tastes. It is made with lemon and coconut as the main ingredients.
- Assidat zgougou: This traditional dessert includes three layers: a cream, a custard and topped with nuts. It’s delicious, beautiful, and satisfies all your cravings!
- Makroudh: This is a popular North African dessert made from a mixture of semolina and flour, and is shaped as a diamond. It is filled with dates and nuts, as well as almond paste. It originates from either Tunisia or Maghreb.
- Luqmat al qadi: These are basically yeast donuts, or commonly known as lokma or loukoumades. The origin is debated: it is presumed to be in either Turkey or Greece. If you want to learn more about lokma desserts, read our blog on Lokma Story.
- Kunafa: This dessert is known around the entire Middle East (also known as Knafeh). It is made with spun pastry called kataifi, soaked in a sugar syrup and filled with cream. In other Arab countries, different fillings are used, such as cheese.
West African Desserts
There are not a lot of desserts in this region. In anglophone countries, there are many savoury ones that were derived from British desserts, such as scotch eggs, meat pies and sausage rolls. Desserts are typically eaten as appetisers during parties and other celebrations, or as snacks.
- Chin chin: Chin chin is crunchy snack that is similar to little square doughnuts. This is made by frying dough from wheat flour mixed with nutmeg spice. It is a very popular snack among children.
- Pap: This is a pudding made from either corn, sorghum, millet or a combination of the three. It is also commonly known as, “Akamu” or “Ogi”, depending on the region of the country. It is typically eaten alongside meals such as bean-cake or bean pudding.
- Nkate cake: A dessert consisting of crushed peanuts and nougat, sometimes referred to as a peanut brittle. It is also equally popular in Equatorial Guinea. Depending on the region, it is also known as “kongodo”.
- Ngalakh: This porridge is made from millet couscous, peanut butter and baobab fruit (bouye). This dessert is a symbol of the unification between the Muslims and Christians. It is prepared during Easter and is served to those who are non-Christian.
- Thiakry: This is a couscous pudding made with evaporated milk, yoghurt and other flavourings. It is very similar to rice pudding, but is made of couscous or millet. Don’t let the simple look fool you, this is an appetizing dessert filled with sweet flavours such as vanilla, orange blossom water and nutmeg.
- Sombi: This is a rice pudding made with coconut milk, topped with a fruit of your choice. It is a perfect dessert to eat to cool you off during the summertime heat, or a sweet snack during the colder season. Either way, it’s delicious!
East African Desserts
- Himbasha/Ambasha: A circular, sweet flatbread with a wheel-like pattern. It is flavoured with ingredients such as cardamom, black sesame seeds and raisins. This dessert is traditionally served during Christmas (Leddet) and other special celebrations.
- Injera: A sweet, pan-fried flat bread traditionally made with teff seed flour, but can also be made from wheat, barley, rice or corn flour. It is basically a type of sourdough bread that is eaten with savoury dishes, or enjoyed by itself.
- Bhajias: This is a savoury dessert made from potatoes and various spices, served with chutney. Similar to potato fries, but a great alternative for those who are looking for more flavour and health benefits. The spices add some nutritional value. Share it with a group of friends and dig in!
- Maandazi: These are small and light doughnuts that can be eaten as dessert or for breakfast. It is best paired with tea or coffee. It is topped with powdered sugar which creates a perfect balance of sweetness.
- Biskuto ya nazi: These are coconut macaroons mixed with chopped nuts in the batter. Easy to pack and snack on-the-go! They can last for 2-3 days without going bad, only if you keep them in a tight airbox.
- Kashata: This is a dessert made from spiced peanuts, coconut and sugar. Every bite is heavenly and will leave you wanting more. Don’t pass up on this dessert!
Central African Desserts
We move on to Central Africa, with more unique desserts to explore. Let’s take a look!
- Vitumbua: This dessert can be described as a cross between a doughnut and a pancake. The highlight? Tasty coconuts are found in the centre. Each bite melts into your mouth. Don’t miss out!
- Cocada amarela: A coconut custard that has origins from colonial Portugal. It is often topped with a fresh fruit of choice. It’s refreshing and healthy! You definitely need to try out this one.
Southern African Desserts
The last region on our culinary journey is Southern Africa. There are still quite a few desserts to cover, so let’s explore!
- Malva pudding: A pudding containing apricot jam with a spongy texture. This dessert is common in South Africa. This sweet cake has origins from Cape Dutch. The addition of brown vinegar gives the staple flavours of South African desserts. While it is still hot, it is topped with cream sauce.
- Pampoenkoekies: These are deep-fried pumpkin fritters usually served with caramel sauce on top. They can be eaten for breakfast, as a snack or served as a side dish. This is definitely a family favourite.
- Magwinya: Magwinya, or also known as fat cakes, are small doughnuts that are common throughout the southern region. They are crispy and sweet. In Botswana, high school children commonly eat them with potato chips.
- Chikenduza: Also known as “Zimbabwe Candy Cake”, this dessert is a dense, bread-like cake that is served topped with pink icing. It is as appetizing as it looks! This is especially popular during the holidays. They are usually the size of large muffins, but can be enjoyed in a smaller format.
There are so many more African desserts to explore, we’ve only covered half of them! Each dessert is created within each region’s traditions and historical background. Go ahead and look for African desserts near you!