The history of West Africa also plays a large role in their cuisine and recipes, as interactions with different cultures (particularly the Arab world and later Europeans) over the centuries have introduced many ingredients that would go on to become key components of the various national cuisines today.
A typical West African meal is made with starchy items and can contain meat, fish as well as various spices and herbs. A wide array of staples are eaten across the region, including fufu, banku, kenkey (originating from Ghana), foutou, couscous, tô, and garri, which are served alongside soups and stews. Fufu is often made from starchy root vegetables such as yams ,cocoyams, or cassava, but also from cereal grains like millet, sorghum or plantains. Rice dishes are also widely eaten in the region, especially in the dry Sahel belt inland. Examples of these include benachin from The Gambia and Jollof rice, a pan-West African rice dish similar to Arab kabsah.
Cooking techniques of West Africa are changing. In the past West Africans ate much less meat and used native oils (palm oil on the coast and shea butter in Sahelian regions). Baobob leaf and numerous local greens were everyday staples during certain times of the year. Today the diet is much heavier in meats, salt, and fats. Many dishes combine fish and meat, including dried and fermented fish. Flaked and dried fish is often fried in oil, and sometimes cooked in sauce made up with hot peppers, onions, tomatoes, and various spices (such as soumbala) and water to prepare a highly flavored stew.
The local cuisine and recipes of West Africa continue to remain deeply entrenched in the local customs and traditions, with ingredients like rice, fonio, millet, sorghum, Bambara groundnuts and Hausa groundnuts, black-eyed peas, brown beans, and root vegetables such as yams, cocoyams, sweet potatoes, and cassava. Cooking techniques include roasting, baking, boiling, frying, mashing, and spicing. A range of sweets and savories are also prepared.
In some areas beef and mutton are preferred, and goat meat is the dominant red meat. Suya, a popular grilled spicy meat kebab flavored with peanuts and other spices, is sold by street vendors as a snack or evening meal and is typically made with beef or chicken. It is common to have a preponderance of seafood and the seafood, as earlier stated, is sometimes also mixed with other meat products. Guinea fowl eggs, eggs and chicken are also preferred.
Dining is communal, diners use their fingers to eat. Water has a very strong ritual significance in many West African nations (particularly in dry areas), and water is often the first thing an African host will offer his/her guest.