Akara Recipe: Delicious South African Vegetarian Dish


Akara Recipe: Delicious South African Vegetarian Dish
Region / culture: South Africa | Preparation time: 12 hours | Cooking time: 30 minutes | Servings: 6 | Vegetarian diet



Akara, also known as bean cakes, bean balls, or bean fritas, is a delicious and popular dish in many parts of Africa, particularly in Nigeria, Ghana, and Brazil. Made from pureed beans and seasoned with onions and spices, these fried bean cakes are a staple in African cuisine. They are often enjoyed as a breakfast dish, snack, or side dish and are known for their crispy exterior and soft, fluffy interior. This recipe will guide you through the steps to create authentic Akara that you can enjoy with your family and friends.


The history of Akara dates back several centuries and is deeply rooted in West African cuisine. It is believed to have originated from the Yoruba people in Nigeria and has since spread across West Africa and beyond. Akara played a significant role in the cultural and culinary traditions of these regions, often served during important festivals and ceremonies. The dish was brought to Brazil by African slaves, where it evolved into a popular street food known as "acarajé." Over time, Akara has gained popularity worldwide, appreciated for its unique flavor and nutritional benefits.


How to prepare

  1. Soak the peas overnight.
  2. Drain the peas and use a masher to loosen the skins, then float them off in running water or spread them on a board and use a rolling pin to rub the skins loose.
  3. Soak the peas further, if necessary, until they can be crushed.
  4. Grind the puree in a blender, adding water as needed to achieve a smooth consistency, similar to pancake batter.
  5. Grind the onion and peppers very finely, if using fresh ones, and add them to the beans in the blender.
  6. Heat the oil to 350°F (177°C) – 375°F in a deep fryer.
  7. Drop the mixture by teaspoonful into the hot oil and fry until it turns deep brown.
  8. Drain the fried beans on a paper towel.
  9. Many Africans sprinkle the fried beans with additional red pepper.
  10. Enjoy the fried beans while they are still warm.
  11. Serve them as warm snacks or as a substitute for bread.


  • There are several variations of Akara that incorporate different ingredients for added flavor. Some popular variations include:
  • Adding chopped spinach or kale to the bean mixture for a green Akara.
  • Mixing in shredded fish or crabmeat for a seafood version.
  • Using different types of beans, such as lentils or chickpeas, for a twist on the traditional recipe.

Cooking Tips & Tricks

To ensure your Akara turns out perfectly, consider the following tips and tricks:

- Use a high-speed blender to achieve a smooth bean paste.

- Make sure the oil is hot enough before frying to prevent the Akara from absorbing too much oil.

- Do not overcrowd the frying pan; fry in batches to maintain the oil temperature.

- For extra flavor, you can add a small amount of grated ginger or garlic to the bean paste.

Serving Suggestions

Akara can be enjoyed on its own or with a variety of accompaniments. It pairs well with pap (a type of corn porridge), bread, or steamed rice. In Nigeria, it is commonly served with a spicy tomato sauce or a side of hot pepper sauce for dipping. For a complete meal, serve Akara with a fresh salad or sautéed vegetables.

Cooking Techniques

The key to making perfect Akara lies in the preparation of the bean paste and the frying technique. Ensure the bean paste is smooth and well-seasoned before frying. The oil should be hot enough so that the Akara cooks quickly, becoming crispy on the outside while remaining soft on the inside. Avoid turning the Akara too frequently in the oil to prevent them from breaking apart.

Ingredient Substitutions

If black-eyed peas are not available, you can substitute them with other beans such as white beans or chickpeas. Red onion can be replaced with white or yellow onion, and if red pepper is too spicy, you can use bell pepper for a milder flavor.

Make Ahead Tips

The bean paste for Akara can be prepared in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours before frying. This can save time and make it easier to enjoy fresh Akara whenever you like.

Presentation Ideas

Serve Akara on a platter garnished with sliced tomatoes, onions, and fresh herbs for an appealing presentation. You can also use skewers to serve Akara as finger food for parties or gatherings.

Pairing Recommendations

Akara pairs beautifully with chilled beverages such as fresh fruit juices, smoothies, or iced tea. For a traditional pairing, try serving it with a cup of warm African tea or coffee.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Leftover Akara can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. To reheat, simply warm them in a preheated oven at 350°F (177°C) for 10-15 minutes or until heated through. Avoid microwaving as it can make the Akara soggy.

Nutrition Information

Calories per serving

Each serving of Akara contains approximately 200-250 calories, making it a relatively low-calorie option for a snack or side dish. The exact calorie count may vary depending on the size of the servings and the amount of oil used for frying.


A serving of Akara is a good source of carbohydrates, providing the energy needed to start your day. The black-eyed peas used in the recipe are rich in complex carbohydrates, which are digested slowly and can help maintain steady blood sugar levels. Each serving of Akara contains approximately 20-30 grams of carbohydrates.


The fat content in Akara primarily comes from the vegetable oil used for frying. While it is important to enjoy fried foods in moderation, using healthier oils such as canola or sunflower oil can provide some beneficial fats. Each serving of Akara contains about 10-15 grams of fat, depending on the amount of oil absorbed during frying.


Akara is an excellent source of plant-based protein, thanks to the black-eyed peas. Protein is essential for building and repairing tissues in the body. Each serving of Akara contains approximately 8-10 grams of protein, making it a nutritious option for vegetarians and vegans.

Vitamins and minerals

Black-eyed peas are rich in several vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin K, folate, calcium, magnesium, and iron. These nutrients play vital roles in maintaining good health, supporting everything from vision to bone health. Akara can contribute to your daily intake of these important vitamins and minerals.


Akara is naturally gluten-free and dairy-free, making it suitable for individuals with gluten intolerance or lactose intolerance. However, it is important to note that Akara contains legumes (black-eyed peas), which can be allergenic to some individuals.


Overall, Akara is a nutritious and flavorful dish that offers a good balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, along with essential vitamins and minerals. It is a versatile food that can be enjoyed in various ways, fitting into many dietary preferences and restrictions.


Akara is a versatile and nutritious dish that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. Whether you're looking for a hearty breakfast, a satisfying snack, or a delicious side dish, Akara is a great option that offers a rich blend of flavors and health benefits. With this comprehensive guide, you're now equipped to make authentic Akara at home and explore various ways to enjoy it.

How did I get this recipe?

I remember the sense of wonder I felt when I first saw this recipe for Akara. It was a warm summer day, and I was visiting my friend Amina in her bustling kitchen. The air was filled with the aroma of spices, and I watched in awe as she expertly mixed the ingredients together to create the perfect blend of flavors. As she explained the process to me, I knew I had to learn how to make this dish for myself.

Amina told me that Akara was a popular street food in Nigeria, made from black-eyed peas that are soaked, peeled, ground, and then deep-fried to golden perfection. The crispy exterior and soft, fluffy interior made it a beloved snack for many. I was intrigued by the simplicity of the ingredients and the complexity of the flavors that they produced.

With Amina's guidance, I set out to perfect my own Akara recipe. I soaked the black-eyed peas overnight, allowing them to soften before peeling off the skins. The next day, I ground them into a smooth paste, adding onions, peppers, and spices to create a flavorful mixture. I carefully formed the mixture into small balls and dropped them into hot oil, watching as they sizzled and crisped up beautifully.

The smell wafting through my kitchen was intoxicating, and I couldn't wait to taste the fruits of my labor. When I bit into my first Akara, I was transported back to Amina's kitchen, where I first discovered this delicious treat. The crispy exterior gave way to a soft, savory interior that was bursting with flavor. I knew then that this recipe would become a staple in my own kitchen.

Over the years, I have perfected my Akara recipe, tweaking it to suit my own tastes and experimenting with different spices and seasonings. Each time I make it, I am reminded of Amina and the joy of learning something new in her kitchen. I have since shared this recipe with friends and family, passing on the tradition of making Akara from scratch.

As I sit here now, reflecting on the journey that led me to this recipe, I am grateful for the experiences and memories that have shaped my love for cooking. The simple act of creating something delicious with my own two hands brings me so much joy and fulfillment. And when I see the smiles on the faces of those who taste my Akara, I know that I have truly captured the essence of this beloved Nigerian dish.

So the next time you find yourself in the kitchen, looking for a new recipe to try, I urge you to give Akara a chance. Let the aroma of spices and the sizzle of hot oil transport you to a world of flavor and tradition. And who knows, maybe one day you'll be sharing this recipe with your own friends and family, passing on the joy of cooking just like I have.


| Black-eyed Pea Recipes | Peanut Oil Recipes | Red Onion Recipes | South African Appetizers | South African Recipes | South African Vegetarian |

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