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Celebrate National Soup Month with these Cultural Dishes of the African Diaspora

Feb 19, 2022 10:00AM ● By Nana Ama Addo

( L to R. Image by Omotayo Tajudeen via Pexels. Image by Kampus Production via Pexels. Photo by Jeanetta Richardson-Anhalt from Pexels. Image by ZSM via Wikimedia Commons She-crab soup. Image by Jo Anna Barber via Wikimedia Commons Image via Flickr Pepper Pot. Image by Simon Abrams via Wikimedia Commons )

Happy National Soup Month! The benefits of soup are numerous and provide the body with nutrients and soothing warmth during the cold months. Some soup variations aid with weight loss and digestion, stabilize blood sugar, and help to cure certain colds. Because most soups are made with a variety of vegetables, the water and fiber density are great. Some soups even keep you fuller for longer. Let’s explore some tasty soup recipes from Africa, the Afro-Caribbean, and Afro-America to add to your recipe book!

Chicken Light Soup

 ( Image by ZSM via Wikimedia Commons )

Light Soup is a savory dish that is consumed in West African countries like Ghana, Togo, Ivory Coast, Liberia, and more. Varying types of meat can be used to prepare this dish, which is usually eaten with fufu made of plantain and cassava, or another root vegetable. A typical Ghanaian chicken light soup dish will include:


1 kilogram of chicken

2 large ripe tomatoes

3 medium onions

4 cloves of garlic

1 medium-sized piece of ginger

1 Maggi cube/seasoning

2 tablespoons of tomato paste

1 teaspoon of salt


2 green habanero peppers

2 yellow eggplants

3 pieces of okra

Cooking directions:

Wash chicken and other ingredients. Blend peppers, 1 onion, garlic, and ginger. Put chicken in a pot with a little water and the blended mixture. Add whole tomatoes, 2 remaining onions, Maggi cube, and a teaspoon of salt. Let the mixture boil. Check to make sure it does not burn. Add water if needed. After 20 minutes, or when tomatoes and onions have softened, blend tomatoes and onions and re-add to the pot, with tomato paste. Add whole eggplants and okra (cut the edges on both sides of the okra). Cook until oil appears at the top of the soup. Add salt to taste.

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Mannish Water/Goathead Soup

( Image by Kiryu via Flickr )

Mannish Water or Goat Head Soup is a Jamaican soup dish that is said to be an aphrodisiac. This dish is usually prepared by men and is eaten at occasions such as the Nine Nights festival, a nine-day event that community members organize to usher deceased Afro-Jamaicans’ spirit back to Africa. A typical Mannish water recipe may include:


2 pounds of goat belly and head (chopped)

6 green bananas

4 cups of water

½ cup of water

4 medium diced carrots

2 large peeled and diced Cho Cho

2 pounds of peeled and diced yellow yam

1 scotch bonnet pepper

1 pack of cock soup seasoning

1 teaspoon of softened margarine

6 pimento berries

1 cup of flour

1 pound of Irish potato

1 pack of cock soup mix

4 cloves of crushed garlic

1 purpose of Caribbean all-purpose seasoning

2 pieces of thyme

½ teaspoon of black pepper

¼ of white cane vinegar

¼ teaspoon of salt

2 stalks of scallion


¼ cup of white rum

Cooking directions:

Wash the goat in vinegar and 4 cups of water. Boil goat, 6 cups of water, pimento berries, garlic cloves, for 20 minutes. Let cool. Transfer aforementioned ingredients into a pot at least 6 quarts, and boil with an additional 4 cups of water. Add vegetables (diced potatoes, green bananas, carrots, Cho Cho). Let it cook. For the spinners/dumplings, mix flour, ¼ teaspoon of salt, flour, and ½ cup of water and knead into a dough. Let the dough sit for 15 minutes. Make spinners by separating dough into small pieces and rubbing dough between your hands until dough becomes long and a little thick. Add spinners to the soup, along with all-purpose seasoning, scotch bonnet pepper, black pepper, 1 tablespoon salt, margarine, thyme, scallion, and cock soup seasoning. Stir thoroughly and cook on medium heat for about 15 minutes. Let cool. 

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Pepper Pot 

 ( Pepper Pot. Image by Simon Abrams via Wikimedia Commons )

Pepper Pot is a stew dish that originated in Guyana and is enjoyed in other parts of the Caribbean. Pepper Pot, usually served with a side of bread, was originated by the Amerindians on the island and is made to preserve meat, so it can be left without refrigeration and not spoil. Although Pepper Pot is usually made with red meat, some make it with chicken. Here is a Pepper Pot recipe by Alicia’s Pepperpot:


16 cups of water

2 wiri wiri peppers

½-¾ cup of brown sugar

6-8 cloves

4-5 cinnamon sticks

1 cup of Cassareep

3 lbs of meat

1 1/1 inch of orange peel

1 ½ teaspoon of salt

Cooking directions:

Steam meat for 15 minutes with water up to ¼ of the pot or pan, and then remove liquid and fat that is partially removed. In a separate pot, combine all the ingredients. Boil mixture for a few hours, or until ¾ of the liquid has reduced and the meat is tender. Add salt if needed. This dish, which will be okay if it is not refrigerated, is best served after it has been left sitting for a few days.

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Charleston/Lowcountry She-crab Soup

 ( She-crab soup. Image by Jo Anna Barber via Wikimedia Commons )

Charleston/Lowcountry She-Crab Soup is a Gullah-Geechee dish that is a mixture of European and African influences. She-crab soup, which originated in Charleston, South Carolina at the John Rutledge House Inn in the 1920s, is a staple in the city.

The Gullah Geechee people of Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia are people that descended from the west and central Africans who were enslaved in the aforementioned states in the US. The Gullah Geechee people managed to retain African cultural artforms due to their enslavement on relatively isolated coasts and islands.

Here is the critically-acclaimed Lowcountry She-crab soup recipe from John Rutledge House Inn:


2 cups of crab meat

1 cup of heavy cream

5 tablespoons of butter

5 tablespoons of flour

⅔ tablespoons of mace spice

½ cup of chicken stock

½ cup of celery, thinly diced

3 ½ cups of milk

3 tablespoons of dry Sherry wine

¼ teaspoon of white pepper

¼ cup of Worcestershire Sauce


Cooking directions:

Caramelize celery with butter, white pepper, and mace. In a separate pan, heat milk and chicken stock (do not let the milk boil, if it does you have cooked it too long). After celery is translucent, make a roux by gradually stirring in the flour. Let bubble for a few minutes. Then, add the milk mixture to the roux and add salt. After this, add heavy cream, crab, Sherry, and Worcestershire Sauce, and let cook on moderate heat for 30 minutes, or until the bisque is to a thick enough consistency of your liking.

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Lima Bean Soup

 ( Photo by Jeanetta Richardson-Anhalt from Pexels )

Hardship can create unusual levels of creativity. During the slavery and post-slave eras, African-Americans suffered from financial hardship and mixed whatever ingredients they had available to make eclectic yet tasty soups. Lima bean soup is a recipe that was most likely born out of slavery. This dish is enjoyed among many African-American communities today. Here is a typical Lima bean recipe:


2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 cups of dry lima beans

A piece of cooked ham, bacon or salted pork

2 celery stalks

1 leek

2 shallots

1 teaspoon of dried parsley

4 vegetable bouillon cubes

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon of black pepper


Cooking directions:

Boil water, add lima beans and cook until soft. Dry lima beans and set them aside. Put a little water in a pot with your chosen meat (water amount will depend on meat size and thickness), and let cook. When meat is cooked and water is evaporated, add olive oil and diced vegetables (celery, shallots, leeks) until caramelized, and add dried softened lima beans and saute for another few minutes. Crumble vegetable bouillon and add to the soup with dried parsley and 3 ½ cups of water. Cook the soup for 1 to 1/12 hours. Add salt to taste. You can add potatoes for extra thickness, and substitute whichever beans are in your inventory for this recipe.

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What’s your favorite soup dish? Comment below!

Works Cited

 Nana Ama Addo is a writer, multimedia strategist, film director, and storytelling artist. She graduated with a BA in Africana Studies from the College of Wooster, and has studied at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Nana Ama tells stories of entrepreneurship and Ghana repatriation at her brand, Asiedua’s Imprint ).

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