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Exploring the Flavors of Liberia: What to Know about Liberian Cuisine

Posted on Thu November 9, 2023.

When it comes to experiencing the culture of a country, one of the most delightful ways is through its food. Liberia, located on the West African coast, offers a unique and flavorful culinary journey. Liberian cuisine reflects the country's diverse ethnic groups and a blend of African, American, and Caribbean influences. Here's what you need to know about the delightful world of Liberian food.

1. Rice: The Staple of Liberian Meals

Rice is the heart and soul of Liberian cuisine. It's not just a side dish; it's the main course. Liberians eat rice with almost every meal. You'll often find dishes like Jollof Rice (rice cooked in a flavorful tomato sauce and spices, typically served with beef or chicken) and Rice and Gravy (rice served with a rich, meaty sauce) on the menu.

                                                                         Jollof Rice

2. Liberia’s Hearty Stews and Soups

Liberia is known for its rich and flavorful stews and soups. The most famous is Palm Butter Soup, made from palm fruit, often served with rice or a starchy side dish. Pepper Soup is another popular choice, a spicy broth with various meats and spices.

Peanut Soup is also a classic dish from Liberia, combining peanuts, spices, herbs, and various meat options like beef and chicken. It also has various vegetables, including onions, peppers, celery, bell peppers, potatoes, okra, and peanut butter. Typically enjoyed hot, it's a popular choice for lunch

Additionally, Geebe or GB Soup a traditional cassava-based food is a well-recognized delicacy in Liberia, particularly cherished by the Gio and Manor tribes from the Nimba region. It is typically eaten with various soups, such as pepper soup, palava sauce, and palm butter.

                                              Liberia palm butter soup with fish and rice

3. Liberia’s Most Important Ingredients: Cassava and Plantains

Cassava and plantains are essential in Liberian cooking. Fufu is a starchy side dish made from cassava or plantains, pounded to a dough-like consistency, and served with soup or stew. It's a must-try Liberian specialty. 

Liberian Dumboy is a traditional dish in Liberian cuisine. It is made from cassava, and it is cooked and pounded to create a dough-like consistency. Dumboy is often served with various Liberian soups and stews, acting as a starchy accompaniment. It's a simple yet hearty staple in Liberian meals, enjoyed for its comforting texture and ability to complement a wide range of flavorful dishes.

4. Fish Galore from Liberia’s Coast                               

With a coastline that stretches for miles, Liberia boasts an abundance of seafood. Grilled or fried fish is a common sight on menus, and you can also savor dishes like "Palava Fish" (fish in a rich palm sauce). Fish is also often added to many dishes, meaning that a lot of foods have a distinctly ocean-like taste. Larger fish caught are often sent to markets in Monrovia, whilst smaller fish are smoked and eaten locally.

Fried Fish

5. Liberian Street Food Delights

Liberia has a few street food options that you shouldn't miss. Try Kala, deep-fried dough served with Liberia’s super spicy pepper sauce. You can also find fried ripe plantains, roasted corn, and grilled meats at street stalls.

6. Liberia's Flavorsome Spices 

Liberian food is known for its rich and complex flavors, thanks to the use of various spices and herbs. You'll find ingredients like scotch bonnet peppers give Liberian food some serious spice; while thyme, basil, parsley, and bay leaves give dishes their distinctive taste.

                                                                      Liberian Spices

7. Dishes Made with Greens

Several traditional Liberian dishes are made with different types of leaves. For example, cassava leaf stew is made with cassava leaves, often accompanied by meat (usually chicken, goat, or fish) and seasoned with a blend of spices and palm oil. It's a rich, flavorful, and hearty dish. Potato Greens is a traditional and beloved dish in Liberian cuisine. It is a rich and flavorful stew made from the tender leaves of the sweet potato plant, which are known for their unique taste and texture. The dish typically includes meat, seasonings, palm oil, and hot peppers.

                                                                  Liberian Potato Greens 

8. West African Hospitality and Generosity

Liberian culture places a strong emphasis on hospitality and generosity. You'll often find that meals are shared with family and friends, making dining in Liberia a warm and communal experience.

                                                   Local hospitality at Sapo Ecolodge

9. What is the restaurant scene like in Monrovia?

The restaurant scene in Monrovia, Liberia, offers a diverse and evolving culinary experience. While it may not be as extensive as dining scenes in other larger cities, Monrovia has a variety of restaurants to explore. You can find eateries serving traditional Liberian cuisine, including dishes like cassava leaf, palm butter soup, and jollof rice. Additionally, there are international restaurants offering Chinese, Lebanese, and Western cuisines.

These restaurants often reflect the cultural diversity of Monrovia, and you can enjoy both casual dining spots and more upscale establishments. Some restaurants offer outdoor seating with beautiful ocean views, adding to the overall dining experience. Keep in mind that the restaurant scene in Monrovia has been influenced by local ingredients and flavors, making it a unique culinary destination for those looking to explore Liberian and international tastes.

10. What is access to food like outside of Monrovia?

In Monrovia, one can readily encounter larger grocery establishments such as the well-stocked Harbel Supermarket. This store offers a diverse selection of both Liberian staples and imported food items. It is, however, essential to anticipate a notable shift in food availability as one ventures beyond the city limits. Beyond Monrovia, access to food primarily relies on local markets, which may or may not offer an assortment of vegetables. 

For vegetarians, note that most local Liberian restaurants will pre-make several dishes and soups that are served throughout the day. It will not be possible to order these pre-made dishes without meat. However, typically, plain rice, plantains, and avocados are available. In Monrovia, there is an abundance of restaurants that serve vegetarian options.  

For those embarking on a trip to Liberia, a captivating and diverse culinary world awaits exploration!