Waakye is a classic Ghanaian dish of cooked rice and beans that are normally eaten for breakfast or lunch.
The rice and beans are cooked together with red dried sorghum leaf sheaths or stalks and an effervescent additive known as limestone.
Whether you eat it for breakfast or lunch, Waakye pronounced Wachay/Wa-she/Waa-che can be made as rich and as filling as one likes by the addition of an almost unending list of accompaniments:
The most usual ones include the spaghetti-like talia, fried plantains, boiled eggs, a black pepper sauce called shito, avocados, a tomato-based wele stew which contains meat, and gari foto – a mashed sauce made with finely grated cassava.
Waakye Word Origin and Similarities
The word waakye is from the Hausa language in Nigeria and it means beans. It is an abbreviated form of the full name shinkafa da wake which means “rice and beans”.
This dish is similar to West Indian version / Jamaican rice and peas or cooked rice from Guyana,
Other common versions of this “rice and beans” staple dish include arroz e feijão in Brazil, Moros y Cristianos in Cuba, pabellon criollo in Venezuela, or gallo pinto in Costa Rica.
Besides, these dishes were gotten from waakye, probably after the transatlantic trade of enslaved people.
Above all, it is the connecting dish between West African and Caribbean cuisine
The eating of rice and beans together is a popular occurrence in many cultures in the world but it’s the Ghanaian take on it that has won my heart
Perhaps the two major reasons are that they are:
- Affordable, and easy to come by
- A highly nutritious pair
There have been a lot of articles including mine HERE that show the health benefits of this combination. But how did it come to be known as waakye?
Rumor has it that this meal originated from northern Ghana. However, it’s not clear which specific ethnic group is responsible for pioneering this national treasure.
This simple, nutritious meal can be found on sale all over the country, from restaurants, as street food in the marketplaces, and also made at home.
Homemade Waakye Recipe
What I love most about waakye, is the simplicity of its ingredients. You can create this delicious recipe with just three basic ingredients
To Make Waakye, You Need:
- Dried millet leaves’ this is what makes it waakye. Without it, it will be ordinary rice and beans. Some people refer to the leaves as millet leaves or simply waakye leaves,
- Beans: you can use any beans of preference, if possible the small ones (red beans, black-eyed, reddish-brown, etc.).
I like black-eyed beans/ peas for the reason that it cooks faster and pairs well with the rice.
- Any rice of choice
The ratio of beans to rice differs from individual to individual, for this recipe I have used 1: 2 ratios of beans to rice. However, you could adjust quantities as desired.
- 1 Cup Dried Black Eyed Beans/ Peas Soaked Overnight (Optional)
- 2 Cups Rice
- 8-10 Dried Millet Stalk Leaves
- Salt As required
You can prepare this versatile dish in two different ways:
For the Rice
- Firstly, pour a litre of water into a saucepan together with the millet leaf stalks. Put on high heat to boil.
- After a while, the millet stalk leaves will start omitting a deep wine color
- Thirdly, wash the rice till the water is clear and then add to the saucepan together with salt to taste. Stir and cover tightly.
- Do not remove the millet stalk leaves.
- Fourthly, when the rice boils over, reduce heat and simmer till the rice is ready
- Lastly, allow resting for 3-5 minutes before removing millet stalk leaves and fluff with a fork.
For the beans
- Rinse the soaked beans and add to the boiling water. Cover the pot and let it cook till tender.
- Firstly, rinse the beans and soak it overnight with the millet stalk leaves with over a litre of water.
- Secondly, the leaves will omit deeper wine color which the beans will take up.
- Thirdly, put the soaked beans together with the water and millet stalk leaves into a saucepan.
- After that, allow boiling and cook till tender. Then, add the washed rice, salt, and some water as needed. Stir and cover tightly.
- When the rice boils over, reduce the heat and simmer till the rice is ready.
- Lastly, allow resting for about 3-5 minutes, remove millet stalk leaves and fluff with a fork.
How to Serve Waakye
There are many ways of eating this typical Ghanaian dish, which can consist of a spicy plantain fry, kelewele, smoked, and dried cowhide.
Also, with shitor (hot pepper sauce), spaghetti-like pasta called talia, moist garri (also called attieke, typically made of cassava), boiled eggs, and fried fish or fried chicken.
Not having waakye leaves should not prevent you from achieving that distinctive color.
Simply, add ½-1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda-baking soda to the beans before adding the rice, this will help you to achieve that same reddish color.