What is Fufu? Is Fufu Healthy?


what is fufu

Fufu is a catch all term for a staple food in Africa made from any starchy vegetable or fufu flour  boiled in water to form a dough similar to dumplings.  Starchy Vegetables typically used to make fufu include yams, cassava(yuca), plantain, and corn. When cooked, Fufu is soft to touch and resembles dough or thick mashed potatoes. It is bland in taste. The joy in eating fufu comes from the soups that accompany the fufu. Popular soups to eat with fufu include okra soup, egusi soup, ogbonna soup, and various vegetable soup recipes. The most popular brand of fufu flour readily available in US/UK grocery stores is Tropiway Plantain Fufu, which is actually a combination of cassava and plantain flour. If you don't have any grocery stores near you that sell fufu you can buy it online on Amazon.

Fufu Recipe: To cook fufu all you need is water, a pot and a wooden fufu spoon, when using commercially made fufu flour
  1. Boil water in a pot
  2. Turn the temperature down to medium low after the water has boiled
  3. Add the flour and stir vigorously while pounding simultaneously to make the fufu smooth to get rid of lumps
  4. You can add more water or flour to attain the right texture of the fufu
  5. Its that simple in modern times!
Fufu is typically not chewed when eaten, but instead formed into  small balls, dipped in accompanying soup/sauce and swallowed whole. Coincidentally the catch all term for Fufu in Nigeria is in fact "swallow." Fufu is called different things around Africa depending on what it is made of and what country you are in. Interestingly in Nigeria Fufu is a term reserved solely for swallow made from cassava. Fufu is healthy when made from fresh whole vegetables, however when made from processed flour can be devoid of several nutrients. Also when Fufu is eaten in excess it can lead to weight gain as it contains a lot of calories and is used to fill one's empty, key word, empty stomach. Lets take a look at different fufu varieties around Africa. You will notice some slight differences in preparations and similarities. 

fufu and vegetable soup

Fufu/Swallow Eaten In Nigeria


Garri or Eba as it is called in parts of Nigeria is made from grated, fermented and dried cassava. The end product is a sort of cassava granule much thicker than flour. There is white garri and yellow garri. Yellow garri has had the addition of palm oil to it during processing giving it's distinctive yellow color. Both types of garri can be used to make eba.

Eba is probably the most popularly eaten form of fufu(swallow) in Nigeria due to its ease in preparation and cheapness. Unlike most other fufu, you do not need to stir vigorously with a lot of muscle to make eba.

How To Make Eba
  1. boil some water in a kettle, 
  2. pour some dried garri into a bowl or pot. 
  3. Pour the hot water on the garri and stir until it comes together to form a ball. 
  4. You may add more water or garri, depending on the texture you want it. 

 Garri is almost always purchased in it's processed form, no one ever makes garri from fresh cassava. It can conveniently be purchased online from Amazon from several different sellers, if you can not find it at a local african grocery store. I personally like using yellow garri for swallow more than white garri.

yellow garri

Below is a picture of fresh cassava tubers. Cassava is also called Yuca in some parts of the world. So if you have ever eaten yuca fries this is what you are eating. Cassava is also used to make tapioca, boba pearls. Many gluten free breads ands and baked goods use cassava flour. 
cassava tuber


Akpu is made from fresh cassava only. To make cassava fufu from scratch, the cassava is first peeled, chopped, soaked in water to ferment for 3-4 days. After fermentation the cassava is washed strained using a muslin cloth before going through a pounding and double boiling process. If the cassava is not to be cooked right away it can be further processed into flour by allowing it to sun dry very well before grinding. You can see, to make cassava fufu from scratch is a long tedious process.

Even in Nigeria few people make Akpu/cassava fufu from scratch at home. Most will buy already made fufu in the market or simply buy cassava flour. Cassava fufu flour is now readily available for purchase online on Amazon for those living in the diaspora with no local African grocery store near by. One of my favorite brands of fufu commercially made is Ola-Ola.

cassava fufu

Starch(Cassava Starch)

"Starch" is another type of fufu/swallow eaten in Nigeria. It is eaten primarily in Delta State Nigeria. It is produced in the same process as cassava fufu, however instead of the cassava fiber you take the water. Once the water settles the sediment that remains is the starch.  This is actually what commercially sold tapioca powder is. Of all fufu varieties this is the most devoid of any nutrients and is essentially 100% carbohydrates. I personally would not recommend eating this from a nutrition stand point. 

Pounded Yam/Utara Ji/Iyan

Pounded yam is probably my favorite type of fufu due to its smooth, soft fluffy texture. I find cassava fufu(akpu) to be much more sticky which I don't like. Traditionally to make fufu, yam is peeled, chopped, boiled, and pounded with a large motar and pestle

yam tuber
It takes a lot of strength and time to pound yam very well. However now with the advent of blenders, this process can be dramatically shortened. 

For those of you who can not find yam in a grocery store, or who simply don't have the time to make fresh pounded yam, you can buy yam flour online on Amazon. Again, from a nutrition stand point it is always better to eat more less processed foods. So pounded whole yam would be more nutritious than yam flour. Be sure to check the ingredient list when shopping for yam flour. There are some brands on the market that actually contain mostly potato starch. The yam flour I buy if yams are unavailable is Ola Ola which only list 2 ingredients,  yam flour and BHT as a preservative. 

yam flour for fufu


Amala is another type of fufu eaten primarily by the Yoruba people of Nigeria. There are 2 main types of amala. amala isu the most popular type is made from yam flour, and amala ogede is made from plantain or plantain flour. Amala made from yam looks unlike other fufu as it is dark brown in color. One would think that in fact it is not made from yam. 

To make yam flour the yam is is peeled, sliced and soaked in water over night. The back(skin) of the yam is also included and this is why the flour turns brown when cooking. After the soaking, the yam is washed and cleaned, then spread under the sun to dry. Once the yam is very dry it can then be ground into powder form making yam flour. This flour is called elubo by Yoruba people. Then you simply add the yam flour to boiling water and stir vigorously when making amala.

Like the other varieties of fufu, you can also buy elubo(amala flour) online on Amazon if you don't have and African grocery store near by.
amala flour

Plantain Fufu (Amala ogede)

Plantain fufu can be made from either fresh unripe green plantain, or plantain flour. When buying plantain flour be sure to check the ingredient list, as many commercially made plantain flours contain other vegetables as well. One brand that makes plantain fufu from 100% green unripe plantain is Jeb foods
plantain fufu

As you can see from the nutrient labels of both amala varieties this fufu is lower in calories, lower in carbohydrates, and higher in fiber than other fufu varieties, but still low in protein. This makes amala and plantain fufu a better option for people with diabetes. It is still a high calorie and high carbohydrate food so it should still be eaten with extreme moderation if weight loss and diabetes control is your goal.

Semo/Semolina/Semovita/Wheat fufu

Semolina or "Semo" as it is called in Nigeria is a type of flour made from durum wheat. Durum wheat is native to Africa and the middle east and is cultivated extensively in Ethiopia and north Africa. Durum wheat is actually what is used to make couscous. Semolina is essentially couscous flour in a way. Most fufu in Nigeria advertised as "whole wheat," comes from durum wheat. Semolina is coarser than regular white flour, but still fine in texture. In the West and Europe semolina is primarily used to make pasta and pizza dough. Unlike other fufu varieties it is not gluten free as it comes from wheat. Another difference is that it actually is a good source of protein unlike other fufu which have little to no protein. As it is flour it is cooked in the same way as other fufu. Boil water, add the flour, stir vigorously until you get the right consistency and texture you want. 

Interestingly, semo is the type of fufu I grew up eating most in Kansas City Missouri as the child of Nigerian immigrants. I presume because it was readily available in grocery stores. If you are looking for semo that is made by Africans for fufu specifically than shopping online on Amazon is a good choice.

semolina fufu

Tuwu Shinkafa (rice fufu)

Tuwu Shinkafa is eaten in Northern Nigeria only and it is quite simple to make. Just over boil some rice until it is mushy, and mush it all together. Thats it. It is best not to use parboiled rice to make this, but rather a short grain sticky rice.

Fufu in Ghana, Cameroon, and other West African Countries


In these two countries fufu is typically made from a combination of fermented cassava and corn (Banku) or cassava and plantain. The process of fermentation is the same as done in Nigeria

You can buy Banku mix online on Amazon and surprisingly fully made Banku as well.


At first glance one might think that this banku is lower in calorie than other fufu varieties, but you must look at what is considered a serving size. On this packaging a serving size is 1/4cup or 30 grams, while other packagings for other fufu show 1 cup or well over 100g as a serving. So multiply the 100 calories and every other nutrient on the label by 4 or 5 and you will see that the nutrient composition of this banku is similar to other fufu varieties. 

Fufu in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Central and South Africa

Ugali/Nshima/Pap/Upththu ( corn fufu) is the primary fufu eaten in eastern and south Africa. Processing corn to make corn meal for fufu is a tedious process and from my research it seams most people simply buy corn meal flour, commercially sold as maize meal or mealie meal to make ugali. It is prepared the same way as other fufu flours by adding to boiling water and stirring. 

Ugali Maize Meal
Ugali like other fufu varieties is very high in carbohydrates and calories, but it appears to be much higher in fiber and protein.

Fufu Nutrition/ Is Fufu Healthy?

Fufu should not be classified as an unhealthy food when made from and eaten from the whole vegetable. Cassava, yams, plantains, and corn are all made of complex carbohydrates and minerals, which are a good source of energy.  Both cassava and yams are rich in vitamin c, and potassium. Yams are also a good source of zinc and iron (1). Plantains are rich in vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B6 and fiber. And corn is rich source of B vitamins and antioxidants. 

The issue with eating fufu in excess is that if your daily activity level is low, you will surely gain weight. As mentioned fufu is high in carbohydrates and calories. Carbohydrates are not unhealthy. We all need carbohydrates as it is the primary fuel source our body uses for energy. The issue is the amount of carbohydrate you eat should be matched with your ACTIVITY LEVELS. If you do not burn the carbohydrate off by being active during the day, any excess will be stored as fat in the body. Fufu is a food meant to fill an empty stomach of a farmer, of which traditionally most Africans were. In past most Africans lead very active lifestyles, so there were no issues with eating large amounts of fufu. Now a days most people lead sedentary lifestyles with desk jobs/school and use public or private transportation instead of walking.  Also with the advent of using processed flour as fufu, this may increases the likely of developing diabetes. You can read more about diabetes HERE, and how excess consumption of carbohydrates and processed food lead to diabetes HERE

Low Carb Fufu

With the advent of modern diseases like diabetes and obesity people are looking for different alternatives to enjoy their cultural meals without added weight and/or worsening of disease. For someone to continue consuming fufu on a regular basis in large quantities, without added weight gain, they must lead a VERY active lifestyle like the farmers of yesteryear. For those of you who are unable to increase your activity or decrease the portion size of fufu you eat to help curtail diabetes and obesity low carb options may be your best bet. Low carb options include cauliflower fufu, cabbage fufu, and eggplant fufu. Oat fufu is another option much easier to make than cauliflower and other low carb fufus. Oat fufu is lower in carb than yam and cassava fufu, and much higher in protein and fiber. Because of this it will not spike your blood sugar much when you eat it as it will take the body longer to digest, making it a good option for someone with diabetes. Though it is still higher in carbs than the aforementioned fufu options made from fibrous vegetables, so for weight loss the low carb veggie fufu are the absolute best solution.

The bottom line. 

Fufu is healthy, but for weight and disease management, it must be eaten in moderation combined with leading an active lifestyle.


1. Vincenza Ferraro, Clara Piccirillo, Keith Tomlins & Manuela E. Pintado (2016) Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) and Yam (Dioscorea spp.) Crops and Their Derived Foodstuffs: Safety, Security and Nutritional Value, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 56:16, 2714-2727, DOI: 10.1080/10408398.2014.922045

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