Food Trend Spotlight: African Cuisine

November 2019

African cuisine is steeped in history and colonial influence, relying largely on a plant-forward approach to dishes by elevating grains, pulses, and produce with strategic use of herbs and spices. As consumers are looking to more plant-forward diets from a health and environmental perspective, traditional and non-traditional African inspired dishes are a great way to introduce new flavors and ingredients as a bridge for safe experimentation to new foods. According to Technomic, more than one-third of consumers (35%), and almost of half of Gen-Z (47%) and Millennials (46%) would like to see more North African influences on restaurant menus1.

Gerry Ludwig of Gordon Food Service recently highlighted Modern African as one of his major trends to watch when delivering his annual street-level trends presentation at the Flavor Experience conference where he presented trends across foodservice. With self-described Afro-fusion concepts popping up on the restaurant scene, we are seeing African influence leading to innovation across the menu, like at Berber Street Food in New York City.

Culinary Appeal

With expanding palates, especially with Gen-Z and Millennial consumers, there is growing interest in global cuisines. From a culinary perspective, focusing on flavor and pairing familiar ingredients with new ones creates a bridge for experimentation and helps consumers make the leap and introduce them to new food experiences. African cuisine is a great base for exploring new flavors, spices, and ingredients, lending inspiration from culturally diverse and exciting culinary regions like Morocco, Egypt, and Ethiopia.

Operational Perks

While African cuisine is spice and flavor forward, the style of cooking embodies very simple cooking techniques and familiar applications like soups, stews, breads, bowls, hand-helds, and grilled meats. These types of dishes tend to hold well for buffet style service in non-commercial settings. They also allow for customization, fitting well into fast-casual concepts.

Innovation Opportunities

Flavors of Africa are distinctly different from North Africa, to West Africa, and Central Africa – but many have similar style of dishes. Take flavor influences from different regions and simply lend those herb and spice foundations to more familiar dishes to walk customers around the continent. Offer different LTO concepts with even the most simplistic base. Take a simple burger patty infused with Moroccan flavors like garlic, mint, basil, parsley, and za’atar. The same idea can be applied to kofte kebabs, or to power bowl platforms by leveraging flavor or regionally specific additions like falafel. The possibilities are endless, from the most familiar and simplistic of dishes with regional influences, or traditional platforms with elements of the familiar.

Getting You Started

To get you started, Lentils.org has developed a number of African inspired recipes with a mix of traditional takes and influenced mash-ups:

Lentil Kofte Lettuce Wraps

Chicken Tikka Bunny Chow

North African Couscous & Lentil Salad Bowl

Egyptian Koshari Bowl

Moroccan Inspired Piadini

Lentil Falafel Bowl

Rockin’ Moroccan Burger

 Lentil & Beef Maafe (West African Peanut Stew)

Let us know how you are innovating around African cuisines on your menus – email us at info@lentils.org and share your ideas!

  1. Technomic, Trend Outlook: Middle Eastern, North African and Balkan Cuisine https://www.technomic.com/newsroom/trend-outlook-middle-eastern-north-african-balkan-cuisines