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A Quick Guide to Ivorian Food and Dining


When I arrived in Abidjan, I was more excited for the food than anything else. I had dedicated time to researching the cuisine before I arrived and was very impressed with the mix of local and French influences, seafood options and typical dining establishments. And the possibility of having my first croque monsieur in eight months. Here’s a quick guide to the cuisine of Cote d’Ivoire based on my experiences in this West African nation.

Where to eat?
In Abidjan, the country’s most populous city, there are plenty of restaurants that cater to the ex-pat community and tourists. Most of these establishments have superb food, but also cost as much as a decent restaurant in many parts of Europe. The alternative – and my preference – is the maquis. These grills are scattered throughout the large cities and can be found along the road in rural areas. Maquis often are grouped together, which means a bevy of open-air dining in plastic tables and chairs. A maquis will offer a few staple dishes every day, all of which are freshly cooked. A filling meal and a drink at a maquis will result in a bill of a few US dollars.

One of the maquis I visited a couple of times in Abidjan was Chez Josine. Tucked into the back corner of a courtyard filled with competitors, Josine and her crew made me feel very welcome as I relaxed with a beer or my lunch. I love the bright colors of the walls of Chez Josine, which was rebuilt after being damaged during the country’s most recent electoral strife.

Chez Josine Crew

Wall of Chez Josine

I also found a nice maquis in the coastal town of Grand Bassam (the first image in this post), where the owner encouraged me to take photos of her wall decorations – and wanted a photo shoot of her own.

Grand Bassam Maquis Cote d'Ivoire

Maquis Grand Bassam

Main Courses
There are various specialties in Cote d’Ivoire, from strikingly large land snails to chicken and seafood. Poulet braise (grilled chicken) was one of my favorites. The chicken is marinated in a mustard sauce before it hits the grill and is served with an onion-based veggie mixture. The end product is a sublime combination of tastes and textures. When I ordered spicy fried chicken at a waterside maquis (one of their house specialties), I received a portion that easily would have sufficed for three people.

Poulet Braise Cote d'Ivoire


Chicken BW

Snails? You can read about my experience with these truly Ivorian creatures here. I really enjoyed them, too.

With its ample Atlantic Ocean coastline, grilled fish and other seafood are readily available in many Ivorian restaurants. Fish is served at most maquis, while higher-end restaurants in beach towns prepare shrimp and langoustine. In addition to the fish and chicken mains, kedjenou, a slow-cooked chicken and vegetable stew, is very popular (unfortunately did not have the opportunity to try this one).

The two most common side dishes I encountered were alloco (also spelled alloko) and attiéké. Alloco – which is also perfect as a stand-alone snack – consists of banana slices fried in palm oil, onions and chilies.


Attiéké is made from grated cassava, one of the main tubers consumed in this part of Africa. A couscous doppelganger, attiéké is ideal for sopping up the sauces of many Ivorian dishes. It doesn’t have much taste, so it absorbs those spicy tomato bases nicely.

Cote dIvoire Snails - Wide

French wine is not widely available where I am currently based, so I had a lot of rosé and younger reds while in Cote d’Ivoire. In terms of local beverages, there are three main beers: Flag, Tuborg and Castel. While Tuborg is a Danish beer, the Tuborg served in Cote d’Ivoire is brewed locally. Castel Group owns both Flag and Castel.

Cote dIvoire Snails - Frosty Beer

Tuborg Beer

Castel Beer Ivory Coast

All three are classic light African lagers and taste quite similar. The only difference I noted was that Flag finished slightly more watered-down than the others. However, with the humidity that cloaks many parts of the country, the cool bottle is always welcome and the taste becomes secondary.

In addition to the beers and foreign spirits available in Cote d’Ivoire, palm wine is produced. I didn’t find any, but will search it out the next time I’m in an Ivorian restaurant.

Overall Impressions
The food and dining in Cote d’Ivoire satisfied me on a number of levels. First, the accessibility and the friendliness of the maquis make me smile whenever I remember them. Second, the spiciness of the dishes was extensive enough that I never had to ask for chili sauce. Finally, I greatly appreciated the pride and expertise that went into every dish. The Ivorians clearly care about making delicious and fresh meals and this attitude pays off for anyone visiting the country.

Head over to my friend Alina’s blog for a fun kayaking post that incidentally has a tantalizing donut shot.

{ 40 comments… add one }
  • Laura July 10, 2014, 3:32 pm

    Wow all that food and drink looks amazing.. You always make us very jealous and hungry :)

    • Dave July 14, 2014, 1:22 pm

      Thanks, Laura! It definitely was a lot of fun trying it out.

  • Lauren July 11, 2014, 3:10 am

    I like the artwork in that one photo! Mmm the fried banana sounds really nice! I didn’t know much about the food from there before, thank you for sharing :)

    • Dave July 14, 2014, 1:23 pm

      The banana dish is addictive! I had it my first night there and then ordered it with most meals. The sweet and spice went together incredibly well.

  • Margherita @The Crowded Planet July 11, 2014, 6:19 pm

    Oh Dave, we must have been brother and sister in a former life. I LOVE this post, I felt as if I was there with you, drinking beer and eating chicken at the maquis. I love the sound of Ivorian cuisine; your series really made me want to discover more of Africa. Thanks!

    • Dave July 14, 2014, 1:28 pm

      Thanks, Marghe! Cote d’Ivoire was one of my favorite places I have traveled. Amazing food, welcoming people and relaxed beaches.

  • Alli July 11, 2014, 7:50 pm

    Dave you are such a talented food writer. You make everything seem so delicious and worth a try. I enjoy how open minded you are with your cuisine adventures and I love living vicariously through all your foodie posts!

    • Dave July 14, 2014, 1:29 pm

      Thanks, Alli! Plenty more to come as I have not written extensively on Ethiopian cuisine.

  • Hannah July 11, 2014, 8:32 pm

    Yummm that chicken looks delish (much better- in my mind- than the snails!) would love to try the alloco- sounds interesting!

    • Dave July 14, 2014, 1:31 pm

      The chicken was so flavorful, I’m dying to have it again. I already researched Ivorian restaurants in New York so I can have it when I’m back in the US.

  • Dale July 12, 2014, 5:52 am

    Now that’s a huge amount of meat! But I love the look of Alloco, think it could be enough to settle my moaning stomach if we ever make it there.

    • Dave July 14, 2014, 1:33 pm

      The alloco does the trick – very filling and nicely prepared.

  • Emma July 13, 2014, 11:50 am

    All of it (apart from the snails, I am not that brave) sounds and looks delicious. The Tuborg made me laugh, bet it tastes better than the Danish brewed stuff – having lived there for two years, I definitely don’t miss that! 😀

    • Dave July 14, 2014, 1:34 pm

      I’ve never tried the original Tuborg but will probably be able to get a hold of it the next time I’m in the US. Or maybe I don’t want to bother, based on your comment…

  • Sabina July 13, 2014, 12:40 pm

    I’ll have snails with alloco on the side please! :) I LOVE grilled seafood and trying new dishes – this is SO interesting and unlike anything I’ve ever eaten before!

    • Dave July 14, 2014, 1:37 pm

      Hi Sabina – Hope you can make your way down to this part of West Africa, as you’d really love the food and people.

  • Chris Boothman July 13, 2014, 1:24 pm

    What a great collection of cuisine options! I always find it interesting learning about other countries cuisine styles and clearly Ethiopia has some very unique yet very appetizing choices available. I am a fond lover of spicy foods so that spicy chicken dish that you referenced looks particularly appealing.

    Of course the Tuborg would be a necessity worth sampling! Thanks for sharing all of these choices with us Dave.

    • Dave July 14, 2014, 1:39 pm

      Thanks, Chris! It was a lot of fun sampling these dishes and drinks. Great to experience a country through its cuisine.

  • antonette - we12travel July 13, 2014, 1:55 pm

    I would probably pass on the snails (tried once, not my thing) but the chicken and the alloco look delicious. In fact, it made me hungry, just came home from a run and should grab a bit soon :-)

    • Dave July 14, 2014, 1:39 pm

      It was torture selecting the photos for this post – I kept getting hungry as I was going through them!

  • Frank July 13, 2014, 5:43 pm

    Damn, that food looks good!
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Dave July 14, 2014, 1:40 pm

      Thanks, Frank! It absolutely was.

  • Anna | slightly astray July 13, 2014, 11:16 pm

    Wow that banana dish just looks amazing, and the spicy fried chicken sounds soooo good. I want some now! I don’t know about eating land snails though. Thanks for sharing this! It’s so interesting to learn about other cultures’ foods!

    • Dave July 14, 2014, 1:40 pm

      The spicy fried chicken was something else. It took a few gym sessions to work that off after I left Cote d’Ivoire. Thanks for stopping by, Anna!

  • Sandra @ Tripper July 14, 2014, 4:07 pm

    I would eat everything but the snails… In Lisbon and other cities in mainland Portugal people eat small stewed (I think) snails as a snack with a glass of beer. My son absolutely loves it; I can’t get used to it…

    • Dave July 14, 2014, 4:19 pm

      Hi Sandra – I used to live in Lisbon and had many nice caracoladas on sunny summer afternoons with an imperial of Sagres :) The ones I had in Portugal are about 1/20th the size of the Ivorian snails but just as tasty.

  • Elena July 14, 2014, 6:33 pm

    I love to try the snails! But all the food looks amazing and I see you didn’t skip the beers :)) Just remembered your post on beers in Ethiopia

  • Emily July 14, 2014, 10:42 pm

    Wow, some of that food looks so good. This is such a good post, so much info!

  • Jessica (Barcelona Blonde) July 14, 2014, 10:48 pm

    Wow, this looks so, so tasty! It’s also really interesting because I had no idea what Ivorian food was like at all. Nice post!

  • Christa Thompson July 15, 2014, 4:35 am

    I have thing for bananas and beer…. so i’m in. LOL.

  • Ming @OnALim1 July 15, 2014, 6:43 am

    Aw man this takes me back to my freshman year in college. My roomie is from the Ivory Coast and I recognize almost everything in your pictures. I’ve never had attiéké because she always made couscous; in any case it’s perfect with the spicy tomato based gravies! My roommate was also responsible for introducing me to my first Thanksgiving dinner, with an Ivorian twist of course, and while my other friends have cooked delicious traditional Thanksgiving meals in later years, it’s never quite had the same kick as my Ivorian friend’s. Thanks for bringing back some wonderful memories!

  • Karen Warren July 16, 2014, 4:07 pm

    That looks really interesting. We hardly ever see African food in Europe (apart from North African) – I’ll obviously have to go to the Cote d’Ivoire to try it!

  • Milosz Zak July 16, 2014, 8:20 pm

    Do you know if the spices used are local, or whether they import them from abroad, or the interior. A country like Cote D’Ivoire is fairly isolated in terms of access to international trade, where that would be common in major international centres, but when you mentioned that the food was far from bland, it got my thinking that they must get the flavour from somewhere, either locally, or from abroad – any info on that?

  • Bob R July 16, 2014, 10:40 pm

    This corner of Africa is the one that’s held the most appeal for a very long time. The initial attraction was its music. Nice to see that the food is pretty interesting, too. :)

  • Hector Cortez July 17, 2014, 7:45 am

    Man, my mouth watered with you description of Poulet braise. It’s not even 10am and I’m hungry now! haha
    I love going where locals eat, and I guess maquis would be my choice there (:

  • Marie-France (a.k.a. BigTravelNut) July 17, 2014, 3:14 pm

    Interesting food post on a country we don’t often hear about. Do they have any French pastries? What’s the coffee like? :)

  • Adelina // Pack Me To July 17, 2014, 11:02 pm

    I don’t know too much about food in this area so this was really fascinating. The grill option sounds really good. When I first saw the banana side dish I was so convinced that it was potato. I wonder how banana tastes with the onions and chili. It definitely looks good.

  • Ashley @ A Southern Gypsy July 17, 2014, 11:43 pm

    This all sounds yummy! I didn’t know much about this area or the food, so it was nice to learn!

  • Feng July 22, 2014, 12:23 am

    Dave, it’s good to read your article, the food looks so good.

  • Emilie August 11, 2014, 9:49 am

    Sounds amazing, just wondering what time do they eat dinner? Or what time do most people eat dinner?

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