Typical Congolese meals consist of a starchy food with sauce or stew. Cassava is the principal starch, particularly in rural areas. It may be replaced by rice or corn if they are available. These basic foods are served mostly as a thick stew or porridge, flavoured with a spicy sauce. If they can afford it, people may add fish or meat to the stew.

Cassava is a large, tuberous root vegetable, high in carbohydrates but low in protein. A diet that contains too much cassava can result in malnutrition. Little skill is needed to raise cassava; it can tolerate poor soil and withstand drought, and it can be left in the ground for up to four years before being harvested. However, cassava deteriorates rapidly after harvesting, and it cannot be stored for more than a few days. For this reason it has no value as an export crop.

Wealthier Congolese may eat three times a day, but most households prepare one daily meal. Those who eat breakfast usually have café au lait and a slice of French baguette. The main meal, traditionally eaten at midday, is now more commonly eaten in the evening. Congolese cooks like to prepare the entire meal in one pot, to save on fuel. At meals, a bowl of cassava or rice and a bowl of stew are placed on the ground or a table, and the family gathers around. Each person takes a handful of the rice or other staple and mixes it with some sauce to form a ball. 

Although food is often left unseasoned, many Congolese cooks spice their stews with pepper. The basic stew is called mwamba and is made with chicken, beef, fish or lamb, browned in oil before stewing. It is eaten with rice, fufu (corn flour dough) or chikwange (cassava prepared in banana leaves).

  Did you know?
Congo's staple food, the cassava plant, is not native to Africa, but was probably introduced from South America by the Portuguese 300 years ago. Cassava root is the source of tapioca.
Other common dishes include pili pili chicken, maboke (freshwater fish cooked in leaves), saka saka (ground cassava leaves cooked with palm oil and peanut paste) and fumbwa (vegetable stew). Bush-meat specialties include smoked monkey, smoked antelope and grilled crocodile. Other traditional foods include pounded sesame or squash seeds, shish kebabs and plantain dough. Caterpillars, grubs, termites and roasted crickets are considered delicacies in some areas.

 Congolese enjoy beers such as Skol and Primus as well as homemade brews. People also drink palm wine, which is made from the juice of the palm oil tree. It contains yeast and can be fermented overnight. Other drinks include ginger beer, banana beer, sugar-cane wine, homemade gin and passion-fruit juice. It is customary to pour a small amount of liquid on the ground before drinking, as a libation for thirsty ancestors.


1 chicken, cut up, or 1 kg beef or lamb, or 750 g fish fillets, fresh or thawed 
Salt to taste
2 large onions, cut up
2 to 4 chili peppers, mashed, or
1/2 to 1 tbsp. dried crushed red pepper
6 or 7 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and mashed


Season chicken, meat or fish with salt. In a heavy stewing pan, sauté chicken, meat or fish in the oil with onions until well browned. Add chili peppers, tomatoes and just enough water to cover. Simmer until tender and thoroughly cooked. Chicken mwamba is usually served with boiled rice. Fish, lamb or beef mwamba is usually accompanied by fried plantain.