With hallmarks like roasted goat and fish, spicy rice, and protein-packed soups, West African cuisine makes for some of the tastiest eating in the city. Lucky for us, Houston is home to one of the nation’s largest West African populations, meaning authentic Nigerian, Cameroonian, Ghanaian, and Senegalese foods abound in the Bayou City.
A Ghanaian home-cooked meal here starts with peanut-based groundnut soup, a smooth, creamy specialty enlivened by garlic and pepper. Make it a meal with a pliable ball of fufu—a West African staple made of ground provisions like plantain, cassava, wheat, yam, or cocoyam, boiled then mashed and formed into mounds. Fufu is both food and utensil, so rip off a small chunk and roll it—quickly, as it’s steaming hot—to dip into the soup. Starchy jollof rice, another staple, soaks up more of the fiery tomato stew laced with hot chile sauce called shito.
9625 Bissonnet St. Southwest Houston. 713-773-1400
This trendy, refined restaurant is a great introduction to Nigerian cuisine, but do mind the menu: a dish called asun—or roasted goat meat with jollof rice and plantain—is marked by a chile pepper icon, and for good reason. It’s an explosive dish that’ll make even the proudest fire-eaters sweat. For something more mellow, try jollof beans cooked in tomato sauce and served with fried tilapia and sweet plantains. As for the namesake dish, suya—skewered meat, usually chicken or beef—it’s coated with a ground peanut-and-chile dry rub for lingering heat.
6357 Westheimer Rd. Uptown. 832-831-4372
This spacious eatery specializes in cuisine from Cameroon, which has been influenced by its many colonizers over the centuries, including the French—hence this restaurant’s name. Order at the bar and look for specialties such as ndole, a spinach soup laced with touches of peanut and shrimp flavors. The rich beef oxtail pepper soup is brilliant and nourishing, and the jollof here is incredibly smoky. Also, Chez Michelle is open past midnight on weekends—if you go then you may get to enjoy your meal listening to live music in a party atmosphere.
6991 S. Hwy. 6. Alief. 281-530-5787
Housed in a cavernous former Bennigan's, this restaurant has been a stalwart of the West African community for years. If you’re seeking a flaky pie packed with minced meat, this is your stop. It’s also the place to get familiar with suya, here dry-rubbed with ground peanuts and a light blend of peppers and other spices. Want to get adventurous? Try moin-moin—boiled egg, corned beef, tomatoes, and peppers hidden inside a tamale-like mound of beans—at least once.
9811 Bissonnet St. Southwest Houston. 713-270-7070
The front of this Westside strip-mall spot is a market selling West African grains, dried and canned foods, preserved fish, chile oils, beverages, and snacks. Walk to the back counter to order classic fare like mild jollof rice, tasty and lightly spicy dry-rubbed beef suya, and whole roasted tilapia with bitter greens and beautifully sweet plantains. Sometimes you’ll also find Senegalese fare like ceebu jen—one-pot fish or chicken and rice in tomato sauce—and ceebu yapp, the lamb version.
12825 Westheimer Rd. Westside. 346-219-2599
One of two locations, this Nigerian restaurant feels both stylish and cozy with its glass tabletops, red and teal leather chairs, and floor-to-ceiling windows. Try their mild and tomato-forward jollof rice, plus the savory goat pepper soup with a lingering heat. BYOB, but call ahead to let them know—if your party is three or more, you’ll pay extra for corkage.
14144 Westheimer Rd., #120. Eldridge. 832-633-2342
Since 1996 this has been the hub for activity in Houston’s Nigerian community. Chef/owner Margaret Jason cooks up the usual jollof rice and pepper soups, but locals clamor for specialties like large Nigerian-imported snails and vegetables blanketed in spicy tomato oil. Fisherman soup is the ultimate surf-and-turf experience: fresh fish like mackerel plus shrimp, dried “stockfish,” small snails called periwinkles, crawfish, goat meat, and cow skin in fish stock thickened by cocoyam. Multilayered and scorching hot with a spicy backbone, it’s an essential Nigerian dish.
10014 Bissonnet St. Southwest Houston. 713-541-4436
As its name implies, this down-home, super-friendly spot is the place for suya. Here, Patricia Nyan of northern Nigeria marinates skewers of tender beef, chicken, gizzards, and shrimp with her homemade “red sauce.” She won’t tell you exactly what’s in it, but just know there’s peanut and plenty of chiles to offer bold, lingering heat. Add some jollof and plantains, then finish your meal with masa—pan-fried fermented rice cakes—often eaten with suya or peanut soup.
11720 W Airport Blvd, #1600. Meadows Place. 281-265-1411
Ayo and Tiffaney Odewale, owners of Café Abuja in Eldridge, opened this inviting Galleria-area restaurant early last year. The deep menu here consists mainly of Nigerian fare like moi moi, suya, and groundnut soup. Our favorite, though, is the bone-in, flaky croaker enveloped in spicy tomato stew and served with jollof.
5959 Richmond Ave., #160. Uptown. 713-589-9055
African-prepared meats like minced beef are stuffed into pitas with cabbage, carrots, and a tangy aioli-style dressing for an inexpensive, filling shawarma meal. That’s the star item at this vibrant spot with bright orange walls and comfortable atmosphere. You can choose between beef (our favorite), chicken, turkey sausage, or combinations of those meats. Plus, find Nigerian specialties such as pepper soups, snail on skewers, and bokoto, or peppered cow leg—a chewy, collagen-packed snack typically coated in spicy tomato sauce.
13974 Westheimer Rd. Eldridge. 281-272-6903