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The Sierra Leone Breakfast That Makes Lunch Unnecessary


by Wilhelmina Nazario



Welcome to the vibrant and diverse world of food travel! If you’re a passionate foodie and love exploring new cultures through their cuisine, you’re in for a treat. In this article, we’ll take a culinary journey to Sierra Leone, a beautiful country located on the west coast of Africa, and discover a breakfast tradition that will make lunch unnecessary.


Sierra Leone is a country known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and warm hospitality. It is also home to a fascinating culinary heritage that reflects the cultural diversity of its people. The cuisine of Sierra Leone is a fusion of West African, European, and Creole influences, resulting in a unique array of flavors and dishes.


While every meal in Sierra Leone is a celebration of taste and togetherness, the traditional breakfast holds a special place in the hearts of the locals. It is not just a meal to fuel up for the day but also an opportunity to connect with loved ones and embrace the rich culinary heritage passed down through generations.


So, join us as we dive deeper into the world of Sierra Leonean breakfast and explore the ingredients, preparation methods, nutritional benefits, cultural significance, and more. Get ready to awaken your taste buds and discover a breakfast experience that will leave you satisfied until dinnertime!


Background on Sierra Leone

Situated on the west coast of Africa, Sierra Leone is a country with a rich and diverse cultural heritage. It gained independence from British colonial rule in 1961 and has since evolved into a vibrant and dynamic nation.


Sierra Leone offers a picturesque landscape, with stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and majestic mountains. The country is known for its warm climate, making it a perfect destination for those seeking sun and relaxation. But beyond its natural beauty, Sierra Leone is also a melting pot of various ethnic groups, each contributing to the country’s unique identity.


The cultural diversity of Sierra Leone is reflected in its cuisine, which serves as a delicious gateway to understanding the country’s history and traditions. The food of Sierra Leone is influenced by the indigenous tribes, as well as the Portuguese, Arab, and British colonizers.


Sierra Leonean cuisine is characterized by the use of fresh and locally sourced ingredients. Rice is a staple in most meals, often accompanied by an array of flavorful soups, stews, and sauces. Seafood, such as fish, shrimp, and crab, is also widely enjoyed, thanks to the country’s coastal location.


Sierra Leoneans embrace communal dining, with meals often being a shared experience among family and friends. Food is not just seen as sustenance but as a way to foster connections and celebrate the joys of life.


Despite the challenges the country has faced throughout history, Sierra Leoneans have a resilient spirit that is evident in their cuisine. Each dish tells a story, preserving traditional techniques and flavors that have been handed down from generation to generation.


Now that we have a glimpse of Sierra Leone’s rich background, let’s delve into one of the country’s most celebrated meals – the traditional Sierra Leone breakfast.


Traditional Sierra Leone Breakfast

The traditional Sierra Leone breakfast is a hearty and satisfying meal that combines the flavors of local ingredients with the warmth of community. It is a meal that reflects the country’s rich culinary heritage and offers a glimpse into the everyday lives of Sierra Leonean people.


At the heart of the Sierra Leone breakfast is a generous portion of steamed or boiled rice. Rice holds immense cultural significance in Sierra Leone, symbolizing prosperity, abundance, and unity. It is often enjoyed alongside a variety of mouthwatering accompaniments that add depth and flavor to the meal.


One of the essential components of a Sierra Leone breakfast is a thick and flavorful soup known as “plasas.” Plasas is typically made with a combination of leafy greens, such as cassava leaves, spinach, or bitter leaf, along with an assortment of vegetables like onions, tomatoes, and okra. This hearty and nutritious soup is simmered slowly to develop a depth of flavors and is often enriched with meat or fish.


To further enhance the breakfast experience, Sierra Leoneans also enjoy a protein element alongside the rice and plasas. This can be in the form of fried or grilled fish, smoked or grilled meat, or even eggs. The protein adds a satisfying element to the meal, providing energy and nourishment to start the day.


Completing the traditional Sierra Leone breakfast is a side of fried plantains. Plantains are a staple in Sierra Leonean cuisine and are a versatile ingredient that can be enjoyed in various forms. When served as part of the breakfast, they are typically sliced and fried until golden and crispy, offering a delightful contrast to the softness of the rice and the richness of the plasas.


The flavors of the traditional Sierra Leone breakfast are incredibly diverse and offer a harmonious combination of textures, aromas, and tastes. From the earthiness of the plasas to the savory protein element and the sweet, caramelized plantains, each component contributes to a balanced and satisfying meal.


Now that we have explored the key components of the traditional Sierra Leone breakfast, let’s dive deeper into the ingredients and preparation methods that make this meal so special.


Ingredients and Preparation

The traditional Sierra Leone breakfast is made with a handful of simple yet flavorful ingredients, showcasing the country’s love for locally sourced produce. Here are the key components and the preparation methods involved:


Rice: Rice is the star ingredient of the Sierra Leone breakfast. The preferred variety is often white or parboiled rice, which is cooked by steaming or boiling. The rice is typically fluffy and serves as a base for the other components of the meal.


Plasas: The plasas soup is the soul of the breakfast. It is made by combining a variety of leafy greens, such as cassava leaves or spinach, with onions, tomatoes, and okra. The greens are washed thoroughly, chopped finely, and then cooked together with the other ingredients to develop a thick and flavorful soup. Meat or fish, like smoked fish or dried shrimp, are often added for extra depth of flavor.


Protein Element: The protein element in the Sierra Leone breakfast can vary based on personal preference and availability. It can be fried or grilled fish, such as mackerel or tilapia, or smoked or grilled meat, like beef, chicken, or goat. Another common option is eggs, which can be fried, scrambled, or boiled to add a protein boost to the meal.


Fried Plantains: Plantains play a vital role in Sierra Leonean cuisine, and the breakfast is no exception. The plantains are sliced and fried until golden and caramelized. They are often served on the side, adding a touch of sweetness to balance out the savory flavors of the other components.


Overall, the preparation of the traditional Sierra Leone breakfast involves careful attention to detail and a slow cooking process to develop flavors. The rice is cooked separately until perfectly fluffy. The plasas soup requires washing and chopping the greens, sautéing the onions and tomatoes, and then simmering them together with the greens and other ingredients to create a rich and aromatic base. The protein element is cooked separately and seasoned with spices to enhance its taste. The plantains are fried in oil until they reach a delicious golden brown.


Combining all these elements together on a plate creates a harmonious and filling meal that represents the essence of Sierra Leonean breakfast traditions.


Now that we know the ingredients and preparation methods, let’s explore the nutritional benefits and cultural significance of the traditional Sierra Leone breakfast.


Nutritional Benefits

The traditional Sierra Leone breakfast is not only a delight for the taste buds but also provides a range of nutritional benefits. Let’s take a closer look at the key components and their contribution to a balanced and nourishing meal:


Rice: Rice is a good source of carbohydrates, which provide energy to fuel the body. It is also low in fat and cholesterol, making it a healthier option compared to other staple foods. Additionally, rice contains essential vitamins and minerals like iron and B vitamins.


Plasas Soup: The plasas soup is packed with nutrients from the leafy greens and vegetables used in its preparation. Leafy greens, such as cassava leaves or spinach, are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as iron and calcium. The addition of protein, whether from meat, fish, or eggs, further boosts the nutritional profile of the meal by providing essential amino acids.


Protein Element: The protein element in the breakfast, whether it’s fish, meat, or eggs, contains essential nutrients like protein, vitamins, and minerals. Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health. Meat, such as chicken or beef, provides essential amino acids and iron. Eggs are a good source of high-quality protein, vitamins, and minerals like vitamin B12 and selenium.


Fried Plantains: While fried plantains add a touch of sweetness to the breakfast, they also offer some nutritional benefits. Plantains are a good source of dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, and potassium. They provide energy and support digestive health.


The combination of these components creates a well-rounded meal that provides a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. This not only fuels the body for the day ahead but also promotes overall health and well-being.


It’s important to note that the nutritional content and benefits may vary depending on the specific ingredients and cooking methods used. However, the traditional Sierra Leone breakfast, with its focus on fresh and locally sourced ingredients, offers a wholesome and nutrient-rich way to start the day.


Now that we understand the nutritional benefits, let’s explore the cultural significance of the traditional Sierra Leone breakfast.


Cultural Significance

The traditional Sierra Leone breakfast holds immense cultural significance and is deeply intertwined with the country’s heritage and values. It is more than just a meal; it represents community, togetherness, and the preservation of cultural traditions.


In Sierra Leonean culture, food is a way of bringing people together. The breakfast is often enjoyed as a shared meal among family members or friends. It serves as a time for bonding, storytelling, and strengthening familial and social ties. Gathering around the breakfast table allows for meaningful connections and fosters a sense of belonging.


The breakfast also represents the country’s culinary heritage and the preservation of traditional cooking techniques passed down through generations. The use of local ingredients, such as rice, leafy greens, and plantains, showcases the country’s commitment to utilizing what the land has to offer and highlighting the flavors of the region.


Furthermore, the traditional Sierra Leone breakfast reflects the values of hospitality and generosity. It is common for Sierra Leoneans to invite guests to join them for breakfast, whether they are neighbors, friends, or even strangers. Sharing this meal is seen as an expression of warmth and welcome, showcasing the spirit of hospitality for which Sierra Leone is known.


The breakfast also plays a significant role in celebrating cultural events and milestones. It is often served during weddings, religious ceremonies, and other festive occasions. The abundance of the breakfast and the sharing of food symbolize abundance, prosperity, and gratitude.


Moreover, the breakfast serves as a reminder of the diverse cultural influences that have shaped Sierra Leone’s cuisine. From the indigenous tribes to the Portuguese, Arab, and British colonizers, each has contributed unique flavors and techniques to the country’s culinary landscape. The breakfast is a representation of the cultural fusion and the harmonious coexistence of different culinary traditions.


Overall, the traditional Sierra Leone breakfast is a testament to the country’s rich cultural heritage, the importance of communal dining, and the preservation of culinary traditions. It is a beautiful expression of values, celebrations, and the power of food to bring people together.


Now that we have explored the cultural significance of the breakfast, let’s discover the variations and regional differences that exist within Sierra Leonean cuisine.


Variations and Regional Differences

Sierra Leonean cuisine is diverse, with variations and regional differences that add depth and uniqueness to the traditional breakfast. While the core elements remain the same, the preparation methods, flavors, and ingredients can vary depending on the region.


One notable variation is the use of different types of leafy greens in the plasas soup. In some regions, cassava leaves are the primary greens used, while in others, spinach or bitter leaf is preferred. These variations in greens can subtly alter the flavors and textures of the soup, adding a distinct regional touch.


The protein element in the breakfast also showcases variations based on regional preferences and availability. Coastal regions, thanks to their proximity to the ocean, often include a variety of seafood such as fish, shrimp, or crab in their breakfast. Inland regions may emphasize meat, such as goat or beef, or rely on plant-based protein sources like beans or lentils.


Regional differences can also be observed in the way the various elements of the breakfast are seasoned and cooked. Some regions may add unique spice blends or herbs to the plasas soup, giving it a distinct flavor profile. The preparation of the protein element can also vary, with grilling or smoking being more prevalent in certain regions.


Furthermore, the sides accompanying the breakfast can differ regionally. While fried plantains are a common accompaniment, some regions may also include other traditional dishes like akara (bean fritters) or fried yam slices.


These regional variations highlight the diversity within Sierra Leonean cuisine and the influence of the local environment, culture, and traditions. Exploring these variations allows for a deeper appreciation of the country’s culinary heritage and the richness of its flavors.


Now that we have uncovered the variations and regional differences, let’s move on to explore serving suggestions to make your Sierra Leone breakfast experience even more enjoyable.


Serving Suggestions

When it comes to serving the traditional Sierra Leone breakfast, there are various ways to elevate the experience and make it even more enjoyable. Here are some serving suggestions to enhance the flavors and presentation:


1. Garnish with Fresh Herbs: Sprinkle chopped fresh herbs, such as cilantro or parsley, over the plasas soup and rice to add a touch of freshness and color to the dish. The herbs not only enhance the presentation but also complement the flavors of the meal.


2. Serve with Condiments: Offer various condiments on the table, such as hot pepper sauce or chili flakes, for those who prefer an extra kick of heat in their meal. Additionally, a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon can help brighten up the flavors.


3. Explore Different Proteins: While fish, meat, and eggs are commonly enjoyed as the protein element in the breakfast, feel free to explore other options such as tofu or tempeh for a vegetarian twist. This allows for customization and caters to different dietary preferences.


4. Experiment with Seasonings: Add your own twist to the plasas soup and protein element by experimenting with different seasonings and spices. This can include ingredients like garlic, ginger, curry powder, or traditional Sierra Leonean spice blends. Be adventurous and create your own flavor combinations!


5. Incorporate Fresh Salads: Add a refreshing element to the breakfast by serving a side salad of fresh vegetables, such as sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, and lettuce. The crispness of the salad offers a delightful contrast to the hearty components of the meal.


6. Try Different Plantain Preparations: While fried plantains are the standard side dish for the breakfast, consider exploring other plantain preparations such as boiled, roasted, or mashed. Each method brings its own unique texture and flavor to the meal.


Remember, the serving suggestions are merely a starting point, and you can get creative to suit your taste preferences and dietary needs. The goal is to celebrate the flavors of Sierra Leonean cuisine while adding your own personal touch.


Now that we have explored the serving suggestions, let’s wrap up our culinary journey through the traditional Sierra Leone breakfast.



The traditional Sierra Leone breakfast is a culinary experience that goes beyond just nourishing the body. It represents the rich cultural heritage, the spirit of togetherness, and the celebration of flavors unique to the country. From the steamed rice to the flavorful plasas soup, the protein element, and the caramelized plantains, each component adds depth and satisfaction to the meal.


Sierra Leonean cuisine showcases the country’s diverse cultural influences and the resourcefulness of its people in utilizing local ingredients. Whether enjoyed with family, friends, or as part of a festive gathering, the breakfast holds cultural significance as a symbol of hospitality, unity, and gratitude.


Exploring the variations and regional differences within Sierra Leonean cuisine allows for a deeper appreciation of the country’s culinary traditions and the flavors that define specific regions. It is an opportunity to embrace the diversity and complexity of the cuisine.


As you embark on your own food travel journey, don’t be afraid to experiment, personalize, and add your own creative flair to the traditional Sierra Leone breakfast. Whether you try different proteins, seasonings, or even incorporate fresh salads, the goal is to celebrate the flavors while making it your own.


So, prepare a plate of fluffy rice, savor the rich plasas soup, indulge in the protein element of your choice, and enjoy the sweet satisfaction of fried plantains. Allow the tastes and aromas to transport you to the vibrant streets and warm hospitality of Sierra Leone.


Remember, food has the power to connect us, embrace diversity, and create lasting memories. The traditional Sierra Leone breakfast is a testament to this, inviting us to experience the culture, history, and passion of a country through its food.


Now, grab your fork, gather your loved ones, and delight in the flavors of Sierra Leonean cuisine. Bon appétit!