Fonio Pilaf

Fonio is a nutrient-dense ancient grain cultivated in the Sahel region of West Africa. Not only is it nutritionally rich, it also has the potential to change the economy of Senegal. I was first introduced to fonio by Pierre Thiam, a NYC-based chef who is from Senegal and is working to bring fonio to the global culinary stage. I met chef Thiam at a travel festival where he taught workshop participants to cook fonio. We made a salad. This time around I made a pilaf. This quick and easy recipe is perfect alongside chicken or fish.


1 tablespoon olive oil (you may also use canola or peanut oil)

2 carrots, diced

1 celery stalk, diced

1/2 yellow onion, diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup dry roasted unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped

1/2 cup Medjool dates, diced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne, or more to taste

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

salt to taste

1 cup fonio

2 cups unsalted vegetable stock or broth

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives

1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsely

Zest and juice of half a lemon


Preheat sauce pot with tightly fitted lid on medium low to medium heat.

Pour olive oil.

Once oil is to temperature, add carrots. Sweat until they are slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add celery, onion, and garlic. Continue to sweat vegetables until they are softened.

Add peanuts, dates, dry, ground spices, and salt. Stir everything together, toasting the spices for 1-2 minutes.

Add fonio and vegetable stock.

Cover with lid. Cook for about 5 minutes until the fonio absorbs all of the liquid.

Fluff with fork and add chopped fresh herbs, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Fluff one more time.

Ready to serve!