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African Peppers and Acarajé  Sauce

African Peppers and Acarajé Sauce

Courtesy of the New York Public Library, Circa 1860

Courtesy of the New York Public Library, Circa 1860

Today we share this story in celebration of National Salsa Month.

Acarajé is a sort of blacked-eyed-pea dumpling fried in dendê or palm oil served with a hot spicy sauce made with malagueta pepper. In doing research for my book, Hog and Hominy, I learned that Black-eyed-peas, palm oil, and malagueta pepper are made from plants indigenous to Africa and which arrived in the Americas via the Colombian exchange and African slave Trade. For instance, we know that, as early as 1742, South Carolinians cultivated Ethiopian or Guinea Pepper from an African tree that planter and slave owner Eliza Lucas Pinckney claimed a “good Ingredient” in seasoning some southern delicacies. Malagueta pepper proved just as popular in colonial Brazil. Below are recipes for acarajé sauce, a mango salsa, and two recipes for acarajé, one traditional and the other vegan.

Acarajé sauce recipe


4 dry malagueta peppers

¼ cup Dried ground shrimp

1 small Chopped onion

½ teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoon Ginger

2 tablespoons Dendê oil (palm oil) or try olive oil


Pound first 5 ingredients together and mix thoroughly or put through blender. Heat in the oil for about 10 minutes serve over a great tasting acarajé.

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