Plant Oil in Ancient West Africa

Plant Oil in Ancient West Africa
Eben van Tonder
26 June 2023

**Still being written**


The reason for the interest in plant oil is twofold. The more recent tradition is to use the pulp of groundnuts after the oil has been extracted in meat formulations such as in suya recipes used for dried meat (kilishi) and suya. Secondly, the practice of deep-frying meat after it has been cooked. Since these two sets of technology come directly from groundnut production which was introduced by the Portuguese in the 1600s, I am interested to see how far back oil production goes back in the region to pin an approximate age for the two sets of technology related to meat that we just mentioned.

“Archaeological evidence shows that palm fruit and their oil already formed an integral part of West African diets 5,000 years ago. . . Palm oil was, and remains, a key ingredient in West African cuisine, including the simple dish of boiled yam, palm oil and Kanwa salt, and Banga soup.”


Von Hellermann, P. (2022) Red gold: the rise and fall of West Africa’s palm oil empire. The Conversation.