Fonio (Digitaria exilis) has been grown in West Africa for centuries. For a long time, it was of marginal importance as a cereal due to its small seeds, but is now the object of renewed interest as consumers begin to recognize its flavor and nutritional qualities.

Fonio is one of the most nutritious of all grains. It is rich in methionine and cystine, amino acids vital to human health and deficient in today's major cereals: wheat, rice, maize, sorghum, barley, and rye. This combination of nutrition and taste could be of outstanding future importance.

Fonio can be found in some specialty stores or online sources, including the United States sources listed below:

Odyssey African Market
1124 Fulton Street
Brooklyn, NY 11238
Tel: 718-789-7077 or 718-206-1594

Stanley Orji
107-14 Guy Brewer
Queens, NY
Tel: 718-230-1414

M.T.T. Sales & Service Corporation
1193 Fulton Street
Brooklyn, NY 11216
Tel: 718-638-7904

Other African markets in the United States are also likely to carry fonio.


  • 2 teaspoons peanut oil

  • 1/2 cup black sesame seeds

  • 3 cups water

  • Pinch salt

  • 1 cup fonio


1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add sesame seeds; stir and cook until fragrant.

2. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, bring the water and salt to a boil. Add fonio and sautèed sesame seeds. Return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 7 more minutes until all water is absorbed. Stir to fluff. Can be eaten as a side dish with fish or chicken.

From Yolele!: Recipes from the Heart of Senegal by Pierre Thiam (Lake Isle Press, 2008). Copyright 2008 by Pierre Thiam.

Pierre Thiam is the chef at Le Grand Dakar in New York City and author of the cookbook YOLELE, which was nominated for a Julia Child Award.