Poulet Yassa – Chicken Yassa
Published Oct 17, 2018
Updated Aug 22, 2023
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Friend’s today I am excited to bring to you one of the most popular meals in West Africa – Senegalese Poulet Yassa or Chicken Yassa. It is chicken cooked in caramelized onions. An easy meal you can make because the ingredients are quite accessible. Serve this with boiled rice for a pleasant dining experience.
Poulet Yassa is a traditional meal of the Casamance people of Senegal. The chicken is marinated in a bunch of ingredients and spices then allowed to marinate for hours or preferably overnight. Then it is grilled (I pan-grilled – you can pan-fry the chicken if for some reason you can’t grill).
After the grilling of the chicken comes the caramelizing of the onions which is a process that shouldn’t be rushed. You need a lot of onions in this recipe! Like 4 large onions!
Let the onions cook slowly in a little oil while stirring constantly. After that, the onions assume a sweeter taste and that caramelized onion taste- totally to die for!
After the caramelizing of the onions, the chicken and onions come together and cook so the flavors can meld. The result is tender chicken adorned with caramelized onions… totally to die for.
The chicken is served with boiled rice and traditionally eaten with the hands. Most traditional African foods are eaten with the hands. Some people believe the meal is better enjoyed that way. I mean when your fingers touch the food and you are able to lick them, that’s just such a sensational experience.
This Senegalese Poulet Yassa is one of West Africa’s favorite dishes. Poulet is French for Chicken. So alternately, it can be called Chicken Yassa.
Now that I have given you a rundown of how this happens, let’s go through the step-by-step process of how to make Poulet Yassa.
HOW TO MAKE POULET YASSA
1. Marinate the chicken. You need chicken (a whole chicken or other chicken parts will be fine here. I used chicken thighs). for the marinade, you need chopped onions, minced garlic, freshly squeezed lemon juice, salt, ground black or white pepper, some red pepper flakes (optional) and some mustard. Mix everything together then cover and let them marinate for at least 4 hours or preferably overnight.
2. Grill the chicken. Remove the chicken for the marinade and grill for about 4 minutes on both sides. If you can’t grill, pan-fry the chicken on both sides for the same amount of time so it gets a nice sear and more flavor.
3. Caramelize the onions. Heat up oil in the pot then put in lots of chopped onions and cook while stirring continuously until the onions shrink, turn slightly darker in color and assume a sweeter taste.
4. Combine the chicken and the caramelized onions. Place the chicken back into the onions, add the marinade from the chicken earlier then let them cook together until the flavors meld.
And that my friends, is how you make delicious Poulet Yassa or Chicken Yassa. The chicken is tender, juicy taking the flavors of the onions and all that marinade. The lemon juice and mustard add a slight tang which is not at all overwhelming.
Once you make this, you will want to put it on the weeknight dinner rotation chez toi. I strongly advise you marinate the chicken the night before in the fridge so the next day the chicken must have absorbed lots of flavors. Plus marinating the chicken a day before makes cooking the next day much easier.
More African Chicken recipes you might love:
- POULET DG RECIPE (Chicken and Plantain
- CHICKEN AND SHRIMP FRIED RICE – AFRICAN STYLE
- CHICKEN PIE
- AFRICAN SPINACH STEW WITH CHICKEN AND SHRIMP
Also, check out this insanely delicious African Beef Stew recipe.
Poulet Yassa (Chicken Yassa)
- 2 pounds chicken (1 kg) I used chicken thighs
- 4 large onions - thinly sliced
- 3-4 cloves garlic - minced
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper or black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons bouillon powder see Note 2
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or 1 habanero pepper optional - use more or less hot pepper depending on heat tolerance
- 7 tablespoons oil
- 2 bay leaves
Marinate the chicken.
- Rinse chicken thoroughly and pat dry. Place in a bowl. Add the lemon juice, onions, garlic, salt, black or white pepper, chicken bouillon powder (if using), red pepper flakes or poked habanero pepper (if using). Mix everything together to combine. Cover the chicken with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Grill or pan-fry the chicken.
- Remove the chicken from the marinade and shake off the excess marinade. Place on a grill and oiled grill pan or just an oiled skillet and cook on each side for about 4 minutes until it assumes a nice sear.
- Caramelize the onions. Heat oil in a pan. Remove onions from the marinade and add to the oil and let it cook slowly on medium heat while stirring from time to time until the onions shrink and become slightly darker in color. About 20 minutes.
- Add the chicken to the onions and the remaining marinade, the bay leaves and a cup of water to the caramelized onions then cook for about 20 minutes, flipping the chicken halfway through. Taste to ensure seasoning is perfect. Serve over white rice.
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