Fonio Porridge/Acha Cereal: A Super-Grain Breakfast!

January 15, 2018 (Last Updated: March 8, 2020)

Fonio is a gluten-free, nutritious, super grain grown natively in West Africa, and is featured in this delicious and highly nutritious Acha cereal or fonio porridge breakfast recipe!

Fonio Cereal/Acha Pudding: the African Super Grain Cereal

Happy New Year! I took a brief break for the holidays but I am back!!! With the new year, I like a lot of people have quite a few new action plans. One of the plans I have for the year is to celebrate African food even more here on Yummy Medley, and to challenge you guys to break your diet norms and explore the world of African and Afro-Tropical food. In keeping with my new year resolve, I will be introducing you to, and sharing with you the merits of one of Sub-Saharan Africa’s treasures. Fonio is a drought resistant grain mostly grown in the Western Sahel region of Africa, and this recipe uses it in a porridge consumed in diverse variations, and is referred to as Acha cereal or fonio porridge in Nigeria.

Close up shot of raw fonio in bowl

Before I jump into this recipe, let me tell you a little but about this glorious grain.

What is Acha/fonio grain?

Fonio grain is an essential grain in much of the Western Sahel region and in Northern Nigeria, where it is locally called Acha (i’ll be using both names interchangeably). It is also predominant in West African countries like Senegal, Burkina Faso and Côte d’Ivoire. Other names by which this grain is known include fundi, and Asian millet. Acha is quite beloved in the Northern regions of West Africa due to their excellent adaptability to harsh environments. The fonio cereal also has excellent  culinary and nutritional properties and is in fact considered in West Africa to be tastiest of all cereals [1]. In fact, some regard it as “one of the tastiest and most nutritious cereals in Africa” [2].  The challenge faced with fonio processing, which also affects its marketability is that the grains are tiny and difficult to peel; difficulties which have reduced the crop to a marginal cereal. But renewed interest in this super grain from Africa and the rest of the world is facilitating its evolution, its processing methods as well as the diversities of recipes it features in.

Top shot of raw acha in a bowl surrounded by acha cereal toppings: berries, chocolate bits, peanuts, coconut flakes

Origins

The origins of fonio production go back more than 7000 years but it was first referenced as food in the fourteenth century especially by the Dongo tribe of Mali (a neighboring West African country to the northern part of Nigeria) who referred to the fonio seed as “the germ of the world” due to their belief that the whole universe emerged from the fonio seed – the smallest object known.

Health Benefits

In Nigeria, acha is also nicknamed hungry man’s rice, because a little goes a long way; 1.5 cups of the grain can serve 8 people. It can be eaten savory or sweet (like in this recipe), and can be ground up to make gluten free flour for baking. Acha is an essential grain for many Africans, as it is great for nourishing pregnant and nursing mothers, and is also great for weaning babies. Also since acha is known to be easy to digest, it is locally recommended for children and aged individuals who might have difficulty digesting other meals, sick people and people suffering from diabetes or stomach diseases.

Fonio vs Quinoa Nutrition

In recent times, fonio grain has been closely compared to the other famous super-grain: quinoa, due to the nutritional similarities between the two. The biggest difference between it and other major cereals such as wheat, rice, sorghum, and barley is that while fonio does not possess a high protein content, all twenty amino acids are present, especially two essential to human health (methionine and cysteine);  amino acids not found in most other popular grains. While quinoa possesses higher protein content, fonio is richer in these essential amino acids than quinoa where while present, they are found in lesser quantity. So if you’ve ever searched for an alternative to quinoa, you’ve found it! Nutritionally acha remains the closest substitute for quinoa.

Is Fonio Gluten Free?

Fonio is a gluten free grain much like Quinoa (even though it is quite a bit smaller), millet and sorghum. It has been successfully used in cakes, cookies and other snacks useful for individuals with gluten intolerance [3].

How to Prepare Acha Cereal/Fonio Porridge

Main Ingredients

  • One and a half cups of Fonio
  • Four and a half cups of Almond milk
  • A half teaspoon of Salt
  • Fruit of choice (optional)
  • Maple syrup to sweeten (optional)

Recipe

  1. Rinse the Fonio and place in a medium size pot
  2. Pour in the almond milk, and simmer the Fonio on low heat, stirring continuously for 30- 35 minutes until the Fonio grains are tender and have absorbed the milk.
  3. Once the grains are tender, add in the salt, stir and serve warm. You may serve the Fonio topped with fruits, nuts and sweetened with maple syrup or sweetener of your choice.

acha cereal served in a couple of bowls with nuts and chocolate bits in the background This Fonio porridge recipe is best eaten as breakfast. In northern Nigeria, when Fonio is made this style, it is typically eaten with a side of Akara or Moi Moi, as a hefty breakfast. In this case, I made my fonio porridge/acha cereal completely vegan, topped it with some fruit and sweetened it with maple syrup. Of course Fonio porridge can be eaten and enjoyed with normal milk or even coconut milk if you prefer. Feel free to use any fruit of your choice to top your acha cereal if you make it this way, I know that coconut flakes, diced mango, crushed nuts and cocoa nibs also make a good topping on Acha cereal.

Fonio Porridge served in a bowl with berry toppings

Fonio Cereal/Acha Pudding
Print Recipe
5 from 6 votes

Fonio Porridge/Acha Cereal: A Super-Grain Breakfast!

Fonio is a gluten-free, nutritious, super grain grown natively in West Africa, and is featured in this delicious and highly nutritious Acha cereal or fonio porridge breakfast recipe!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Total Time40 mins
Course: Breakfast
Cuisine: Nigerian, Senegalese, West African
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 197kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup Fonio
  • 4 ½ cups Almond milk
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • Fruit of choice (optional)
  • Maple syrup to sweeten (optional)

Instructions

  • Rinse the Fonio and place in a medium size pot
  • Pour in the almond milk, and simmer the Fonio on low heat, stirring continuously for 30- 35 minutes until the Fonio grains are tender and have absorbed the milk. 
  • Once the grains are tender, add in the salt, stir and serve warm. You may serve the Fonio topped with fruits, nuts and sweetened with maple syrup or sweetener of your choice.

Fonio Porridge/Acha Cereal: the African Super Grain Cereal

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References

  1. Jean-François Cruz, Fonio: A Small Grain with PotentialLEISA Magazine 16–17 (March 2004)
  2. Diop, Baye Magatte, et al. “Fonio (Digitaria Exilis (Kippist) Stapf): A Socially Embedded Cereal for Food and Nutrition Security in Senegal.” Ethnobiology Letters, vol. 9, no. 2, 2018, pp. 150–165. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/26607683. Accessed 4 Feb. 2020.
  3. Jideani IA, Jideani VA. Developments on the cereal grains Digitaria exilis (acha) and Digitaria iburua (iburu). J Food Sci Technol. 2011;48(3):251–259. doi:10.1007/s13197-010-0208-9

29 Comments

  • Reply
    Ashima
    January 17, 2018 at 9:55 am

    I need to find some Fonio now 🙂 I didn’t come across it when I was living in Angola for last 3 years or during my travels in rest of Africa.. is there another local name for it? Is it like a millet? In India, we use almost the same recipe to make finger millet porridge. It is also gluten free and highly nutritious. The only difference is that we use jaggery to sweeten.

    by the way, I love your silver platter!

    Thanks for sharing

    • Reply
      Lois
      January 19, 2018 at 6:44 am

      Fonio is not usually grown in Angola, so I am not surprised you did not see when you were there. The grain is quite different from millet, it is significantly smaller. In Northern Nigeria it is locally called Acha or hungry man rice, I am not sure what it is locally referred to in other countries. The flavor is like brown rice in my opinion. You can find Fonio on thrive market and amazon, but I believe thrive market is cheaper.

    • Reply
      Gimbiya
      August 28, 2019 at 9:01 am

      I sell fonio flour mixed with dates,ginger,cloves etc for pudding

  • Reply
    michele
    January 17, 2018 at 10:46 am

    5 stars
    Fonio is a new grain to me…. I’ll have to look on amazon to see if I can get it delivered! I love to try new things~~

    • Reply
      Blessing Innocent
      April 28, 2019 at 11:55 pm

      Well… I grow acha, I grew up in Jos plateau state in Nigeria it’s quite common here I love love love the pudding sometimes I eat it with soup, oh I sell too lol

      • Reply
        Daniella
        July 27, 2019 at 9:45 pm

        That’s nice pls how can I purchase acha from u

        • Reply
          Lois
          August 5, 2019 at 7:09 am

          If you are in Diaspora, you can google fonio. A few websites like amazon and thrive market sell it. If you are in Nigeria, it is popular in the North. I think it depends on where you are really

  • Reply
    Jenni LeBaron
    January 19, 2018 at 12:12 am

    I’ve never heard of this grain, but I love hot cereals so I’m going to have to check it out. Looks tasty!

  • Reply
    Kate
    January 19, 2018 at 11:53 am

    I have never heard of this before but it sounds SO GOOD. I love all the topping here, too. Yum!

  • Reply
    Marisa Franca @ All Our Way
    January 19, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    I’ve never heard of fonio before but it seems like in the past few years we’ve been discovering grains that we’ve never had before. I’m definitely going to look for this — I’m kind of bored with oatmeal.

    • Reply
      Lois. O
      January 23, 2018 at 7:32 pm

      My hubby who’s gotten totally bored with oatmeal to the point of utter dislike was actually really in love with this dish! I think this will rekindle that spark again. It’s really good!

  • Reply
    Ben Myhre
    January 19, 2018 at 4:53 pm

    5 stars
    This looks interesting. Would totally eat.

  • Reply
    David @ Cooking Chat
    January 20, 2018 at 10:11 am

    I’ve never hear of fonio, interesting to learn about it!

  • Reply
    Saima Zaidi
    January 20, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    I have to echo the rest of the people here and say that I have never heard of fonio, but honestly, your fonio pudding sounds so good, I have to try it sometime. WIll be such a refreshing change from the usual porridge oats we have for breakfast. Thanks for posting this recipe!

  • Reply
    Jennifer
    January 21, 2018 at 8:32 am

    I’ve never heard of fonio before but I love learning about new to me foods and trying them out. The fact that it’s gluten free is wonderful considering I can’t have gluten!!! This porridge looks so yummy and filling!

    • Reply
      Lois. O
      January 23, 2018 at 7:28 pm

      Thanks! Yes it really is!

  • Reply
    Jenni
    January 21, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    5 stars
    I have never heard of this grain before, but I am definitely going to be on the lookout for it now! Love that you turned this into a sweet breakfast – it looks and sounds amazing!

    • Reply
      Lois. O
      January 23, 2018 at 7:27 pm

      Thanks Jenni!

  • Reply
    Amanda Mason
    January 21, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    5 stars
    I’ve never heard of funio but I’m a HUGE HUGE HUGE oatmeal lover…like huge!!! Ok, so I’m convinced I need to try funio! What a delicious looking recipe!! I’m so going to give this one a try!!

    • Reply
      Lois. O
      January 23, 2018 at 7:27 pm

      Let me know when you do! I’m sure you’ll love it!

      • Reply
        Jenny
        December 19, 2018 at 5:53 am

        Please do you know where I can buy Acha(Fonio)in Lagos Nigeria?

        • Reply
          Lois
          January 24, 2019 at 10:50 pm

          Hey Jenny! I am not completely sure where you might be able to find it in Lagos. I usually get mine from Jos.

  • Reply
    Debs
    January 22, 2018 at 5:11 am

    5 stars
    This looks and sounds awesome. Love learning about new ingredients and how to use them.

  • Reply
    Elsie
    August 29, 2018 at 6:25 am

    Didn’t know it was called fonio lol! But this is definitely my favourite grain. It works great sweetened or not and it’s great for weight watchers as it has very low calorie content.

    I usually take mine with tigernut milk and boiled eggs.

    Thanks for sharing this!

    • Reply
      Lois
      September 4, 2018 at 10:35 am

      Hey Elsie! I am actually working on a savory recipe with Fonio soon so you can have it sweetened or not. I have never tried it Fonio, but that sounds delicious!

  • Reply
    Staniel
    November 29, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    Fonio is in Ghana, I personally grow it. Get in contact for supply investment into the farm.

  • Reply
    Nalong Joseph
    January 15, 2019 at 2:24 pm

    We have it here in Nigeria, but it’s called acha and is very good for people with diabetes.

  • Reply
    Ese
    March 8, 2020 at 3:01 pm

    Just bought d white one from the market,a mudu for700 naira, what is the difference between the white acha and the brown asha

    • Reply
      Lois
      March 23, 2020 at 8:09 pm

      5 stars
      There shouldn’t be any difference in preparation between both but we haven’t used black fonio yet since the white one is more common. Black fonio is reported to have a bit more protein than white fonio but white has more fibre. Feel free to update us if you notice any differences in cooking them!

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