Fonio is a gluten-free ancient grain that has been farmed in West Africa for thousands of years. In countries like Senegal and Nigeria, it’s a centerpiece of the local cuisines, often appearing alongside stews or folded into porridge-type dishes. Once you get to know fonio’s nutty, rich taste and pleasing, quinoa-like texture, it’s easy to understand why it’s such a beloved, important staple in the areas where it’s cultivated.
Outside of Africa, fonio remains largely unknown, but Senegalese chef and restaurateur Pierre Thiam has made it his mission to share his culture’s love for the grain with a wider audience. In 2017, after realizing how difficult it was to find consistent, quality sources of fonio on the consumer market, he founded Yolélé, a company dedicated to importing directly from smallholder farmers in West Africa.
Fonio can be boiled simply the same way you would rice, using two parts water to one part grains, with a little bit of salt and oil. In addition to its uses in traditional African recipes, fonio is a versatile grain that can take the place of any other in protein bowls, salads, and side dishes. And since it’s gluten-free while being rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, it will provide a nutritional boost however you serve it.
When you buy fonio from Yolélé on FreshDirect, you’ll also be supporting the company’s groundbreaking mission: to create economic opportunity for small farming communities, support regenerative food systems, and promote the biodiversity that our planet needs. Yolélé works directly with West African farmers to connect them with wider markets and support sustainable agricultural practices. These efforts have helped create a path to financial security for local communities and contributed to the regreening of the area’s landscape.
If you’re looking to start cooking with fonio, we recommend trying Yolélé’s recipe for arugula and fonio salad below. It’s highly versatile, so you can feel free to swap out the ingredients with whatever you’ve got on hand.
Fonio Salad With Arugula and Feta
What You’ll Need
1.5 cups Yolélé fonio, cooked according to package instructions
1 clove garlic, minced
Pinch of ground coriander
A small handful of fresh herbs (like mint and/or parsley)
1 medium container of arugula
A few thin slices of red onion
1 tablespoon pine nuts
A handful of crumbled feta
Salt and pepper
Optional add-ins: sun-dried tomatoes, dried cranberries, sliced pear
Dijon vinaigrette (see below) or fresh lemon juice and olive oil
For the Dijon vinaigrette:
Zest and juice of a lemon
What To Do:
In a large bowl, toss together the cooked fonio, garlic, coriander, herbs, arugula, onion, pine nuts, and feta. Fold in the sliced pear (if using) and either the sun-dried tomatoes or dried cranberries. Season with salt and pepper.
For the dressing, either whisk together a few squeezes lemon and olive oil, or make a Dijon vinaigrette by combining to taste all of the ingredients.
Add as much dressing as desired to the salad and toss to distribute evenly.