Basic Fonio

Pierre Thiam

Senegal, Brooklyn, NY

"This healthy, gluten-free grain can be used as a side in the same way you would use rice, couscous, or quinoa. These are two basic methods for steaming fonio. You can cook it in a steamer basket (the traditional way) or just in a pot on the stove. I’ve also had success cooking it in the rice cooker, if you have one (keep the ratio of fonio to water 1:1). You can always add a little bit of butter or oil to the fonio while cooking to keep the grains more separated, if you’d like. If you can’t find fonio, quinoa would make a good substitute." —Pierre Thiam

Use this basic grain recipe in Pierre Thiam's mango fonio salad.

Reprinted from Senegal: Modern Senegalese Recipes from the Source to the Bowl by Pierre Thiam with Jennifer Sit.


  • 1 cup uncooked fonio or quinoa
  • Salt


In a large bowl, wash the fonio grains (or quinoa) by submerging in warm water, swishing the grains around with your fingers, then pouring out and replacing the water several times until it runs clear. Drain well.

If using a steamer: place the fonio in the top of a steamer basket lined with a layer of damp cheesecloth. Set over simmering salted water, cover, and steam for about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork. Drizzle a few tablespoons of salted water over the fonio and steam again until the grains are completely tender, another 5 to 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and 

If not using a steamer: bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a medium pot. Stir in the cleaned raw fonio and 1 tablespoon of salt, cover tightly with the lid, and turn the heat to low. Cook for about 2 minutes, until the water is just absorbed. Turn off the heat and gently fluff with a fork, making sure you fluff the bottom where it’s wetter. Cover again for another 5 to 10 minutes, until tender.


4 cups

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