What is African Gari or Garri?

About Cassava Gari

A staple food, a source of income, and a saving grace for many; African gari is one of the most popular foods in West and Central Africa. This is particularly so in countries such as Nigeria, Congo, and Benin. What is gari and what is gari made of? It is flour made from the cassava root. Knowing how to make garri is a necessity for the women and children in some households. Whereas the more privileged may only be concerned about knowing where to buy gari. But common knowledge in these areas is how to cook gari. Read further and learn more about these areas and about cassava gari’s impact on the lives of many.

Want to find out what is gari made of, how to make gari, where to buy gari or how to cook gari? We deep dive into African gari or garri.
Cassava to Gari

What is Gari made of?

As mentioned above, gari is made from the cassava root. It is a granular flour which can be sweet or sour, depending on the cassava and fermentation period. History shows that Cassava came into West Africa in the 16th century from South America. However, knowing how to make African gari in Congo only came to be in 1952. A man from Congo’s Yamba district traveled to Benin. There, he learnt how to make garri and took that knowledge back home with him. This was an easy task because, again, what is gari made of? A plant that was already popular in Congo, and now they had another way of using it. This is all thanks to the sharing of recipes all over the continents.

Related: Liberian Kanyan Recipe-Popular West African Dessert

How to make Garri

Learning how to make garri may take a simple explanation. However, the process itself is back-breaking work that takes both genders. The men produce the cassava (growing it and/or harvesting it). While the women and children have to endure the labor intensive process of turning cassava into African gari.

One source details how to make garri in Congo as follows:

  1. Soak the cassava tubers.
  2. Grate the tubers on a large, metal sheet.
  3. Press the grated cassava in bags and under rocks for two days.
  4. Sieve and toast the result on a metal sheet on open fire.

However, methods may vary. For example, there is a more industrial method and source based around Nigeria. It suggests peeling, grating, washing, fermenting, pressing, sieving and frying. This is not a one day process. And it still requires a lot of hard work despite the development of new equipment. 

Where to buy gari and how to cook gari

Gari is so popular that one cannot struggle finding where to buy it. It is a major local produce and should be found in local stores. However, you may not need to know where to buy gari if you are like many who make it at home, despite the labor. 

Luckily, knowing how to cook gari is easier in theory and execution. Do so by soaking the gari in cold water and adding sugar and nuts. Or using hot water to turn it into a paste with desired additions. Over 9 million tons of it is produced every year in Nigeria. One may wonder why? Seeing as African gari is not very nutritious after cooking. 

African gari nutrition

Gari is a good carbohydrate source and is filling. But, it is low in protein. To assist in making it more sustaining, a biofortified version has been introduced. Sources say this could elevate the health benefits in the cassava root. It could also make a significant impact on consumers’ health. Retaining the zinc and iron levels will help the large population of anemic young children and pregnant women in Nigeria. Vitamin A is also a crucial part of development and health. And research believes that Gari could be the solution. Severe deficiency can lead to blindness in children and susceptibility to diseases. To keep these nutrients after cooking, biofortification appears to be a successful solution. 

Calories 200
Total fat0%
Total carbohydrates18%
Total protein0%
Total fiber14%
Calcium 3%
Iron 8%
Sodium 1%
Potassium 12%
Nutrition facts in 56 grams of gari (% of daily value)

Other notable vitamins and minerals in gari are magnesium, phosphorus and vitamin C. 

The future of African gari

Making gari is difficult. But its production results in employment and is a source of cheap food for poor families. Even more well off ones enjoy it. Organizations worldwide are taking initiative to make it more easily available and nutritious. The future of gari therefore looks promising. Curious about a no-meat food lifestyle? Check out our Instagram page for real-life inspirations 😊.

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