Saka Saka is a tradition that can be found in many parts of Africa. Commonly made with cassava leaves, this version braises spinach, which is easier to find in the Mid-South. The recipe uses palm oil, making it a delicious vegan-friendly dish. You can garnish with dab of Pili pili, an intense spicy sauce for an authentic flavor.

Prep time:  15 minutes | Cooking time: 2 hours | Makes: about 8 servings


  • 1 cup 100% palm oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 1 large)
  • 1/3 cup minced garlic (about 7 cloves)
  • 3 pounds of spinach leaves, fresh or frozen
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1  tsp salt
  • 3 tsp seasoned vegetable base
  • Pili pili hot sauce (garnish)


Heat a large saucepan over medium high. Once hot, add the palm oil and onion. Cook until translucent (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Stir in the spinach, water, salt, seasoned vegetable base, and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and cook for 1 hour covered. Stir occasionally. After, take off the lid and cook for another 30 minutes, again stirring occasionally.

Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking and garnish pili pili hot sauce. Serve it hot alongside rice and fried plantains, plantain fufu, or couscous.

Chef Bala Tounkara is a West African native and has been in the culinary industry for over 16 years. Through persistence and hard work, he rose from an employee dining room cook to a banquet chef, Chef De Cuisine, and Assistant Executive Chef at prominent restaurants. In 2019, he opened Bala Bistro, which offers traditional West African cuisine as well as American favorites with vegan-friendly options. Order take-out and learn more at or call 901.509.3024. It also offers a healthy meal prep service that can be tailored for those with dietary restrictions. Visit Bala Bistro at 2160 E Raines Rd.