Palm oil is a popular cooking oil in many parts of the world including various countries in Africa as well as the state of Bahia in Brazil. It is a strongly flavored oil and is often used because of the earthy and nutty flavor that it can give to various foods. Along with its distinctive taste, palm oil — which is bright red — gives a yellowish-orange color to foods. Many people find the color appetizing. Below are some of the best ways to use palm oil.
As an acaraje frying oil
Acaraje is a traditional fritter that is often sold as street food in the Brazilian state of Bahia. It is arguably the most popular Bahian street food. Acaraje’s roots go back to Africa like much of the cuisine from Bahia. The fritter is made with black-eyed peas that have been milled into flour, blended into a dough and deep-fried in palm oil. It puffs up into a light, airy bun with a crisp exterior that it gets from the palm oil.
Once cooked, the acaraje is split open and stuffed with shrimp along with vegetables and any of an assortment of other ingredients. The palm oil is considered an essential part of the acaraje’s nutty flavor profile and also gives the fritter its distinctive orange-yellow color.
Moqueca is a popular dish and there are various versions of it including a variety from Brazil’s Bahia state that uses palm oil instead of the olive oil used elsewhere in the country. Moqueca is a seafood stew that can be made with different varieties of fish and shellfish including shrimp and lobster. In Bahia, the combination is cooked in coconut milk and palm oil along with various seasonings.
The palm oil enhances the moqueca’s umami properties, gives it an earthiness and is the source of its yellow-orange color.
As a vegan butter substitute
Palm oil is semi-solid at room temperature, just like butter. It is sometimes referred to as palm butter. Its consistency makes it an effective vegan butter substitute in many baked goods. You can also use it in place of another vegan butter substitute, coconut oil. Use it in the same quantities that you would use for butter or coconut oil.
In muamba nsusu
Palm oil is an essential ingredient in the Congolese dish muamba nsusu, which is a spicy chicken stew (but sometimes called a soup) with peanuts and tomato paste. The palm oil and tomato paste give it a bright red color and enhance its deep savory flavor profile.
The national dish of Senegal, thieboudienne is believed to be a relatively new dish having been invented in the 19th century. It consists of rice and fish along with various vegetables. Palm oil is used in the more authentic version to enhance its umami flavor and to give it an attractive reddish color.
In egusi soup
A soup that is most commonly associated with Nigerian cookery, egusi soup is notable for its use of toasted and ground melon seeds as a thickener. Variations can include cow tripe, goat meat, or even fish. It also requires that aromatics be fried in palm oil at the start of its preparation though some varieties use palm oil as a finishing oil. Palm oil gives the egusi soup a rich, nutty umami flavor and a red tint.