African Yam Balls

Yele Kakro

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes about

    2 dozen


Appears in

The Ghana Cookbook

By Fran Osseo-Asare and Barbara Baëta

Published 2015

  • About

Like many flexible Ghanaian/West African recipes, there is plenty of room for improvisation in making yam balls, especially with seasonings. Fresh puna yams from Ghana are especially nice (do not use the yams or sweet potatoes commonly found in U.S. markets).


  • 4 cups peeled and chopped African yams (about 2 pounds)
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil plus enough for deep-frying
  • 1 large or 2 small onions, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme or a similar herb
  • ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon dried ground red pepper (or to taste)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • A few tablespoons flour



Prepare vegetables

  1. Put the yam cubes into a large pot and cover with water (and add a little salt, if desired). Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and cook until soft, about 20 minutes, depending on the size of the cubes.
  2. While the yams cook, scald the tomatoes in boiling water and then plunge them into cold water and remove their skins. Core, and seed, if desired, then chop finely. Set aside.
  3. When the yam cubes are tender, drain off the water and mash while still warm, using a potato masher, the wooden mashing tool called apɔtoyewa or apotoriwa in Ghana, or a rotary or electric mixer, making sure they are thoroughly mashed and not lumpy.

Make batter

  1. Heat ¼ cup vegetable oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add half of the minced onion and cook for a couple of minutes, then add half of the chopped tomatoes. Cook for a few more minutes, just until the onion is soft but not browned, stirring occasionally. Stir in the thyme, salt, and ground red pepper.
  2. Put the mashed yams or potatoes in a bowl. Stir in the cooked onion-tomato mixture and the uncooked tomato and onion. Add the beaten eggs and mix everything well.

Fry the yam balls

  1. In a deep heavy saucepan or an electric deep fryer put enough oil to fill the pan halfway and heat the oil to 375 degrees F.
  2. Sprinkle a little flour on a flat work surface (a pastry mat or wax paper will reduce cleanup time), put a little oil or flour on your hands and shape spoonfuls of the mashed yam mixture into balls a little smaller than a golf ball.
  3. When the oil is hot (sprinkle a drop of water in and see how it sizzles to judge if it is hot enough) put several balls in and cook them a few minutes until they are golden brown on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain the excess oil off on paper towels. Repeat until all yam balls are cooked.

To serve

Eat as a snack or serve as a side dish with a meal while they are still warm, possibly accompanied by some Fresh Pepper Sauce or Shito.


  • Add a little leftover cooked meat or fish, or two or three minced garlic cloves to the mixture before forming the balls.
  • If African yams are not available you can substitute 5 cups peeled and chopped russet potatoes and 2 heaping tablespoons flour.