Poulet Yassa or Chicken Yassa is a traditional dish from Senegal and one of the most famous of African dishes. Yassa food is a spicy marinated food prepared with onions and either poultry or fish.

The marinade is simple, basically flavoured with lemon juice that is why Chicken Yassa is also known as African Lemon Chicken. Other basic ingredients in the marinade are mustard and black pepper. It is recommended that chicken should be marinated overnight but that is mostly necessary to tenderise tougher African birds. If I’m using big pieces of chicken on bones, I marinate for 2-4 hours. But tender boneless, bite size pieces are good to cook after just 30 minutes of marination.

A lot of onions go into making this chicken but they don’t turn the dish sweet as there is plenty of lemon juice and mustard to balance the sweet of the onions. The black peppers and red chilli powder add a big punch of heat to the recipe. The quantity of peppers and Chillies I’ve mentioned in the ingredients made medium hot dish, you can reduce the quantities to suit your level of tolerance.

Chicken is partially cooked by either grilling or pan frying before it is stewed with onions. This helps to seal in the juices. Adding vegetables is totally a matter of choice. Cabbage, carrots, bell peppers and peas taste great in the stew. I have lovely cabbages growing in my small kitchen garden which I couldn’t resist adding to my dish. And I’m glad I did that because it gave wonderful texture and taste to the stew.

Do try this very quick and easy recipe to make any meal special for your family or wow your guests with your knowledge of a whole new cuisine.


1/2 kg boneless chicken, cut into cubes
4 medium onions, sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
6 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1 bay leaf
1 cube or 1 cup chicken stock
3-4 tablespoons peanut or olive oil
2 green bell peppers, cut into strips (optional)
1/2 head small cabbage, cut into chunks (optional)
2 green chilli peppers

This Is What You Do:

Marinate chicken in 1 tablespoon mustard, 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Marinate for 30 minutes, overnight if you have time.

Similarly, marinate sliced onions in 1 tablespoon mustard, 3 tablespoons lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper for 10 minutes.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan, remove chicken pieces from the marinade. Save the marinade to add later to stew.

Cook chicken pieces in hot oil till they are slightly charred on outside and half done or you can briefly grill them.

Remove them from the pan and set aside. Add a little more oil to the pan, add the marinated onions and fry till golden.

Add garlic and bay leaf. Add the chicken back to the pot along with the saved marinade.

Add 1 cup of water and chicken cube OR 1 cup of chicken stock.

Add red chilli powder and salt. Cover the pan and cook another ten minutes or till the liquid is sufficiently reduced.

At this point add green Chillies, cabbage and green bell peppers if you like or any other seasonal vegetables. Cover and cook another five minute or till the liquid is completely dried.

Serve hot over couscous or rice.

Serves 4

2 Replies to “Chicken Yassa, African Lemon Chicken”

  1. Looks and sounds delicious. Will send to my kiddo to try since she cooks chicken. But I think I will use this recipe for mushrooms and Paneer. Thanks I know yiyr recipes turn out delicious.

    1. Thank you, Archana! Our kids’ generation is really into chicken dishes, right! That’s what made me explore all the recipes from international cuisine. Hope your daughter will enjoy.

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