Poulet Yassa – the tutorial

22 Jun

Poulet Yassa is a spicy, lemon dish with chicken (poulet, in French) and carmelized onions served over rice. Originally Senegambian, Yassa has become popular throughout West Africa. Visitors to Senegal love Yassa – can’t get enough Yassa! It’s so good that we actually served this at our wedding rehearsal dinner!

Chez Mamy’s in Dakar

2 lbs chicken pieces (or one chicken leg per person)
2 lbs onions, chopped or sliced (at least 2-3 medium onions per person)
4-5 sliced carrots (not traditional yassa ingredient, but we like it)
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp bouillon
black pepper
dried hot peppers or hot pepper sauce (we use Scotch Bonnet)
2-3 lemons (juice)
6 cups cooked rice
Sliced green peppers and tomatoes

Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken pieces carefully. Cook until browned and juices run clear, about 15-20 minutes. Flip occasionally to keep from overcooking.

Fried chicken waiting…

As chicken cooks, slice onions into thin “smiley faces”.

Once chicken is cooked, put it aside on a plate lined with paper towels.

Cutting the onions takes a while, but don’t skimp! They cook down a lot!

Save 1/2 oil. Reduce heat to lowest setting. Add onions and sauté very slowly (2 hours absolute minimum) until caramelized and light yellow in color. Stir the onions every 15 minutes or so. If after 30 minutes they don’t look very different, you’ve probably got the heat on just right. At an hour they should just begin to be translucent. At two hours they should be floppy. Keep going! But don’t turn up the heat. The slower, the better. Really good Yassa needs at least six hours!

Onions after about 30 minutes

Onions after about two hours

Onions after about three hours

Once the onions are completely carmelized, add Dijon, lemon juice, bouillon, hot pepper, salt, and pepper. (This is where we add cooked, sliced carrots.) Turn up the heat to med-low. Let simmer for about an hour, stirring and tasting every 15 minutes until just how you want it.

Sauce Maggi and Dijon mustard

Here’s a tasting guide:
– If too bland, add bouillon and Dijon
– If not too lemony, add just a bit more
– If not quite spicy enough, slowly add more pepper and hot pepper sauce
– If you have sauce Maggi, use it!
– some people add a few Tbsp vinegar and/or soy sauce

Add chicken 15 minutes before serving, or sooner if you want the meat to fall off the bones.

Serve over white rice and top with freshly sliced veggies.

The final version – modified a la Masson


5 Responses to “Poulet Yassa – the tutorial”

  1. Marcy June 23, 2007 at 3:06 pm #

    It’s 10:04 am and I am about to pass out from the yassa craving that just hit me like a brick wall.Thanks.

  2. amy ellen July 8, 2007 at 4:22 pm #

    Wow…that really made me crave ceebu jen…not fair, Kari. Not fair! 😉

  3. Chef E December 17, 2009 at 9:56 am #

    Wow I had not heard of this until I saw another post, and now you have presented this yummy photos up!

  4. Deborah December 31, 2009 at 8:00 pm #

    I just returned from 3 months in Senegal. I used this recipe to make Yassa Poulet for my family and they LOVED it! Thanks much for posting this.


  1. Sunday Lunch | julia's journeys - April 7, 2013

    […] In case I whetted your appetite to try delicious Yassa Poulet, here is a link to a good recipe: https://toubabrecipes.wordpress.com/2007/06/22/poulet-yassa-the-tutorial/ […]

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