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Recipe for Chicken Yassa (Senegalese Braised Chicken With Caramelized Onions)

The traditional Senegalese cuisine Chicken Yassa has been adapted into this quick, simple, and healthy recipe. Chicken Yassa, also known as poulet yassa (this is a testament of the country’s history as a former french colony), is a slightly spicy dish made with a lot of onions. The onions are usually marinated in Dijon mustard, lemon or lime juice, and herbs and spices before being prepared into a hearty, comforting stew with grilled or fried chicken. Majority of the dish’s flavour is derived from the unusually high amount of caramelised onion, which adds a significant degree of depth of flavour and colour. With the addition of lemon and/or lime juice as well as a little mustard, it also gains a pleasant sharpness that helps balance and cut through the richness and sweetness of the onions.

Usually, the chicken or other protein would be roasted over a wood fire before being braised. Even while it doesn’t have the same smoky undertones of a wood-burning fire, I find that searing the chicken well in a skillet is the quickest way to brown it at home.

Feel free to add more ingredients to the braise if you like them, such as olives, bell peppers, and carrots.

Yassa is frequently eaten with rice to soak up the braising liquid, but it also goes well with couscous or fonio, a traditional West African grain.



For Marinating the Chicken:

  • 900g bone-in, skin-on chicken legs
  • ½ cup (120ml) fresh lemon juice
  • ½ small (6-ounce; 170g) yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) fresh lime juice,
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) neutral oil, such as vegetable or peanut oil
  • 1 Scotch bonnet, stemmed and finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt

For the Yassa:

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) neutral oil, such as vegetable or peanut oil
  • 3 medium-sized yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium-sized cloves garlic , finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) Dijon mustard (optional)
  • 3 cups homemade chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium broth
  • 1 whole Scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, pierced with a fork
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooked long- or medium-grain rice, for serving
  • Lime or lemon wedges, for serving



  1. Marinate the chicken: Chicken, lime juice, oil, Scotch bonnet pepper, salt, and sliced onion should all be mixed thoroughly in a big bowl or zipper-lock bag. For at least 8 and up to 12 hours, marinate in the refrigerator with a lid on the bowl or a sealed bag.
  2. For the Yassa: Chicken should be taken out of the marinade, onions and peppers scraped off, and the marinade discarded. Chicken should be dried using paper towels. Add the chicken, skin-side down, and cook for about 6 minutes, or until well browned. Turn the chicken over with a thin metal spatula and cook for a further 5 minutes or until browned on the other side. Transfer chicken to a dish after taking it off the heat.
  3.  Reduce heat to medium-low, add onions, and cook, stirring regularly, for about 7 minutes, or until onions are tender. About 15 minutes of continuous cooking, stirring and scraping as needed, will result in dark brown and caramelised onions. Add the mustard and garlic and cook for about a minute, or until the mixture is fragrant and just beginning to soften.
  4. Add the chicken stock, Scotch bonnet pepper, bay leaf, and chicken, along with any accumulated juices, nestling the chicken pieces into the onions; season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil over high heat.
  5. Lower heat to medium-low and cook, gently turning and scraping the bottom of the pot frequently, until chicken is cooked through and starting to fall off the bone, about 1 hour. If needed, season with salt. Serve with rice, couscous, or fonio and lemon or lime wedges.

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