Brazilian Acarajé with Vatapá by Keshia Sakarah

Acarajé are fritters made from black-eyed beans, dried shrimp, salt and white onions. They’re filled with a delicious filling called vatapa which is made from a mixture of stale bread, onions, palm oil and dried shrimp before being topped with lamboa a spicy, green tomato salsa.

Done in 2 hours

Serves 4

Tom Jackson

Dish by Tom Jackson



for the acarajé

450gblack eyed beans

2onions, roughly chopped

1/2red onion, to flavour the oil

300gdende (palm) oil

200gvegetable oil

50gcooked shrimp, for garnish


for the vatapá

150gdried shrimp

170gstale bread, diced

45gcashews, unsalted

45gpeanuts, unsalted

1small onion, diced

1garlic clove, crushed

1 tbspginger, finely grated

1red chilli, finely chopped

300mlcoconut milk

120mlfish stock

1tomato, roughly chopped

15gcoriander, roughly chopped

125gcrab meat, cooked

15gdende (palm) oil

for the lambao

40ghot red chilli

1hot green chilli

1-2garlic cloves

1medium green tomato, chopped

1onion, chopped

125mlolive oil

40mllime juice

2 tbspfresh coriander, finely chopped

Brazilian Acarajé has evolved from akara - black eyed pea fritters found across the regions of present day Nigeria, west africa. When it evolved in Brazil - the word “acara” meant ball - and “jé” which means to eat. They’re an important element of the Afro-Brazilian community.


Add the beans to a bowl, cover with water and leave to soak overnight. Whilst the beans are soaking, gently rub them between your hands to remove the outer skins.

Remove the skins and discard with the water. Add fresh water to the beans, remove any more skins, drain the water, then add the beans to a blender with the onions to form a pulp. Add to a bowl with the salt then leave to sit.

Heat the dende (palm) oil and the vegetable oil in a deep pan, add red onion half to flavour the oil, then spoon in balls of the batter into the hot oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until they are bright orange and crisp. Carefully remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper.

While the fritters are cooling, prepare the vatapa. Add the dried shrimp to a food processor and blitz until ground, set aside. then add stale bread to the food processor, blitz until smooth breadcrumbs, then add the cashews and peanuts. Blitz until evenly combined then set aside.

For the lambao, add the chiles, garlic, and salt to a pestle and mortar or food processor. Crush to a fine paste. Add to a bowl, then add the diced green and red tomatoes, onion, olive oil, lemon juice, and coriander. Leave to sit before serving.

Heat the dende (palm) oil in a pan, then add the onions, ginger, garlic and chilli. Cook for a few minutes until soft, then add the ground shrimp, tomato, nut and bread mix and coconut milk. Cook for a few more minutes then season with salt and pepper.

Optional - add the crab meatin the last few minutes to warm and finish with the coriander. Remove from the heat and prepare to fill the acraje. Slice the acraje across the middle, then spoon in the vatapa and finish with the lambao.

What do you think of the recipe?

Tom Jackson

Tom Jackson

Originally hailing from Birmingham, England and with a culinary heritage sprawling around Britain, Tom, the host of Shelf Life and Alphabetti, is a cook from nowhere that takes inspiration from everywhere. Passionate about the shared food experience and the commonalities between supposedly separate cuisines, Tom showcases broad and thorough references in his cooking and has a particular love for spices. He is also obsessed with pasta salads and is currently waiting for Mr. Naga to get in touch regarding his Ambassadorship.

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