I was talking to my mother not so long ago and she said that she had some Ghanaian yams (also called white yams) that she was saving for me. I of course rushed over to her house because I’d literally been searching African grocery stores looking for these yams and I couldn’t find them. I’d buy other yams hoping they’d have the same taste and starchiness as Ghanaian yams but no such luck. I was so happy when I got to my mom’s house and saw them sitting on the kitchen counter. She offered me two of them but they were so huge (see picture below) that I only took one; I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to use them up until they started going bad. After getting the yam, I had to make the tough decision of which of my favourite yam dishes (there are so many) to make. Yele kakro is one of the dishes that I decided on.
What’s Yele Kakro?
Yele kakro are deep fried yam balls which can be eaten as an appetizer, a snack, or a side dish. It’s a Ghanaian dish that is easy to make and allows for flexibility in the ingredients that you use. Yams are off course an essential ingredient for this dish and Ghanaian yams are typically used. However, if you can’t get Ghanaian yams, you can use other types of yams or potatoes. I know that in North America sweet potatoes are sometimes called yams but they’re not actually yams. Sweet potatoes and yams belong to completely different families. More importantly for this dish, sweet potatoes and yams taste very different and differ in starchiness; Ghanaian yams are very starchy and have a mild taste that’s closer to a russet potato. So, you can use sweet potatoes as a substitute for yams for this dish but it will taste like a completely different dish. If you use sweet potatoes, you will also need to add flour to the mixture to ensure that you don’t end up with a dish that’s too mushy.
Eggs and bread crumbs are also essential ingredients for yele kakro. Besides these ingredients, pretty much anything goes for this dish. Some recipes include blended tomatoes, canned fish like sardines, or corned beef. You can also make cheese stuffed yele kakro. The seasoning for yele kakro tends to be simple; a bit of salt and pepper will suffice. I also like to add cayenne pepper for a bit of heat.
How to Make Yele Kakro
To make yele kakro, you start with 3 cups of Ghanaian yams that are peeled and chopped into small pieces. Place the yams in a medium saucepan, add enough water to cover the yams and cook the yams on medium heat for about 15 minutes or until the yams are soft and fork-tender. Drain the water from the yams and let the yams completely cool. In a mixing bowl, add the cooked yams, 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon of butter, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of white or black pepper, 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (optional), and 1/2 cup of canned corned beef. Use a potato masher and a spatula to mash and mix the ingredients together.
Line a plate with parchment paper and set aside. Pour 1 cup of breadcrumbs (I used panko breadcrumbs) on another plate. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper to the breadcrumbs. In a small bowl, beat two eggs using a whisk. Take a heaping spoonful of the yam mixture, form it into a ball and roll it in the beaten eggs, covering all sides with the eggs. Coat the yam ball with breadcrumbs and set aside on the plate that’s covered with parchment paper. Repeat with another spoonful of yam mixture until all the mixture is used up. Deep fry the yam balls in small batches in hot vegetable oil until golden brown. Yele kakro is best served warm with a spicy sauce like shito or a hot tomato-based sauce. Enjoy!
Yele Kakro (Ghanaian Yam Balls)
- 3 cups Ghanaian yams (peeled and chopped into cubes)
- 4 eggs
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp white pepper (black pepper can also be used)
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
- ½ cup canned corned beef
- 1 cup Panko breadcrumbs
- water (use enough to cover and the cook the yams)
- 4 cups vegetable oil
- Put the Ghanaian yams in a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover the yams.
- Cook the yams on a stove at medium-heat until the yams are soft (about 15 minutes)
- Drain the water from the yams, set the yams aside and let them cool completely.
- In a mixing bowl, add the yams, 2 eggs, butter, 1 teaspoon of salt, white pepper, cayenne pepper, and corned beef.
- Mash and mix these ingredients together using a potato masher and a mixing spatula.
- Line a plate with parchment paper and set aside.
- Pour the breadcrumbs on another plate. Add ½ teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of black pepper to the breadcrumbs.
- Beat the remaining 2 eggs in a small bowl using a whisk.
- Take a spoonful of the yam mixture and roll it into a ball. Coat the yam ball with the egg mixture and then roll in the breadcrumbs, covering all sides of the yam ball with the breadcrumbs.
- Set the yam ball on the plate with parchment paper. Repeat with another spoonful of yam mixture until all the mixture has been formed into balls.
- Heat vegetable oil in a wok or deep fryer. Deep fry the yam balls in small batches until golden brown.
- Serve the yam balls with a dipping sauce like a spicy tomato sauce or shito.