Caribbean Cornmeal Cou-Cou

Cornmeal Cou Cou

Cynthia Nelson

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 2 hrs
Total: 2 hrs 15 mins
Servings: 4 to 5 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
220 Calories
4g Fat
43g Carbs
5g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 5
Amount per serving
Calories 220
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 2g 9%
Cholesterol 6mg 2%
Sodium 27mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 43g 16%
Dietary Fiber 5g 18%
Protein 5g
Calcium 78mg 6%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Cornmeal cou-cou (or cou cou) is, quite simply, cornmeal cooked with okra and water. It is done low and slow until all the liquid is absorbed and the mixture comes away easily from the sides of the pot. Though it takes some time, it's relatively easy to make at home.

The dish has its origins in West Africa and is a great example of African influences in Caribbean cuisine. Each Caribbean country has its own version that includes various flavorings.

Cornmeal cou-cou is one-half of Barbados' national dish of cou-cou and flying fish. It is best eaten with a very saucy stew of fish, meat, or poultry. American and Italian cooks may best relate to this dish as a firm version of polenta.

You will need a flat wooden spoon to stir the thick cou-cou in the later stages of cooking. In the Caribbean, they have a specially-designed cou-cou stick for this purpose.


  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 cup onions (finely chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic (minced)
  • 2 teaspoons thyme (minced)
  • 1 1/3 cup okra (thinly sliced)
  • 4 cups water (boiling)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter (plus extra for buttering dish)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Soak the cornmeal in 2 cups water for 5 minutes.

  3. In a pot, heat the 1 tablespoon of oil and gently saute the 1/2 cup of onions, 1 tablespoon of garlic, and 2 teaspoons of thyme for 1 to 2 minutes.

  4. Add the 1 1/3 cups of sliced okra and saute for 1 minute.

  5. Pour 4 cups of boiling water into the pot with the onion-okra mixture and let it boil for 10 minutes.

  6. Using a slotted spoon, remove the okra to a small bowl and set aside.

  7. Pour half of the liquid from the pot into a small bowl and reserve for later use.

  8. Turn the heat to low and simmer. Add the soaked cornmeal, salt, and butter. Stir constantly using a whisk to avoid lumps and keep the cornmeal mixture from scorching.

  9. As the cornmeal begins to dry out, add the reserved liquid in stages, stirring with a wooden spoon until the cornmeal is cooked. This process takes about 90 minutes. Stir the cou-cou at 15-minute intervals to ensure that it is not sticking to the bottom of the pot.

  10. As the mixture begins to break away clean from the sides of the pot, add the okra and stir to incorporate fully.

  11. Let the cou-cou continue to cook until it is firm but not stiff. The cou-cou should break away easily from the sides of the pot. Another way to check it is to insert a spoon into the middle of the cou-cou. It should stand and be easy to remove from the mixture.

  12. Transfer the cou-cou to a generously buttered bowl and swirl it around to form a mold.

  13. Invert the bowl onto a serving platter so the cou-cou drops out in a nicely shaped mound.

Serving Ideas

To serve the cou-cou, create an indentation in the center of the inverted cou-cou and heap with stewed fish, meat, poultry, or vegetables, letting the rich sauce spill over to the sides.

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