Bammy is made by shaping ground cassava into discs. The cakes are lightly seasoned and pan-fried to seal their shape, then soaked in coconut milk and pan-fried once more until golden brown and crisp. They're a staple in Jamaica, where they're served with everything from jerk pork to ackee (a fruit that's cooked with onions, peppers and fresh thyme, and is said to visually resemble scrambled eggs) and saltfish., February 2023


Credit: Brittany Conerly

Recipe Summary

1 hr
1 hr

Hundreds of nutritious fruits, vegetables and grains are indigenous to the African continent, where the cuisines of each country and region are as diverse as the crops that grow there. Our series, African Heritage Diet as Medicine: How Black Food Can Heal the Community, explores the African Heritage Diet and highlights some of the most nutrient-dense foods found on the African continent and treasured by the diaspora. This dietary pattern—introduced by Oldways—promotes health outcomes associated with longevity and increased vitality and features foods that are most likely to be available worldwide.

Cassava: A Defining Ingredient of the African Diaspora

How you can magically energize someone to carry out their daily chores

And tell them to never stop the grind

How you help them achieve their goals

How kind you are to them whenever they need you

In the end

It doesn't matter how did you look

Or how and what was your form

All that ever mattered was

How you made them feel and

The utility you gave them.

When I first read this passage from "Vegetable Bodies" by young Indian poet Anushka Mishra, my mind went to cassava. My ancestors farmed, harvested, manipulated and redefined the gnarly tuber, turning it into meals that sustained enslaved people working plantations in Jamaica under the blistering sun and magnificent sunsets. Cassava's history—dating back to when it was traded in Africa and eventually brought to the many island nations of the African diaspora—is boundless and rich, like the deep blue seas that lie between the islands.  

A species of tuber, cassava has bark-like skin, bright white flesh and is long and tapered at the end. Although cassava is native to South America, it was brought to Africa by Portuguese traders in the 16th century. It grows well in poor soils with limited labor requirements. Cassava provides food security in places where conflicts may arise—invaders cannot easily destroy or remove the crop since it conveniently grows underground. 

Cassava historically has been an essential crop that continues to define the cultural identity of the African diaspora and its cuisine. Dishes like attiéké, fermented grated or granulated cassava pulp, and fufu, a type of starchy ball (called a "swallow" food) eaten with soups and stews, are popular in many West African countries. In Brazil, farinha, fermented cassava that's ground into coarse flour and roasted, is relished with feijoada, the classic black bean stew. Cassava is called yuca in Puerto Rico, where it's native. It was the main crop of the Indigenous people called the Taino. It shines in dishes like yuca en escabeche and yuca con mojo, with citrus and garlic as a flavorful foil to the starchy tuber. 

In most of the West Indies, including Jamaica, where my parents grew up, we call cassava, and root vegetables like yams, sweet potato, dasheen root and eddos, ground provisions. These were staples that we ate almost every week. My mother would scrub the wax from the cassava's skin, then peel it away, revealing the white-colored flesh underneath. She cut the peeled cassava into chunks and placed them in a saucepan filled with water, letting them cook until fork-tender. That pot of provisions would rest on the stovetop all day, and she'd use a slotted spoon to select the most prized chunks to serve with escovitch fish or stew peas. 

Other times, my mother pulled out the box grater from under the counter, anticipating a few battle scars on the sharp sides of the grater. She would grate the cassava flesh into a tea towel and squeeze as much liquid as possible into the kitchen sink. She'd put the grated flesh into a bowl, lightly seasoning it with salt, and begin assembling one of Jamaica's staples—bammy.  Bam bam or bammy (also spelled bammie) is a Jamaican staple that descended from a simple flatbread eaten by the Indigenous people. For centuries, it was the bread of choice for rural Jamaicans until the cheaper, imported wheat-flour breads became popular in the post-World War II era.  

In the 1990s, the United Nations and the Jamaican government established a program to revive bammy production and market it as a modern, convenient food product. Bammy is traditionally enjoyed with fried fish, jerk pork or with our Jamaican national dish—ackee and saltfish. I love to enjoy the staple topped with a simple pistou—a Provençal sauce, similar to pesto, made with fresh herbs—as a wonderful snack or appetizer.  

Cassava is a delicious and nutritious ingredient that continues to be embraced around the world. Its long history and its versatility makes it a superfood in my kitchen. This recipe is an ode to my ancestors and to my parents' homeland, Jamaica. Nyam!


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Combine basil, arugula, tamarind, crushed red pepper and garlic in the bowl of a food processor; pulse until chopped. With the motor running, drizzle in olive oil; process until smooth. Add lime juice and salt; pulse a couple of times to blend. Set aside.

  • Grate cassava pieces with the smallest holes of a box grater. (Alternatively, cut the cassava in chunks and place in the cleaned work bowl of a food processor. Process the cassava until it's a smooth puree, adding a little water if necessary.) Pile the grated cassava into a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out the excess liquid.

  • Place a 4-inch ring mold in a large skillet. Brush the mold and the pan beneath it with some of the 1 tablespoon coconut oil. Fill the mold with enough of the cassava (about 1/2 cup) so the bammy is 1/2-inch thick. Using the back of a spoon, press the cassava into the mold and flatten the top. Cook over low heat until firm, 2 to 3 minutes. Lift off the mold (you may need to hold the bammy down with the spoon so it doesn't lift up too). Flip the bammy and cook until firm on the other side, 2 to 3 minutes more. Transfer the bammy to a cooling rack. Repeat to make 6 bammy. 

  • Pour coconut milk into a shallow dish. Add 2 bammy to the coconut milk; let soak for 3 to 5 minutes per side. 

  • Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/2 cup coconut oil in the skillet over medium heat. Blot off excess coconut milk from the soaked bammy. Cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Repeat soaking and cooking with the remaining bammy. 

  • Serve the bammy with the reserved pistou.

Nutrition Facts

1 bammy & 1 Tbsp. pistou
342 calories; protein 2g; carbohydrates 33g; dietary fiber 2g; sugars 2g; fat 23g; saturated fat 11g; mono fat 9g; poly fat 2g; vitamin a iu 540IU; vitamin b3 niacin 1mg; vitamin c 20mg; vitamin e iu 3IU; folate 34mg; vitamin k 43mg; sodium 500mg; calcium 37mg; iron 1mg; magnesium 33mg; phosphorus 47mg; potassium 307mg; zinc 1mg; omega 6 fatty acid 1g; niacin equivalents 1mg; selenium 1mcg.