The Cape Verde Experience

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Kabo Verde

A small archipelago off the coast of West Africa, of which when mentioned in any place outside of small cities in Massachusetts, gets the "Cape where?" ...that's where 50% of my family calls home.  

My family hails from the islands of Brava and Fogo and it is said that the most beautiful women come from Brava and the men from Fogo travel there to marry them.  Growing up, it was food that brought me together with that side of my family. Every week at my great uncle's house, whom we called Papa, we would head down on Wednesday night and have "Spaghetti Night".  I think sometimes there was actually spaghetti at spaghetti night, but there was always Munchup and Jag. Munchup, better known as, Cachupa (or Katxupa in the official Kriolu alphabet) is basically the official meal of Cape Verde and is known by both names depending on what island and where on that island a person is from.  Jag or Jagacita is rice and beans and usually includes kale and linguica (Portuguese sausage).  Some other Cape Verdean favorites are Pastels, a fish-filled pastry and Gufong, a sweet pastry.  On these fun filled family nights, we would laugh and share stories and play games and truly just enjoy each other's company.  My uncle has long since passed and the days of the whole family gathering at his house for his "Spaghetti Nights" are long gone and so dearly missed, but I still have these great favorites to bring me back to that time. 

Today I want to share with you three of my favorite traditional Cape Verdean dishes, Gufong, Pastels, and Katxupa.  Today I want to give you a taste of that great family togetherness that I used to share with my Kabuverdianu family.

A fried pastry, somewhat like a donut, firm and sweet in flavor. Enjoyed in the morning with breakfast or as a dessert.

Cast of characters:
2 cups of water
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of cornmeal
1 cup of flour
dash of salt
dash of baking soda
vegetable oil for frying

Start by putting the water and sugar in a pot and bringing it to a boil. 

Once the mixture comes to a boil add the cornmeal stir until it comes together and then add the flour.

Add a dash of salt and dash of baking powder and keep mixing until everything is combined and firm.


Let the mixture cool and it will rise some from the baking powder. Once it has cooled take small pieces of dough and roll them into small finger sized logs, on a floured surface. 

Heat up your vegetable oil in pan and when hot add the gufong and fry until golden brown.

When browned, drain on a paper towel.


These yummy treats will have a crunchy outside and a doughy inside and will be perfectly complimented by a warm cup of coffee or tea.


A fish filled patty type pastry. A lot of Cape Verdean's in America use the store bought dough and that, for the most part, is what I have always eaten. But I tried to go very traditional with this one and make a homemade sweet potato dough. #fail, lol. This didn't work out too well for me because the dough was too crumbly to fold. I made it work but from now I think I'll stick with what I know.  I'll share the pastry recipe in case you have more luck with it than I did.


Cast of characters:

Pastry -
1 large sweet potato
1 egg yolk
1 tbl butter, melted
2-3 cups of corn flour
Filling - 
1 large tomato
1 lb of tuna (or mackerel according to some critics ;))
1 onion
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp cayenne (I put 3/4 tsp more and it was very spicy). This can also be substituted for hot chile peppers
vegetable or palm oil

To make the pastry start by boiling the sweet potatoes. 


Once tender, let the potatoes cool and peel and mash them. Add the corn flour, egg yolk, and butter and kneed it until it comes together.  Form it into a ball and let it chill for an hour.

While the dough is chilling, prepare your filling. Start by chopping up the vegetables. 

Then saute onions in oil until translucent. Add garlic and cook for one minute and sprinkle in the cayenne. Saute briefly and then add tomatoes.

Next add tuna, salt to taste, and saute for 5-10 minutes or until flavors are all incorporated. Let the mixture cool.

Now back to the dough. Once its done cooling, roll out the dough and cut circles. I just used a glass. Take your cooled filling a place a small amount on one side of your dough. Fold the dough into a semi-circle and pinch the edges closed.

Heat a pan with oil filled about half way up and fry the pastels until they're bright golden orange in color.


Katxupa (Munchup)
This delicious stew of beans, meat, and hominy corn is the perfect meal for a cold winter day. It's that homemade goodness that warms you up inside.  My mother, who is the munchup maker of the family, stepped in with me to make this family favorite. There are MANY different versions of this recipe (which is true with all the recipes on this page) but this is by far my favorite version.

Cast of characters (Sorry, no real measurements. My mom doesn't measure):


Approx. 2-3 cups Samp (hominy corn. soaked in water 2hrs-overnight)
1-1.5 lbs pork (you can use any cut but I like the pork loin boneless chops)
1 can tomato paste
1 bunch of kale (or 1 large can if you cant find fresh. none was available the day I was making this recipe)
1 can garbanzo beans (dried lima beans are more traditional but not a favorite in our house)
4 small or 2 large bay leaves 
3-4tbl margarine
cumin to taste (probably close to 3-4tbl)
salt and pepper to taste

Start by melting margarine in a large pot (My mom is old school. She's swirling it around the pan with a knife :))  Then add onions to the pan and cook until translucent.

While cooking, cut up your meat and once onions are translucent, add the meat to the pan.

Saute the meat until it is browned on the outside and then add your seasonings, cumin, salt, pepper, and bay leaves.

Saute to bring the flavors together and next your gonna fill the pot with water to the top.

Add the tomato paste to the stew. Taste your liquid and adjust the seasoning if necessary.


At this point you're going to remove some of the water and set it inside just in case liquid is needed later.


Now add your samp, kale, and beans to the stew.

Mix everything together. Cover the top and let it simmer on low until samp is tender, 45 minutes to an hour and a half will most likely be long enough.


Check your stew periodically.  If the water starts to get too low, add some of the seasoned water back into the stew and allow to cook a little longer.  After samp has become soft, you're done. 
You've made my mom's Munchup!!

Katxupa and Pastels
Now I've shared three of my favorite Cape Verdean foods. Give them a try! I'm sure you'll greatly enjoy the tastes of the Cape Verde Islands ...especially that Katxupa ;)



  1. So glad to have found your blog! I too, am Cape Verdean American my family is from Brava and Fogo, but have been in america for many generations now. I was searching for gufong recipe to teach my daughter and to try to keep the tradition in the family as my grandfather and great grandmother were the last "true" Cape verdeans. Thanks so much for sharing! Way to go on making the pastel from scratch! New Follower here!

    1. Omg! That is so much like my family. My family is from Brava and Fogo too. My great-grandparents generation moved to America when they were younger. Like your family, my great-grandparents are the last "true" Cape Verdeans. They try to keep the Cape Verdean culture going with the language, music, and food. Food being the main way haha!

  2. Thanks for posting these recipes. I've been craving some of the family recipes from back east. Hopefully I can recreate these here. Thanks agakn

  3. so glad you shares these recipes!! Been looking for them for a while!

  4. OMG!!! I'm so late. But thank you so much for sharing these recipes. I've been looking around for great authentic ones for the longest :)