Yassa Poulet

Surprise!  Photo essay and “guideline”.  To say “recipe” might be stretching things…


–1.5 Bags of yellow onions

–2 Packages chicken thighs on the bone

–2-3 Large-ish lemons

–White vinegar

–Black pepper

–Bit of salt

–Olive oil (or vegetable oil)

–1 Cube vegetable bouillon** and one of chicken.  Or something.

–Dijon mustard


– Cayenne pepper

1. Preparing Chicken

To begin, you really do want chicken on the bone.  You will end up stewing the bones, and they add a lot of flavor to the dish.  It doesn’t really matter what part of the chicken you use, although I like thighs because they’re meaty and kind of dark.  Traditionally you’d grill the chicken.  Over time this has morphed into pouring 1 to 1-1/4 cups of vegetable oil into a large, deep pan or pot and frying the chicken.  I prefer to bake mine.


First, gather your chicken, salt, pepper, vinegar, and half a lemon.  Place the chicken pieces in a large bowl, adding some of each ingredient before layering.  No need to measure for this part; you’re just marinading.


I do remove the chicken skin, but I find it easiest to do so post-baking.  If you choose to de-skin first, rub with salt and wash your chicken.

Preheat the oven to 375 and spread olive oil in a large baking dish.


Place chicken evenly in baking dish and pour liquid from bowl over the top.  Bake for 45 minutes.


2. Preparing Onions

Here comes the “fun part”…

Arm yourself with a cutting board, a knife, and a good handkerchief, dampened washcloth, or paper towel before beginning.


Begin in the usual way.


Cut your onion in half, laying each half flat on the board.  Slice *partway* toward the root, but leave and end to hold.




Keep slicing…

In case you hadn’t gathered, this is where your handkerchief/dampened washcloth/paper towel comes in.  Use it to wipe your poor, defenseless, stinging eyes.


Squeeze a lemon half over onions, pour in some vinegar, and shake on some pepper.  (I told you this was a guideline…)

3. Cooking Yassa

Pour a slop of olive oil into a large pot.  Like so, or maybe a little more.  Put the heat on medium


Give the pot a minute to heat, then add your onions.  Stir them around for a few minutes, then add 1/2-cup of vinegar, half a lemon, and 1/2 to 1-cup of water.  Also add your bouillon at this time.  (You can do this without bouillon; if so you have to add a bunch of salt to make up for it.)


Keep stirring occasionally.  Add a few squirts of dijon mustard (start with 1/4-cup-ish?) and a few shakes of cayenne when you feel like it.  Add water as needed, but you don’t want it to be like soup.  At some point, your chicken will be finished.  Remove it from the oven and allow to cool.  You may want to remove it from the baking dish as the juices will keep it too hot to handle.


Once the chicken cools, I remove the skins and all outward cartilage.  A pair of kitchen scissors can come in hand here.  Throw the chicken pieces into the pot.  Stir it around a bit, then cover the pot.  And simmer.  Keep tasting the sauce and adding vinegar, lemon, dijon, pepper, and cayenne as needed.  (If you’ve never tasted yassa…good luck with this part.)

Also, add 6-ish cloves of garlic that have been minced, pressed, squashed in a mortar and pestle, or otherwise crushed in some way.


I usually leave the yassa on the stove for about 3-hours total (from initial onion cooking through to the end), but it varies.  The onions should lose all texture.  The chicken (because it’s not tough like Senegalese chicken) will melt off the bone, at which point it’s good to stir through and remove all the bones you can find.  You may have to pull a bit of meat off the bones; I recommend tongs and a fork.

4. Rice

This part depends on how many people you’re feeding. For 6-ish people I usually make two cups of long-grain white rice.  I’ve given up trying to make my rice like Senegalese rice…

Once the rice is mostly done, remove the lid and let it sit for a while.  Don’t let it burn, but it’s okay (desirable, actually) for your rice to brown on the bottom and  a little bit up the sides.

5. Kaññi (Hot pepper)

The Senegalese usually cook a hot pepper into the sauce, being careful not to let it burst.  It softens on the stove, and when you eat around the bowl you pass it around.  The people who like it squeeze the juice into their eating areas, and those who don’t can pass.  When we didn’t have hot peppers, my mother would make sauce instead using dijon and cayenne powder.  It is delicious, but you only want to take a small spoonful on the side of your plate to be mixed in by the bite.

Mix them together until it’s kind of orange.


Maybe a little less orange than that, but close.

6. The Final Step

Corral your family and friends.  WARN THEM ABOUT THE HOT SAUCE.  Feed them until they’re afraid they’re going to pop.  When they tell you they’re so full they’re going to pop, offer them some pop.**

*Does anyone else find it impossibly strange that Americans say “bull-ee-uhn”?!?

**The great-grandma Caroline O’Neil special…

4 Responses to “Yassa Poulet”

  1. pengie Says:

    i <333333 my cooking cousin!!!!!

  2. Pooh Says:

    If you’re going to cook that many onions, save the skins. You can dye wool or easter eggs with onion skins, and I have a bag in the freezer* I’m going to try on cotton. I’m pretty sure that you don’t need a mordant for the wool, but it’s been a couple of decades since I took the Natural Dyeing class. Eggs come out a very nice orangey-brown color. Red cabbage leaves are my favorite for eggs – robin’s egg blue.

    *I made onion tarts for Xmas dinner. Carmelize the chopped onions by cooking in a little sesame oil. Keep cooking them over low heat, stirring occasionally. I do this while I’m prepping whatever else needs doing. Seed the pomegranate, check. Chop, chop, chop, check. Three hours, like the yassa sounds about right. The onions should have a nice browned color, and very soft texture. If you’re doing this for a holiday, do this the day before – you don’t want to spend Xmas morning sauteing onions, do you? Take a package of croissant rolls in the can, and separate the eight triangles. Don’t forget to preheat the oven. I put baking parchment in the bottom of the baking sheet to stay on good terms with the dishwasher. On each croissant, put a half slice of swiss cheese, a spoonful of the onions and a few capers. Bring the corners of the croissants up to the center, and try and seal the edges. Bake in the oven for the time and temperature given on the croissant can.

  3. mouse nest » Blog Archive » 377 Says:

    […] before I forget, I very slightly edited the Yassa recipe.  I’d forgotten to list garlic as an ingredient!!  What a complete […]

  4. “The next time that mastodon’t chops onions, he’d better be wearing those onion goggles.” -Grandmoom « escapades of an obsessed runner Says:

    […] Blog? What Blog? Okay, today I attempted to make yassa poulet, according to the guidelines of Mouse. Mine turned out alright, but I ended up with a larger onion-to-chicken ratio due to the fact I was […]

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