Breaking My Fast with Fonio


To eat breakfast or not to eat breakfast.

Sure you’ll grab a bite at some point in the day, but what’s best: breaking your fast with a hearty meal or maybe a piece of avocado toast or a banana? And when should you eat it: soon after rising, or later in the day so you can restrict your calorie consumption to, say, between the hours of 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.? Should you eat three meals a day or just two? Or maybe five small ones?

These kinds of questions make my head hurt.

Nevertheless, I’ve come to some decisions. I’m concentrating my eating to an eight-to-ten-hour span to allow my body more time to digest and burn fat. Pandemic restrictions make that easier to do: Fewer options to consider, like meeting friends at a restaurant.

But timing is just part of the breakfast conundrum, the other part being what that meal will be. Over the past few years, I’ve mostly started the day with eggs, either a scramble or a sandwich. Lately, I’ve been trying to rely less on animal protein in my diet, at least as a main ingredient, so I’ve added options like oatmeal, cereal, or a smoothie to the mix.

Now I will include fonio cereal as well. Fonio is an ancient grain that’s cultivated by small farms in West Africa. It’s also a highly sustainable crop, and since responsible eating is one of the factors driving me toward plant-based options, that’s a big plus for me.

I got turned onto fonio through Chef Pierre Thiam’s “The Fonio Cookbook,” published by Lake Isle Press. I tried a few of his fonio recipes for dinner side dishes, and liked fonio’s delicate, nutty taste. I figured I’d enjoy his recipe for a Creamy Fonio Cereal, and I did.

I made the cereal two ways, one of them completely vegan, and I liked both. To make the vegan version I used coconut milk and left off the drizzle of brown butter at the end. Fonio cereal is as easy to make as oatmeal and has added health benefits, including being low on the glycemic scale, easy to digest, and gluten-free. Good for me, I say.

The new taste I got from this meal was pomegranate. I had been afraid to try it, as I often am with new foods (pomegranate had an extra layer of intimidation because I had to seed it). I finally decided to get over my timidity and bought one, checked online on how to seed it, and voila. I reserved a tablespoon for my cereal and froze the rest. What a treat.

Okay, I know, not a big deal. But I was such a picky eater growing up that I refused to try cherries until I was well into my thirties. Each new food I add to my diet is a triumph. So I celebrate the victories, even the small ones.

Thanks to fonio cereal I’ll be looking for more ways to eat those tasty little seeds now sitting in my freezer. Just not after 7 p.m.

Creamy Fonio Cereal with Blueberries, Pomegranate, and Brown Butter

Click here for printable recipe.

1 cup raw fonio
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk or full-fat coconut milk, warmed
2 teaspoons brown sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1⁄2 cup blueberries
1⁄2 cup pomegranate seeds
2 tablespoons unsalted butter


1. Combine the fonio, water, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the water has been absorbed. Turn off the heat.

2. Add the milk and stir to combine. Let stand for 1 minute. Stir in brown sugar and cinnamon (if using). Divide the fonio among four bowls and top with the blueberries and pomegranate seeds.

3. In a small pan, cook the butter until it becomes slightly brown and foamy. Drizzle over the fonio and serve.

Recipe reprinted from“The Fonio Cookbook,” by Pierre Thiam, Lake Isle Press, 2019

Note: Fonio is available at select grocers including Whole Foods nationwide. You can order Yolélé Fonio through

Originally published at on December 3, 2020.

Written by

Dara O’Brien is the Creative Director of Lake Isle Press. When she isn’t cooking or writing about cookbooks, she writes plays and sometimes acts in them.

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