Spicy Yam Balls

Yam is an excellent root vegetable with slightly sticky and starchy flesh. When I first started cooking with yams I was most frustrated by the lack of recipes available and guidance to simply cook like potatoes. While yam makes good chips and work well in dishes like dauphionoise. I feel that it stands high as a vegetable on its own.

With the diversity of people around the world yams have begun to gain in popularity, they're more widely available and feature in many recipes. These balls are a common snack in South Africa and you can adjust the flavours in them to your own taste.

30 balls
Prep: 15-20 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes


Yam Balls

  • 600g white Yam
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp lemon thyme or thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 large green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1/2 tsp ginger, ground
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • pinch salt
  • 120g plain flour

To Cook

  • oil for deep frying
  • 200g yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp mint shredded
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tbsp harissi paste, shop bought or follow recipe followed (optional)
  • Deep fried plantain slithers (optional)


  1. Yam Balls: Peel the yam and cut it into even pieces. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and place the yam in it. Leave the yam to cook for 20-25 minutes until it is tender. Drain the yam and mash it in a large bowl with a fork or a potato masher so that you have a fairly smooth mash.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients except the flour and stir until the ingredients are well combined. Place the flour on a large plate. Take a tablespoon of the mixture and roll it in floured hands into a small balls, then roll it in the flour so that it is coated. Repeat this with the remaining mixture.
  3. To Cook: Heat oil in a deep fryer, wok or large saucepan to 180°C or until a cube of stale bread rises to the top in 30 seconds and is crisp and golden brown. Deep-Fry 5-8 at a time (dependent of the size of the cooking container) for around 3 minutes until the rise to the top and are golden brown and crisp. Drain the balls on kitchen paper, keep warm (possibly in a low oven) while you cook the remaining balls.
  4. To Serve: Mix the yoghurt with the mint and honey in a small bowl until well combined. Place a spoonful of this mixture in the centre of each plate. Place a small teaspoonful of the harissi on the yoghurt. Place 4-5 yam balls on each plate accompanied with a few plantain slither (optional) and serve. These balls can also be served on one large platter for guests to help themselves.
See our recipe for Plantain Slithers and Harissa