AYO Frozen Meals caught my eye at Target. I have never seen West African food in the frozen food section of the grocery store before and was excited to try them.
I recognized Top Chef finalist’s Eric Adjepong’s face on one of the boxes.
Fred and Perteet Spencer started the AYO Foods brand in Chicago. Naomi Waxman’s Eater profile from June 2022 shares their story. You can find them at the following stores listed on this page (Whole Foods and Target in the Twin Cities). In this article, Pertit Spencer mentions that her father’s stews could take six hours to cook. Part of their goal was to make their favorite meals more readily available in minutes.
At our local Target, they cost around $5.60 each. Today, I found them on sale at Target for 2/$9.
We tried the four meals available at our Target: Jollof Rice with Chicken, Groundnut Stew with Chicken, Waakye Beans and Rice, and Chicken Yassa.
Unlike most frozen meals I’ve tried, the chicken dishes actually contain a lot of chicken. The biggest offender of this that I can think of is Trader Joe’s Indian meals with meat. They look really hearty on the box, but when you open them, you find the trays contain a tiny portion of meat and a shit ton of rice.
AYO meals contain plenty of chicken and rice that you actually want to eat because it tastes good.
The rice sticky and fluffy in a pleasant way – not the hard pellets or soft mushy par-cooked rice frozen meals usually include.
The Jollof Rice with Chicken was very flavorful and mildly spicy.
We preferred the Groundnut Stew with Chicken. In fact, we were blown away by it.
The sauce is better than any peanut chicken stew sauce I’ve ever tasted or attempted to make. It’s peanuty without being too sweet and really kicky with the heat.
It definitely tasted homemade in the best possible way. We immediately bought a couple more.
Of the four, our least favorite dish was the Waakye Beans and Rice. The flavor struck me as intensely herbal -and almost medicinal. I’ve never tried this dish before – this could be a spot-on version, however it might not be my personal favorite flavor.
My favorite is the Chicken Yassa.
Just like the Groundnut Stew, this meal includes a generous portion of tender chicken. If you are onion adverse, there aren’t big pieces of onions and they don’t act as a filler.
The sauce is tangy, gently mustardy, and a teeny tiny bit spicy. My toddler also loved this.
Overall, I would highly recommend trying this brand.
Again, these meals are so much more flavorful than most anything else you’ll find in the frozen food section of Target or Whole Foods.
The portions of meat vs. rice are generous, + the rice is actually really good. You can taste the time that went into the low and slow cooking and complexity of flavors. We found the amount of flavor and heat these pack incredibly satisfying.
I hope the frozen food sections of our grocery stores like Target continue to diversify and include more cuisines like West African foods. I’m not well-versed in West African food but I know that these meals taste good.
We’ll continue to keep our freezer stocked with a few of our favs.