Nigerian food composes of spicy food like spicy soup and spicy stew. Nigerian cuisine also comprises spicy street food. Even though Nigerian cuisine isn’t known and appreciated globally, it has much to offer!
Nigerian dishes are now being popularized by bloggers, vloggers, and travelers. Many Nigerian cuisines and traditional dishes have gotten a route to different areas of the world with the help of blogs and vlogs, and you’ll find enough Nigerian food to try. Additionally, since Nigerian food uses easily available ingredients, it can be quickly made home.
As people are becoming more aware of what Nigerian cuisine offers, they are getting more interested to know about the ingredients used to cook Nigerian dishes. This has helped make Nigerian food a bit more visible internationally.
Learning about the best Nigerian food to eat requires knowing a bit about Nigerian cuisine and its commonly used ingredients, so let’s discuss that first.
1) Nigerian Cuisine’s Common Ingredients
Nigerian food depicts the cuisine of many ethnic groups and matches the cuisines of West African and Central African countries like Cameroon and Ghana.
Food in Nigeria includes yam, plantains, rice, beans, and many stews and soups like egusi soup, okra soup, and chicken stew.
Nigerian cuisine uses such fine-cutting skills that very little of anything wastes. Popular meats used in Nigerian food include lamb, goat, and turkey. Some commonly eaten vegetables include Lagos spinach, water, pumpkin, and jute leaves. A few essential ingredients found in a lot of food in Nigeria are fried plantains, palm oil, black-eyed peas, fresh vegetables, and herbs.
As mentioned earlier, Nigerian soups are very commonly eaten by Nigerian people; palm oil provides them with color. No house in Nigeria will be without palm oil. Crayfish are also used in a lot of soups and stews in Nigeria. Dried fish is used in soups, stews, and sauces; fish, except catfish, can be used to make this ingredient.
Goat meat is consumed by most of Nigeria. Egusi is melon seeds used as sauce thickeners. Tomatoes and peppers are used as vital ingredients. Garri or granulated cassava is used to make eba, a swallow food in Nigeria. Other than this, many spices are used in Nigerian food, like bay leaves, thyme, and curry powder.
After knowing what is normally used to make Nigerian food, let’s discuss a few of the best dishes offered by Nigerian cuisine.
2) 15 Best Nigerian Foods That You Must Try
The list of great Nigerian dishes can be endless, so here are some of the best dishes you should try!
Nigeria is one of the largest yam producers, and Iyan is a dish that uses pounded yam. Iyan is a dish loved by Nigerians. This dish’s yam is shaped into a solid paste and formed into balls. Pounded is similar to mashed potatoes but with more consistency. These pounded yam balls, called Iyan, are part of a group of foods called ‘swallows.’ Swallows are Nigerian solid foods taken with soup and consumed by swallowing. This is possible because they are elastic, thick, and consistently dough-like.
You use water to boil and stir with pounded yam. Reduce the heat to low, stir for five minutes and wait for the mixture to get soft and smooth. If you’re eating it with egusi soup, you can pull off the pieces of Iyan and then use them to scoop up the soup.
2.2) Jollof Rice
Jollof rice is a dish popular in West Africa. Jollof rice is made with rice, tomatoes, onions, salt, red bell peppers, and a spice mix. It is considered Nigeria’s national dish and is served with add-ins like prawns and chicken. You can try Jollof rice with Nigerian pepper sauce if you want a bit of spice to the dish.
Jollof rice is the star of the party, which doesn’t require much time or energy. It’s easy to make using simple ingredients. Nigerian Jollof rice is red colored and portrays the rich culinary tradition of African cuisine.
There are many recipe variations, but the Nigerian and Ghanaian versions of Jollof rice are the most popular.
2.3) Egusi Soup
Egusi soup is creamy, nutty, and a staple food in homes across Nigeria. Egusi or agushi seeds come from small melons that resemble watermelons. Often called ‘white seed melon,’ egusi is related to melons and squashes. Egusi soup has the seeds of melon, gourd, and squash. The paste made with these seeds is the main ingredient in Nigerian cuisine. Egusi soup is often served with fufu from boiled cassava turned into balls.
Egusi soup is a one-pot meal with palm oil, hot peppers, and some other types of meats. It can also be eaten with other swallow foods, such as eba and pounded yam. Egusi soup is paired with swallows like eba, fufu, and pounded yam.
These seeds are extracted from the melon’s flesh, sun-dried, and then stored, deshelled, and coursed into flour. Mgban is another Nigerian food that gets its basic texture from egusi seeds and usu, a mushroom tuber.
2.4) Pepper Soup
Pepper soup is a popular dish in Africa. It is spicy and prepared with peppers and meat, like goat or chicken. The broth is seasoned with nutmeg, pepper, cocoplum, and rough-skinned plum. Combine the spice mix with water and herbs and if needed, squeeze some lime. It’s enjoyed with alcohol and eaten in variations.
The most commonly eaten version of pepper soup includes chicken, and this Nigerian dish’s recipe is easy! Start mixing, toasting, and grinding the spices to get a deeply-flavored spice mix. Next, combine the chicken and crayfish with the spice mix and add water. Once the chicken is tender, finish it with lime and dry pepper.
If you’re craving a spicy dish, pepper soup is your best choice! However, one of the reasons people find pepper soup a delicacy is that it offers medicinal qualities. It is believed that yam pepper soup cleanses the uterus after birth and helps produce milk.
Akara, also called kosai or fried bean cake, are fritters made using black peas. Fried bean cake is a commonly eaten Nigerian street food from enslaved people from West Africa.
Akara is a simple dish with four ingredients: black-eyed peas, salt, onions, and pepper. It is similar to pureed black-eyed peas, but it is a deep-fried snack, not a steamed one. It is often served with African corn pudding or bread.
Akara comes in various shapes and sizes and can be fried using different oils. The recipe uses simple ingredients and has fewer steps than other Nigerian dishes. Soak the peas, break them in a blender to loosen the skin, and pour the liquid of the peas into another bowl. The batter comes through quickly, and then whisk it.
Eating Akara is easy. You can eat it with ogi (fermented cornstarch custard) or sweetened oatmeal or dip it in yaji (a mixture of chiles, ginger, onions, and garlic). You can skip frying the batter and prepare it like pancakes or waffles.
2.6) Peanut Soup
Nigerian food consists of a long list of soups and stews, and peanut soup is a Nigerian favorite. This dish has protein and flavor and is a great way to get much-needed energy and spice.
The basic ingredients in peanut soup are meat, raw or roasted groundnut, uzizz seeds, palm oil, habanero peppers, ugwu or pumpkin leaves, grounded crayfish, onions, and salt. The palm oil adds color to the dish.
You can also use bitter leaves to tone down the sweetness if you don’t have a sweet tooth. However, if you enjoy bitter leaves for your Egusi soup, you should also use them for your Peanut soup. You can also replace the habanero peppers with dry cayenne peppers.
Peanut soup is nutty and savory and is commonly eaten for lunch or dinner. Peanut soup is eaten with carbohydrates like rice or eba. Peanut soup is served with Tuwo shinkafa or Omo tuo, dumplings made from rice. You can also serve peanut soup with starchy food like pounded yam, fufu, and rice. You can use mashed potatoes if you aren’t a fan of pounded yam.
It was originally made in the Northern part of the country and was called ‘miyar gyada.’ It is a common staple food served on special occasions.
Nigeria uses fried plantains to their utmost! Dodo is a dish that includes deep-fried plantain, usually served as an appetizer or snack, alongside a main course like a chicken stew. All you need to do is fry the plantain in vegetable or palm oil; that’s it! This fried plantain dish works great as a starter or a side and is flavored with cayenne pepper and salt.
As plantains ripen, their skin turns black. During this stage, the banana develops natural sugars which caramelize beautifully! This stage is considered to be the best for eating by Nigerians. Dodo is from the same family as moin moin and is called kelewele in Ghana, where it is cubed and spiced.
Plantains don’t have a high moisture content, so salting them doesn’t reduce any liquids, and it’s just for flavor. You can also season them with ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Dodo is often fried in unrefined palm or vegetable oil until golden brown.
2.8) African Salad (Abacha And Ugba)
Abacha and Ugba is a Nigerian food also termed as African salad. It is a cassava-based dish from Eastern Nigeria and is simple to make.
Abacha is dried and shredded cassava. Ugba is a fermented African oil bean seed. Abacha is a favorite when it comes to Nigerian food. This is because it is easy to make and has easy-to-source ingredients. To make a good African salad, you must ensure that all key ingredients are incorporated well.
Cassava tubers are cooked, shredded, soaked overnight, and then dried in the sun. The Abacha and Ugba are served with palm oil, dried fish, and hard-boiled eggs. African salad is enjoyed as a snack rather than a meal.
2.9) Ogbono Soup
From the list of soups and stews, Ogbono soup is packed with nutrition and has a lot of rich flavors. It is called ‘draw soup’ because it is slippery and viscous given by the bush mango seeds. It can also be made into a hearty stew with meats and fish.
The ingredients of Ogbono soup are very easy and accessible. Meats like oxtail and beef are great choices for the soup. You can also use fish. Smoked fish like the original surf and turf adds a great smokiness to the dish. Ogbono is the star of the ogbono soup; it turns the soup slippery and gives it a stew-like texture. The red palm oil dissolved lumps and mixes the ogbono seeds into soup. Crayfish is another flavoring you can use since it thickens the soup.
Chicken bouillon can help intensify the flavor, and finally, greens make the stew nutritious and healthy. Vegetarian ogbono soup may not have the same taste, but it is still a delicious dish. Replace the stock with vegetable broth, meat with tofu, and crayfish with kelp.
Ogbono soup is very beneficial, and African mango is known for its benefits and as a great source of calcium and potassium. Research has shown that African mango seeds can help lose weight and reduce cholesterol levels.
2.10) Yam Porridge
Yam porridge is also known as Asaro. It is also referred to as Yam pottage and is a very delicious Nigerian food eaten by many tribes in Nigeria. It’s also easy to make and a must-try recipe!
Asaro is made from yam that is boiled till tender and cooked with peppers, tomatoes, palm oil, and onions. The dish is more common in Yoruba-speaking regions of Nigeria, but most people of their regional variation enjoy it.
Each ingredient in this Nigerian food contributes to the amazing taste of this dish. African yam is the most suitable meat for this dish. Red bell peppers and habanero peppers add the perfect pepper mix. Palm oil gives the Nigerian dish some color. Onions bring out the additional spice and flavor of the dish. Salt and chicken bouillon powder can enrich the dish in moderate quantities. You can also use fish to add some spice and vegetables like basil or parsley as a garnish.
2.11) Moin Moin
Moin moin is a bean pudding cake prepared with black eyes peas, red bell peppers, and onions. A puree is made of these vegetables steamed in a frame using banana leaves.
It can use other ingredients like corned beef and bone marrow. One variation of moi moi, which is very popular, is moin-moin elemi meje or “moin-moin with seven souls.” Seven other ingredients are added to the dish, along with the basic ingredients. These include lobster, green peppers, butter, carrots, Titus fish, minced meat, and a hard-boiled egg.
Moi moi can be eaten as a snack or with Nigerian food like Jollof or white rice, and dodo.
2.12) Chin Chin
Chin Chin is a popular street food in Nigeria. This snack from West Africa is a great delicacy made of flour, milk, and sugar. After being deep fried, it is often served with powdered sugar sprinkled over it. Everyone makes Chin Chin differently, and it is similar to a deep-fried donut.
For a while, chin chin was made only with nutmeg as a flavor. However, a lot of creativity and new ingredients are being used. For the dough, gluten-free flours like almond are used, mixed with different spices like pumpkin leaves, aromatics like citrus zest, extracts like vanilla, and floral waters like a rose.
After you’ve fried the chin chins, you can toss them in syrups like caramel and sprinkle them with cookie crumbs. You can add the chin chins with a hot or cold beverage and even some milk.
2.13) Okra Soup
Okra soup, also known as Ila Alasepo, is a must-mention in the column of soups and stews in Nigerian food. Okra soup is an acquired taste because of its dense texture. Like Ogbono soup, Okra soup is thick and delicious, filled with nutrition. Okra soup is a vegetable soup of crunchy okra, pureed okra, spinach, basil, and pumpkin leaves.
Okra is a versatile vegetable that can be crunchy or pureed and be healthy either way. Okra can be cooked in various ways, with or without oil, vegetables, and Ogbono. Okra is also a great source of health. It is rich in vitamins A and C, antioxidants that reduce health conditions like heart diseases and strokes. However, people with diabetes should be careful near this Nigerian food because Okra can help control blood sugar, but it can counter-produce the effects of medicines for Type 2 diabetes.
2.14) Ewa Agoyin
Ewa Agoyin is a popular street food that is easy to make at home. The first step to making this Nigerian food is to boil the beans till they’re tender and mash them. A spicy stew often accompanies Ewa Agoyin, and this dish is called Ewa Agoyin Stew. Ewa Agoyin consists of mashed or steamed beans and a spicy stew prepared using bell peppers, palm oil, and onions. In this Nigerian food, honey beans are the preferred option to black-eyed peas.
Ewa Agoyin uses a sauce with dried tatashe, onions, and chili pepper. It is served as street food but can be seen in many West African countries as paired with the dodo, boiled yam, or soft bread.
2.15) Puff Puff
Puff-puff is a popular Nigerian food commonly served as street food. It is ball-shaped and is made with flour, the yeast used for baking bread, ground nutmeg, granulated sugar, salt, lukewarm water, and vegetable oil.
If your yeast looks like pebbles or is a paste, mix it with lukewarm water and set it aside; if it is powdered, you can add it with the other ingredients.
Puff Puffs have a doughnut-like texture but are a bit chewy. It is a very common snack but with different names and a bit of variation in the preparation mode. It is deep-fried and can be eaten plain or sprinkled with powdered sugar or vanilla. It is called boflot in Ghana, mikate in Congo, and bolinho in Angola.
After reading this list of amazing Nigerian food to fill your stomach, feel free to expand your culinary knowledge with this list of Malaysian food: Malaysian food: 20 Best Foods you can’t Skip
3) Nigerian Food – A Conclusion
Being a West African country, Nigeria has a wide variety of dishes and an endless list of delicious food depending on where in the country you are. Nigerian food is spicy and delicious food. A visit to Nigeria calls for exceptional delicacies that will thrill your taste buds.
Nigerian food comprises dishes made with the ingredients of numerous ethnic groups and countries from West Africa, like Ghana and the Benin Republic. Spices, herbs, groundnut oil – Nigerian food is filled with ingredients to spice up the dish with exciting flavors.
Nigerian food comprises a long list of soups, including Okra soup, Pepper soup, Ewedu soup, aided with swallows like fufu, amala, and pounded yam. Their use of spices like pepper and garnish like thyme makes the experience a must-try for everyone who enjoys food.
Nigerian food is often underrated. Nigerian food offers various ingredients and spices, and if you haven’t tried it yet, you are surely missing out! Finding such a combination of taste and health wrapped in one traditional dish is difficult.
Suggested reading: 13 Amazing Vegan Restaurants in Vancouver.