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Nigerian cuisine has some of the tastiest flavours in the world. This West African country is home to a wide variety of ethnic communities, and this is reflected in the country’s food. Like other West African cuisines, it uses many herbs and spices together with groundnut or palm oil to create richly flavoured soups and sauces.
Rice is one of the staple dishes and is consumed in every part of the country. It’s cooked in a variety of ways, such as coconut rice, fried rice and the popular jollof rice. Beans are another staple, and you’ll find them prepared in many different ways including in stews, soups and desserts.
If you’re curious and want to learn more before trying out some Nigerian food, take a look at some of the most popular dishes.
Jollof rice is one of the most popular foods in Nigeria. It’s eaten in many West African countries including Senegal, Ghana, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Togo and Mali. It’s a one pot dish of rice cooked with tomatoes, onions, scotch bonnet peppers, chilli peppers and spices such as curry powder, thyme and nutmeg. There are many variations of the dish, some of which include meat such as goat or beef. The rice absorbs all the flavours of the ingredients to create a crowd-pleasing dish often served at parties and get-togethers.
Pounded yam is a commonly served dish in Nigerian households. Yams are peeled, washed and boiled until tender. They’re then pounded until a soft mash with a creamy consistency is formed. Pounded yam is often compared to mashed potato, but with a more dough-like texture. It’s usually served with soups and stews.
Garri is another staple food in Nigerian households. Garri is a flour made from the fermented tuberous roots of the cassava plant. Before they are fermented, the tubers are peeled, washed and grated into a mash. It’s then dried or roasted to form a fine powder. When this powder is combined with hot water, it becomes ‘eba’ which is a starchy ball often served with stews and soups. It can also be eaten with beans or as a snack.
Pepper soup is a favourite throughout Nigeria. It is a light and spicy soup which is traditionally made with goat meat, but can also include beef, chicken or fish. It has a rich broth, spiced with pepper, ginger, garlic, onions and local spices such as ataiko (Alligator pepper), uda (negro pepper) and gbafilo (the kernel of the gbafilo fruit). Pepper soup is seen as a comfort food, with its restorative and delicious powers.
Egusi is the name for the seeds of fruits like squash, melons and gourds. When dried and ground, the seeds are a staple ingredient in many West African dishes. One of the most common dishes is egusi soup. This stew has a unique texture and fluffiness and is usually made with crayfish or other meat, and thickened with ground melon seeds. It can also contain a variety of vegetables, fermented beans and onions. It’s commonly served with garri and pounded yam.
Efo riro is a dish originating from the Yoruba ethnic group. It’s a rich soup made with pumpkin leaves, chicken or smoked fish, and beef. Vegetables like water leaf and spinach, as well as fermented locust beans are sometimes added as well. The meat and vegetables are stewed with fried blended peppers.
Suya is a popular street food in Nigeria. It’s the West African version of a shish kebab, where chunks of meat (usually beef) are skewered and grilled over an open flame. Suya refers to the seasoning mix that the meat is marinated in, consisting of ground peanuts, brown sugar, salt, pepper, paprika, ginger and chilli pepper. Typically eaten in the evening, suya is served with fresh cabbage, tomatoes and onions.
Akara (called kosai in the northern part of Nigeria) is a bean cake which is deep fried in palm or groundnut oil. Cowpeas are soaked in water to remove the skin before being mashed, shaped and deep fried. Many Nigerians choose to eat it for breakfast, and it can be widely found from street vendors. Akara can also be found throughout West African countries as well as Brazil, especially in the northeastern state of Bahia.
Another common bean dish is moi moi. This is a steamed bean pudding made from blended black eyed peas and oil, tomatoes, pepper, salt and spices such as scotch bonnet pepper and nutmeg. Some variations can also include hard boiled eggs, crayed fish, corned beef, onions and flaked fish. Moi moi can be eaten on its own or with soaked garri, jollof rice or fried rice.
Nkwobi is a delicacy which is usually enjoyed when eating out. It’s made from spiced cow leg which is marinated in a sauce made from utazi leaves and palm oil. Spices such as ground ginger, garlic powder, ground nutmeg and ground Cameroon pepper are added to the sauce. Nkwobi is usually served with palm wine, as it’s said to be the best drink to wash it down.
This is a street food commonly eaten across Nigeria. Black eyed peas or Nigerian honey beans are boiled until soft before being mashed. The pepper sauce that goes with it is traditionally made with dried chillies or Cameroon peppers, dried red bell peppers and lots of onions. Ewa aganyin is best served with a starchy side like plantains, boiled yam or bread to soak up the sauce.
Common amongst the Igbo people of Eastern Nigeria, abacha and ugba is known as African Salad. Abacha is made from cassava which is cooked, grated and sun dried. It’s served with sliced ugba, or oil bean seeds, which have been cooked, sliced, washed and left to ferment. These ingredients are then mixed together with fresh vegetables, fried fish and ponmo (cow skin).