Nigerians dwell in the western region of Africa with over 200 million native inhabitants. Aside from being known as the most populous country in Africa. They are also known for preparing one of the best party Jollof rice globally. As much as Jollof rice is the most famous Nigerian dish, the cuisine still has several traditional Nigerian food. Like well spiced up soups or stews, swallow foods and meat.
What’s Special About Nigerian Food
Nigerian food embodies a cuisine with food items and dishes from hundreds of ethnic groups. Even though the dishes in Nigeria have almost the same quality and standard as other west African countries’ dishes. Nigerian food can still be differentiated from other west African meals due to its deeply rooted flavored sauces and soups.
A large share of every Nigerian food is enveloped with vegetables, herbs, and spices with groundnut oil or palm oil making the food highly scented and spicy.
Thanks to the internet and the Nigerian diaspora, traditional Nigerian cuisine has become more famous outside of Africa. The curiosity of the people about Nigerian’s traditional food has risen drastically over the years.
If you’re traveling to Nigeria, there is a wide range of Nigerian dishes you can try. Here are some of the most popular traditional Nigerian food and dishes from different tribes in Nigeria.
Most Popular Nigerian Food
Nigerian Jollof Rice
It’s no news that several celebrities like Cardi B, Keri Hilson, and Akon endorsed Nigerian Jollof rice after visiting Nigeria and tasting the dish. Jollof rice is one of the dishes in Nigeria that is widely consumed in the country. It’s regarded as a national dish by Nigerians and is mostly served with plantain, meat like chicken, turkey, beef, or fish, and drinks or beverages.
Aside from being a one-pot dish that’s popular in many West African countries like Nigeria, Togo, Senegal, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Gambia. West Africa holds several versions of the popular dish, however, the Nigerian food version stands out among the rest and gets widely accepted.
Guess what makes the Nigerian jollof rice version special and an exception among the rest of the west African Jollof rice? It’s the way this Nigerian food is prepared: It’s made with rice, tomato paste, pimento peppers, tomato, salt, ginger, scotch bonnet peppers, garlic, red pepper, onions, salt, and other spices.
Traditional Nigerian Food – Staples
Iyan (Pounded Yam)
Nigeria is known as one of the world’s largest producers of yams. Iyan is one of the dishes in Nigeria that is loved by all the tribes in Nigeria. A large share of the people in many parts of the country keeps to the saying “yam is food and food is yam.”
Iyan is a Nigerian food that is popularly prepared by pounding the yam into a solid paste. As one of the best Nigerian food, every ethnic group has its way of preparing the dish(pounding the yam) which is slightly different. The smooth paste formed after pounding the yam is formed into balls. The balls formed from pounding the yam “Iyan”, are part of a great group of foods called “swallows.”
It’s best to serve the pounded yam alongside soups like Egusi soup and Edikang Ikong Soup.
Fufu (Cassava Dough-like Food)
Fufu is one of the Nigerian food that goes along with several traditional Nigerian dishes. Aside from being a common food among Nigerians, it is a staple food derived from fermented or unfermented cassava that’s been boiled, pounded, and then formed into balls.
The phrase “Fufu” is a word for a specific traditional Nigerian dish. Though it serves as an umbrella term for the family of starchy Nigerian foods. Regardless, the description has expanded over the years to include other staple foods made from starchy ingredients like yam, wheat, plantains, maize, and rice.
Fufu is made by peeling the already boiled cassava and then cutting it into smaller sizes before pounding with mortar and pestle. A small and smooth mixture is formed before being shaped into small balls and served.
Eba (Fermented/Unfermented Cassava)
Eba is a common Nigerian food made with dried and fried cassava flour called Garri. It can be served with many traditional Nigerian foods (soup or stew). To make Eba, the cassava tubers are shucked into smaller sizes, crushed, mashed, pressed, dried, and fried to make the cassava flour. Once the cassava flour is ready, it is mixed with boiled water to make a dough. The dough is resized into smaller balls for consumption.
Tuwo Shinkafa (Rice Meal Swallow)
Tuwo Shinkafa is a popular traditional Nigerian food that evolved in Northern Nigeria. Traditionally, the meals are made with grains “rice” and rice flour as well. The rice is boiled until it is soft and sticky. Next, the rice is mashed into a dough, and reduced into balls before being served with miyan kardashi or miyan kuka soup.
Traditional Nigerian Food – Soups / Stews
Stews and soups in Nigeria are not just delicious but also constitutes a significant part of the Nigerian diet. Here are just some of the most popular out of the wide plethora of stews and soups in Nigeria.
Egusi Soup (Melon Soup)
The Egusi soup is a popular traditional Nigerian dish that is common in the southern parts of Nigeria. The name Egusi is applied to the members of the gourd family and has seeds of high oil content.
To start with, the egusi soup gains its uniqueness from the seed added which is popularly known as the Egusi gourd. It is rich in protein and takes the shape and form of the watermelon gourd. It is sundry and ground into a staple ingredient used in several Nigerian foods – one of those dishes is the Egusi soup.
Egusi soup is considered by many Nigerians a national dish and a one-pot meal. It is made with ground egusi, leafy vegetables, onions, locust beans, stock fish, hot pepper, fish, palm oil, and your desired meat. Moreover, an Egusi soup can be served with several Nigerian swallows like pounded yam, amala, Eba, and fufu.
If you prefer meals that are rich in vegetables, and natural ingredients, fill the stomach and taste great – Then Egusi soup is the Nigerian dish for you.
Ewedu Soup (Jute Leaves Soup)
Ewedu soup is one of the most renowned traditional Nigerian food(soup) and a popular vegetable soup made with jute leaves. The leafy vegetable is mostly found in subtropical and tropical countries in the world. Every tribe in Nigeria has a name for the jute leaf, It’s native to the Yoruba people of western Nigeria but it’s common in other parts of West Africa, East Africa, and North Africa as well.
To prepare an Ewedu soup – a short broomstick called Ijade is used to mash the leafy vegetables and then cooked with bouillon powder, ground crayfish, locust beans, and salt. Once it is ready and well cooked, the leaves turn into a slimy vicious liquid.
Ewedu soup is mostly paired with Amala but it can be served with other Nigerian food like pounded yam, Eba, and Fufu. Ewedu soup can be served on its own with amala, but it isn’t uncommon to find it served with other types of Nigerian stew except for Gbegiri soup.
Ila Alasepo (Okra Soup)
Okra soup is a common traditional Nigerian dish, it is popularly called Ila Alasepo by the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria. The soup radiates a unique taste that changes everything about your present mood, even on the most exhausting day. One of the things that make Ila Alasepo stand out is the mixture it possesses – Okra and stew. It’s a balanced diet and pairs well with all swallows.
Some chefs love having different consistencies of okra soup. He or she might serve you a bowl of okra soup with a crunchy edge or a bowl with pureed okra. Each chef has their preferences in terms of the consistency of okra soup. Some people prefer leaving the palm oil or substituting it with vegetable oil if they’re watching their fat intake, but we suggest having this soup with palm oil.
Efo Riro (Nigerian Spinach Stew)
Efo Riro is a native Nigerian dish that is common among the Yoruba tribe. The word Efo means “Spinach” while “riro” mean stirring. The soup is an extract of spinach made by cooking the vegetable with palm oil, locust beans, African crayfish, pepper, stockfish, meat, salt, etc. To crown it all, the vegetable used is either the African spinach (Efo Tete) or Lagos spinach(Efo Shoko).
Afang Soup(Spinach and Okazi leaves)
Afang vegetable soup evolved from the Efik tribe that dwells in the Southern part of Nigeria. The Ibibio and Anang people are the origin of the slippery vegetable soup loaded with several types of meat and fish like crayfish and stockfish. The Afang soup is a delight to behold and to eat, the uniqueness of the meal says it’s all. It is also a healthy way of adding more greens to your diet and meal plans.
The slimy textured soup is loaded with chunks of vegetables, protein, meat, palm oil, spices, and seasoning. To top it off, it is best paired with your favorite starchy side. The soup is mostly eaten with pounded yam or any sort of fufu or eba and it is best served warm.
Ogbono Soup (Draw Soup)
Ogbono is made with a special tree grown that bears edible African mango fruit (Ogbono seeds). Southeastern Nigeria is known for this type of Nigerian food made with vegetables, meat, and fish cooked in a broth thickened with ground mango seeds.
The slippery soup with a distinct aroma and the slimy thickness produced when cooked is similar to the jute leaves in Ewedu soup or okra. Like many Nigerian foods and stews, Ogbono is typically eaten with swallow-like pounded yam.
The soup might surprise you with its texture, but we promise you’ll enjoy it. No matter where you eat the Ogbono soup, you’ll be getting tons of nutrients such as healthy fats, proteins, fibers, and calcium.
Banga Soup (Palm Nut Soup)
One of the popular dishes in Nigeria is the palm nut soup which is commonly known as Banga soup. It is a traditional Nigerian food from the Urhobo people in Niger Delta, Nigeria. It serves as a soup on several staple foods (Swallow) like pounded yam, fufu, eba, and amala. Aside from all the traditional Nigerian food mentioned earlier, the Banga soup is a local favorite. You should definitely try it if you are visiting the Niger Delta axis of Nigeria.
There are several ways to prepare the Banga soup. The taste of the Banga soup depends on where it was prepared. The Urhobo people prepare theirs with fresh palm fruit, a variety of fish and meat, onions, garlic, scotch bonnet peppers, oburunbebe stick (licorice), beletete leaves (bush apple), and Banga spice leaves.
Edikang Ikong Soup (Nigerian Vegetable Soup)
The Edikang ikong soup is one of the must-try Nigerian food. It is regarded as a highly nutritious dish but expensive to make. Most people believe that only the rich can afford such dishes in Nigeria.
The traditional Nigerian food is majorly found at special occasions like weddings, eateries, and rich people’s homes. Besides, the Efik people of southeastern Nigeria make the best Edikang Ikong soup and own the delicacy.
This traditional Nigerian dish is made with an enormous amount of water leaves (Malabar spinach), ugu (fluted pumpkin), African crayfish, stockfish, periwinkle (sea snail), palm oil, and a variety of meat like cow foot, beef, turkey, chicken, tripe, and ponmo. it’s commonly paired with Nigerian swallow foods like fufu, eba, or pounded yam.
Gbegiri Soup (Beans Soup)
The Gbegiri soup is part of traditional Nigerian cuisine that emerged from the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria. The Nigerian food (soup) is made from peeled and cooked beans. The best part of the soup is the bone marrow and biscuit bone that will be added.
Definitely try some these delightful, mouthwatering Nigerian soups when you visit Nigeria. Regardless, the prepared Gbegiri or Abula soup is often served with Ewedu and stew to add more uniqueness to the taste of the food or the meal.
Ofada Stew (Ayamase Stew)
The Ofada stew is a popular native Yoruba stew, also called rich stew or Ayamase stew. The stew is made with red bell peppers, bleached palm oil, locust beans, onions, crayfish, stockfish, and a variety of meat like beef, cow foot, tripe, beef, turkey, chicken, and ponmo. Once the stew is ready, it is served with the already prepared Ofada rice(an unpolished short grain local rice that is grown in southwest Nigeria) or plain rice.
FLAVORS AROUND THE WORLD
Traditional Nigerian Food – Salads and Side Dishes
Abacha And Ugba (Traditional Nigerian Salad)
Nigeria salad popularly known as Abacha and Ugba is a cassava-based dish from the eastern part of Nigeria. Also known as traditional Nigerian salad or African salad, Abacha and Ugba is a common dish in Nigerian cuisine.
As one of the traditional Nigerian dishes, it’s mostly enjoyed as a snack rather than a full meal. The dish is a mixture of fermented African oil bean seeds (ugba) and dried shredded cassava (abacha).
The plucked cassava tubers are cooked and then minced with a grater into smaller sizes. The already minced cassava is then soaked for a day before being washed, sundry, and made available for use. Immediately the Abacha is ready for use, it is mixed with dried fish, sliced ugu, palm oil, locust beans, boiled egg, nutmeg, ponmo, African crayfish, onions, and dried fish.
Moin Moin Elemi Meje (Steamed Or Boiled Bean Pudding)
Bean pudding cake(Moi Moi or Moin Moin) is a protein-rich Nigerian food made with black-eyed peas, palm oil or groundnut oil, onions, and peppers (scotch bonnet, red bell pepper, and habanero). The ingredients are mixed and then steamed into a mold called Moi Moi.
Moin Moin is a versatile dish that can be served alone, paired with other Nigerian food like dodo, pap, white rice, and jollof rice, or eaten with bread. To make the moin moin taste better, some chef use additional ingredients like beef, sardines, bone marrow, hard-boiled eggs, Titus fish, lobster, minced meat, green peppers, carrots, and butter.
Ewa Agoyin (Cooked Beans)
Ewa Agoyin also called Ewa Aganyin is a popular traditional Nigerian food mostly found on the street of Nigeria, especially in Lagos. It is made by cooking the beans until it is extremely soft or mashed, it is then served with a spicy stew made with hot pepper, onions, palm oil, and bell pepper. Traditionally, Nigerian food is often made in many Yoruba households as well as street food in Nigeria. It’s usually paired with dodo, soft bread, and boiled or fried yams.
Akara (Black Eyed Peas Fritters)
Nothing warms up a Saturday morning in a Nigerian home like a plateful of Akara served with a freshly baked bread loaf or a bowl of pap. Akara is also known as black-eyed pea fritters, Kosai, Acarajé, and Koose.
Though it’s evolved from the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria it has found its way to several countries in Africa. The irresistible, quite filling, crispy, golden colored and tasty Akara is a very delicious, vegetarian-friendly meal.
Akara is made with a few ingredients – Onions, black-eyed pea, pepper, and salt. It can be eaten on its own or served with other Nigerian foods like pap or bread. They are also good for evening snacks, appetizers, and as a simple, comforting snack.
Asaro is a traditional Nigerian food from the southern and eastern parts of Nigeria. As a homemade meal from the western region, it is made by mashing the yam after boiling. To spice the Nigerian food the following factors are added: Tomatoes and the big red pepper sauce with palm oil or vegetable oil, chili, meat, and crayfish.
It is nicknamed “Asaro elepo rede rede” meaning yam porridge boldly colored with fresh palm oil and garnished to perfection. Nigerian food is common among the Yoruba tribe though the yam recipe is eaten by most tribes in the country. If you love yam, this Nigerian dish should appeal to you.
Ikokore (Water Yam Porridge)
Ikokore(Ifokore) is a common Nigerian food from the Ijebu people that dwells in the southwestern part of the country. Nigerian food has almost the same feature as yam porridge the only difference is the water yam used.
The yam is grated due to its watery state and cooked with pepper that forms the Ikokore. It is also considered a healthy dish that aids digestion and helps with constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.
Locals believe that the antioxidants in water yam help to reduce damage by free radicals in the body and slow down the effects of aging. They also have anti-inflammatory properties which help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Ebiripo (Cocoyam Pudding)
The Ijebu’s from the southwestern part of Nigeria is known for making several Nigerian foods like Ebiripo. As one of Nigerian traditional dishes, the meal can be prepared in various ways and spiced up with several ingredients of your choice to make a balanced meal.
It is made by grating coco-yam to a paste, groundnut oil, and salt are added and tasted. After tasting, the leaves get filled to the brim before boiling. The dish can be eaten with complements like Elegusi or Efo Riro.
Boli (Roasted Plantain)
Who doesn’t love fried plantains? If you love fried plantains like those in Colombian food, you’ll definitely like Boli. Boli (Roasted plantain) evolved from the Yoruba tribe in the southwestern part of Nigeria. The sweet ripe Nigerian plantain is made by coating the plantain with olive oil, adding well-seasoned spices, and sauce, and getting it grilled to perfection. Though the yummy snack got its popularity from the street, it is also prepared at home – on an open grill, or oven.
Roasted plantain is a common snack among low-income earners and students in Nigeria. Everyone knows there is no class when it comes to a delicious and healthy meal like Boli. It’s all about enjoyment and filling your stomach. The Nigerian Roasted Plantain is mostly served with grilled fish, pepper sauce, roasted groundnuts (peanuts).
Traditional Nigerian Food – Meat Dishes
Gizdodo (Gizzard and Plantain With Stew Sauce)
Gizdodo is a traditional Nigerian dish that gets its name from the two main ingredients used to make it – stewed fried chicken gizzard and dodo. It’s often served at parties and gatherings as an appetizer or as a side dish to Nigerian foods like jollof rice.
The name Gizdodo was derived from the two main ingredients used in preparing the dish – dodo and stewed fried chicken gizzard. It is mostly served at gatherings and parties as a dish or appetizer besides Nigerian foods like rice.
Gizdodo is made by deep trying the chicken gizzard after getting it well cooked. It is then mix with the tomato sauce, plantains, onions, pepper, and bell peppers.
Kilishi (Nigerian Beef Jerky)
Bauchi is home to the dried meat called Kilishi that has gone beyond Northern, Nigeria, and Africa. The Hausa people made Kilishi by removing the bones of animals such as cow, goats, or sheep, cutting them into smaller sizes, and sun-drying.
If you love eating well-smoked dried meat, you would probably love this traditional Nigerian dish. It can be served as a side dish or as a main meal. Kilishi came into existence when people had to keep time for a long time in the past. Nowadays, the Nigerians’ Kilishi is mostly enjoyed with the Nigerian jollof rice.
Nkwobi (Spicy Cow Foot Delicacy)
Nkwobi is a popular delicacy that is commonly ordered and enjoyed in Nigerian restaurants and hotel bars. As a delicious and spicy cow feet delicacy, it is a formal eat-out meal common in all eateries in Nigeria. The uniqueness of the dish comes from the sauce and the meat used to prepare the dish.
A dish like Owho soup and Isiewu holds almost the same taste as Nkwobi. The sauce is a mixture of bleached palm oil and potash that makes the oil lie together. Some chefs also add Gound Ehuru seeds (Monodora myristica) to enrich the aroma of the Nigerian dish.
Asun (Peppered Goat Meat)
Asun is commonly known as a peppered Goat meat dish in Nigeria. The lip-smacking and finger-licking delicacy own its taste to the recipes and ingredients that make up the meat sauced dish.
The Peppered goat meat is made with red bell peppers and spicy habanero. It is a delicious delicacy that keeps you wanting more of its rich flavors. Asun can be eaten as a side dish served with cauliflower rice or any low-carb dish, or just eaten by itself.
Traditional Nigerian Food – Sweets and Snacks
In Nigeria, there are many delicious desserts and snacks that will tantalize your taste buds. From sweet to savory, these traditional bites will leave you wanting more. Here are just some of the most popular Nigerian desserts, sweets, and snacks.
Chin Chin (Nigerian Fried Dough)
The Nigerian Chin chin is a delicious and easy-to-make Nigerian snack. It is prepared with the basic ingredients of flour, sugar, and milk. The dough is kneaded until it’s smooth, cut into small pieces, and fried in hot oil.
Some like to include additional ingredients such as eggs, nutmegs, or baking powder to change the taste or texture of the Chin Chin.
Despite the simplicity, The Nigerian Chin chin is a perfect snack for any occasion, and it can be served with tea or coffee. It is also a popular street food in Nigeria that is mostly enjoyed by kids.
Nigerian Coconut Candy
Coconut candy is a classic Nigerian sweet treat that has been around for as long as every Nigerian could remember. Nigerian coconut candy is one of the popular street snacks enjoyed by people all over the country.
It could be chewy or crunchy depending on how it was made or prepared. The coconut flakes become irresistible, crispy, and caramelized after getting baked in the oven. It is enveloped with a nice combination of tastes that makes it unique.
It can be served as a topping for ice cream, yogurt, and even with garri. Moreover, every Nigerian coconut candy is made with two major ingredients – brown sugar and grated coconuts.
Robo is one of the Nigerian foods(snacks) that are extracted from melon seed oil (Ororo Egusi). Once the oil is extracted from the seeds, the residual crushed/ ground seeds (high in protein) are seasoned and formed into balls/ cakes which are then deep-fried – your Robo snack.
They are similar to a groundnut cake made in the north of Nigeria called Kuli Kuli. A version exists, combined with beans and that is known as Igbalo. They taste extremely nutty. You get a toasted peanut flavor on each bite.
Aadun is a peculiar traditional Nigerian food that is common among the Yoruba tribe in Nigeria and is mostly found on the street of Nigeria. The Nigerian snacks are sold primarily as street snack, it is also served at festive functions like traditional weddings or naming ceremonies. It has a bright brownish color that comes from the plant oil used in making it.
The savory snack originated from the Yoruba Tribe; the snack is made from a combination of the spices needed, roasted corn flour and palm oil, or by sun-drying corn after which it is ground alone or with dry pepper. The result is a taste and texture that is interesting crumbly with a light powder-like feel on the tongue. Besides, the taste is beyond words that keep many coming back for more.
Discovering Traditional Nigerian Food
As you take a bite of these Nigerian foods, you are sure to be transported to a world of flavor. The next time you are in Nigeria, be sure to order some of these traditional Nigerian dishes and enjoy a taste of the country’s rich culture. Mealtime in Nigeria is more meaningful and enjoyable with all these tasty Nigerian foods.