Nigerian food is becoming increasingly popular in the western world and for a good reason. These dishes are well-known for their flavorful spices, hearty portions, and variety of textures and colors.
Spice-lovers will especially appreciate Nigerian food, as much of it includes ample amounts of hot peppers and spices. Plus, there are many known benefits to eating spicy food, so you can feel extra good about indulging in these Nigerian dishes.
However, there are some options that include little to no spice. If you’d rather ease into it than go entirely out of your comfort zone, there are a few particular items you can start with.
Popular Nigerian Food
In any case, if you’re looking to try something new, be sure to check out the following most popular Nigerian foods.
Jollof rice is a West African dish popular not only in Nigeria but also in Senegal, The Gambia, Ghana, and Ivory Coast.
You make it by cooking rice in a tomato and pepper sauce, which gives it its characteristic red color.
The rice is often cooked with meat or vegetables, making it a complete meal. Common meats served with jollof rice include chicken, goat, and beef.
You can also find versions of jollof rice made with fish or seafood, but chicken and beef are my favorite meat additions.
It is by far the most popular Nigerian food for Nigerians, tourists, and non-Nigerians who like eating Nigerian food in other countries, like the US and the UK.
It is also the most common food to be catered to at a Nigerian event. So if you ever plan on going to a Nigerian party, graduation, or wedding, you can surely expect to find tasty jollof rice.
Ogbono soup is a thick, delicious soup made with Ogbono seeds, also known as African wild mango seeds.
These seeds are rich in fat and have a slippery texture, which is why the soup has a unique slimy consistency.
I typically prepare this soup with beef, chicken, or fish, as well as various vegetables like spinach, okra, and pumpkin leaves.
If it has a large amount of okra in it, it is alternatively called okra soup, which is less common but still considered one of the most popular Nigerian foods.
People usually serve Ogbono soup with Fufu, a ball of cassava or yam that has been boiled and pounded into a dough-like consistency.
Suya is spicy, grilled meat cooked on skewers. It includes ingredients that contribute to its robust and punchy flavor, such as pepper flakes, garlic powder, and onion.
It originated in northern Nigeria but is now widespread across the country and beyond. It is seen as an easy-to-eat street food because it can be served quickly and eaten immediately.
I love the smokiness of these grilled beef skewers.
And although meat skewers are typical in various parts of the world, there is something exceptional about the way they are made in Nigeria, perhaps due to the peanut rub, pepper flakes, and other more unique spices and additions.
Àkàrà is a dish that has spread in popularity throughout West Africa, the Caribbean, and Brazil.
Other names for it include black-eyed peas fritters, Acaraje, bean fritters, or Koos (in Ghana).
It’s a quick, easy-to-prepare dish made by deep-frying a mixture of black-eyed peas paste with peppers, onions, salt, and seasoning cubes like Maggi cubes.
This Nigerian street food is excellent for a quick snack if you want to make just a few.
But if you are hosting an event, this is also a nice addition to the menu because you can easily make them in large batches.
Èfó Riro is a vegetable soup most commonly eaten by the Yoruba tribe. It’s a highly scrumptious dish filled with spinach and red bell peppers.
Like many Nigerian soups, you can choose to include a range of meats within it, but I think smoked fish or stockfish pairs the best, adding a salty element to the spinach and peppers.
I also like to add a little bit of crayfish for extra flavor.
This soup is one I could eat every day! However, it may sound healthy given all the vegetables, but the amount of palm oil included might not make it as healthy as it sounds, especially if you get it at a restaurant.
However, if you learn to cook it on your own, you can portion out the ingredients in a way that’s both healthy and tasty.
Tuwo Shinkafa is a soft rice-based dish that originated in Niger and northern Nigeria.
Like Fufu and Garri (aka Eba, which I’ll discuss next), Tuwo Shinkafa is what Nigerians call a “swallow,” because it’s meant to be eaten with your hands, you use it to scoop up other dishes like soup or stew, and it’s soft and easy to swallow.
The most common dish people eat Tuwo Shinkafa with is Miyan Kuka, a soup made with powdered baobab leaves and various spices.
But you can eat it with any Nigerian soup or stew of your choice.
Eba is another “swallow” food and my personal favorite of all of them. It is made out of fried cassava called Garri, which is why some people refer to it as such.
You use boiling hot water to combine and mash up the gari, which comes in a crushed, powder-like form, then roll it up into individual portions, typically a bit larger than a handful.
There are two types of Eba – yellow and white. They are practically the same, but yellow means that the gari was fried with palm oil, while the white was not.
Thus, if you want to choose the healthier option, go with the white one. However, if you like the taste of palm oil, the yellow one will be perfect.
Either way, this is my favorite swallow for eating Ogbono, okra, egusi, bitter leaf soup, and other Nigerian soups.
Like jollof rice, egusi soup is undoubtedly one of the most popular Nigerian foods and has made a cultural impact throughout the globe.
Egusi soup’s primary ingredient is egusi, otherwise known as pumpkin seeds, which give it its unique, nutty, addictive flavor.
Other common ingredients in egusi soup include leafy greens like spinach or bitter leaf, various meats and fish, palm oil, and crayfish.
It’s also known for its spicy notes, so it is a must to use hot peppers like scotch pepper or habanero.
Moin Moin, otherwise known as Moi Moi, is a bean pudding dish. You make it by peeling black-eyed peas and mashing it with onions, ground red pepper, and sometimes crayfish and egg.
It is a steamed dish, so you put it in a container, typically made out of leaves, and then steam it.
The most popular way to eat Moin Moin is by itself as a snack or light meal. But you can also find it served as a side dish alongside rice.
It’s common to find this dish at parties, either as a side or a tasty appetizer before the dinner portion of the event.
Speaking of Nigerian events, puff puff is another common party snack that puts smiles on people’s faces.
Who can resist a deep-fried combination of flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and oil?
These Nigerian pasties aren’t the best for your waistline, but they are delicious.
I most commonly eat Puff Puff on its own because it doesn’t need anything else to make it tasty.
However, if I have a plate full of Nigerian food, I might use the Puff Puff as a swallow substitute, dipping it in a soup or eating it with my jollof rice.
Nigerians are known for loving their plantain, just like many people in the Caribbean and South American areas of the world.
And although fried plantains are common for parties, roasted plantains – or Boli – are arguably more common for everyday meals because they are less messy to make, healthier, and just as tasty.
The most traditional way to serve Boli is with groundnuts, which add a salty element to the sweet and savory banana-like flavor of the plantains.
Asaro, also known as yam porridge, is a one-pot meal people tend to eat for lunch.
It’s made with boiled yams that are then mashed and combined with a stew made from tomatoes, onions, crayfish, and hot peppers.
I most often eat Asaro with fried plantains, but you can also eat it with rice or simply alone, especially since the yam already provides enough carbs and a satisfying texture.
Some people like to add a bit of sugar for some sweetness, but I prefer my Asaro to be savory and spicy.
Chin Chin is a popular snack made by deep-frying a dough made of flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
It sounds similar to puff puff, but the pieces are much smaller, and the texture ends up harder, only slightly softer than nuts.
Chin Chin is not as much of a dish on its own but a prevalent snacking item, similar to chips or cookies. This snack-like association is why Chin Chin is regularly seen as Nigerian events well before dinner is expected.
Sometimes, hosts will automatically have Chin Chin on the tables where people will be seated so guests can snack on them during the early hours of the party.
But be careful: they’re addicting! It’s hard to have just one handful.
Fufu is another swallow that is the most dough-like of them all.
Like Eba/Garri, you make it by pouring the flour of starchy food like cassava or yams into boiling water and then pounding it until it takes its final dough-like form.
Fufu and Garri are very similar in this way, but Garri is typically a bit coarser and Fufu smoother.
Additionally, Fufu is more challenging to prepare, as the pounding process takes more work than it does with Garri.
I like the texture of the different tubers included in Garri/Eba more, but many people prefer the finer texture of Fufu. Try both Fufu and Garri and see which one you prefer!
Nkwobi is a cow foot dish made with Ugba, an African oil bean seed that has many health benefits.
Ugba gives the Nkwobi its distinct, slightly sour flavor. The dish is also made with crayfish, palm oil, ground chili pepper, and other seasonings.
Nkwobi is most commonly eaten as a party or specialty dish, but it can also be enjoyed as an everyday dish if you have the time and energy to make it.
Like many other Nigerian dishes, Nkwobi is meant to be spicy, so use the hottest peppers available to you.
Banga Soup or Ofe Aku
Banga soup, or Ofe Aku, has many of the same ingredients as other Nigerian dishes, such as hot peppers, catfish, and leafy greens like bitter leaves.
But what’s unique about this soup is that it includes palm nuts, palm fruit concentrate, or both.
This addition gives the soup a particularly nutty flavor and loads of vitamins A, K, and E.
The most common meat for Banga soup is dried stockfish, but you can also include beef or fresh fish.
Last but not least is a soup that you know will be spicy – pepper soup!
I love eating pepper soup when I’m feeling under the weather because it has a nice way of clearing out your sinuses.
People traditionally prepare pepper soup with goat meat, but if you aren’t a huge fan of goat meat, you can easily substitute chicken or beef.
Crayfish, palm oil, and, of course, hot peppers like scotch bonnet or habanero peppers are included in this dish.
I include a decent amount of chicken stock cubes and other seasoning cubes for flavor.
Popular Nigerian Food
- Jollof Rice
- Ogbono Soup
- Èfó Riro
- Tuwo Shinkafa
- Egusi Soup
- Moin Moin
- Puff Puff
- Boli (Roasted Plantain)
- Asaro (Yam Porridge)
- Chin Chin
- Banga Soup or Ofe Aku
- Pepper Soup
The most popular Nigerian foods tend to have a few things in common, especially among their food groups.
The soups are usually spicy, savory, meaty, and flavorful. The swallows start as a powder-like substance and are then pounded in hot water to form a dough-like substance. And the snacks are typically fried, deep-fried, or grilled to perfection.
There are delicious Nigerian foods for lunch, dinner, appetizers, and even pre-dinner party favors.
If you are in the mood for a new type of food and aren’t too nervous about the spice levels, go ahead and give Nigerian food a try!
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