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Comprised of age-old recipes and techniques from hundreds of different ethnic groups, Nigerian food is packed with so many different colors, flavors, and ingredients.
Rife with hearty staples and infused with many different herbs and spices, Nigerian cuisine is a feast for both the eyes and the stomach.
Get ready for lavish decoration, gorgeous colors, and yummy fusions, as a native Nigerian takes us on a culinary journey through West Africa. Here are 16 traditional Nigerian foods you simply have to try.
Popular & Traditional Nigerian Foods
1 – Jollof Rice
Jollof rice is a popular dish eaten in West African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Liberia, Mali, Togo, Gambia, and Côte d’Ivoire.
There is, however, a prominent rivalry between Nigeria and Ghana over which variation of the meal tastes better.
This has led to many creative jollof rice recipes. At the base of this delicacy are rice, tomato, and pepper.
This delicious rich base is then frequently garnished with carrots, onions, prawns, butter, and green peas (as desired).
Jollof rice is usually eaten with side dishes such as fried plantains, vegetable salad with cream, coleslaw, and moin moin (bean pudding), in addition to proteins such as beef, chicken, turkey, and fish.
You should definitely try this delicious Nigerian dish, which has graced many dinner tables, parties, restaurants, and ceremonies.
2 – Iyan (Pounded Yam)
Another great Nigerian dish you should try is pounded yam. It is predominant among the Yorubas and dates back to many centuries.
Similar to mashed potatoes, iyan is a bunch of yam pieces pounded or mashed using a mortar and pestle, blender, or mixer.
The process produces a smooth, sticky dough, making it slightly different from mashed potatoes.
It can be enjoyed with various kinds of tasty stews and soups, like egusi soup (melon seed soup), or efo riro (leafy vegetable stew). The soup may be served on the same plate or on a different plate.
Pounded yam is commonly eaten with the hand or cutlery at weddings, parties, and other celebrations.
It is quite a heavy meal, which is served as lunch or early dinner. Iyan is a beloved food of Nigeria, eaten by many across the country.
3 – Àmàlà (Yam Flour/ Cassava Flour/ Plantain Flour)
Àmàlà is a delicacy, common in the south western part of Nigeria. There are three variations of àmàlà: yam flour (àmàlà isu), cassava flour (àmàlà láfún) and plantain flour (àmàlà ogede).
Yam flour is made from peeled and dried yam pieces, blended into a powder. It has a dark brown or black colour.
Cassava flour is made from dried cassava and blended into powder, with a light color.
Plantain flour is made from peeled, dried, and blended unripe plantain. It has a lower carbohydrate content compared to the other two variations.
This is mostly preferred by people with diabetes and those on a low-carb diet.
Àmàlà may be eaten with ewedu (jute mallow soup), or any other desired soup. You should definitely try this delicious Nigerian meal!
4 – Ogbono Soup (African Mango Seed Soup)
Ogbono is a draw (slippery) soup made from blended ogbono (African mango) seeds.
This soup is predominant in the south-eastern part of Nigeria, among the Igbos but is also enjoyed in the South West.
It is often made with palm oil, spices, meat, fish and stock. For a great combination, it’s best eaten with ẹ̀bà (cassava meal), àmàlà, or pounded yam.
In addition to being tasty, ogbono is also rich in fat, protein, iron, fiber, zinc, vitamins, potassium, calcium, and other valuable nutrients. It’s a Nigerian dish full of health benefits.
Ogbono is a quick, easy, and versatile meal. It may be cooked with or without vegetables, okra, or egusi (melon seeds), depending on your preference.
Whichever way it’s made, be rest assured that you’ll smack your lips in satisfaction!
5 – Puff-Puff (Fried Sweet Dough Ball)
Puff-puff is a fried sweet dough ball made from flour, sugar, butter, yeast or baking powder, and vegetable oil.
It is prominent in some parts of West Africa, with varying names. For example, in Nigeria and Cameroon, it is called Puff-puff; while in Ghana, it is called Bofrot.
Puff-puff is commonly eaten during picnics, ceremonies, and parties as appetizers or desserts.
It may be garnished with various flavors like vanilla and cinnamon. In addition, it may be taken as a stand-alone snack or as a light breakfast meal with any beverage.
This yummy snack is deep-fried in vegetable oil, giving it a golden brown appearance that can make the mouth water with just a glance.
For a better taste, top it with chocolate or sprinkle some sugar on it.
6 – Àkàrà (Fried Bean Cake)
Àkàrà is a West African delicacy, which is also eaten in parts of Brazil. This fritter, made from black-eyed beans, has many variations.
As commonly made in Nigeria, the beans are peeled, washed, and blended into a paste, which is then deep-fried in vegetable or palm oil.
It tastes delicious with spices, fish, and other condiments (optional). Àkàrà, which is highly proteinous and full of fiber, is great for breakfast.
Specifically, it is tied to Yoruba history and culture; it was used to welcome warriors who returned from a victorious war.
Culturally, àkàrà is eaten at burial ceremonies to celebrate the life of an elderly person (above 70 years), who passed away.
Àkàrà is scrumptious with ogi (corn pudding), milk, and sugar or bread. It’s a Nigerian food with so much historical and cultural importance.
7 – Pepper Soup
Pepper soup is a popular soup in Nigeria and other West African countries. For those who like the night life, this is the perfect Nigerian dish.
As it is a light, spicy soup, it’s commonly served in local bars and best enjoyed with chilled beverages.
The soup is made of ingredients such as onions, chilli pepper, habanero pepper, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, and other condiments.
In addition, a variety of meats are added. These include fish (especially catfish), beef, chicken, and chevon. Every serving usually contains several pieces of meat (as desired).
Various nutrients, such as iron, zinc, potassium, vitamins, and a host of others, are contained in this delicacy as a result of its spices.
Pepper soup also tastes delicious with boiled yam, boiled plantain, bread, or boiled potatoes.
8 – Suya (Spicy Grilled Kebab)
Suya is a flavorful Nigerian dish from the northern part of Nigeria.
It is a Hausa specialty, made by grilling pieces of skewered meat (especially beef) with salt, onions, ground peanut, pepper, and other spices.
These spices give it a hot, juicy taste. It is mostly sold by local Hausa street vendors at various corners of cities.
In Nigeria, vendors line the streets at night to make suya, displaying their skills, and treating you to their unique recipes.
Suya is sometimes served at modern parties with small chops, such as puff-puff, samosa, and sausage rolls.
Another variation of suya is kilishi. Kilishi is actually a much thinner, harder, and drier form of suya.
Both variations are great for a night out with friends and some chilled beverages.
9 – Asaro (Yam Porridge)
Asaro is another delicious yam meal common in the southwestern part of Nigeria. Yam is of great significance to the Yorubas.
Asaro is made using boiled yams, palm or vegetable oil, peppers, tomatoes, salt or stock cubes, and other ingredients. The yams are slightly mashed with the ingredients.
This meal may be eaten at any time of the day. It is usually garnished with prawns, crayfish, meat, or chicken.
Many enjoy it with fried or boiled plantain, efo riro (mixed spinach stew), tomato stew, and other sauces.
This spicy liquid with chunks of yam can be found in different restaurants in Nigeria.
It is especially rich in fiber, potassium, copper, carbohydrate, and vitamin C. You should absolutely try this Nigerian dish, as it has many health benefits.
10 – Egusi (Melon Seed Soup)
Egusi is a nutritious and delicious southwestern soup made from melon seeds.
It is made with palm oil, spinach (or any desired vegetable), peppers, tomatoes, beef, cow skin, fish, and other condiments.
Amino acids, vitamins, fiber, protein, and carbohydrates are some of the many nutrients derived from egusi.
It could be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, depending on what dish you combine it with.
This mouth-watering soup is a burst of many flavors that can be eaten with pounded yam, ẹ̀bà (garri– cassava meal), àmàlà, fufu (cassava meal), rice or yam, and a topping of tomato stew.
Egusi often graces the menus of most Nigerian parties, restaurants, and local food shops. Have this with any side dish, and you’re in for a Nigerian treat!
11 – Ẹ̀bà (Cassava Meal)
Ẹ̀bà, also sometimes called garri, is a Nigerian dish made from fermented, dried cassava flakes.
It is actually garri that has been made into a dough. Ẹ̀bà is prepared by first adding hot water to some garri in a bowl.
It’s stirred, after simmering for a few minutes, until its consistency changes to that of dough.
Ẹ̀bà could be either yellow or white. This is mainly determined by how the garri was processed. It is yellow when the garri has been processed with palm oil.
Just like other Nigerian favorites, such as pounded yam and àmàlà, ẹ̀bà tastes delicious with various kinds of soups.
It’s a refreshing Nigerian food that goes well with a cold glass of fruit juice on a hot summer’s day.
12 – Chin Chin (Fried Snack)
Chin chin is a deep-fried Nigerian snack, with a crunchy sweet taste and a golden brown color.
It is made from flour, milk, sugar, butter, vegetable oil, and other ingredients.
It is usually diced and sold in bottles or nylons by street vendors, snack shops, and some restaurants, just like the puff-puff.
Also, it serves well as a refreshment for entertaining guests in homes and at parties.
Chin chin takes me back to my childhood, as it was a snack I ate (and still eat) a lot growing up.
Based on your preference, chin chin can be soft, medium, or hard, depending on how long you cook it for.
13 – Boli (Roasted Plantain)
Boli is a popular street food in the South West of Nigeria. It is made of roasted plantain (ripe or unripe) and is commonly eaten with peanuts.
Boli is rich in fiber, vitamins A, B, C, antioxidants, protein, carbohydrates, iron, and potassium among others.
If you’re going on a road trip around Nigeria, get yourself some boli, pair it with some peanuts, and you have yourself a healthy, filling meal for the journey.
For a sweeter taste, you should eat boli made with ripe plantains. For those on a low-carb diet, boli made from unripe plantains is a better choice.
You should also try the delicious combination of boli with peppered fish stew, sold at local food shops. It’s a Nigerian food with so much flavor.
14 – Beans and Dodo (Fried Plantain)
Beans and dodo (fried plantain) is another popular Nigerian food. It can be eaten at any time of the day.
In Nigeria, beans are usually cooked with pepper, onions, fish, corn, and palm oil until they become a pottage.
Dodo is a dish of ripe plantains, cut into many pieces, and fried with a sprinkle of salt in vegetable or palm oil. It has a golden brown color.
This delectable, proteinous meal is also rich in fiber, and it is commonly found in restaurants and local food shops.
It may be garnished with vegetables, pepper stew, and meat. But for vegetarians, the delicacy can be enjoyed as it is, without any meat additions.
However you choose to eat it, beans and dodo is a scrumptious Nigerian dish loved by so many.
15 – Obe Ila Alasepo (Mixed Okra Soup)
Obe Ila Alasepo is mixed okra soup. It is made first by cutting okra, a tasty green vegetable, into small pieces.
The cut okra is then cooked with palm oil, peppers, tomatoes, onions, locust beans, in addition to other condiments and spices.
It is a Nigerian meal popular at lunch. It pairs well with hearty staples such as ẹ̀bà, pounded yam, and fufu.
Often, okra soup is garnished with lots of fish, cow skin, beef, and sometimes ogbono (African mango) seeds.
The addition of ogbono makes the soup thicker and silkier, as okra and ogbono are draw soups.
Obe Ila Alasepo is rich in vitamins, fiber, folic acid, and other nutrients.
It is a luscious and delicious Nigerian meal and one you should definitely try if you visit.
16 – Moin Moin/Okpo Oka (Bean/Corn Pudding)
Moin moin is a popular Nigerian meal. It is made from beans, which are peeled, and blended into a paste with oil, onions, and peppers.
They are usually wrapped in banana leaves. Moin moin is especially popular in the South West of the country.
Another variation exists, popular in the South East and known as Okpo Oka, that is made using corn instead of beans.
These two variations are equally flavourful and nutritious. They are both rich in fiber and other nutrients.
Moin moin and okpo oka can be eaten at any time of the day, making them a very versatile Nigerian food.
It is recommended that you try moin moin/okpo oka with jollof, garri, bread or ogi (cereal pudding). It’s a truly delicious Nigerian good, with so much flavor.
Nigerian Food Summary
Nigerian food is an African cuisine not to be missed. There’s so much flavor, color, and spices in this corner of West Africa.
With a base of herbs, spices, nuts, and palm oil, the foundations of Nigerian food lend themselves well to some striking, diverse flavors.
Then there’s a range of exotic and colorful fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients that all give Nigerian cuisine a unique and vibrant appeal.
As with many African cuisines, the delights of the food go beyond the taste. Food is a huge part of West African culture, with so many recipes passed through generations.
The street-food aspect of Nigerian food gives it a humble, homecooked quality. As in many Asian cuisines, culinary love and passion often happen in markets and on the street.
All of these factors combine to create a fascinating and diverse cuisine, that offers a range of tastes and colors for many different palettes.
So, before we go, let’s take one last look at the full list of all Nigerian foods covered in this article.
Be sure to have this list of Nigerian food handy when you visit so that you can try one or more of these popular and traditional foods.
- Jollof Rice
- Iyan (Pounded Yam)
- Àmàlà (Yam Flour/ Cassava Flour/ Plantain Flour)
- Ogbono Soup (African Mango Seed Soup)
- Puff-Puff (Fried Sweet Dough Ball)
- Àkàrà (Fried Bean Cake)
- Pepper Soup
- Suya (Spicy Grilled Kebab)
- Asaro (Yam Porridge)
- Egusi (Melon Seed Soup)
- Ẹ̀bà (Cassava Meal)
- Chin Chin (Fried Snack)
- Boli (Roasted Plantain)
- Beans and Dodo (Fried Plantain)
- Obe Ila Alasepo (Mixed Okra Soup)
- Moin Moin/Okpo Oka (Bean/Corn Pudding)
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Contributor: Grace Famurewa is a multi-lingual writer and artist, hailing from Ile-Ife, Nigeria. She is deeply passionate about Nigerian culture and portrays its colors, culture, and cuisine, through her creative writing and art.
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