16 Nigerian Recipes Everyone Needs To Try

It's more than jollof rice.

Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed

Consisting of delicious stews, starchy vegetables, and aromatic spices all around, Nigerian cuisine is home to some of the tastiest savory flavors in the world.

Whether you're looking to cook more this year, are curious about West African dishes, or simply want a break from your usual weeknight dinner routine, you'll want to read this primer on Nigerian food. From Jollof rice and pounded yams, to pepper soup and beef stew, here are the classic Nigerian dishes every aspiring home chef needs to try.

1. Jollof rice

What is it? Rice made with tomatoes, onions, scotch bonnets, and chili peppers. There are endless variations on this recipe, but those five ingredients are usual constants.

No list of Nigerian foods can be complete without a mention of Jollof rice. It's a party dish brought out at celebrations, a signature regional dish, and the recipe with which many West African communities — and countries — like to stir up friendly rivalries. If I had to pick just one favorite from this entire list, this one would probably be it. 😍

Get a pack of long grain parboiled rice (which, unlike normal rice, won't get mushy) on Amazon for $6.99.

Get the recipe here. And see an alternative here.


2. Pounded yam

What is it? Yams that have been crushed or stirred to a creamy, dough-like consistency. Pounded yams are considered a fufu (a kind of starchy side dish) usually served with a stew or efo.

One could compare pounded yams to mashed potatoes, but that'd be doing a disservice to the magically pull-apart dough-like texture attained by this dish. And you don't need a mortar and pestle to cook pounded yams — you can make them with a hand mixer, a blender, or yam flour.

Get the recipe.

3. Pepper Soup

What is it? Light and spicy soup traditionally made with goat meat, but often with fish or other meat, as well as herbs and Nigerian spices.

Pepper soup is West Africa's version of chicken soup (many Nigerian grocery stores even carry instant Peppersoup cubes!), and is known for its comforting, restorative, and universally delicious powers. While it has dozens of variations, no recipe is complete without its classic seasoning mix made up of spices like ataiko (Alligator pepper), uda, and gbafilo. You can buy a ready-made spice mix online, or you can make your own with non-Nigerian ingredients.

Get a pack of pepper soup seasoning on Amazon for $4.99.

Get the recipe.

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4. Efo Riro

What is it? A rich spinach stew usually made with spinach, scotch bonnets, and red bell peppers.

"Efo Riro," which roughly translates to "stirred leafy vegetable," can be made with your meat or fish of choice, and traditionally attains its layered flavor from iru (locust bean) and ground crayfish. This recipe, as with many West African recipes, calls for palm oil, a crop that is native to the region. If, for whatever reason, you'd like to use something else, you can try substituting with a different vegetable oil. The recipe will still come together, but the taste will be different.

Get the recipe. Note that this recipe makes several substitutions for beginner chefs. Here and here are more traditional recipes.


5. Egusi Soup

What is it? A stew usually made with crayfish or other meat and thickened with ground melon seeds (egusi).

This soup gets its name from protein-rich egusi that lends the dish its velvety, creamy texture and rich flavor. Egusi is satisfying on its own, or with a side of fufu (like pounded yam), and comprises infinite layers of savory flavor that will greet your insides like a warm hug.

Get a jar of egusi on Amazon for $11.49.

Get the recipe.

6. Akara

What is it? Fried bean cakes.

Usually served as a breakfast food or snack and made with black eyed peas, these fritters are crunchy, spicy, and perfect alone or with a dipping sauce.

Get the recipe.


7. Dodo

What is it? Deep fried plantain slices.

You know how when you have overly ripe bananas, you make banana bread? Well, when you have overly ripe plantains, you make delicious dodo! Here's a guide on how to choose the best, ripened plantains.

Get the recipe.

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8. Puff puff

What is it? Deep fried dough, served plain or with powdered sugar.

Consisting of just four ingredients (flour, yeast, sugar, oil), these West African doughnuts can easily be customized to your personal taste using cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, or whatever else spice you'd like.

Get the recipe.

9. Beef Stew

What is it? A tomato-based beef stew served with rice or starchy vegetables.

It requires more than a handful of ingredients, and close attention to the pot to make sure the meat is tender while the sauce doesn't get burnt, but other than that, the recipe is straightforward and perfect for a cozy winter night in.

Get the recipe.


10. Suya

What is it? Grilled beef skewers seasoned with spicy peanut mix.

This popular Nigerian street food gets its iconic spicy taste from Suya spice, which is made with peanuts, cayenne pepper, salt, and several other seasonings. If you like the spice mix enough, you can even try making suya popcorn chicken.

Get the recipe.

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11. Ewa Agoyin

What is it? Mashed steamed beans with pepper sauce.

Made of honey beans (oloyin), this stew is smokey and rich in flavor, and mashed and crunchy in texture. Some call it a stew, others a sauce, but I think we can all agree it's a delicious, flavorful dish — sort of like a chili — that you'll want to mop up with a starchy side like plantains, boiled yam, or bread.

Get the recipe.

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12. Boli

What is it? Roasted plantain.

Literally all you need to prepare this popular street food and snack are plantains, salt, and peanuts. Boli can also be enjoyed with grilled fish or pepper sauce (or just a sprinkling of paprika or paired with minced jalapeño if that's all you got!).

Get the recipe.

13. Ofada Stew

What is it? A stew made with spicy scotch bonnets, smoked dried shrimp, and iru (also known as locust beans or dawa dawa).

This is one of those dishes whose very image inspires appetites from the pickiest of eaters. Be careful though: the dish is pretty spicy and tastes great when paired with tongue-cooling rice.

Get a bag of locust beans from Carry Go Market for $4.99.

Get the recipe.


14. Okro (or Okra) Soup

What is it? Soup made with okra, spinach, and crayfish.

When preparing the okra, make sure to cut it into teeny tiny pieces, perhaps even making vertical cuts on the vegetable. This will ensure a thicker soup and more fully cooked okra.

Get the recipe.

15. Moin moin

What is it? A steamed bean cake made with blended black eyed peas, flaked fish, and often hard boiled eggs.

Okay, so this recipe is a little more complicated than the others, but it is SO WORTH IT. It can be made with flaked fish or hard boiled eggs, or served all on its own as a nutty, 100% vegan dish.

Get the recipe.

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16. Garri

What is it? Fermented ground cassava (garri) fufu.

Also known as Eba, this type of fufu is made with garri and has the same dough-like structure of pounded yams.

Get the microwaveable recipe. Or a more traditional recipe here.


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