Nigeria is a West African country that’s home to over 200 million people, making it the most populous country on the continent of Africa. It’s home to well over 300 different ethnic groups, which makes Nigeria one of the most diverse countries in the world. This rich diversity of culture is apparent in Nigerian food. Traditional Nigerian dishes have roots in a variety of different ethnic groups.
Nigerian dishes often consist of soups and stews to feed a crowd. They also include ingredients like root vegetables, peppers, and leafy greens. Whether you’re planning a trip to Nigeria and want to learn about Nigerian cuisine before your visit, or you’re an expat who wants a taste of home, try one of these traditional dishes from Nigeria for dinner tonight. You’ll find links to recipes in the descriptions of each food.
1. Jollof rice
This rice dish is actually the national dish of Nigeria. It’s one of the most well-known Nigerian dishes, and it’s often the first food that foreigners associate with Nigerian cuisine.
Jollof rice is made from a base of rice, tomato, and broth that’s cooked down with bell peppers, habaneros (also called scotch bonnet peppers), curry, thyme, and bay leaves. Nigerians typically serve jollof rice as a side dish with chicken and fried plantains. Enjoy a taste of Nigerian food with this simple yet authentic dish, which is bound to show up on the menu at almost any Nigerian restaurant.
2. Tuwo shinkafa
Tuwo shinkafa is a side dish that’s used to bulk up Nigerian soups or stews. Its name literally translates to “rice meal,” and it is most commonly eaten by people in the northern part of Nigeria.
To make tuwo shinkafa, you cook down rice with water until it forms a glutenous paste. From there, you shape it into a soft, sticky ball and steam it. If you make tuwo shinkafa for dinner tonight, pair it with other Nigerian dishes like banga soup.
Fufu is one of the most popular Nigerian dishes because it’s a hearty, filling addition to any meal.
Fufu is a starch ball that you make by boiling plants like rice, cassava, or plantains. You grind the starches into a paste, form them, and then boil them to make fufu. For those who aren’t familiar, the texture is somewhere between bread dough and mashed potatoes.
4. Afang soup
Afang is a soup made from the leaves of the afang plant, which is a climbing vine native to sub-Saharan Africa. It’s sometimes referred to as “wild spinach” in English. Afang soup differs depending on who’s cooking it, but this vegetable soup typically includes dried fish, crayfish, onions, and palm nut oil.
If you live abroad, it can be difficult to find afang leaves for this dish, but you can sometimes find dried afang in your local African food store.
Similar to fufu, eba is a starch ball that’s often served as a side dish for soup. Also called garri, eba is made from refined cassava flour and water.
Cassava is a popular wheat replacement for people who can’t eat gluten; if you’re interested in this gluten-free Nigerian dish, you can easily make eba at home.
6. Efo riro
Efo riro means “vegetable soup,” which many Nigerian families make as a spinach stew. Originally a traditional Yoruba dish, efo riro often includes pumpkin leaves, tomatoes, onions, and proteins like dry fish or crayfish.
To bulk up the dish, Nigerians often serve efo riro with a side of fufu.
Nkwobi is a spicy meat dish that originated from Nigeria’s Igbo people. Nigerians typically make nkwobi with cow leg, but some people use cow’s feet, goat meat, or wild game, too.
Nkwobi is a hearty meat stew that makes for delicious street food; it’s not unusual to see Nigerians eating nkwobi over a beer at the bar. It can take a long time to stew nkwobi, but the rich flavor of this Nigerian dish makes the effort worthwhile.
8. Ogbono soup
The main ingredient for ogbono soup is ogbono seeds, which are the seeds of a Nigerian plant known as wild mango or bush mango. This soup is usually made with a variety of leafy vegetables, fish, and palm oil, although the exact recipe will differ by household.
Ogbono seeds are available to purchase online if you don’t have an African foods store near your home.
A recipe from the Hausa people, suya is a savory protein dish. It’s typically made with seasoned beef or chicken that’s grilled on a skewer. “Suya” is the name of the seasoning mix used to coat the meat.
Nigerians often serve suya with a groundnut sauce to round out the dish.
10. Moin moin
This Nigerian dish is also called moi moi or moyi moyi. Moin moin is a savory steamed bean pudding that’s made from a mixture of black-eyed peas, habanero peppers, bell peppers, palm oil, and onions.
You make moin moin by soaking the peas, processing them to remove the skins, seasoning them, and steaming the paste. You can form moin moin either by hand or in a ramekin for easier cleanup.
11. Fried plantains
Also called dodo, sweet fried plantains are a popular side dish and appetizer in Nigerian cuisine. All you need are plantains, frying oil, and salt for seasoning.
Nigerians typically pair fried plantains with a rich dipping sauce, but they’re also a popular side dish for soups and stews. Pick very ripe plantains with dark skin for authentic dodo.
12. Egusi soup
Egusi soup is a one-pot meal that packs in vegetables and protein. The main ingredient is egusi, which is ground or milled melon seeds.
The soup usually includes locust beans, fish, and leafy vegetables like waterleaf, pumpkin leaves, or bitter leaf. Don’t forget to serve your egusi soup with fufu or eba on the side.
13. Ewedu soup
Ewedu soup is a dish that comes from the Yoruba people of Nigeria. This vibrant green soup is made from jute leaves, which give it a thick and slimy mouthfeel, not unlike okra soup.
Ewedu often includes egusi, crayfish, and locust beans. Consider pairing it with amala, which is like fufu, but made from pounded yams.
Bring Nigerian dishes to your table
Nigeria boasts a rich history and a thriving food culture. If you want a taste of Nigeria at home, these traditional Nigerian dishes are an ideal starting place:
- Jollof rice
- Tuwo shinkafa
- Afang soup
- Efo riro
- Ogbono soup
- Moin moin
- Fried plantains
- Egusi soup
- Ewedu soup
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