Traditional Nigerian Food: 13 Popular Dishes Of Nigeria
I don’t think the world has fully woken up to the amazing, rich cuisine of Nigeria which I would consider to be one of the absolute best in Africa. Whilst there are many other African countries that share similar traditions and recipes, Nigeria is the culmination of so many wondrous foods!
In fact, you would be remiss to travel to Nigeria without fully immersing yourself in the unimaginable range of flavors found at street food vendors, restaurants or in the homes of local Nigerians.
In this article we take a look at the best foods Nigeria has to offer. From simple snacks and street food to the more luxurious or dishes reserved for celebrations. So here you go, the top 13 popular dishes of Nigeria…
Chin chin is a hugely popular deep-fried snack in Nigeria that is commonly served to visiting guests. They are crunchy little bite-sized balls made with flour, milk and sugar that are perfect for nibbling on.
People love chin chin because it’s quick and easy to make, and can last for weeks! There are variations of chin chin depending on preference, many people like to use ground nutmeg for example, and some also prefer to bake rather than deep-fry. It’s super easy to make if you’d like to try it out you can check out this simple recipe.
Jollof rice is immensely popular in Nigeria and other West African countries. It is also especially popular in Ghana who have somewhat of a food rivalry with their Nigerian counterparts over who makes the most delicious version!
Also known as Benachin, Jollof rice is a one-pot rice-based dish consisting of rice, tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, chili peppers, stock cubes, nutmeg, cumin, garlic, ginger and other spices. There are a considerable amount of variations depending on the region but many include different vegetables or add meat or fish.
Jollof rice is typically red in color and is entirely cooked in one pot. It is then most often served with a side of salad, vegetables, moi moi or fried plantains. Here is a great recipe to make jollof rice yourself.
Suya is a skewer of spicy meat (typically beef or chicken) that is considered a national dish of Nigeria due to its sheer popularity.
Suya is very widely available throughout Nigeria and also throughout West Africa in general where it is affordable, quick and very tasty. It can be found in abundance as street food where sellers can barely make enough to supply demand!
Made with a mixture of spices to make a marinade called Yaji, every Nigerian has their own variation of the Suya. Typically the ingredients include ground peanut, garlic, cayenne pepper, paprika, onion powder, and chili pepper.
After marinating, the skewers are then barbecued or grilled before being eaten hot. Yum! Try cooking suya from home with this recipe.
Fufu is a bit like a large dumpling made out of a mixture of cassava and green plantain flour. It is an absolute staple of Nigeria and indeed many West African countries where it is traditionally served with soup (groundnut or palm nut for example).
Authentic Fufu is made by combining equal portions of pounded cassava and green plantain flour with water and then stirred in a pan over a gentle heat. The paste is then moistened with lukewarm water and molded into a ball.
Nigerian customs dictate that fufu should be eaten with clean fingers. Simply pull off little chunks and then dip it into your soup! You can find a range of different fufu recipes and cooking styles here.
Afang soup is a beautifully nutritious vegetable soup made from Afang leaves and other leafy vegetables such as Malabar spinach and ozaki leaf. Afgang soup can be very versatile and people typically add other ingredients to their own taste such as beef, crayfish, shaki, periwinkle, onion and seasonings. There is a great recipe for authentic afang soup here.
Akara (or Kosai) is another typical Nigerian street food that is hugely popular throughout the country. You can find them in markets or on street food stalls where vendors will serve them hot and fresh or wrap them up to take home and eat later.
Akara are made from mashed beans, onion and a little bit of chili which is then battered and fried into fritters. These delicious crunchy balls are best made using beans that have been soaked overnight. You can find a really great, simple recipe for Akara here.
Moi moi is a type of steamed pudding made from black-eyed peas, ground peppers (chili & bell peppers), bouillon, dried crayfish and onions. It is commonly eaten alongside other dishes such as jollof rice or fried plantain but it can also be eaten on its own as a snack.
A popular dish at special occasions, moi moi is usually served in a pyramid or cylinder shape due to the mould used to prepare the dish which is very often from empty containers or cans.
The container with the mixture in is then placed into a pot of water that boils and steams the moi moi. Check out the recipe to try cooking moi moi yourself!
Nkwobi is a delicious Igbo delicacy made with cow feet, utazi, ugba, peppers, onions, potash, ehu and seasonings. Other meats can also be used but the uniqueness of this dish really comes from using cow feet.
Nkwobi is particularly popular for Nigerians dining out in exclusive restaurants or bars. In fact, it is starting to gain popularity in the West where it is seen as a very tasty, colorful and well-presented cultural icon of Nigeria.
The cow feet can take a long time to slow cook but the end result is very tender meat that perfectly absorbs the rich spices and flavors. You can find a brilliant Nkwobi recipe here.
Nigerian pepper soup is possibly one of the most traditional Nigerian dishes simply due to its versatility and ability to use a variety of different ingredients.
Different meats can be used in the preparation of pepper soup, the most popular are chicken, catfish, goat, beef or cow feet. In fact, many people choose to use a combination of meats and fish to create unique versions of pepper soup.
Spices and seasonings make pepper soup a little hot and spicy but it is very much considered a comfort food due to its hearty, warm broth. Some of the ingredients to flavor the dish include ehu, uziza seeds and uda. You can find a great recipe for pepper soup here.
Ok so we’ve already covered fufu but Garri (or Eba) is such a popular, common version of the Nigerian staple that it’s worth having its own special mention.
Garri is made from dried, grated cassava flour which is combined with warm water to make a firm dough that can be rolled into a ball. The main difference between garri and fufu is that garri is prepared by soaking and fermenting the mixture and then grinding, frying and drying it for storage. Whereas fufu is fermented first and then later boiled.
Garri is often considered the most popular food in Africa due to the fact that it is a very cheap and widely available staple that can accompany any meal or be eaten on its own. Rather than it being the most delicious Nigerian food, it is more like the bread of Nigeria. You can find some super simple instructions for making Garria (Eba) here.
Egusi Soup with Pounded Yam
Pounded yam is another version of fufu but its combination with egusi soup is one of the most identifiable traditional Nigerian dishes. Pounded yam is the stretchiest of the fufu recipes in comparison to cassava fufu.
Egusi soup, most popular with the Igbo people, is made using the dried and ground seeds of various plants such as squash, melon and gourd. These are typical major ingredients in West African cuisine in general and so the egusi soup is a wonderful example of how these are typically used in authentic Nigerian cooking.
Egusi soup also consists of leafy vegetables such as spinach, bitter leaf and pumpkin leaf. Meat and seasonings complete the dish where you will typically find a range of potential ingredients including chili peppers, onions, fish, beef, goat, shrimp and crayfish. Check out this recipe for Egusi soup with pounded yam.
Efo Riro is mostly popular in Western Nigeria where it is widely consumed due to its health benefits and hearty flavors.
The main ingredient in efo riro is spinach as well as locust bean, crayfish, blended peppers, palm oil and onion. There are lots of variations on the dish, you can add a range of additional meats, fish or vegetables as well as different seasonings. There is a great recipe for Efo Riro here.
Tuwo shinkafa is a type of rice pudding that is popular in northern Nigeria where it is typically served with different soups. The rice is beautifully soft and sticks together like glue to help form the very visually pleasing balls!
It is made using non-parboiled white rice and is very easy to make by simply boiling the rice into a soft texture, mashing the rice into a paste and finally forming them into shape.
Hopefully these traditional Nigerian foods have inspired you to try some unique and interesting new recipes at home! If you want to find more cooking inspiration for foods around the world, check out our recipe section. Alternatively you can follow along with our foodie adventures on our blog.