Nigerian cuisine is rich with unique recipes and in the way the food is prepared. For example, it’s a well-known fact that Jollof rice tastes better as a leftover. Unfortunately, few people in the Western world have experienced authentic Nigerian food. Food in Nigeria is aromatic, delicious, and always made straight from the heart.
If you’re heading over to Nigeria, there are traditional dishes you have to try during your visit. Check out the local menus as you explore nearby bukas (casual Nigerian restaurants).
The Best Nigerian Cuisine
Nigerian food is surprisingly hearty and tasty. From the interesting texture of pounded yam to the commonly eaten varieties of Nigerian soups like Ogbono soup, Egusi soup, and Afrang soup, Nigerian food will turn you into a fan of African food instantly. Do you need a little help selecting your Nigerian cuisine? Below are 20 Nigerian foods you must try.
1. Iyan (Pounded Yam)
One of the world’s largest producers of yams is Nigeria, so it’s no surprise Iyan is one of those Nigerian foods that is loved so much. In fact, the saying, “yam is food and food is yam” is popular in many parts of the country.
A popular method of preparing yams in the country is by pounding them into a somewhat solid paste. Depending on the ethnic group preparing the dish, the yams may be pounded slightly differently. Once the yams are pounded out to create a smooth paste, they are then formed into balls. These pounded yam balls, Iyan, are part of a great group of foods called “swallows”.
It’s common to serve the pounded yam alongside some soup, such as a vegetable stew. Make it at home with this great recipe!
2. Ewa Riro (Beans Porridge)
Tons of food in Nigeria features beans due to the abundance of beans in the country. Ewa Riro is a popular dish because it packs addicting flavors and is cheap to make.
The Yoruba-speaking area of Nigeria created and popularized this delicious dish. The beans are boiled until they’re soft and then they’re stewed with spices and palm oil.
Special ingredients added to the stew depend on who’s making the dish. Some people enjoy adding crayfish while others add smoked fish. If you’re making the dish at home, add what satisfies your tastebuds. Use this recipe to create your own at home.
Do you want to add a tasty side dish to your Ewa Riro? Many people eat it with fried plantains or fresh bread.
3. Jollof Rice
When traveling in Nigeria, you can’t leave the country without trying this classic dish that is served in many West African countries. But we have to warn you! Nigeria has a friendly rivalry with Ghana about who makes Jollof rice better, so be prepared to become involved in the competition.
The heart of the Nigerian Jollof rice dish includes rice, tomatoes, and peppers. Many people then add delicious mixtures of other add-ins such as prawns, peas, or onions. You’ll often see jollof rice served with juicy proteins such as minced meat or chicken. It might even come with a stew or plantains. Make sure to try it with a Nigerian pepper sauce for some heat.
We think this dish is so good that it deserves to be one of the World Wonders.
4. Beef Suya (Thin Strips of Seasoned, Grilled Beef)
Visitors will notice this street food plenty of times while exploring casual dining in Nigeria. Thin slices of beef are marinated in an array of spices- a combination that’ll ignite your mouth. Typical spices used include roaster peanut powder, cayenne, and ginger.
Making the beef this way was popular with the Hausa and Fulani people. They were groups of nomads that had unique ways of preserving meats.
You won’t see this dish made much in a home, but you can get plenty from suya spots along many roads in the country. It’s often served with tomatoes and onions as well as pepper sauce.
5. Dodo (Fried Plantain)
No matter the problem, plantains are the answer in Nigerian cuisine. It doesn’t matter if they’re fried, grilled, or dried.
Did you know that the cut of the plantain determines where and how the ingredient is served at the table? When you see thick, long slices of this delicious food, it’s served as part of the main dish.
Dodo features cubed pieces of plantains that are deep-fried and are commonly eaten all around the country. It is usually served as the appetizer of a meal or as a delicious snack. All that’s needed to make this dish is plantain and palm oil or vegetable oil if you want to cut the fat content down. It’s that simple.
6. Egusi Soup (Ground Melon Vegetable Soup)
If you’re looking for something to warm your soul and fill your stomach, this soup is the dish for you.
It’s a one-pot meal that’s easy to make and loved by all. When eating Egusi soup, you’ll typically eat it with popular swallows such as Fufu or Eba. Some people even serve it over rice.
Instead of grounded melons, you may also notice Nigerians creating this soup with toasted pumpkin seeds. The seeds add a layer of warmth that’s perfect after a long day of exploring on your feet. It is commonly served with pounded yam. This is a great dish to try making at home.
7. Nigerian Egg Rolls (It’s Not What You’re Thinking)
When we think of egg rolls, we think of the delicious Asian dish. We don’t want to create any competition between the two, but you should definitely check out Nigerian egg rolls while on your trip.
In Nigeria, this dish is much more literal. It’s a boiled chicken egg that’s been covered in batter and fried.
While simple but effective, you’ll love biting through the crisp batter and sinking your teeth into the soft yolk. It’s a delicious finger food that you’ll crave again and again.
8. Puff Puff (Sweet Deep Fried Dough)
If you’re wanting another fried delicacy of Nigeria, check out Puff Puff.
It’s nothing fancy, but it’ll sure make your mouth water. To compare it to something American, think of a donut or a beignet you found in New Orleans. (Yes, I know beignets are French!)
To make this dish, all you’ll need to do is roll up and fry the sweetened dough. Top the snack off with a fine dusting of powdered sugar. Yummy!
9. Agege Bread
Served with tons of Nigerian dishes, this bread isn’t meant to steal the spotlight. Instead, it’s meant to be a versatile complement to delicious main courses.
Agege bread is white bread but is much denser than what Americans use to make sandwiches. The name comes from a town named Agege, and this town used to be the only known site of a wholesale bakery that made and distributed this type of bread.
Lagos has now taken over this small town, but you can still find this bread anywhere in the country. Because it’s so versatile, you can eat it with stew for dinner or in the morning with your eggs and fried plantain.
10. Ogbono Soup (Mango Seed Soup)
This soup might surprise you with its texture, but we promise you’ll enjoy it. Ogbono soup is a slippery draw soup made with blended Ogbono seeds. Ogbono translates to mango!
Southeastern Nigeria is popular for this type of soup, but you’ll also find it in the southwest region. No matter where you eat it, you’ll be getting tons of nutrients such as proteins, fibers, healthy fats, and calcium.
The maker of the soup will customize it to their liking by adding ingredients such as melon seeds and a variety of vegetables. It’s another vegetable soup you can eat several times and never have the same experience twice.
11. Akara (Fried Black-Eyed Peas Cake)
Are you a vegetarian traveling across Africa? Are you wanting something savory, crunchy, and filling?
Akara is the Nigerian dish for you. This dish is created by deep-frying a delicious black bean paste. Most people also add onions and a variety of spices.
The Yoruba tribe created this dish; but, because it’s so good, it’s spread to other West African countries. It’s often enjoyed with fresh bread or just as a warming snack.
12. Nigerian Pound Cake
You’ll want to keep scrolling if you intend on keeping a strict diet during your visit. But if you want something sweet that’ll make your mouth water for days, this is a dessert you need to try.
It’s not like pound cake you can buy in America. Nigerian pound cake is denser and more delicious than you can ever imagine, and it’ll never crumble in your hands as you grab a slice.
Oftentimes, you can find this type of cake at celebrations, such as birthday parties.
13. Moi Moi (Bean Pudding)
When Americans think of pudding, we often think of a sweet, dense dessert. While Moi Moi isn’t a dessert pudding by any means, it’s an incredible dish you must try while in the country.
This pudding is made with either black-eyed peas or brown beans. Steamed beans are combined with tomato paste, onions, garlic, an array of peppers, and spices to create a mouth-watering dish.
Moi Moi is often steamed while wrapped in banana leaves, but some Nigerian people even bake their Moi Moi.
14. Nkwobi (Head and Legs of Cow)
Most of us have had a juicy hamburger. But have you ever had spicy cow feet and/or legs? It sounds odd to some, but Nkwobi is a staple Nigerian dish.
We do want to share a warning. This dish is often made extremely spicy so ask about the number of peppers the chef uses before ordering it.
The people of Owerri created this dish by mixing cooked cow’s foot in spicy oil paste. It takes a while to get the cow’s feet nice and tender, but the dish is worth the wait. Try it with Nigerian pepper sauce and a cold beer for the full effect.
15. Pepper Soup
If you’re craving more spicy dishes, give Nigerian pepper soup a try. But don’t complain if you can’t feel your tongue for a few hours!
This type of soup is often made with goat meat. Spices such as ginger and red chili flakes are used for a punch of flavor. African cuisine is packed with tons of soups and stews, but pepper soup is one recipe you’ll want for the rest of your life after trying it.
Are you stuck in the US for the winter? Make this soup during your winter vacation for a boost of warmth.
16. Ila Alasepo (Okra Soup)
Known as Ila Alasepo to the Yoruba people, this amazing Nigerian okra soup will lift your spirits even on the most exhausting of traveling days.
Different chefs prefer different consistencies of okra soup, so you may have a bowl of a more crunchy okra edge or end up getting a bowl with pureed okra. If your chef adds fresh leafy vegetables, you’ll typically notice the addition of spinach, basil leaves, or pumpkin leaves.
Some people who make this soup leave out the palm oil or substitute vegetable oil if they’re watching their fat intake, but we suggest having this soup with palm oil!
17. Chin Chin (Deep Fried Snack)
Are you in need of a quick snack while checking out the streets of Nigeria? Grab some Chin Chin for a tasty crunch.
Everyone makes their Chin Chin a bit different, depending on whether they like to sweeten their recipe or not. In short, it is a crunchy, donut-like fried dough mixed with and other baking items available in the region. No matter what, you won’t want to stop eating this fried West African snack.
If you’re not sure where to look for this snack, stop by a roadside kiosk or snack cart it is popular street food.
18. Tomato Stew
If you’ve visited any Nigerian household, there’s a good chance you caught word about tomato stew. It’s a staple that must be tried during your vacation.
It’s super easy to make and can be made with a variety of meats, including braised ram. Tomato stew can also be vegetarian-friendly by only using tomatoes, spices, and oil.
Dive into this dish with a huge heap of rice for the full experience.
19. Chicken Stew
Do you want a stew with meat? Try a Nigerian chicken stew.
This simple dish brings back nostalgic home memories for many Nigerian households. It’s made with roasted peppers, chicken drumsticks, and African spices.
The roasted peppers deliver an out-of-this-world flavor and are paired best with rice or pounded yams. When eating any type of Nigerian stew, make sure your pants are stretchy. “Hearty” is an understatement.
20. Peanut Soup
If you’re a world traveler, you may have noticed peanut soup as a staple both in West Africa and Taiwan. It’s a dish loved around the world- and for good reason!
Because there are so many peanuts in this soup, it’s great for a protein boost. Have this soup after a long day of hiking to nourish your body.
In addition to peanuts, some chefs also add beef or chicken. Don’t forget to ask about the spice level. It’s not uncommon to sneak a habanero pepper into the mix.
Tasty Travels: Must-Try Nigerian Dishes
Nigeria is a country full of breath-taking natural sites and vibrant culture. One thing that adds to their culture the most is the delicious Nigerian food.
Between delicious stews, soups, and fried snacks, you’ll never run out of a hearty, flavorful meal. Don’t forget to breathe in the spices as you wander down the streets past the markets.
Grab your passport because it’s time to plan your next adventure. Check out a large variety of destinations and experiences around the globe by browsing the rest of the site. If you’re tight on money, we have tips on how to travel on a budget.