Nigeria is blessed with so much food, fresh organic produce with a lot of variety, due to its climate range. Nigerian climate changes from the north (Sokoto) to the south (Calabar), from Savannah to the rainforest which is reflected in the vegetation and food found in each region. They are varied both in type and abundance. The variation also shows up in the way the ingredients are used in each region e.g in the south with an abundance of rainfall, vegetables are used fresh while in the far north with much less rain but an abundance of sunlight, dehydrated vegetables are mostly used which are stored and used all year round.
Nigerian food is mostly rich and spicy, and the sheer variety of dishes found in Nigeria is amazing. Nigerians are also known to adapt imported cuisine to their taste and make it their own e.g the incomparable Nigerian jollof rice or instant noodles. If you live outside Nigeria like in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom etc., you will be able to source the Nigerian food ingredients from your local African store.
In the midst of this exciting and intriguing diversity, there are certain Nigerian dishes that cut across ethnic boundaries that truly unite and make Nigeria a cohesive nation. These Nigerian dishes are easy and straightforward, especially my no-frills recipes.
12 Nigerian dishes every Nigerian and non-Nigerian should know how to cook
1. TOMATO STEW
If you are new to Nigerian cuisine, this should be your introduction. This Nigerian Tomato stew is primarily made up of tomatoes, peppers, onions (tomato stew base) and spices. It is delectable and easy to make.
You can’t have a menu block or menu fatigue once you have stew, as it is called and most people always, always have a bowl of stew tucked away in their freezers. It is eaten with most staples, white rice, bread, yam, pasta, beans, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, agidi/eko etc.
2. JOLLOF RICE
Jollof rice is the culinary symbol of Nigeria. Nigerians are passionate about this dish. Jollof rice features regularly on dinner tables, restaurants and in every Nigerian social gathering. It is also sold by street vendors.
Nigerian jollof rice is rice cooked in a rich tomato sauce. Jollof means ‘one pot’ in Wolof language of Senegal. So, if you must learn only one Nigerian dish, it has to be the Nigerian Jollof Rice.
3. OKRO SOUP
Okro soup, Okra soup (Lady’s finger or gumbo) is one of Nigeria’s “national” dishes, this soup is cooked across the length and breadth of Nigeria, from the north where dehydrated okro is used to the south where okro is used fresh.
The methods of preparation vary, sometimes even within the same community, some fry their okro, others just add it raw to their soup broth. It can also be cooked separately and served with omi obe stew or Nigerian tomato stew this type of Okro soup is called Ila (Plain Okro soup). It is a quick-cooking vegetable soup and finger-licking good.
4. EGUSI SOUP
It can arguably be said that Egusi Soup is the most universal of all Nigerian soups. Practically every Nigerian tribe has their own version of egusi soup. Egusi is melon seed that is shelled and ground into a powder before adding it to the soup. It is nutty and mildly sweet, with the rich oil from the egusi seeds making it taste delectable.
Egusi soup is so versatile, it can be paired with a number of other soups e.g Egusi and ogbono soup, or different starches, like fufu or white rice.
In Nigeria, there are many ways beans is prepared but beans porridge is very popular and universal. Mothers believe beans porridge is highly nutritious and will make a child grow taller, so they make sure it features regularly on the dinner table.
Beans porridge is a one-pot dish that is very easy to cook and tastes delightful. It can be eaten on its own or served alongside rice and stew, fried or boiled plantains or yam, water-soaked garri, bread etc. Other ingredients like corn can be added to make Adalu, also plantains, yam, sweet potato, chopped liver, dry fish etc. are sometimes added to it.
Moi-Moi is a very popular beans pudding in Nigeria, made mostly with skinned black-eyed peas (white beans) or brown beans. It can be made using either whole beans puree or rehydrated beans powder, both taste delicious.
Moi-moi can be eaten on its own as a meal or served with a side of vegetable salad, pap and soaked garri or as an accompaniment to a variety of dishes e.g. rice or agidi (corn paste pudding). It is usually served alongside Nigerian Jollof at parties.
7. YAM POTTAGE
Yam pottage is very simple, quick and easy to make. Although the ingredients are basic, it tastes very luscious and is very filling. It is a one-pot dish that saves a lot of time especially in typical Nigerian style when there are tons of people sleeping over during weddings, burials etc., it is one of the easy breakfast dishes to serve.
Yam Pottage is commonly called yam porridge although it is not a true porridge. It is made with yams and vegetables. Yam Porridge can be served at breakfast, lunch or dinner.
Chewy and pillowy soft, puff-puff is a staple Nigerian fried dough or batter. It has all the right elements of fried dough that are so appealing, yeasty, soft, sugary and fried, what’s not to love.
Puff-puff is a very popular street food that is loved by Nigerians, it is served at parties as part of the small chop platter (Petit four).
Nigerians love pepper soup, it is the spicy broth of meat or fish with some bitter herb added. Catfish pepper soup is always high in demand by guests at Nigerian parties and is about the most common pepper soup cooked in Nigerian homes, pubs, restaurants etc.
It is served to a nursing mother during Omugwo see Yam pepper soup (Ji mmiri oku). Catfish pepper soup is called point-and-kill in beer parlours (Pubs). The combination of spices, pepper and herbs is delectable and gives a feeling of well being after having a bowl of pepper soup.
From China to Nigeria with love, noodles, the dry instant variety, are consumed in copious amounts in Nigeria, you’d think it was invented here. Introduced in Nigeria in 1988, Nigerians embraced it with a lot of passion because it is cheap, easy, and quick to cook and both kids and adults love it.
There are many ways Nigerians cook their noodles, even with some local herbs and spices. Instant Noodles, besides the Nigerian Jollof rice, might be the most widespread of Nigerian dishes.
11. JOLLOF SPAGHETTI
Nigerian Jollof spaghetti is an adaptation of the popular, iconic and delectable Nigerian Jollof rice. Spaghetti is used in place of the rice in Jollof rice. It is the classic way spaghetti is cooked in Nigeria.
When a food ingredient is loved and adopted in Nigeria, so many awesome twists are added to it you’d think it’s homegrown. Jollof spaghetti fills lunch boxes just like jollof rice because it stays fresh for long, it is sold as street food, fast food and gourmet just like jollof rice and is also served at parties although not as regularly as jollof rice.
12. DODO (FRIED RIPE PLANTAIN)
Deep-fried ripe plantains are caramel sweet and delicious, very popular in Nigeria where plantains are grown in abundance. It is peeled and cut in diagonal slices before frying and out of all the Nigerian dishes, it takes a lot of willpower to fry plantains and not sample a few before serving.
It is eaten alone with tomato stew or served as an accompaniment to rice, yam, beans, noodles, custard etc. Fried plantains can be eaten as breakfast, lunch or dinner.
If you like my 12 Nigerian dishes everyone should know how to cook, you will also enjoy my 15 Easy Christmas Food Ideas, Advent Foodie Calendar, Christmas Food Calendar, Awesome Dishes made with leftover rice and 10 Safety tips for the kitchen, kitchen safety tips.
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