Comprised of age-old recipes and techniques from hundreds of different ethnic groups, Nigerian food is packed with so many different colors, flavors, and ingredients.
Rife with hearty staples and infused with many different herbs and spices, Nigerian cuisine is a feast for both the eyes and the stomach.
Get ready for lavish decoration, gorgeous colors, and yummy fusions, as a native Nigerian takes us on a culinary journey through West Africa. Here are 16 traditional Nigerian foods you simply have to try.
Popular & Traditional Nigerian Foods
1 – Jollof Rice
Jollof rice is a popular dish eaten in West African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon, Liberia, Mali, Togo, Gambia, and Côte d’Ivoire.
There is, however, a prominent rivalry between Nigeria and Ghana over which variation of the meal tastes better.
This has led to many creative jollof rice recipes. At the base of this delicacy are rice, tomato, and pepper.
This delicious rich base is then frequently garnished with carrots, onions, prawns, butter, and green peas (as desired).
Jollof rice is usually eaten with side dishes such as fried plantains, vegetable salad with cream, coleslaw, and moin moin (bean pudding), in addition to proteins such as beef, chicken, turkey, and fish.
You should definitely try this delicious Nigerian dish, which has graced many dinner tables, parties, restaurants and ceremonies.
2 – Iyan (Pounded Yam)
Another great Nigerian dish you should try is pounded yam. It is predominant among the Yorubas and dates back to many centuries.
Similar to mashed potatoes, iyan is a bunch of yam pieces pounded or mashed using a mortar and pestle, blender, or mixer.
The process produces a smooth, sticky dough, making it slightly different from mashed potatoes.
It can be enjoyed with various kinds of tasty stews and soups, like egusi soup (melon seed soup), or efo riro (leafy vegetable stew). The soup may be served on the same plate or on a different plate.
Pounded yam is commonly eaten with the hand or cutlery at weddings, parties, and other celebrations.
It is quite a heavy meal, which is served as lunch or early dinner. Iyan is a beloved food of Nigeria, eaten by many across the country.
3 – Àmàlà (Yam Flour/ Cassava Flour/ Plantain Flour)
Àmàlà is a delicacy, common in the south western part of Nigeria. There are three variations of àmàlà: yam flour (àmàlà isu), cassava flour (àmàlà láfún) and plantain flour (àmàlà ogede).
Yam flour is made from peeled and dried yam pieces, blended into powder. It has a dark brown or black colour.
Cassava flour is made from dried cassava and blended into powder, with a light colour.
Plantain flour is made from peeled, dried, and blended unripe plantain. It has a lower carbohydrate content compared to the other two variations.
This is mostly preferred by people with diabetes and those on a low carb diet.
Àmàlà may be eaten with ewedu (jute mallow soup), or any other desired soup. You should definitely try this delicious Nigerian meal!
4 – Ogbono Soup (African Mango Seed Soup)
Ogbono is a draw (slippery) soup made from blended ogbono (African mango) seeds.
This soup is predominant in the south eastern part of Nigeria, among the Igbos but is also enjoyed in the South West.
It is often made with palm oil, spices, meat, fish and stock. For a great combination, it’s best eaten with ẹ̀bà (cassava meal), àmàlà, or pounded yam.
In addition to being tasty, ogbono is also rich in fat, protein, iron, fiber, zinc, vitamins, potassium, calcium, and other valuable nutrients. It’s a Nigerian dish full of health benefits.
Ogbono is a quick, easy, and versatile meal. It may be cooked with or without vegetables, okra, or egusi (melon seeds), depending on your preference.
Whichever way it’s made, be rest assured that you’ll smack your lips in satisfaction!
5 – Puff-Puff (Fried Sweet Dough Ball)
Puff-puff is a fried sweet dough ball made from flour, sugar, butter, yeast or baking powder, and vegetable oil.
It is prominent in some parts of West Africa, with varying names. For example, in Nigeria and Cameroon, it is called Puff-puff; while in Ghana, it is called Bofrot.
Puff-puff is commonly eaten during picnics, ceremonies, and parties as appetizers or desserts.
It may be garnished with various flavours like vanilla and cinnamon. In addition, it may be taken as a stand-alone snack or as a light breakfast meal with any beverage.
This yummy snack is deep-fried in vegetable oil, giving it a golden brown appearance that can make the mouth water with just a glance.
For a better taste, top it with chocolate or sprinkle some sugar on it.
6 – Àkàrà (Fried Bean Cake)
Àkàrà is a West African delicacy, which is also eaten in parts of Brazil. This fritter, made from black-eyed beans, has many variations.
As commonly made in Nigeria, the beans are peeled, washed, and blended into a paste, which is then deep-fried in vegetable or palm oil.
It tastes delicious with spices, fish, and other condiments (optional). Àkàrà, which is highly proteinous and full of fiber, is great for breakfast.
Specifically, it is tied to Yoruba history and culture; it was used to welcome warriors who returned from a victorious war.
Culturally, àkàrà is eaten at burial ceremonies to celebrate the life of an elderly person (above 70 years), who passed away.
Àkàrà is scrumptious with ogi (corn pudding), milk, and sugar or bread. It’s a Nigerian food with so much historical and cultural importance.
7 – Pepper Soup
Pepper soup is a popular soup in Nigeria and other West African countries. For those who like the night life, this is the perfect Nigerian dish.
As it is a light, spicy soup, it’s commonly served in local bars and best enjoyed with chilled beverages.
The soup is made of ingredients like as onions, chilli pepper, habanero pepper, ginger, garlic, tomatoes and other condiments.
In addition, a variety of meats are added. These include fish (especially catfish), beef, chicken and chevon. Every serving usually contains several pieces of meat (as desired).
Various nutrients, such as iron, zinc, potassium, vitamins, and a host of others, are contained in this delicacy as a result of its spices.
Pepper soup also tastes delicious with boiled yam, boiled plantain, bread, or boiled potatoes.
8 – Suya (Spicy Grilled Kebab)
Suya is a flavorful Nigerian dish from the northern part of Nigeria.
It is a Hausa specialty, made by grilling pieces of skewered meat (especially beef) with salt, onions, ground peanut, pepper, and other spices.
These spices give it a hot, juicy taste. It is mostly sold by local Hausa street vendors at various corners of cities.
In Nigeria, vendors line the streets at night to make suya, displaying their skills, and treating you to their unique recipes.
Suya is sometimes served at modern parties with small chops, such as puff-puff, samosa, and sausage rolls.
Another variation of suya is kilishi. Kilishi is actually a much thinner, harder, and drier form of suya.
Both variations are great for a night out with friends and some chilled beverages.
9 – Asaro (Yam Porridge)
Asaro is another delicious yam meal common in the southwestern part of Nigeria. Yam is of great significance to the Yorubas.
Asaro is made using boiled yams, palm or vegetable oil, peppers, tomatoes, salt or stock cubes, and other ingredients. The yams are slightly mashed with the ingredients.
This meal may be eaten at any time of the day. It is usually garnished with prawns, crayfish, meat, or chicken.
Many enjoy it with fried or boiled plantain, efo riro (mixed spinach stew), tomato stew, and other sauces.
This spicy liquid with chunks of yam can be found in different restaurants in Nigeria.
It is especially rich in fiber, potassium, copper, carbohydrate, and vitamin C. You should absolutely try this Nigerian dish, as it has many health benefits.
10 – Egusi (Melon Seed Soup)
Egusi is a nutritious and delicious southwestern soup made from melon seeds.
It is made with palm oil, spinach (or any desired vegetable), peppers, tomatoes, beef, cow skin, fish, and other condiments.
Amino acids, vitamins, fiber, protein, and carbohydrate are some of the many nutrients derived from egusi.
It could be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, depending on what dish you combine it with.
This mouth-watering soup is a burst of many flavours that can be eaten with pounded yam, ẹ̀bà (garri– cassava meal), àmàlà, fufu (cassava meal), rice or yam, and a topping of tomato stew.
Egusi often graces the menus of most Nigerian parties, restaurants, and local food shops. Have this with any side dish, and you’re in for a Nigerian treat!