It’s difficult to think of any culture that is as rich in food and as complex in cuisine as that of Nigeria. Nigerian cuisine varies so much from region to region, ethnic group to ethnic group, and family to family that it can be quite confusing for foreigners.
This is especially true in Nigeria, where food is taken very seriously. Some of the foods that you’ll find Nigerian people eating are specific to the country and to particular ethnic groups.
There are many ingredients that can only be found in Nigeria, and there are also several ingredients that are popular across the country.
The different parts of Nigeria have their own traditional dishes for each season, including special New Year’s dishes. Even though you can easily find many of these ingredients in other countries, it is often hard to find them back home.
So many Nigerian chefs use substitutes (especially for those with limited cooking supplies) or make their own if possible.
Popular food ingredients and foodstuffs in Nigerian Kitchen include:
Nigeria is a country with a population of about 200 million living on the sea coast. The coastal people are of diverse ethnic groups and adhere to many religions. The main food ingredients used in the Nigerian kitchen are;
Palm Kernel Oil
Palm oil in Nigeria is used for all aspects of cooking, from frying to ghee for making pancakes and baking at the local community market. This is an important food ingredient you won’t miss in a Nigerian kitchen.
Palm oil is rich in Vitamin E (a natural antioxidant). It is also rich in the fatty acid group known as linoleic acid. A spoonful of palm oil used to be sufficient for cooking Olives, Yams, and various fishes.
Coconut oil is extracted from the kernel of mature coconuts. It is composed of medium-chain fatty acids, which are metabolized easily and therefore are readily available as an energy source. Coconut Oil has a wide range of uses, and it is largely used in cooking in Nigerian kitchens.
Locust beans are widely used in Nigeria to make soup or stew. Locust beans aid to maintain healthy vision and fight against diseases like diabetes and hypertension.
Dry Chili Pepper
The dried chilis are used for cooking Nigerian soups such as vegetable soup and most of the meal recipes. The dried chili pepper is one of the most popular Nigerian ingredients, especially in the northern part of Nigeria. It is a strong ingredient that adds flavor to many different types of foods.
Crayfish are caught from rivers and lakes in the African continent. Due to the availability of crayfish, it is a delicacy enjoyed by many people all over Nigeria. They are usually smoked, prepared with palm oil, and then served as a staple food in any local community. These crayfish or crabs contain arsenic which is toxic for consumption in large amounts.
Smoked fish is an important staple food in Nigeria. It is a display of wealth and status to have smoked fish in Nigeria. Most Nigerian people are very fond of smoked fish.
Plantains form basic ingredients for all Nigerian meals. They are delicious and can be eaten as a side dish, grilled or fried to make chips, pounded with groundnut paste (peanut butter), or eaten raw.
Ogbono seeds are used to make Ogbono soup. It is commonly served around the southwestern states of Nigeria and is known for its spicy or savory flavor depending on the kind of soup that’s made.
The seeds are usually ground into a smooth paste and served like soup (depending on the recipe).
Egusi is a popular Nigerian soup that is eaten all over Nigeria. Based on region, egusi soup is prepared differently, which has variations in the recipe. Egusi soups vary according to the availability of ingredients as well as regional preferences.
Most Nigerian soups are prepared with some type of herb, which gives the soup its very unique taste. For example, a lot of vegetable soups use Efirin and Coriander, while others use Mint, Dill, Parsley, and Oziza.
Ginger is very important in Nigeria and is used in most Nigerian soups. It has many medicinal qualities; it can be used to fight fatigue, colds, and cough. Ginger is also usually used as an ingredient in most Nigerian dishes, such as groundnut stew.
Rice is also very important in the Nigerian kitchen. It is used to prepare many different types of meals such as fried rice, jollof rice, can be eaten with egusi soup, fried stew, etc.
The most popular kind of rice eaten in Nigeria is the long grain white rice.
Beans are an important source of proteins and carbohydrates and are a good source of fiber and vitamins. A common Nigerian soup made from beans is gbegiri soup in the western region. It can also be used for making moi moi and akara.
Yam is a popular staple food in Nigeria. It is affordable and widely available for consumption in most Nigerian communities. In Nigeria, yam is used to prepare many different types of meals, such as ground yam, boiled yam, or fried yam.
Sweet potatoes are a good source of carbohydrates. They are commonly eaten in Nigeria as a staple food; however, sweet potatoes are not grown in abundance in the country, so they can be hard to come by.
Gari is a popular source of carbohydrates in Nigeria. It is made from cassava and has a naturally sweet taste. Local traders also sell Garri snacks on the street, which makes them very popular among the younger generation.
The Nigerian kitchen is not just a place to cook, but it is also meant to be a place of relaxation and entertainment. It is the place to relax and unwind, be treated like family, and hear great music.
In Nigerian culture, food can be a form of entertainment, even though one might not see that at first glance until you enter the kitchen.
Before you start to cook, you should know popular food ingredients and foodstuffs used in the kitchen.
The kitchen is an integral part of the house in Nigeria, as important as the living room.