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Introduction to Nigerian foods – 101

Just as there are many people with different cultures, languages and dialects; there are also overwhelming countless uncommon foods that can be found everywhere you go. Some of these foods are widely grown, known and eaten routinely (rice, beans,corn, etcetera.) And even formerly unknown foods, spices and condiments have slowly made their way to new markets and mouths (e.g, Asian spices, Mexican wraps, Spanish rice, and Italian pizza, etcetera) with every intention of staying.

However, many other foods have not made it to new markets, and those that have, are not very common. These include Nigerian (Afro Caribbean) foods, ingredients and recipes. I have been living in Ireland for the past 8 years and I can honestly say that Afro Caribbean foods are not widely known (by other people that are not Africans). African foods are sold in Afro Caribbean shops throughout the country and their restaurants can be found too (though, not as common as other non-Irish restaurants), but you can hardly see a non African patronizing them.

And so, I started to wonder why it is that way! When I could not figure it out, someone was nice enough to give me an answer, which was “African foods and ingredients have very pungent smell” and “Africans use cuts of meats that are not well known to the Irish people” (e.g, stomach linings, skin, gizzard and all sorts).

Either way, I decided to do my bit and introduce Nigerian (Afro Caribbean) foods to those that might be interested in new flavours and tastes. Many of these can be found in Afro shops throughout the country.

Stock cubes:


Knorr and Maggi cubes are the most common for Nigerians to cook with. These taste different from other types of knorr you can get from the supermarket. I believe they are probably made for the Afro market (consumers). The shape is a thick rectangle, not square.



Dried Crayfish adds lovely taste and rich smell to foods. They are usually used in soups and stews.


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There are several types of beans that are eaten in Nigeria. Their texture, colour and taste varies. As the above picture shows (brown and white beans), some maintain their shape after cooking, others get very mushy. They are cooked with simple ingredients such as palm oil, salt, pepper, cubes and (or) tomatoes.

Dried Fish:


Dried fish are a must in a Nigerian soup. They give lovely aroma and richness to any properly prepared soup. They are soaked in water and de-boned before use.

Ukwa (African bread fruit):


This has to be my favourite food any day. Once cooked, it becomes very creamy and rich, almost looking like porridge oats, but with a bit more colour to it. Very easy to cook.



Garri is always eaten with soup. It is made from cassava. Depending on the way it was processed, it could taste very sour or mild and texture also varies. Simply make with hot water (not boiling) and stir.

Cassava strands (Apku):


This is also a product of cassava. It is the main base for an African Salad. Ingredients for preparing it includes dry fish, hot pepper, vegetable leaves, palm oil etcetera.

Zobo leaves (Roselle):


These dried plant are used to make refreshing drinks called “Zobo”. The leaves are brewed with lots of ginger and sweetened with sugar. Best enjoyed cold.

Egusi (melon seeds):


The picture above shows ground Egusi. They are used to make thick soups which may contain vegetable leaves, meat, fish and seasoning.

Ukazi Leaf:


This is dried Ukazi leaf. It is one of many vegetable leaves that are used in Nigerian soups.

Pepper Soup Mix:


Pepper soup mix includes several nuts and seeds such as Ehu, utazi, uziza, etcetera. The soup is watery with lots of spice and several cuts of meat.

Thyme and Curry:

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Thyme and Curry are important ingredients when cooking Jellof rice and fried rice. They complete the much-loved delicacy with their colour, smell and taste.

Ogili Okpei:


This is a very pungent (traditional) food seasoning. Used mostly in soups. Made from fermented oil seeds. Although they might not look appetising (lol), the smell will definitely make you salivate.



Yams are edible tubers can can be cooked in a variety of ways (boiled, baked, fried, roasted). There are hundreds of varieties that are grown. The meat inside can be yellow, white, purple or pink. The above image is the particular type of yam that Nigerians eat. Yams are not sweet potatoes.



Plantains, although look like banana’s, are not the same. Plantain’s are longer and larger. They can not be eaten raw like banana’s, rather, they are cooked first (usually fried) and enjoyed as a snack, main meal or side dish. You can also use them as plantain crisps (alternative to the usual potato crisps).

Palm kernel


The smaller nut inside the kernel is called “palm kernel”, and the flesh outside of it (as you can see) is the Kernel flesh which the palm oil is derived from. The palm tree produces this essential oil palm.

Palm oil

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Palm oil, derived from the palm kernel flesh (above) is an essential cooking oil used in mostly soups and frying. It gives food a lovely rich colour.

Indomie noodles


I know may people eat noodles, but this brand (Indomie) is the most common (if not the only) type eaten in Nigeria.

There are many more types of foods, the list above are just a few staples. I will keep adding more to the list.

6 thoughts on “Introduction to Nigerian foods – 101

  1. I cant believe Irish people don’t know much about African food! There are many naijjas there! Surprising!

    1. It’s surprising indeed. I think lack of integration is the problem.

      1. It seems like it.. I know of so many Nigerians living in Ireland.. And many intermarriages!

    2. Yeah. I am one of them. Lol!

  2. The “cassava strand” is more commonly called “abacha”( no reference to you know who)

    1. That’s true.

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