5 Must-Have Dishes from Nigeria

With over 200 million inhabitants, Nigeria is home to one of the fastest-expanding film industries in the world and is a hubbub for fashion and technological advancements. So many of Africa’s greatest minds in recent years have hailed from Nigeria! Rich in culture, history, art, and natural resources, Nigeria is definitely the place to be if you want a taste of everything.

And a taste of everything you will get with these dishes from Nigeria too. They’re not just super bright and colorful, but they’re yummy and full of healthy goodness too. Let’s take a look at dishes from Nigeria that make the country special.


1. Iyan

The iyan might not look like much, but it’s a must-have item in every Nigerian meal. It’s so well-loved around the country that there is a popular saying that goes, “Iyan is food and food is iyan.”

The iyan is made up of yams that have been pounded so hard that it transforms into a thick, smooth, and solid paste. They are then formed into little dough balls and served with virtually anything. Try it out with some hearty vegetable stew and soak up all of that yummy goodness to the very last drop!

Iyan is unbelievably healthy. It’s packed with carbohydrates, helping you stay full for longer after every meal. It also has health benefits like reducing inflammation, controlling blood sugar levels, and boosting brain health.


2. Jollof Rice

Jollof rice is arguably one of the most popular rich dishes not just in Nigeria, but all of West Africa! Indeed, many countries including Ghana and Senegal often bicker with each other good-heartedly about who came up with the dish first. And who wouldn’t want to take claim of a bright and colorful dish such as this? Wherever it came from, you can’t deny that it looks awesome!

Basic jollof rice is comprised of rice, tomatoes, peppers, and various herbs and spices. Depending on the region, you can have other add-ins such as shrimps, onions, peas, and chicken, as you can see in the photo below. It’s the star of any feast and celebration in Nigerian culture and has steadfastly become popular in international cuisine.


3. Ewa Riro

Similar to yams, beans are another important part of dishes in Nigeria because of how abundant they are. Ewa riro is a perfect example of this. Not only is this vegetarian dish very accessible to the masses, but it’s also ridiculously easy to make, even for beginners. Here, the beans need only be boiled until they’re soft. Then, they’re stewed and flavored with palm oil and other delectable spices.

The original recipe for ewa riro was made by the Yoruba-speaking region of Nigeria. Since then, it’s spread out to all corners of the country, and there are now many regional variations of the dish. Try adding some salted fish or eating it with fresh bread!


4. Ogbono Soup

We’re warning you well in advance, but ogbono soup does take a while to get used to. It’s made of ground mango seeds, palm oil, and assorted meats, and the soup is said to have a slightly gelatinous texture like mucus. It’s referred to as draw soup because of its slippery and viscous texture. The more you get used to it though, the more you start to appreciate how flavorful it is, especially if you eat it with a side of iyan.

Ogbono soup is also really nutrient-dense. It’s packed with a lot of protein and saturated fat but low on carbohydrates, making it the perfect dish for those on a diet.


5. Egusi Soup

Here we have another Nigerian dish that’s a staple across many households. Like the ewa riro and jollof rice, it also has some variations across Nigeria—all the more fun to travel around Nigeria and sample their variations along the way!

The base of egusi soup is made of ground melon seeds, and it is filled to the brim with lots of choice meats, offals, seafood, vegetables, and more. It has a slight nuttiness to it, as the melon seeds are extracted from the flesh and left to sun-dry for a few days. Depending on where in Nigeria you live, the soup can be as creamy or as coarse as you’d like. The ingredients used will also vary.