About the food of Nigeria

Kids playing in the streets of Zaria, Nigeria. Photo by shirazc.

Let’s fill a van with pineapples. Let’s pack them so tightly they press against the windows. Let’s load up a motorcycle with a mountain of empty plastic bottles, all strung together like a tangled string of lights. And while we’re at it, let’s make this mountain five times the size of the motorcycle. These are scenes from Nigeria, the most populated country in Africa. And I saw every single one on YouTube.

Nigeria is nestled in the heart of Africa, where you’ll find ocean, swamp, city, plateau, and plain. The food is as varied as the landscape – guaranteed to make your tummy rumble.

Zuma Rock in Nigeria. Photo by Mark Hillary.

There are many traditional dishes to be found, made with goat, chicken or beef. There’s also a great love for seafood and fish – especially prawns and crayfish – abundantly found in the ocean and the Niger River. These might be accompanied by casssava, corn, or millet (Fancy a millet ball? Gotcha covered – try serving it with yogurt, honey, and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom).

Common veggies include peppers, squash, onion, tomato, and pumpkin. In fact, these might make their way into Groundnut Chop, a popular “everything” dish, including meat, vegetables, eggs, and rice. The real showstopper in the Groundnut Chop are all the little dishes full of chopped sides like fruit, peanuts, onion, banana, coconut, etc.

Motorcycle ride in Nigeria (note the yams in the wheelbarrows). Photo by Paul Scott.

Whether you’re in the city or the country, you’ll likely find Suya – grilled kebabs with a ground peanut crust. Enjoy suya  [Recipewith a soda or beer – perhaps the most popular drinks around – and grilled or fried plantains  [Recipe]. Or you might just fall in love with Chapman (the drink, not the man)  [Recipe].

And, as with much of west Africa, locals will tell you everything tastes better with red palm oil.

Maps and flag courtesy of CIA World Factbook. Photo of Lagos, Nigeria. Photo by Benji Robertson.

What’s the closest you’ve been to Nigeria, either in true blue travel, or stovetop travel?


  1. Brian S. says

    Nigeria, like the famous Caesar quote about France, can be divided into three parts. The north is semi-desert and mainly Hausa or related people. The Hausa are culturally related to nomads like the Fulani, but they’ve settled down and built some impressive buildings 500 years ago. The north is fiercely Moslem.

    The southwest is fiercely non-Moslem, mostly Christian. Main group is the Yoruba, who had complex and very cultured empires for the past 800 years, including Benin. In the southeast are tribes like the Ibo, who lived in small villages, no empires, until the British came but are today among the most educated people in Africa. (Remember Biafra?)

    I spent some time in Kano in the North but Nigeria was so chaotic and bursting with life that I fled to more tranquil places. I’d love it today.

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