10 Spices and Seasoning you will find in my Nigerian Kitchen

10 Nigerian Spices and Seasoning

Some of you know that I have authentic Nigerian, even Igbotic taste buds 😀 . I prefer meals that taste as close to the natural flavour of the ingredients as possible. For this reason, I am not huge on seasoning and spices. This is why you will only see these 10 spices and seasoning in my kitchen. And why you will never see seasoning like “Fried Rice Mix”, “Mixed Jollof Seasoning”, “Mixed Pepper Soup Spice” and all those seasoning with the word “mix” in their names.

Do garlic and ginger count as seasoning? Even if they are, they are not worth a mention in this list because I rarely use them in my cooking. I use garlic only when I am making Western meals that call for it and ginger, I only use for Zobo.

Let’s get to the list shall we? And I will give details of what I use them for too!
In the order by which they appear in the photo above:

1. Salt

Salt is the one seasoning that gives taste to our cooking. I add salt to everything I cook but only sparingly. I grew up in a family that did not eat a lot of salt. I got used to not eating much salt so much that even if a meal does not contain salt at all, I can eat it like that.

I do not add salt to raw meat: beef, chicken goat meat etc. I only add salt when the meat is done, see why by clicking here. Most times, I do not add salt to Egusi Soup because egusi when cooked, acquires a salty taste. And by the time you add stock fish, crayfish and stock cubes all of which contain salt, the Egusi Soup may already have enough salt for me and my family. It is very easy for Egusi Soup to become salty so bear this in mind when preparing this soup.

2. Thyme

This is my favourite seasoning for any type of meat that I will use to cook stews. It gives the meat a nice natural seasoned flavour that does not overpower the meal you are cooking. Thyme works so well with the natural flavour of meat, enhancing it rather than competing with it. I do not add thyme to meat that I will use to cook Nigerian Soups.

3. Curry Powder

Nigerian Curry Powder is the seasoning that gives our Nigerian Beef/Chicken Stew that nice aroma that you can perceive from the gate 😀 . It also gives the stew a nice flavour. I call it Nigerian curry powder because this is not the hot and spicy Indian curry powder. It does not have any spiciness in it. In addition to giving your stews a nice taste, it is also the ingredient that gives Nigerian Fried Rice its yellow/lime green colour. Popular brands are Lion and Ducros.

And are you ready for this? If you are a beans hater, add a small amount of curry powder to your Beans Porridge and it may take the beans from urgh to awesome for you! I once used leftover Spaghetti Sauce (which contains curry powder) to prepare beans porridge for my kids and they loved it. I loved it too!

4. Nutmeg

I call this one the small but mighty “secret” ingredient. If you do not add nutmeg to a Nigerian meal/snack that requires it, you will spend the rest of your waking moments wondering why that meal/snack did not taste like the one you had at a Nigerian party even when you are “sure” that you added everything.

Without nutmeg, your Nigerian Moi Moi, Nigerian Chin Chin and Nigerian Puff Puff will not have the classic taste. Yes! When some people ask me why their aforementioned meals and snacks do not taste “normal” and I tell them it is because they did not add nutmeg, they usually come back with a surprised reply in the lines of “Just nutmeg?” Yes just, but it makes a HUGE difference when you do not add it.

5. Black Pepper

I just love how black pepper transforms a meal especially meals that are soupy, contain yam and/or mushrooms. Black pepper has this scent that our habanero and cayenne pepper lacks.
If you do not have ehu (next on the list) you can use black pepper especially when preparing Nigerian pepper soups. Not that they taste the same but black pepper is better than nothing.

6. Ehu or Ehuru or Ariwo

Ehu (known as Calabash Nutmeg in English) is the single pepper soup seasoning that you need for your Nigerian pepper soup. Remember how I do not like the seasoning with a mix in their names? I’ve tried that so called pepper soup mix and what I prepared tasted nothing like pepper soup.
Ehu does not have a known alternative. If you are preparing pepper soup, use black pepper and parsley.

7. Stock Cubes

Stock Cubes (known as Bouillon Cubes in the States) are the Maggis, the Knorrs and the Roycos we use in our meals. I use chicken flavoured stock cubes when cooking chicken and use beef flavoured stock cubes when cooking with meat or fish.
Even though some companies that make these stock cubes claim that they no longer use MSG to make them, if you are allergic to MSG or you simply do not want to eat store-bought stock cubes, you can make your own stock cubes at home.

8. Onions

It goes without saying that onions enhance the natural flavour of meat and fish but mostly when the meat and fish will be used for stews. Add onions to Ofe Akwu, yummy! And in beans, rice, yam and stews recipes. Onions is a no-no for some very traditional meals such as Bitterleaf Soup and Ora Soup hence I do not add onions to meat that I will use for these soups. But onions are great in Okra Soup. When adding onions to Nigerian pepper soups, add it in chunks so you can remove them when done. That way, you do not have unsightly tiny pieces of onions in the pepper soup.

9. Ogiri Okpei

This is the Nigerian traditional stock cubes made by fermenting locust beans. The unfermented version known as Iru can be used in the same way. Add it to Egusi Soup, Okra Soup and the unfermented version is used in Efo Riro.

10. Habanero Pepper

This is the baba of spiciness in Nigerian meals. It is fresh and spicy with a nice aroma. There are the red and yellow ones. The red ones can be added to any meal but the yellow ones are best used in Nigerian soups due to its unique flavour. You can also use Scotch Bonnet Peppers, they are so similar I do not even try to explain the difference.

11. Bonus seasoning: Ogiri Igbo

This pungent, pasty traditional seasoning is used for the very traditional meals. Add it to Bitterleaf Soup, Ora Soup and Abacha and an Igbo man will love you to the moon and back. 😉

I added it as a bonus ingredient because though I do not use it as I should, I have it in my kitchen. And anytime someone elderly comes to visit, I do not need to be told to go and dig it up from the bottom of my freezer. 😉

That’s my list! Now I’m curious, which spices and seasoning can one find in your kitchen? Which ones do you swear by and what do you use them for? Do you have any “secret” ingredients for some Nigerian meals? Are you a “Maggi Nyelu m Aka” – Oh help me Seasoning? :) Please spill all below.

Flo

Comments

  1. We add in the goatmeatpeppersoup and also in our catfishpeppersoup some Basil too..its give some extrataste 😀 people just love our peppersoup because she is a little bit different to the standartsoup 😉

  2. My spices are the same as all of the above. I don’t do those so called mixes and especially not the pepper soup mix. It ends up tasting cosmetic. Additional spices also include Igbo ogiri which I love for its pungent smell, banga spices a la waffi style, even native salt which I got from my mother-in-love ;). I also frequently experiment with new spices whenever I visit my customer in Otto market. She would educate me on how to use a certain spice when I ask her and I would try it out. My experiments work out great lots of times as my children would eat the same soup in different versions. Egusi soup has never been my great favourite but I have learnt to cook it differently with different spices or even moringa leaves and got my children licking their fingers :))) so there thanks I always enjoy your posts and updates and your book remains a very important book in my kitchen shelf for when I want to try out something new or need to be rescued. Try out roasting the Egusi seeds on a dry frying pan before blending, it ends up smelling and tasting like groundnut soup, that’s another favourite at home.

    • O yes Sabine, trying new things is the only way we can discover more. Well done for the great job you are doing in the life of your family.

      You are a grassroots woman o >> roasting egusi. 😉 I’m glad you find the cookbook helpful. Thanks for the feedback.

      • Do you know that your are the one that teach me how to make Nig meat pies & Nig cake, thank you so much. God bless you and your family. We are in Serbia, you can’t get African food there.
        Thanks again for your help

  3. Hi Sis, and Merry Xmas/Happy New Year in advance.

    Where do you get your already ground, and bottled ‘Ehu or Ehuru or Ariwo’, does it maintain its freshness, potency and aroma as its already ground, what is the name of the company that made it? I ask because the one we find here in US are the seeds and the ones still in the shell (too much work to roast and grind).

    • Hi Lillian,

      My sis that container is from a used up spice container, I added the labelling with a photo editing software.
      This is not the container I normally store the ground ehu in. I use a recycled medicine container, you know those ones that close tight? Eg the Prenatal vitamins container. That way it does not lose the flavour. But for uniformity of the photo, I put all the spices and seasoning in similar containers. :)

      So yes, I have the seeds too (which I buy from Nigeria) then peel and grind the quantity I will use for about 5 times and keep in that earlier mentioned container. When I use up that one, I grind another batch. That way it does not lose the flavour and I don’t have to grind each time I want to cook with ehu.

      Even though roasting brings out the taste a bit more, I don’t always do that, I mostly just peel it and grind.

  4. Flo, I usually don’t comment on blogs but I’m writing simply to thank you. Your blog has helped my cooking in the past four years. I moved to the US to join my hubby in 2011. I learned how to make moimoi and moimoi foil from you, how to soften dried bitter-leaves, how to make meatpies etc. Subsequently, when I learned of your 9-5 job, I was inspired by you.

    • Hi Anne, thanks for breaking your no comments stance to give me this awesome feedback! <3
      We all inspire each other dear because I learn so much from my interactions with all of you on this blog and all social media platforms. I'm so glad that the site and the information I share have been helpful to you. Tell hubby that he is so lucky to have you! God bless. :)

  5. Hi Flo, compliments of the season. Here is a big THANK YOU for the Ogbono and Egusi recipes. I cooked them the first time and they got burnt. Until now, I always wondered why. I’m looking forward to a new year with new recipes from you. *wink*

    • Good job getting those two big ones right Rosanna. O yes, I am looking forward to next year when I expect to post more recipes. This year has been so slow recipes-wise. LOL
      Have a great celebration this season and see you in the New Year! Much love. <3

  6. Hi Flo, I swear you fit help person marriage with all these your recipes. I am going to order you book for my oyibo in law who likes to cook nigerian foods. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge with us.
    I have a major question for you. Please which kind of pot do you use for your cooking. I heard non stick pots are not healthy. As our food have tendency of burning a lot, a good set of pots will be very important. I am about to buy my set of pots (from Canada) ASAP. Do you know the make of pot that is best for our kind of cooking? what type do you use for your cooking? What make of utensils do you use.
    I suggest you make a video about your pots, cooking utensils, what utensils you use for what and you will help a lot of people like me. Thanks a lot!

    • Hey Chido,
      lol @ you fit help person marriage with all these your recipes. With the way our brothers’ stomachs matter to them, you can bet that is already happening. :)

      Non-stick pots are not good for preparing Nigerian meals which are mostly one-pot. I use Tefal (T-Fal in the States) original stainless steel pots. They are great for Nigerian cooking. Not sure what their brand is known by in Canada.
      My dear, that video is one of my most requested videos and it is long overdue. I promise that it is in my to-do list for 2016.
      Hope you are having a great holiday this festive period.

      • Thanks a lot Flo for your swift response.
        Looking forward to your video.
        Happy new year my dear. God bless you abundantly!

  7. Thanks flo ur a darling i love baking and ur blog site have helped me a lot. How do i order for ur cookbook.

  8. Dear flo I want to thank you so much for d afang recipe in ur app I downloaded on bbworld… it helped save my crashing relationship and my man always boast of my cooking to his friends….. thanks so much your cooking app has changed my life now I can proudly cook anywhere and be bold to serve it.. pls could u add more recipes to d app.. nd how do I get ur cookbook.. God bless you and have a great day

    • Hello Ada, I am glad that the recipes are helping you in your relationship. Well done for doing a great job with the recipes. :)
      The app is not up-to-date because it is not mine. People steal my content and use them to create products. When I create an app I will announce it here and on various social media.
      Seeing your location, your best option getting the cookbook will be for you to order it on Konga and send it to an address of a family or friend in Nigeria because Konga does not deliver outside Nigeria. Then the person can send it to you. God bless you too!

  9. I am new to Nigerian food, I am an American grandmother and wanted to learn to make some sweets for my Nigerian friends from church. At Christmas I made a butter pound cake for them, the husband liked it. When I saw the Nigerian Cake recipe you posted, I could see why he liked my cake, it is very similar to the traditional cake. Thank you for the recipes and tips. Very interesting and helpful blog.

  10. Wonderful post, please where can i get black pepper to buy

    • You can buy it from the foreign supermarkets. If you do not see it, use our local black seed peppers (uziza seeds or uda seeds). You can buy these from traditional ingredients sellers in Nigerian markets.

  11. You forgot spices like yaji its an hausa spice where you mix dry grinded pepper, with Maggi, kulikuli optional a bit, ginger, garlic salt to taste . we have uda for pepper soup, uziza seed for making pepper soup and uziza leaf for making vegetable soup, okro soup, egwusi soup. Utazi very good In making ugba, ishiewu(goatmeat head) and pepper soup.
    I have a special way of making egwusi soup.
    I blend my egwusi very well put in a clean dry bowl add my ogiri inside, add pepper, chop my onions and add, seasoned cubes to taste, crayfiah grinded, kpala fish grinded then mix all together.
    Wash my meats mostly goat meat, beef, intestine known as kayar chikin in Hausa comprises of large intestine, liver, kidney, towel, roundabout, my okporoko known as stock fish, dry fish all properly washed spiced in the pot, I love to mix my season cubes I used Maggi chicken royco, knorr, Maggi star,etc so I should my tea spoon to fetch the mixed seasoned stock. Then I add onions, little pepper and boil. I chop my kpomo into tiny pieces add when my meat is almost done. Why kpomos are soft and needs no hard boiling
    Then I use the stock to pour into the mixed egwusi mix well then I havvto mind the quantity of water that I use also. The quantity of egwusi determines the quantity of water.
    I add palm oil into the meat pot and allow to boil for 5minutes. Then mould my egwusi into the meat. I add little crayfish and wash uziza leaf cut and add into the pot. As it boils I stir it. Cover pot fr 10minutes. I allow the egwusi to boil for sometime because if not properly cooked, it can purge one. Lastly I add my vegetables either ugwu or bitterleaf. Then 4minutes the soup is ready. Hmmm yummy. You can call 08034995226 houseofzifa follow me on facebpokpage http://www.Facebook.com/hoz uwalaka. On Instagram Houseofzifa

  12. Ekarume Ufuoma says:

    You have seriously increased my cooking skillz, from nigeria main dishes to snacks and a lot of the rest!!! it’s been 3years since I knew your blog and my friends r really wondering, all the ingredients and sweet aroma that increases visitors to the house! “WHERE DID SHE LEARN THEM FROM” they keep wondering!!! Thanks for everything…. I will keep wowing them with all this your mouth watering recipes! Thanks a lot and God bless.
    Pls I once remember one can get your cook book from one supermarket in Hughes avenue, Yaba. kindly resend the full address

    • Awww Ufuoma, well done for doing a great job with the recipes. But please give your friends the link to your source ooo so they can follow you learn! *wink!
      The address where you can get the cookbook in Yaba is:
      Somy Supermarket,
      1A Hughes Avenue,
      Alagomeji Yaba, Lagos.
      08022264555

  13. Hi everybody! Such a nice post!
    I would like to know the ingredients of a nigerian powder used with grilled beef also here in Senegal (but is not senegalese) made of peanuts powder and i don t know what else. Do you know the name and how ro prepare it??thanks in advance

  14. hey, pls am trying to make my own powder recipe for moimoi,its bn alot difficult pls will really appreciate if u will assist. ma email is … thank u.

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