9 Alternative Nigerian Food Ingredients

If you live outside Nigeria and can’t buy the classic Nigerian food ingredients where you live, here are nine alternative Nigerian food ingredients you should know about and start using immediately. There’s a part 2, part 3, even part 4 coming up so stay tuned. I will be releasing them as soon as each list is complete.

alternative nigerian ingredients

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1. Akamu, Ogi or Pap

If you are craving the classic sour taste of akamu but can’t buy Nigerian corn where you live so you can make your own akamu, use a combination of corn flour and a few drops of lemon juice to get that classic taste of akamu. Also, if you can buy the Maizena brand of corn flour, it has a mild sour taste compared to other corn flours.
Watch: How to make Akamu with Corn Flour and Lemon Juice
Watch: How to make Akamu with Corn

2. Palm Oil

I doubt if red palm oil can ever have a perfect alternative because there is nothing like that gift of nature. But if you absolutely cannot find palm oil where you live, you can manage the excess oil that comes from tomato stew. Click here to see the oil that I am talking about.

This oil is ok for cooking Ogbono Soup, Yam Porridge/Pottage, Okra Soup, Egusi Soup and Vegetable Soup but not so great when cooking Bitterleaf Soup, Ora Soup and all the other Nigerian Soups that require a starchy thickener.

3. Edible Potash

Sometime ago, I shared baking soda as alternative to edible potash when you want to curdle palm oil for Abacha, Isi Ewu, Nkwobi. Baking Soda is a great alternative because it gives the resulting ncha the classic taste of potash. But if you do not want to use baking soda either, there’s also another alternative; you only need hot water and palm oil. The last alternative does not have the classic taste of potash.
Read: Baking Soda as Alternative to Edible Potash
Watch: How to make Palm Oil Curdle with Hot Water and Palm Oil

4. Nigerian Tatashe

If you are outside Nigeria and need tatashe badly, all you need to do is combine sweet pepper also known as paprika with a spicy pepper such as cayenne pepper, habanero pepper or scotch bonnet pepper. You can use sweet peppers to give your Moi Moi the appetizing peach colour.

5. Egusi Seeds

Egusi Soup is the confirmed most popular soup in Nigeria. And it has at least 4 alternatives you can use outside Nigeria: sunflower seeds, almonds, pumpkin seeds and beniseed. This beniseed is sometimes referred to as sesame seed (bigger than the one on burger buns). Just grind these ingredients (peeled) like you would egusi seeds and use them to prepare egusi soup.
Recipe: Sunflower Seeds Egusi Soup

6. Cocoyam (Thickener)

When preparing bitterleaf soup or any soup that uses cocoyam as thickener, if you do not have cocoyam, oatmeal is a great alternative for thickening the soup with the Quaker brand of oats being the most spot on in terms of how the soup tastes. You will not even know that the bitterleaf soup was not prepared with cocoyam at all.
Watch: Using Quaker Oats as Thickener for Bitterleaf Soup

7. Water Leaves

Lamb’s Lettuce makes a good waterleaf alternative when preparing Edikang Ikong Soup because it adds this slight taste of water leaves to the soup. The vegetable is not as thick as water leaves and the taste of the waterleaves is not as strong but it is better than nothing. Just combine with spinach and/or kale in the soup and bam, you have a better tasting vegetable soup than when you use just spinach and/or kale.
Watch: How to Cook Edikang Ikong with Spinach and Lamb’s Lettuce

8. Spinach

Outside Nigeria, we use spinach as alternative for green amaranth and ugu. Spinach has a similar texture as green amaranth but it does not taste like green. Spinach does not have the texture nor the taste of ugu but we use it like that because there is no better alternative. Spinach takes a bit of getting used to. People say that kale is great for ugu but I will confirm that when I try it.

9. Catfish

Conger Eel is a great alternative when you want to prepare Catfish Pepper Soup that’s Point and Kill, Ofe Nsala or Peppered Catfish. Be aware that in some places conger eel is regarded as endangered species. But it is still ok to eat it in places that have conger eel farms. Conger Eel has the same texture and taste as catfish. The only faults it has are that it looks like the long reptile and it has tiny bones which you need to watch out for. Not good for children.
Watch: Catfish Pepper Soup

Which great Nigerian ingredients alternatives have you discovered in your stays around the world? Click here to share with us. Thank you. Watch the video below for to see all these alternatives in action.


  1. Thank you for all your amazing tips.
    Please can you recomend any alternative for ground crayfish to cook soup?
    Dry crayfish is so hard to find where I live and whenever i find it, its just too expensive.
    Thanks once again and keep up the good work

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