weight gain guide book
weight gain guide book
weight gain guide book

Alternative to Edible Potash (Akanwu, Kanwa, Kaun or Keun)

We’ve all heard lots of stories about how edible potash is not good for us. So reducing the intake is very advisable and I am welcome to any safer ingredient that can be used as alternative.

Edible potash is used in at least two ways in Nigerian cooking: to make palm oil curdle and as a food tenderizer. In this post, I will be talking about using potash to make palm oil curdle. Ngu (burnt palm fruit stalk) is not readily available to those outside Nigerian villages. If you are outside Nigeria, that means no hope for you at all, at all. 😀

NOTE: Now you can even make palm oil curdle with just palm oil and water. Click here to see how.

So what do we use as alternative?

We all know that baking soda (bicarbonate of soda or sodium bicarbornate) makes baked foods fluffy so would it have the same effect on palm oil? Baking soda is perfect for this purpose because it does not give the palm oil any funny taste or smell. And it is readily available everywhere in the world.

Akanwu Alternative

All you need to do is mix the baking soda with a small quantity of water. Pour into the palm oil and stir at the same time like I do in videos for recipes that require the palm oil to be in the curdled state. Keep stirring till the palm oil thickens and turns yellow.

If you have been missing out on Abacha, Ugba, Nkwobi and Isi Ewu because you do not have edible potash, now you can prepare them and enjoy with the rest of us.

Try it and see. Watch the video below for the tests I carried out. I will be testing baking soda as a food tenderiser alternative soon. Right now, I do not want to use the dried “essential commodity” ukwa that my Mum brought for me from Nigeria. I do not want to risk it o 😀 I will try it next time I need to soften dry bitter leaves.

UPDATE: I have tried using baking soda (NOT baking powder) as food tenderiser for ukwa, beans even to make Dan Wake fluffy and it works.

What do you use in your home? Ngu, potash or baking soda? Will you try baking soda at home? Let me know in the comments! 🙂


  1. I will try the baking soda to prepare abacha and ugba my parents sent to me from Nigeria. Thanks a lot for this knowledge.

  2. You can also use the ashes that come out of a burnt a palmfriut stalk (the log that remains after removing the friuts). It is called ntu ngo it is axailable around the east. Pour the ash inside a bowl allow it to settle 4 some minutes.the pour the mixture into anther bowl making sure dat piece of tiny charcoals are removed.what u get at the bottom of the bowl will be sand. The pour palmoil into new bowl wit the mixture n stir. U get ngo .

  3. can the baking soda be used in cooking ewedu/okro too?

  4. Chinwe Onye says

    wow,thanks!I can get akanwu where I live but still,good to know!

  5. Chinyerum Jack says


  6. EMMANUEL says


  7. Nwosu Ogoo says

    For the bitter leaf. When i went to join my husband from Nigeria i forgot the potash. Well he showed me this method. You put the dry leaves in a pot and top with water and allow it to boil very well. You bring it down and rince with cold. then you wash as the normal way of washing bitter leaf. You do this 2wice again and your leaves will be very soft.

  8. I just used baking soda to cook my ukwa, and it worked.
    My mother sent me some ukwa, and she doesn’t use akanwu so she told me how to do it so it won’t be too hard. Maybe I didn’t wait long enough (I waited 1 hour), or maybe I missed a step. I sha couldn’t wait any longer (I was so hungry) so I googled ‘how to cook ukwa without akanwu’ and one of the results was this post. I mixed some baking soda with water – I didn’t take measurements, but I can say it was about 1 full teaspoon to maybe 3 or 4 tablespoons of water, I didn’t care about measurements at this point because of my hunger. Anyhow, remember I had been cooking the ukwa for 1 hour? Well, I poured the baking soda mix into the ukwa and went away for 8 minutes. By the time I got back, the ukwa was done. It was quite like magic, and I was wondering why no one has ever tried this before. Suffice it to say that I’m typing this comment with my ukwa in front of me.
    Thank you Flo!

    • Wow Storm! This the greatest feedback I have ever received! I have never tried cooking my “essential commodity” ukwa with baking soda for fear that it will mess up the ukwa! I am saving the ukwa for longer throat days and it will really pain me if anything happens to even 1 seed! LOL

      Thanks a lot for trying it dear and for coming to let me know that it worked as a food tenderizer! :)xx

      Welcome to the Naija food family <3 I dey jealous you and your ukwa oooo!

      • I hope using baking powder won’t increase the body’s salt intake.

        • You mean baking soda. Sure baking soda will increase your sodium intake but you don’t use this everyday for every meal. For serious health conditions such as someone with high blood pressure, it should be avoided completely. I have a new video where only palm oil and water was used to achieve the curdling. Click here to view it.

    • Great advice. I read this after making my ukwa last night. I didn’t like the hardness and my mum didn’t want me using potash. I added the baking soda today and it worked perfectly! Thanks!

  9. thanks for this wonderful post.

  10. u are the best…. planing to make a welcome back isi ewu dessert for my hubby who has been away for 4 months. i just thot to goodle where to buy potash andd your blog poped up. hugggs kisssesss thanks

    • hehehe Really Google is our friend!
      You are welcome dear! Hubby is so lucky to have you. I am sure he will forget those 4 months in a jiffy. Keep it up!

  11. Hi Flo I like your research on akanwu.keep up the good work.

  12. Tanx flo. Today, I cooked cow head using baking soda, and it didn’t take long to soften plus d taste. of my soup wasn’t affected. This is a must have in the kitchen……….. Flo u r d best.

    • It’s amazing Mercy how these two things; one crude and the other refined are so similar. Well done! Thanks for your helpful feedback. 🙂

  13. pls what is the difference between baking soda and Baking powder before now,I thought it one and same thing

    • Sandra they are not the same.

      I will try and explain the difference the way I understand it. Baking soda is simply sodium bicarbonate so it contains only one ingredient. Baking powder contains baking soda plus other acids. In simple terms, during baking, you use baking soda when you want a quick reaction. If you want a slower, extended reaction, use baking powder. So for the procedure detailed in this post, you will see the oil change once you add the baking soda and start stirring but you will need more quantity of baking powder to achieve the same results. You may even have to leave it overnight to notice any change.

      Experienced bakers know when and how to use both ingredients during baking. But for you and I, when a recipe calls for baking soda, we use it and when it calls for baking powder, we use it without asking questions. LOL
      For more scientific details of their differences, you can google “difference between baking soda and baking powder”.

  14. please any other option for protein if cow leg is not available

  15. Good evening. I’m nk.please why do I have to sieve the ground potash. Does it taste like sand.cos I don’t know the appropriate sieve to use.i really love this.ill prepare my nkwobi Friday evening or Saturday with chilled sweet calor rossi wine.

    • It is sandy. If you add it to your cooking, it will just mess it up.
      After mixing it with water, allow to settle for some time then slowly decant the water into the oil, that way the particles at the bottom will not pour into the meal. You can pour the water through a very fine sieve just so that it will catch some twigs (if any) that will be floating at the top.

  16. Thanks so much for this recipe. I live in Europe and have never cooked Isi Ewu before but your recipe was so easy that it came out perfect at first trial. I used baking soda and it was just great.

  17. Good job here. Please can i use ugba for this meal?

  18. Thanks a lot!!!!!!! I googled alternative to Potash and your link came up. Definitely trying this . So happy

  19. Euphemia says

    Can ukpaka be added? If yes, how could I do that in the preparation of isi ewu? Thank u

    • Euphemia do you mean if Ukpaka can be added to Isi Ewu? If yes, yes you can. Add ukpaka when you add the ground ehu and the other ingredients to the oil (step 10 in the Isi Ewu recipe). Click here for the recipe for Isi Ewu.
      For the recipe of how to prepare Ugba with this ncha, click here.

  20. Please can I use normal goat meat instead of the head? And is the brain really important?

    • Sure you can use any part of goat meat to prepare this and it will be delicious. The only thing is that you can’t call it Isi Ewu anymore because Isi Ewu literally means Goat Head.
      The brain helps thicken the sauce.

  21. Nne you are too much! You really turned me into a good cook, thanks a lot ?

  22. Hello. I Hp u get to read this. Your website has been helping me since 1900…hahaha. Has actually made my cooking more fun, interesting and easier. God bless u plenty. Pls is there any other name for “ehu”? Thanks

  23. Hello. I Hp u get to read this. Your website has been helping me since 1900…hahaha. Has actually made my cooking more fun, interesting and easier. God bless u plenty. Pls is there any other name for “ehu”? Thanks

  24. Oh God bless u. I am pregnant and all i hear is u cant eat this or that. I want to eat abacha without hurting my baby. So i used google to find alternative and ur link popped up. Glad this is safe since i eat other baked stuff containing sodium bicarbonate then i can still use this.
    Thanks a lot

  25. I av been craving for nkwobi and I stormed your site. I tried d whole process but I realized at the final stage when I put the pot on d fire, d curdled oil changed back to palm oil. please where did I miss the step??
    thanks in anticipation.

    • Kiki, when you warm up the Nkwobi, the curdled oil will melt a little bit but will get back to the way it should be when it cools back down to a comfortable temperature. This will happen as long as you did not add too much oil. Do not leave it on the stove for too long. Warm it up on high heat and once heated, take it off the stove.

  26. Thanks for this post. I stay in Nigeria and have access to akanwu. However i am pregnant and hear i must not consume it. And now i am craving abacha. Hope baking soda is a safe option during pregnancy?

    • Soni I read somewhere that once baking soda is mixed with other ingredients (during cooking and baking) that it should be safe to use during pregnancy. You can Google it to read more on this.

  27. is it a most i use the goat brain pls bec i
    get irritated wit things like that

  28. Pls , how can I reduce the taste of pottash in my nkobi. I mistakenly used more than necessary and its not giving the nkobi a perfect taste.

    • Sobian the one way is to add more palm oil then scoop out the excess before adding the meat. Sorry o. Not only does it affect the taste, too much potash is not good for the stomach.

  29. Is it the same method for making cow tail? Thanks.

  30. I want to prepare a delicious Abacha but want to know the role EHU will play when i add it,i mean why do i have to use EHU to prepare Abacha


    hy group

  32. What about cream of tartar can it also be used in place of akanwu?

  33. Pls sis
    Wat can I use to cook the brain if foil is not available

  34. Agun Solomon says

    Pls is it necessary to ask use the brain of the goat in the preparations of the Isi Ewu

  35. Corn starch is the best

  36. can I add crayfish in the isiewu, if yes when should I do that?

  37. Darling thanks for your helping hands on some of us that have no idea of preparing this natives.
    I want to know if the mixture of Palm oil with Potash is done on the fire while mixing or not?

  38. Kanu Kingsley says

    Hi there, I live in Germany and for sometime now I’ve been eating my ukwa half cooked because it takes me a whole day to make something out of it. But thanks to your post on baking soda I can now enjoy my meal without worries. Truly it was like magic because it didn’t take up to 10 minutes for it to get soft.

  39. Hello! I’m Adaobi.
    Please I want to prepare ngu separate for mixing white Abacha. Eg: if I put my garden egg leaves, the pour the sieved white Abacha, then add the ngu water and stir…

    My question is, Can I add Ehu, grounded pepper, and stock fish water into the ngu??
    Please direct me on how to do it,, it’s my daughters birthday party after 2pm today please!!!!!!!!

  40. Thank you so much,stumble on ur site while researching for anything I can use to tenderize my ukwa brought to me from Nigeria and you have just given me a solution. Let me go and try it.
    God bless u

  41. Hi, if you hear up the nkwobi, wont the yellow sauce turn back to normal red oil?

  42. Godwin rose says

    How can I use ehu in my abacha

  43. Hello Ma, please can I use Ngu as a food tenderizer in cooking Danwake. Thank you

  44. Hi Flo, please how do i preserve the curdled red oil for an occasion to mix it with the cow leg at the event? If i mix it and leave it for about 4-5hours will it disintegrate? Help o

    • It’s mainly heat that makes it disintegrate. So keep it away from heat and as long as you have enough potash for the quantity of oil you used, it will not disintegrate. But it does not take time to make the palm oil curdle: just pour potash water into the oil and mix. So I wonder why you want to prepare it hours ahead.

  45. Onyedikachi says

    Do you have any idea why the oil uncuddles, after (or in the course of) mixing all the ingredients?
    I mean that, after mixing the potash with the Palm-oil, and the yellowish puree is formed; you mix in the goat meat and other ingredients, only for the mixture to appear as though, you have only poured in fresh Palm-oil into it.

    • Heat makes it revert so if the goat meat you added was hot, some of the curdled oil will revert. But not all of them will revert, it will still be thick somehow.

  46. Joy Palmer says

    Hi Flo,

    I want to use this method to make nkwobi, how do I do that? I didn’t see your Nkwobi recipe with this method. Thank you

Comment to show me you are alive and cooking some delicious food!