It’s no secret that spices and seasonings are an absolutely essential aspect of any recipe, and without them, our dishes would be left bland and lacklustre, missing that extra burst of heat, sweetness, or depth of flavor.
WHAT ARE SPICES?
are aromatic flavorings from seeds, fruits, bark, rhizomes, and other plant parts which are used to season and preserve food. They’re sold in dried form, but that doesn’t mean spices last forever; their strong flavors will be lost over time, especially if exposed to light and air.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SPICES
- Spices not only enhance the flavor, aroma, and color of food and beverages, but they can also protect from acute and chronic diseases.
- Spices and herbs possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antitumorigenic, anticarcinogenic, and glucose- and cholesterol-lowering activities as well as properties that affect cognition and mood.
- Spices and herbs such as clove, rosemary, sage, oregano, and cinnamon are excellent sources of antioxidants with their high content of phenolic compounds.
- Frequent consumption of spicy foods is also linked to a lower risk of death from cancer and ischemic heart and respiratory system diseases.
It can be so confusing, to decide what spices are best for your Nigerian foods. You might even think we don't have many spices in Nigeria at all. But today, I have brought you 30 out of the non-exhaustive list of spices available in Nigeria. If you know more, feel free to contribute your experience with herbs, spices or condiments in the comments below.
30 NIGERIAN SPICES AND THEIR USES
1. LOCUST BEANS
A pungent-smelling fermented salty condiment. Made from carob seeds and sold whole, dried or ground / powdered. Excellent for all manners of traditional soups and stews. Really good for creating bold flavours in Nigerian foods.
2. SCENT LEAVES
A sweet-smelling herb used mainly for its aroma and assumed medicinal value. Sold fresh or dried. Excellent for soups and stews. The ground / powdered form is used to make suya spice.
A traditional condiment used as a thickener for soups. Also used for the flavour it gives to traditional soups such as Oha soup
. Sold in whole or ground/powdered form. Used to thicken traditional soups like oha, and onugu soups.
4. GROUND DRIED CRAYFISH
Powdered dried crayfish is used to create a distinct traditional taste and flavour in soups and stews. Sold as whole dried crayfish or in ground/powder form.
Excellent for traditional soups such as egusi, ogbonna, okro. Use in any savoury dish for a depth of flavours and taste.
This belongs to the same family as black peppercorns. It has a hot taste and quite a fragrant aroma and flavour. Sold whole. Excellent for spicing soups and stews up. Also used to make suya spice.
A fragrant herb believed to have been introduced to Nigeria many years ago. Also known as curry leaves. Sold fresh. Used mainly to season meat and chicken before cooking/boiling. Sometimes referred to as Negro pepper. Used for its aromatic crisp flavour. Has a slight bitter taste so must be used in moderation. Used especially for making pepper soup and banga soup.
Garlic is a part of the onion family. It is known for its strong pungent flavour and believed to have medicinal properties. Sold in bulbs/cloves or dried and powdered. Blended with other ingredients to make soups and stews and marinades. Also used in traditional medicine.
A fibrous woody culinary tuber. Has a very high nutritional profile and is used for its fiery taste (peppery) and flavour. Available in fresh or dried powdered/ground form. Used in soups, stews, and marinades. Used to brew ginger tea or zobo).
9. ALLIGATOR PEPPER (Atare)
An aromatic seed which a characteristic fiery taste. Used for its aroma and is believed to have medicinal properties. Sold whole in pods. Particularly used in the pepper soup yam potage. May also be used in other dishes that require some fiery taste.
10. EHURU (African nutmeg, Jamaican nutmeg)
A very aromatic seed used to as a spice added to soups. Sold whole or dried and ground into powder. Used in pepper soup and banga soup. Can also be used in other traditional soups. Best to use by roasting first before grinding.
11. CURRY POWDER
Curry powder was introduced to Nigeria during the colonial era. It is a blend of different dried herbs & spices and believed to originate from Asia. Sold in ground powdery form. Used to season meat chicken and fish in combination with other spices. Also popular in the making of Jollof rice, fried rice, stews and fried pepper sauces.
A fragrant smelling herb used as a seasoning for a wide range of dishes. Sold fresh or dried. Best used to season meat, fish dishes. Also excellent for rice dishes, stews and soups.
13. BAY LEAF
A tough dark green leaf with a peculiar pungent aroma. Sold as whole dried leaves Useful for making soups, stocks and broths. Also suitable for rice dishes such as Jollof rice and fried rice.
14. CAMEROON PEPPER
A fiery, aromatic form of chilli powder. Dark brown or black in colour, this chilli is believed to originate from Cameroon hence its name. Has a characteristic aroma for which it is highly desired. Sold as a whole dried form or mostly in ground / powdered form. Added to soups and stews for a fiery hot spicy taste. Can also be used to season and cook/boil meat.
Onions are bulb vegetables known for their sweet taste and pungent aroma. A
very versatile condiment which can be used in its raw state and also added to cooking. Sold fresh, dried or powdered. Used in a wide variety of ways in particular for seasoning meat, fish. Also used as garnishes. Blended with other vegetables and added to soups and stews.
17. DRIED HERRING (shawa, bonga fish )
These are dried pieces of herring fish. Because they are quite bony, they are not eaten fresh but dried and sold whole or ground / powdered form.
Added to traditional soups or stews for the added authentic traditional taste and flavour. Whole dried fish can also be used in some dishes such as moin-moin, ikokore etc
18. SPRING ONIONS
Spring onions are fragrant and mild tasting herbs. Sold fresh.
Used mainly for marinades, and for garnishes. Also chopped and used in stir fries.
19. CLOVES (kanafuru)
Cloves are dried flower buds with a distinctive sweet smell and a strong pungent taste. They can be purchased as whole buds or ground/powdered form. Can be used to bake and also used in soups (pepper soup) and other savoury meat dishes. Adds flavour to pies. Also added to suya spice.
An aromatic sweet tasting spice used mainly for its flavour. Sold whole or ground /powdered form. May be used in confectionery and also in soups and stews.
Nutmeg is a fragrant seed used by shaving off or ground and added to cooking. Sold as whole seed or in powdered form. Typically used in baking and dessert recipes. Excellent for adding flavour to chin-chin and puff-puff. Also good for savoury dishes.
This condiment has a strong pungent aroma which is desirable to some and off putting for some. Sold as a wet paste. Mostly added to soups to give the very traditional strong taste and flavour.
23. GROUNDNUT PASTE
Similar to peanut butter but without the added sugar. Sold as a paste. Can be used to thicken soups and added depth and flavour.
24. CHILLI POWDER
A spice know for its characteristic hot taste. Chilli powder is a universal spice and is a particular Nigerian favourite. Sold ground/powder. Added to soups, stews and dishes to add heat. Can also be used to marinate and boil meat/chicken.
Spice similar to mild curry. Sold in powder form.It imparts a subtle fragrance to fried rice dishes. Works well with other rice dishes such as Jollof rice.
Yaji is a careful blend of a range of spices in particular garlic powder, ginger, chilli powder, salt, kulikuli etc. More popular in the northern part of Nigeria, this spice is based on similar concepts to Indian masala spices. There are different types of yaji blends, made to suit specific dishes such as suya, kilishi, etc. Yaji can be used in a range of dishes depending on its blend.
Shallots are not quite onions and not garlic. They come in between both in terms of size and shape. They have a sweet and mild flavour, again a cross between onions and garlic. Used in seasoning meat and fish dishes. Can also be added to stews or chopped and used as garnish or in salads.
It basically is dried and powdered sweet red ramiro peppers (tatase).
Can be used to give depth to soups and stews. Also used as a food colour due to its deep red colour.
29. BLACK PEPPER
A relatively fiery spice. Dried berries which are sold whole or ground.
Add to savoury dishes to give a mild fiery taste. Excellent for grilling and BBQ.
A salt-like rock used for its ability to tenderize food and to act as an emulsifier.
Added to pulses and vegetable soups such as ewedu and gbegiri (bean soup).
If we are given all day to talk about popular Nigerian spices, we cannot exhaust them all. Those we have listed above are some of the few among numerous spices in the county. Ensure you incorporate more spices in your food from this day on, not just for the enhanced taste but the gracious healthy benefits