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Nigerian Egusi Soup is arguably Nigeria’s most popular soup. A mouthwatering combination of dried melon seeds, peppers, onions ground crayfish and of course chilli! The flavours in this soup are super unique and oh so flavourful!
What is Egusi Soup?
Egusi soup is a Nigerian soup originating from the Yoruba tribe. In Nigeria there are over 200 different tribes who all have different cultures, speak different languages and cook different food.
If you want to learn more about Nigerian Food check out my blog post Nigerian Food for Newbies!
Egusi Soup is the only soup which is actually eaten by all the tribes of Nigeria which is why it is often called Nigeria’s most popular soup!
The soup is made up of all the usual Nigerian staple ingredients. Onions, peppers, chilli, iru, dried crayfish and finished with spinach or any other kind of bitter leaf as natives call it. The most important ingredient is Egusi what the soup is named after.
What is Egusi?
Egusi means melon seed in Yoruba. The seeds of melons are dried and then ground to produce a fine powder, that is then turned into a paste to cook in the soup.
To best describe the taste of melon seeds I would suggest trying this soup! It really is a unique flavour and unlike anything else I have ever tried.
The taste is savoury, slightly bitter and rich tasting.
How do Nigerians Eat Egusi Soup?
Nigerians eat this kind of Soup with swallow. Swallow is a group of foods eaten by Nigerians that are literally “hard to swallow”. They include things like pounded yam, eba, ground rice and fufu.
Some Nigerians also eat this soup with white rice but this is not traditional. This is how I like to enjoy my Egusi Soup on top of white long grain rice with some Nigerian Red Stew on the side!
What Do I Need?
The ingredients for Egusi Soup are mixed. Some are easily found common ingredients and others, special Nigerian ingredients. You may need to find a local Nigerian store or find out if your country has an online vendor for Nigerian products.
Egusi – These are the melon seeds. You can get this at a Nigerian green grocer or many Indian/afghani shops selling Nigerian produce and products.
Crayfish – This ingredient is essential for a lot of Nigerian cooking. It is irreplaceable and worth sourcing. The flavour is smoky, salty and shellfishy. Always buy whole and blend fresh yourself using a coffee grinder.
Iru – These are femented locust beans. They are salty and slightly sour. Commonly used in Nigerian cooking as a seasoning.
Scotch Bonnet – The favourite hot pepper of Nigeria. Its punchy with sweet flavours.
Onions – I use brown onions but you can also use white or red.
Red Pepper – Red pepper is best to provide a nice red colour to the soup but you can use yellow, orange or green too.
Stock cube – Nigerians use maggi to season everything. I substitute for 1 chicken stock cube.
Chicken Stock – You will also need some fresh chicken stock/broth to add a meaty flavour to the soup. You can use water but the taste will not be the same.
Palm Oil – This oil is very popular in Nigeria. You should buy Nigerian palm oil which is made in Nigeria and does not have the same issues South American palm oil has.
Thyme, Pepper and Paprika – Season with dried thyme, black pepper and paprika.
How to Make Egusi Soup
There are two methods I know of to make Egusi Soup. The method I use is the ball method. There are specific steps to follow but these steps are easy to follow and provide the best tasting Egusi Soup.
First grind the egusi in small/medium batches until fine.
Blend 1 medium onion with 1 cup water and 1 tbsp ground crayfish.
Pour the ground egusi into a bowl and add the blended onion mix little by little while stirring to create a paste.
Make the stew base by blending 1 large red pepper, 1 medium onion and 8 scotch bonnet.
Pour the palm and vegetable oil into a wide base pot and heat on high until smoking (about 5 minutes).
Once hot throw in the iru and fry for 2 minutes until jumping. Then throw in the stew base and 1 tablespoon ground crayfish, the seasonings and stir.
Allow the base to fry in the oil for about 20 minutes stirring every 5 or so minutes.
Once the oil has risen and the raw smell has gone add the stock and 1 tablespoon of ground crayfish.
Taste for salt and add if necessary. Crayfish is very salty.
Now using a tablespoon start scooping the egusi paste into the pot in individual lumps/mounds, then cover the pot and put it on low.
Ensure the egusi lumps/balls are not touching.
Check every 3 minutes to ensure its not sticking. Leave for 20 minutes not touching it.
After 20 mins add the meats and stir. Cover and leave for 5 minutes.
Add the spinach or bitter leaf stir and cover and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Tips & Tricks
When adding the oil stay attentive and don’t let it get too hot. Watch closely and add the iru once smoking.
Use a good blender like my trusty Ninja 3 in 1 to produce a smooth stew base with little to no bits.
When mixing the egusi with the onion mix, add it little by little while mixing to ensure you end up with the correct consistency.
Buy whole dried crayfish and grind fresh using a coffee grinder. You could also use a pestle and mortar.
When adding the egusi to the stew base use two spoons to form mounds and place them into the pot 1-2cm apart.
Add the spinach or bitter leaf you are using to the pot at the final moment.
Nigerian Egusi Soup Serving Suggestions
Egusi Soup is a delicious soup best enjoyed with a hearty side of carbs! Nigerians eat soups with a food group known as ‘swallow’, this includes things like pounded yam, eba, ground rice and fufu.
I love eating Egusi Soup with Fluffy White Rice. Long grain rice is great with this dish and perfect for coating with this super rich soup!
Nigerian Egusi Soup
A Spicy and Unique soup full of flavour and texture!
Prep Time 30 minutesmins
Cook Time 45 minutesmins
Total Time 1 hourhr15 minutesmins
Wide Casserole Pot
Oil Splash Guard
1medium onion or yellow or green
1large red pepper
2stock cubes or maggi
Chop the meat into your desired size and then add to a deep stock pot.
Add thyme, garlic, carrots, onions, celery and a stock cube or maggi to the pot and fill the pot with water until just above the level of the meat.
Boil the meat for 20-30 minutes or until fork tender. Not too soft but soft enough to pierce but not fall apart.
Drain the beef and reserve the broth for whatever you like!
Dry the beef off with some kitchen roll and then prepare the frying pan with oil for frying.
Heat the oil for 10 minutes or until 190°C. Add the beef to the pan and use a splash guard to protect yourself and the stove.
Fry the beef for 4-5 minutes each side then remove to a kitchen roll lined bowl or plate.
Grind the egusi in medium batches until super fine.
Blend 1 medium onion with 1 cup water and 1 tbsp ground crayfish. Put the egusi into a mixing bowl and add onion mix little by little to create a paste.
Blend the Red peppers, onions and chillis Pour oil into pot and heat until hot then fry the iru for 2-3 mins or until jumping then throw in the stew base.
20 mins later or Once the oil rises and the raw smell has gone add the stock and 1 tbsp ground crayfish.
Then start scooping the egusi paste into the pot in tbsp lumps/mounds then cover the pot and put it on low.
Check every 3 minutes to check its not sticking. Leave for 20 mins not touching it.
After 20 mins add the meat, stir and cover and leave for at least 10 minutes.
Finally add the chopped spinach stir, cover and leave for 5 minutes then your egusi is ready.
Use no more than 30% onion or the egusi will be bitter.
Use two spoons to scoop the egusi lumps into the pot.
When checking the egusi during the first 20 minutes tilt the pot or wiggle it slightly to see if the balls move. If they move the are fine if there is little to no movement they are sticking and the heat needs to be turned lower.
If this is too difficult use a spatula to gently lift the egusi if you must. You must be extremely gentle as you may break the balls before they have solidified more.
Keep the heat low once the egusi is in the pot to avoid burning.
Author: Daniel Devereux
Course: Dinner, Main Course
Keyword: Beef, one pot, Savoury, Spicy
Did you try this Nigerian Egusi Soup Recipe?
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