West African food features some of the most potent and hearty flavors in the world, and some of the stars of the cuisine just happen to come in the form of soup. The flavors of West African soups include lots of chili peppers, palm oil, fish, yams, peanuts, goat meat and more. While many of these ingredients might seem a bit strange compared to what you’re used to eating, we guarantee they are all delicious. From spicy Nigerian concoctions to hearty dishes from the Ivory Coast, here are 10 west African soups that are sure to fill your belly.
There’s way more than just okra in this traditional dish. Ingredients in okro soup usually call for beef, tripe, dried fish, pumpkin leaves, okra, palm oil, and plenty of stock. The result is a rich, aromatic flavor that could easily grow into a new comfort food. If you’re traveling in Hausa areas of Nigeria, look for Miyan Kubewa on the menu.
For something a bit unusual, you definitely need to try Banga Soup. It’s mostly found in Nigeria, but sometimes pops up on menus throghout west Africa. The soup includes lots of hard to find ingredients including beletete, rohoji, aidan fruit and ground crayfish. The spice list to make the soup is equally as long.
This yummy soup takes crushed groundnuts (a.k.a. peanut butter), tomatoes, onions, (sometimes a whole chicken) and plenty of spices and peppers to create a creamy masterpiece. You’ll find the soup in virtually any traditional Ghanaian restaurant you walk into. If you like the taste of Indian or Thai peanut sauce, you’ll probably like this soup as well.
This Yoruba dish from Nigeria is especially popular in Lagos but can be found throughout west Africa. The soup uses boiled down corchorus leaves to create a thick stew. The contents are green, kind of slimy, and similar to the texture of okra soup, but don’t let that put you off, as the taste is phenomenal.
Despite its name, this soup isn’t exactly light and comes completely loaded with spicy flavor made with tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and copious amount of chili peppers. It’s usually served with a meat floating around in it like goat or fish. Be sure to get an order of fufu with it to soak up all the delicious broth.
If you’re looking for spicy, look no further than this popular dish which can be found throughout west Africa. While the base ingredients usually remain the same, you’ll find varieties of it with fish, goat meat, or even cow’s feet. The broth created from these rich meats is simply phenomenal.
Bitter Leaf Soup
Don’t let the name fool you, the dish isn’t actually that bitter, and the Nigerian specialty is one of the most popular in households around the country. It starts with fresh bitter leaf, fish, goat, crayfish, locust beans and a variety of spices. The bitter leaf in the soup is supposed to be extremely healthy and high in antioxidants.
This dish is super popular in Ivory Coast and uses a heaping amount of slow-cooked chicken and vegetables. It’s usually cooked in a big pot all day over hot coals so it comes out extremely tender. You’ll often find it served with a side of cassava to help soak up the broth.
Palm Nut Soup
This dish is very similar to Banga Soup but is found in more places around west Africa. Like Banga, it uses a hefty amount of palm nut oil to create it’s distinctly red broth. It’s also loaded with chili powder and delicious meats to help create its rich texture. This ends up being a favorite of many west African travelers.
This dish will most likely be unlike anything you’ve ever had. The components include egusi of course (a plant similar to a watermelon) along with okra, chili peppers and whichever meat happens to be on hand at the time. If you want something filling, this is one of the heartiest dishes on our list.
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