Oil & Spices, Soup Ingredients

The top 10 most popular spices in Nigeria

Spices and seasonings are the open secrets that transform food into nutritious, can’t-have-enough delicacies. No wonder they’re a staple in Nigerian meals. In this article, we’ll highlight the popular spices Nigerians can’t do without. 

Spices and seasonings are the open secrets that transform food into nutritious, can’t-have-enough delicacies. No wonder they’re a staple in Nigerian meals. In this article, we’ll highlight the popular spices Nigerians can’t do without. 

Are spices different from seasonings?

Prices of seasonings, such as pepper suya, locust beans, curry. and thyme, on Pricepally

You’re not alone if you confuse seasonings for spices. Although both give Nigerian meals unique tastes and flavors, they’re not the same. 

Spices are flavor materials made from plants’ bark, root, fruit, seed, or stem. Typically, spices are stored and used in their dried form to preserve their flavor intensity. 

For instance, cinnamon is made from the bark of Cinnamomum trees. And it’s rich in cinnamaldehyde, which gives it a distinct flavor. Black and white pepper, commonly used to make “suya,” are dried fruits of the pepper plant, Piper nigrum. 

Seasonings, on the other hand, contain multiple ingredients. It’s a mix of spices, salts, sugars, and other herbs. Unlike spices, it can be dry or wet. Besides flavor, they also improve the aroma and texture of food. Common seasonings in Nigeria are.  

  • Thyme. Usually added to meat and chicken stocks. 
  • Suya pepper. It’s a blend of peanuts, chili peppers, salt, ginger, and cloves. Suya pepper is a major ingredient in making suya, a much-loved street food in Nigeria. 
  • Locust beans (locally called “iru” or “ogiri”). It’s a salty condiment made by fermenting carob, melon, or sesame seeds. It’s excellent for soups and pepper-tomato stews
  • Curry. It’s a mix of turmeric, cumin, ginger, and black pepper. It may also contain cinnamon and garlic. It has a warm, pungent smell. Like thyme, it’s a staple for boiling meat, fish, and chicken. 

Top 10 popular spices in Nigeria

As a Nigerian, here are the must-have condiments you should have in your kitchen. 

1. Pepper

Prices of spices such as, black pepper, sombo pepper, and bell pepper, on Pricepally

Nigerians, especially the Yorubas, love pepper, whether it’s black, red, or white. Besides adding spicy tastes, they also add color to dishes. They’re also therapeutic. 

For instance, bell peppers (popularly called “tatashe”) are rich sources of antioxidants that improve eye health. They also prevent anemia because they contain high amounts of iron. It’s also rich in vitamins—especially vitamin C, which improves iron absorption from the gut—fiber, and sugar. 

Bell peppers exist in different colors, red, orange, and green (when unripe). And you can shop for it and other fresh food items at Pricepally.  

Similarly, black pepper may help lower cholesterol levels. Cayenne pepper (locally called “bawa” or “shombo”) is a rich source of vitamin A, which improves bone and eye health.

2. Bay leaf 

Nigerian jollof rice is incomplete without the minty flavor taste of bay leaves. It’s made from the leaves of plants, including bay laurel, Indian bay, and Indonesian laurel. Apart from the fragrance, bay leaves have the following health benefits: 

  • They help with diabetes and cardiovascular treatments. 
  • Improves kidney function. They keep urease (an enzyme that causes kidney stones when in excess) at bay.
  • Has anti-inflammatory properties. Bay leaves contain cineole and sesquiterpene lactones, preventing wound inflammation.

3. Scent leaves (African basil) 

Locally called “efinrin” or “Ahuju,” scent leaves have found their home in Nigerian delicacies and soups, like porridge, pepper soup and ogbono soup. It also has the following benefits: 

  • It promotes good eyesight because it’s rich in vitamin A. 
  • It promotes weight loss. It contains eugenol and other plant phytochemicals that lower blood sugar levels and, by extension, diabetic symptoms. 
  • Protects the stomach. Besides protecting the stomach against ulcers, It’s potent against stomach aches, dysentery, vomiting, and diarrhea. 

4. Onion

There’s a running joke that you’re bad vibes if you don’t like onions or the onion family. It’s a low-calorie vegetable that’s packed with vitamins that benefit the immune and heart systems. It’s also loaded with antioxidants that protect the body against cancer and diabetes diseases. 

5. Garlic

Prices of spices such as, onions, garlic, and turmeric, on Pricepally Garlic, a close relative of onions, is medicinal as much as it’s a food ingredient. The low-calorie spice has strong anti-cancer properties because of the high presence of organosulfur compounds. Its oil protects against diabetes and heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels

6. Turmeric

Turmeric, another family of onions, is a golden-orange spice. Its active ingredient, curcumin, protects the body against cell damage and inflammatory diseases, like arthritis and joint disorders. Like garlic, turmeric may also protect against Alzheimer’s disease (a brain disorder) because of its antioxidant properties. 

7. Bitter leaf

Whether you’re preparing it as a soup or adding it to other soups, bitter leaf (or “ewuro”) is a vegetable you always want to have. The leaf also has the following medicinal benefits: 

  • Effective for reducing blood pressure and managing diabetes.
  • Enhances liver and kidney detoxification.
  • Useful for treating bacteria-related stomach disturbances and indigestion. 

8. Uziza leaf and seeds (West African pepper) 

Prices of spices, such as uziza leaves, scent leaf, and bay leaf, on PricepallyFew things scream Nigerian more than the uziza leaf and seed. The leaf is a main ingredient in the much-revered “ofensala” Igbo soup. 

It cures constipation issues because it’s rich in dietary fiber. It’s also a rich source of proteins and essential oils. 

9. Ginger

You can add ginger to soups, herbal teas, or use it as a supplement. The rhizome is effective against nausea, especially morning sickness. It prevents obesity and heart disease. It’s also effective for treating chronic indigestion. 

10. Paprika

Paprika is a colorful food ingredient made from dried Capsicum annuum plants. It’s loaded with proteins, fiber, vitamins (A, E, and B6), iron, and antioxidants. Because it’s rich in capsaicin, it may reduce arthritis-induced pain. It also reduces cholesterol levels and may help improve blood sugar control. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Nigerian spices and seasonings

What are the best spices and seasonings for jollof rice?

The best spices for jollof rice are bay leaf, ginger, thyme, onion, garlic, bell pepper, and cayenne pepper. 

What’s the difference between tatashe and shombo? 

Tatashe (Bell pepper) looks like a bell. It also comes in different colors, red, yellow, orange and green (when it’s unripe). It’s rich in sugar (fructose and glucose), which explains why you can eat it raw. Shombo (cayenne pepper) is a type of chili pepper, and it’s slimmer and spicier than tatashe. 

Does bitter leaf boost fertility in women? 

Bitter leaves contain antioxidants that improve the reproductive system and balance hormones. They also fortify the immune system with essential nutrients (protein, calcium, iron, and folic acid) during pregnancy. However, high doses of bitter leaf in men may negatively affect their fertility, according to the Public Health of Nigeria.