Egusi Soup is a Nigerian dish made primarily from ground melon seeds. Melon seeds are an off white color, have an oval shape to them, and once ground, the seeds have a slightly oily feel which is to be expected and doesn’t affect taste. There are usually two variations of Egusi Soup; one involves the addition of chopped spinach and is typically called Egusi Elefo, while the other version does not use spinach, it’s simply plain Egusi soup, minus the vegetables.
Egusi or ground melon seeds also act as a thickener when added to soups/stews and should be used sparingly. It’s quite simple to make and happens to be one of my favorite Nigerian soups to make…and eat! (This recipe is a slightly modified version of the original recipe first featured over a year ago).
Without further ado, here’s what you’ll need to make Egusi Soup:
|Prep Time: 15 Mins||Cook Time: 2.5 Hrs||Difficulty: Easy||Serves: 2-4|
- 8-10 s/m African chicken pieces
- 5-7 m pieces shaki/tripe
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper/rodo/habanero
- 1 cup Egusi/ground melon seeds
- 1/2 cup palm oil
- 1.5 cups shawa/dried fish
- 2 tbsps ground red pepper
- 2 tbsps curry powder
- 2 knorr cubes
- 2 fresh garlic cloves (chopped or sliced)
- Ginger (size of garlic cloves/chopped)
- 1 bag fresh spinach
1. Rinse chicken and tripe/shaki, add to pot, turn heat to low-medium
2. Add curry powder, ground red pepper, scotch bonnet pepper, chopped ginger & garlic & knorr cubes
3. Let sweat for 10 minutes over medium heat
4. Add enough water to cover meats, let boil over medium heat for 1.5 – 2 hours till soft
5. Leave meats to boil and work on fresh spinach
6. Chop up spinach
7. Once done chopping up spinach, transfer to bowl and set aside
8. Return to boiling meats and check for softness; if soft, reduce heat to low and add palm oil without draining stock
9. Stir palm oil into stock, increase heat to medium and add shawa/dried fish
10. Stir thoroughly and let cook for 5 minutes still over medium heat
11. Reduce heat to low and sprinkle egusi over meats
12. Stir egusi into stock thoroughly
13. Let cook over low heat for 15 minutes (add spoonfuls of water if necessary to prevent burning)
14. Add chopped spinach into pot, still over low heat
15. Stir chopped spinach into egusi thoroughly till evenly distributed
16. Let simmer for 5 minutes, turn off heat
17. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving
18. And you’re all done!
- You don’t have to use fresh spinach to make Egusi Soup, you can use chopped frozen spinach, but be sure to use at least 2 packs. I can’t say I detected much of a difference between the fresh spinach and the frozen kind, or maybe my taste buds are not discerning enough, but it really boils down to which you prefer.
- If you do use fresh spinach, before chopping it up, be sure to rinse the leaves with cold water even though the bag says its already been washed!
- You can heat up the palm oil first in a separate pot, add the ground melon seeds/egusi, let fry for about 10 minutes before adding to the stock. Either way works just fine, it’s just a matter of personal preference and how much time you have!
- You can use any meat variation you want, mix and match to your hearts desire. Fish, goat meat, cow foot, kpomo etc, all work well for Egusi Soup.
- It is very important to let the egusi cook (step 13) after adding it to the stock, otherwise it can cause diarrhea if not cooked long enough. Conversely, if you eat too much egusi, it will cause constipation! It’s almost a lose-lose situation, lol
- You can also stop at step 13 and have plain Egusi soup without the spinach; tastes just as good!
- You should have about 4-5 cups of stock in the pot after boiling your meats. This number can also be less (say 3) if you’re cooking for one person.
- If you prefer not to use palm oil, you can use Annatto Oil.
- If you can’t find spinach, collard greens (fresh or frozen) will work as well.
- While cooking the egusi, it might start to burn, so add water in small increments using an eating spoon. Just be sure not to add too much water, because the spinach will also release some water once added to the egusi.
- Even though the recipe calls for 1 bag of spinach, I did have some leftover, not much, say a good handful, which I put back in the original bag and put in the freezer for my own chopped frozen spinach!
- Be sure to stir the chopped spinach properly into the egusi, so its well distributed, otherwise, some parts of the soup will have more spinach while other parts will be mostly egusi.
- When you’re adding the chopped spinach to the egusi, just sprinkle a layer or two over the egusi; that’s how I kinda gauge how much to use. Of course, this all depends on whether you like more/less spinach or more/less egusi.
- If you’ve never seen Egusi/ground melon seeds up close before, here they are ( looks like off white rock salt)
- You don’t have to use dried fish/shawa, it just adds flavor and makes the soup somewhat richer.
- Spinach doesn’t take very long to cook, so be sure not to leave it on too long before turning off the heat. You let it cook too long and it’ll still be good, but you lose some of the nutrients.
- Adding a whole scotch bonnet pepper/rodo is just something I like to do for an extra kick of heat from the pepper. When you add it while boiling the meats, it bursts open, releasing all that spicy, hot goodness and once the soup is cooked, it disappears into the soup…I’ll give you $1 if you can find it, lol. Well, you might see traces of the orange skin, lol…
- With white rice…
- Or with eba…
- You can also eat Egusi Soup with Iyan (pounded yam) or Amala (yam flour). (Speaking of Iyan, I keep forgetting to pick the flour up from the store!!!)
- I imagine it would also go well with boiled yam, bread and even jollof rice.