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Nigerian Stew

November 22, 2010 | 35 Comments

nigerian stew

Cooking for the complete newbie!

Nigerian Stew is the basis for most Nigerian soups/stews. It is made from a blended mix of peppers, tomatoes and onions and it’s then boiled with oils and is often strong tasting because of the peppers. Once it’s been boiled, you can add any cooked meat of your choice to the stew; chicken, turkey, goat meat, meat/beef, tripe/shaki are some examples of what can be added to the stew.

Nigerian Stew, while a liquid, should not have too watery a consistency. Its consistency should have a happy medium between watery and thick, but bordering more on the watery side.Across the board, the consistency for various Nigerian Stews vary; for instance, Fish Soup typically has a more watery consistency than say Meat/Chicken/Turkey Stew. For that reason, while you can call Fish Soup, Fish Stew, it is more often called Soup than Stew as soups are generally known to have a more watery consistency. Hence, the same analogy for Nigerian Peppersoup.

Nigerian Stew is sometimes called Red Stew, simply because, well, it is red (sometimes borderline deep orange). When I was in my freshman (first) year of college, I used Ragu to make stew, lol. I’ll feature that recipe on here for the total newbie :)

Beginner Basics are a series of posts geared towards the complete beginner interested in learning how to cook Nigerian Food. No need to be ashamed if you can’t cook (Nigerian Food), we all had to start somewhere ya know.

I started with White Rice; came home from secondary/high school one day and was expecting food as usual, went to the kitchen and there was nothing! Went to ask my mum how come there was no food and she gave me this bad eye enh, lol (memories!) & said that if I wanted to eat, I better go make some rice and she would warm the soup…yikes! Yeah, that was my beginning :)

To learn how to make Nigerian Stew, here’s what you’ll need:

Prep Time: 15 mins Cook Time: 30 mins Difficulty: Easy Serves: 2-4

Prep Time: 15 mins 	Cook Time: 50 mins 	Difficulty: Easy 	Serves: 2-4

1. Wash peppers and tomatoes, peel onions, garlic & ginger, rinse

2. Cut red bell pepper in half, remove seeds and stems, set aside

3. In bowl, quarter red bell pepper, onions, tomatoes; add peeled garlic & gingernigerian stew

4. Transfer cut peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic & ginger to blender; add 1 cup waternigerian stew, red stew

5. Use the ‘blend’ button on your blender and start blendingnigerian stew

6. Blend till smooth (no chunks)nigerian stew

7. After a few minutes, the color of your blended peppers will darken a bit (no biggie!)nigerian stew

8. Add canola and palm oil to pot over medium heatnigerian stew

9. If your palm oil is solid, not to worry, it will dissolve; stir oils togethernigerian stew

10. Let oil heat up, till you can hear a light sizzle; add blended peppersnigerian stew

11. There will be leftover blended peppers in the blendernigerian stew

12. Rinse the sides with 1/2 cup waternigerian stew

13. Add blended remnants to potnigerian stew

14. Let boil 10 minutes; add curry powder and knorr cubesnigerian stew

15. Stir, keep boiling another 20 minutes till cookednigerian stew

16. Once cooked, cover and leave to sit for 5-10 minutes before servingnigerian stew

17. It’s a wrap!


  1. To add the water to the blender in step 4, I normally use the lid of the blender instead of using a cup. Initially you can use a cup till you develop your own rhythm.
  2. The reason for adding the water is twofold: for one, it makes the blending go a bit more smoothly and two, once you start boiling the pepper, it will reduce and thicken, and the water helps balance things out.
  3. Remove as much of the seeds from the red bell pepper as you can. Some people like their soups/stews with seeds in them (the seeds hold most of the heat anyway, but bell peppers are not hot, so…) while others cannot digest seeds. I once knew someone who had an allergic reaction when she unknowingly ate a tomato sandwich which still had some seeds! Most Nigerians, however, I doubt, have that kind of allergy, lol.
  4. If your blender doesn’t have a blend button, you could try ‘liquefy,’ or something similar that will give you a smooth texture, similar to the texture of a smoothie.
  5. The blended peppers change color soon after you open the blender because air/oxygen gets into it and makes it oxidize or change to a darker color. It doesn’t affect the taste I promise!
  6. Even after the stew is cooked and it settles, it will still get darker. Case in point, the last photo was taken almost immediately after the stew was cooked and the first one, was taken some minutes later. Second day stew always tastes much better though, just fyi!
  7. If your Knorr cubes don’t crumble in your fingers, just drop them in the pot, they’ll dissolve. Be sure to stir once they’ve dissolved so it gets evenly distributed.
  8. Tomatoes are very important because they temper the heat of the peppers and balance out the taste of the final result.
  9. How do you know when the stew is done? When you’re done blending the peppers, smell it. It’ll smell ‘raw’ and at when the smell hits the back of your throat, you can tell it needs to be cooked. Now, when you’ve added the seasonings and it’s cooked, smell it again. At this point, it’ll smell totally different and just ‘cooked.’ Do the before and after smell tests and you should be able to tell, even without tasting it.
  10. If your nose is not discerning enough, dip your finger in the blended mixture and taste it. You should still taste that ‘rawness.’ At about the 20-25 minute mark, dip a spoon in it and taste it, it should taste totally different now, like it’s almost cooked. Few more minutes later, taste it again, now, it should taste like something you can eat.


  1. Instead of Knorr cubes, you can use Maggi cubes or Jumbo cubes. Your choice!
  2. Garlic and ginger are completely optional, though I have to say that the addition of fresh ginger takes the taste of your stew to a whole new level and gives it a unique taste! You can leave out the garlic if you must, but if you don’t mind fresh ginger, I say add it!
  3. You can use white or yellow onions if you can’t find red onions. Personally, I prefer red onions for stews/soups because it has a stronger, sharper, ‘oniony’ flavor. I use white or yellow for milder foods, like beans.
  4. Any variation of red tomatoes will work just fine. Plum, roma etc are all good to go.
  5. If you cannot find scotch bonnet/habanero peppers (ata rodo), you can use jalapeno (long, green hot ) peppers instead, just use less, say 1 or 2.
  6. If you cannot find any such peppers, you can use the dry, red pepper. It’s not the best, but it will work.
  7. If you have no tomatoes, you can use tomato paste or tomato sauce (say 1 cup).
  8. You can use any kind of clear oil instead of Canola. Vegetable and Corn oil work as well.
  9. Palm Oil can be optional, but most Nigerian Stews have it in some form or another.
  10. Prefer not to use Palm Oil? Try Annatto Oil.

Serving Suggestions:

Eat with white rice…

With some Ila (Okra soup)

Eat with bread or fried yam


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Rating: 6.7/10 (30 votes cast)
Nigerian Stew, 6.7 out of 10 based on 30 ratings

35 Responses to "Nigerian Stew"

  1. Anengiyefa says:

    As I like to think of myself a kind of self-styled Nigerian-stew specialist, I’ve discovered that ata rodo (scotch bonnet peppers, habaneros) lose much of its flavour when overcooked. If added last to the stew, when the stew is almost done, stirred in and cooked for just a few minutes before the stew is removed from the heat source, (cooker, stove, whatever), the ata rodo flavour is retained. My view is that the ata rodo requires less cooking time and should not be blended with the tomatoes/onions, nor should it go into the pot at that early stage. Some of the onions too could be reserved for late entry into the pot, especially if one likes a strong onionish aroma to the stew (as I do).

    Also, I’ve workd out that ata rodos that are yellow in colour have a different flavour to the red ones. The yellow ones seem to have a stronger and sweeter flavour. A combination of both colours is desirabe and makes the taste of the stew richer and that much more interesting.

    • Yetunde says:

      Hey you!

      Lol @ stew specialist, haha

      Really? Somehow, mine still seems to retain the heat when all is boiled and blended together. But that’s interesting though, I never heard that before. Learn something new everyday! Tomatoes, I can say can go in towards the end, but things like peppers and onions, I just adding in the beginning to avoid that raw/sour taste, just my preference though.

      But yesss, the yellow/orange ones are stronger (I haven’t noticed sweeter!) than say the red or green ones.

      Mr. Writer, I salute you! :) [still waiting on that finished story!]

    • angella says:

      Its me again, today i attempt to do the stew for the gizzards, well, the stew looks waterish to me, but i knew i did not have much tomato puree and tomatoes, but it taste itself, tastes hot and seasoni, but the thickness and redness to it lack points,
      Anyway, just want to comment on your blog, its precise and any dummy in cooking can learn and imprtantly you take time to respond. keep it up.
      talk later, i gone.

      • Yetunde says:

        Hey lady!

        If the stew looks watery, you might have to let it boil/fry a little longer, so it can reduce and become thicker.

        Keep the comments coming, I love them! Thank you!! :)

  2. dat1okrikababe says:

    you started a new series …thats awesome i’ll just be sending my brother and akata friends to your website.. i still dont measure when i cook and they always ask me how many/much should i add in. Yes you are going to have to tell how u made stew from ragu, i guess i can kind of picture it but i’ll wait for your recipe.

    • Yetunde says:

      Hey lady!

      Lol, send them over so they can learn too. Yes o, that ragu recipe is coming, maybe in the next couple of weeks. It actually wasn’t all that bad now that I think about it, but it is funny now though, lol

  3. Hi! Nice intro into making stew base. I don’t usually add ginger to mine, but I do like ginger, so I will give it a try!

    • Yetunde says:

      Hi Lara!

      Oooh, if you love ginger, you’ll totally love the stew with it! ;)

  4. Ola says:

    Great work Yetunde! I have to add though that your stew is missing a critical ingredient (according to my orientation) known as omi eran a.k.a. meat(chicken, beef, or whatever) stock. I suppose that the knorr cubes do compensate slightly for that. If one is to add meat to the stew, however, it must be boiled and the stock saved for addition.
    I also find your sweet-pepper/ tomato ratio to be a bit on the high side, but one’s taste is what really matters. The truth is that I have rarely been able to make my stews out here (Canada) taste like what dear grandma taught me how to make. I suppose there are just too many variables, chief amongst them being the -imho- inferior quality of the produce we get out here – especially in the winter.

    • Yetunde says:

      Hi Ola!

      Thank you! If I was cooking the actual stew with meat/chicken, I would use/omit stock depending on the type of meat, but for the basic steps, I didn’t see the need for that. Yup, you’re right, tastes boil down to personal preference and for beginners, they can always tweak the recipe once they get the hang of it till they’re personally satisfied with it.

      You could try organic food stores as those are similar to the grade of produce we have back home as opposed to the kind sold in general grocery stores.

  5. olufuke says:

    l have something to say about nigerian stew. when you said you have to bolied the blended peppers for 2omins. does mean on medium heat or over medium heat. what number is medium heat and over medium and also low medium heat please am just confused

    • Yetunde says:

      Hey Funke!

      Sorry to have confused you! On and over medium heat mean the same thing. Literally, the pot is on the stove turned to medium heat and if you look at it another way, the pot on the stove is over medium heat. Hope I made sense there! For the number settings, the burner dial on your stove might read something like LO, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and HI. In that case, 3 would be low heat and 5 would be medium. LO, 1 and 2 can be used to simmer food at the final stages of cooking. 6, 7, 8 and 9 would be to heat things up quickly and HI really only for boiling water.

      Hope that helps! Let me know if it still doesn’t make sense.

  6. olufuke says:

    after blended peppers when boling your stew should l put on medium or over medium heat , the reason why am asking because my stews is not properly cooked very well, so l need your help please

    • Yetunde says:

      Hey Funke,

      Sorry I didn’t make sense last time. Forget about the terms ‘on,’ or ‘over,’ the only thing you need to worry about is ‘medium heat.’ If it’s not cooked properly, I’m assuming the blended peppers have sort of a raw taste to them. If that is the case, you need to let it boil for 30-45 minutes. At the 30 minute mark, taste to know what it tastes like. If it seems to be okay, you can then reduce the heat to low and cook for another 15 minutes and that should do the trick.

      Let me know if that helps.

  7. olufuke says:

    should l put it on medium heat or high to boli the stew

    • Yetunde says:

      Medium heat. If it’s over high heat, it’ll burn.

  8. Natasha says:

    I have to say that this is one of the best sites that I have come across for Nigerian food. Have told others about it. I am waiting for your recipe for pepper soup :-)

    • Yetunde says:

      Hey Natasha!

      Aww, I’m so flattered, had me smiling ear to ear. Thank you so much.

      Yes! Peppersoup coming soon!

  9. Olushola says:

    Its there a replacement for the onions??

    • Yetunde says:

      Hey Olushola!

      Unfortunately, there isn’t really a replacement for onions. You either add it or leave it out, but leaving it out might give you a different taste as the bulk of your stew will be more tomatoes and peppers. I feel the onions add a tangy flavor and help balance the overall flavor.

  10. courtney says:

    I make my stew the same way. I noticed the blended peppers give it a more stronger flavor.but when cooked longer it gets milder and thicker. I add tomatoe sauce with herbs and paste to mines with a little pinch of cinnamon. I boil my chicken with the knorr then add it in to my tomatoe base. Thanks for the recipe I love your jollof rice recipe aswell!

    • Yetunde says:

      Hey Courtney!

      You’re welcome!

      You know, I think it does get thicker when cooked longer, but I also think the flavors tend to concentrate more as well instead of getting milder. Cinnamon? Really? That’s interesting, do you taste it or can detect just a hint of it?

  11. courtney says:

    Yes cinnamon I only add a little you can’t really taste it. I just cook it longer to get the raw taste out. Or if I’m using African chicken or goat I just let it simmer on low for a hour. And it taste great after.

    • Yetunde says:

      Ohh, okay. Still interesting though, with the cinnamon. Simmering also helps bring the flavors together. I imagine it would taste great after! I mean why not?!

  12. ifeoma says:

    I usually fry my stew,luv dis method of jst boilin it.but i add tin tomatoes while cookin my stew 2make d stew a lil thick, so if am 2use ur method wen du i add tin tomatoes?

    • Yetunde says:

      Hey Ifeoma!

      I typically don’t add tin tomatoes to stews. I have been meaning to try to see the difference, but never got around to doing so. If you want to add it, whatever step in your normal stew cooking process would be where you’d add it. So, perhaps, somewhere in the beginning to the middle of the cooking process.

      Hope that helps!

  13. tameka says:

    i have been dating a guy from nigeria,and he has introduced me to the eguise and the tomato soup and fufu.. i have feel in love with the both of them. however i want to try to prepare both of them. but a little afraid of tring to prepare them, guess im a little embarrassed to go to the african store to buy the ingrediants, for fear of them laughing at me when i start asking where is this and where is that. any suggestions on how to over come my fear of the american black girl walking into the african store completly clueless on what to buy. LOL. how silly of me but its true..

    • Yetunde says:

      Hey Tameka!

      Go you! ;) Totally nothing to be embarrassed about! Most Africans/Nigerians, you’ll find are quite helpful in the stores. I think a non-African asking their help is interesting for lack of a better word. Even some of the staff at the store can help you.

      However, if you still hesitate, what I’d recommend is that you go on a day you’re not too busy and take your time to browse through all the aisles, so armed with your list of what you need, you can find what you need on your own.

      Also, if you can, go early in the morning, be one of their first, if not only customer. Avoid going on the weekends, especially Sunday afternoon, when most Africans will be getting out of church. (they’ll usually stop by the store to get stuff to cook). I avoid Sundays like a plague and try to go early Saturday morning, if they open at 10am, I’m in the parking lot by 9:50am!

      I would have also suggested going with your boo or have him get what you need. However, if you do go with him, be prepared for ‘oh, she doesn’t look African’ type looks or ‘oh, they’re together?’ You might not experience that, and if you do, don’t be insulted by it, it’s just curiosity!

      Hope that helps!! Keep me posted on your adventure :)

  14. Babatunde says:

    I must say, being a male and trying to cook this will be a task, as I am use to just making the North American meals. I have masterd most, but being a BORN Nigerian, living in Canada and justing coming back from Nigeria, I think it is time to start making the meals my dear late mother made for me and what my aunts and young cousins made for me back home. Wish me luck, but like others, I have a fear I may screw it up…I want to make in bulk for a few friends that have requested it. Should I just double what is listed or make seperate portions with what you have on the site?

    • Yetunde says:

      Hey Babatunde! (my male namesake, lol)

      Always start by taking steps if you’re just starting to get your feet wet in cooking Nigerian food. Also start off making small batches at a time, the propensity to botch larger batches of food, especially Nigerian food, increases if you’re not entirely sure about ingredients, how they interact and measurements.

      For stew, I should update this post as I’ve started cooking it a slightly different way. However, I would recommend making a small pot of stew first, for yourself, before making for your friends. That way, you can learn from your errors if you make any and know what not to repeat.

      The way I cook stew now is to blend your red bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, habanero/scotch bonnet or rodo peppers and some water. Heat up your vegetable oil and/or palm oil in a pot, slice some onions into the oil, season the oil and onions with 1 or 2 knorr or maggi cubes. Let the onions and seasonings fry till right before the onions turn black or burn.

      Use the lid of the pot as your shield if necessary and add the blended peppers in there, let fry/boil for 45 minutes, at about 15-20 minutes, add 2 more knorr cubes into the boiling peppers and let it reduce till about 2/3rds or half of what it originally was. Add in your boiled meats, let simmer on low for 10 or so minutes, turn off heat and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.

      Might seem complicated if you’re just starting, but baby steps and feel free to ask my help along the way, I’ll be more than happy to guide you along!

      Good luck and keep me posted on your kitchen adventures! Get to shopping!

  15. Sheryl says:

    I just finished cooking your Nigerian Stew with beef cubes. It was DELICIOUS! My husband a Nigerian said it was nice and that it will get better each time that I prepare it. Tomorrow I will make the Joffof rice and fish, I am sure it will be even better. One question I have however is can you specify what kind of Maggi or Knorr cubes you are using. Are you using vegetables, chicken or beef cubes? I used vegetable for the above mentioned stew however I just want to be sure for the next time. Also, I really appreciate the measurements listed in your recipes, so often other sites do not which makes it extremely difficult. I love your recipes they seem simple and look wonderful.

    • Yetunde says:

      Hey Sheryl!

      Aww, yay, I’m glad it turned out great and you’re excited about that! It will get better as you make it and then you’ll start to make your own additions and subtractions to your stews. I use regular Knorr and Maggi cubes, at least the ones I purchase are not labeled chicken, beef or vegetable.

      I just double checked it to make sure I was giving you the right info and the Knorr packaging doesn’t state, but on the back, it does say ‘also available in chicken flavor.’ So, we can obviously rule out chicken, so perhaps either vegetable or beef. You’ve got me intrigued now, will dig deeper into that. I don’t have the Maggi packaging, but the wrapping on the cubes, give nothing away.

      You’re most welcome! I’m glad the site is making cooking easier for you! :)

  16. Faruk says:

    Thanks to this blog post i was able to cook some stew. Now that i have boiled some rice i will just use some plantain i got from the fruit my market in my school to garnish the food plate. But i think i put a lot of seasoning, that is noted and will reduce d next time.

    • Yetunde says:

      Hey Faruk!

      Rice and plantain is on the menu for me tomorrow, haven’t had plantain in a while. Good you caught the seasoning and you can always adjust it going forward, just remember, it’s easier to add less in the beginning and adjust as you go along than adding more, which you can’t really take out, unless you dilute the stew with water which isn’t advisable.

  17. J.Base says:

    I’m Nigerian raised in the states, and this was my first time making stew (I’m not going to say how old I am because it’s beyond embarrassing…lol!). Thanks so much for this recipe. It was straight forward and the pictures helped a ton. And may I add, DELICIOSO.

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