Suya is well known and loved by Nigerians regardless of their ethnic group. On the streets of Lagos and other metropolitan cities in the country, you will find "Mai suya" or "Mallams" every few miles selling suya beef.
They grill thin strips of meat previously marinated in suya spice mix and drizzled with peanut oil over hot coal grills, and show off amazing knife skills as they cut the meat into smaller pieces. These slightly charred, aromatic and spicy thinly sliced meat (suya) wrapped in paper with tomatoes and red onion slices is the epitome of Nigerian street food.
As we don't have mai suyas around us, I am sharing an easy homemade suya spice recipe mainly using store cupboard ingredients.
What's In Suya Spice Mix
Suya spice is a peanut (groundnut) based rub with spices. It is used across Africa to spice meat before grilling. It is commonly associated with barbecued meat sold on the streets, such as suya/yaji/tsire in Nigeria, chichinga in Ghana and agashe in Sudan. This spice blend is also called suya pepper or yaji spice, and its origins can be traced to the Hausas from Northern Nigeria.
Traditionally, Nigerian suya spice blend is made from ground kuli kuli and some local spices such as cayenne pepper, garlic, ginger and grains of selim (negro pepper). Kuli kuli is a deep-fried cake made from defatted peanut paste and is the base ingredient for this Nigerian spice mix. However, like most spice blends and seasoning, everyone makes theirs differently, with the peanut as the star, which must be present in one form or another.
My suya spice recipe has been adapted to suit people who cannot access these local ingredients, especially kuli kuli. It is super easy to make, and all the ingredients are available at the supermarkets. Moreover, the taste of this homemade suya powder beats the packed store-bought products labelled as "suya seasoning", which do not contain any peanuts.
How Can I Use Suya Spice?
From a humble street food origin, suya spice has taken a life of its own and is now used on a wide array of foods.
Besides marinating or sprinkling over beef, Nigerian suya powder is a good seasoning for roasted or grilled fish, chicken or vegetables. The nutty and spicy flavour is an easy way to add extra depth to the flavour of food.
It works very well with roast potatoes, and is equally great in stir-fries or salads. I have used it in meats for sandwiches and wraps, or oven bakes. The opportunities are boundless; just sprinkle over food like you would other spice seasonings. Here are some ideas for what you can use suya spice for at home;
- Mixed into eggs before frying
- Used to flavour sandwich or wrap filling - Chicken suya wrap
- Sprinkled over plantain before frying
- Flavour fish or meats before cooking - Air-fryer beef suya, Chicken suya tray bake
- Sprinkled into stir fry – Suya prawns noodles stir-fry
Homemade Suya Spice Recipe
These are the ingredients you need ...
A few notes about the ingredients...
Peanut: This is the base ingredient for suya spice, and I used peanut powder as a substitute for kulikuli. Peanut powder has become very popular and is relatively easy to find. I use defatted peanut powder called "peanut Hottie"; which is available on the same aisle as peanut butter at my local supermarket.
Ground pepper & Paprika: Suya seasoning is traditionally spicy, and the ground pepper determines the heat level. You can adapt the quantity to suit your taste. The paprika gives some colour to the spice mix without adding any heat, so you can choose not to add the ground pepper if you prefer.
Salt: I usually only add a little salt to the suya spice mix, so I can use it for different dishes. I tend to add more salt or bouillon cube directly to the food if required.
How To Make It
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix very well. Keep suya spice in air tight container and it will last a few weeks.
- 4 Tablespoons Peanut butter powder
- 3 Tablespoons Paprika
- 2 Tablespoons Ginger powder
- 1 Tablespoon Garlic powder
- 1 Tablespoon Onion powder
- 1 Tablespoon Ground Pepper/Pepper flakes
- 1 Teaspoon Cloves
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a bowl.
Google Arts and Culture has some amazing pictures of Suya as sold on the streets of Lagos.