Nigerian pepper soup is the perfect winter warmer. It is an iconic Nigerian food with fish or meat in broth and dried local spices. I will share a recipe for chicken pepper soup in this blog post.
What Is Nigerian Pepper Soup?
Nigerian pepper soup is a thin soup, usually cooked with a lot of meat, fish or seafood. It is prepared by cooking the meat or fish with a blend of aromatic African spices to create complex flavours which explode in the mouth. The taste of pepper soup is amazingly delicious but difficult to describe. It is fragrant and spicy at the same time, with an earthy and slightly bitter taste.
This fragrant soup serves different purposes – It is celebratory and served at parties or special occasions. It is healing and clears the sinuses to help recover from a cold. The soup also stimulates and opens the taste buds and is served as an appetizer or to encourage people to eat when they are ill. It is eaten as a warming soup in the rainy season and is believed to help new mums recover from childbirth quickly.
The different types of Nigerian pepper soup recipes depend on the protein source. There is fish, goat meat, oxtail, assorted meat (offal meat), beef, cow leg, smoked turkey etc. The pepper soup variant is named after the protein – where goat meat is used, it becomes goat meat pepper soup and so on.
The spicy soup is so loved that there are eateries called "pepper soup joints" where people go to socialize and eat pepper soup.
What Are The Spices Of Pepper Soup?
Pepper soup is prepared with different local spices, with some variations depending on who is cooking. Unfortunately, the ground spice mix is what many people have access to, so it isn't easy to know what goes into it. If you're lucky and live close to markets where whole spices are available, then this is the best option.
Nigerian pepper soup spices are available to buy in different forms in local markets in Nigeria;
- Ground spice blend – Most common
- Roasted whole spices - Could be ground in the market or at home. This is my preferred option. The ground mix lasts many months in the freezer.
- Whole spice mix – Will be roasted and ground at home.
- Individual spices – You put your preferred spices together to use at home. This is for the pepper soup connoisseurs.
The traditional spices used in pepper soup differ according to who makes it and what they have access to. However, a typical pepper soup recipe will include some of the following dried spices.
- Calabash Nutmeg (Ehuru, ehu, African nutmeg)
- Grains of selim (Uda, Ethiopian Pepper)
- Prekese (Aidan, Yanghanyanghan)
- Paradise plum seed – Omilo
- Erimado - (Djansang, akpi seeds) – I couldn't find an English name, but botanical name is Ricinodendron Heudelotii
- Ataiko - I couldn't find an English name, but botanical name is Aframomum Sceptrum
- Uziza seeds (Ashanti pepper. Benin pepper, Iyeere)
- Agbaflo (Aghafilo, rough skinned plum seeds)
- Country onions (Cameroon country onions, Rondelles)
Don't let this long list scare you. Most people who eat pepper soup have no idea what goes into the spice mix; as the powdered spice blend is readily available. Here's a good one I found on Etsy.
How To Make Nigerian Chicken Pepper Soup
Here are the ingredients you need...
Scotch bonnet pepper
A few notes about the ingredients...
- Chicken: I used soft chicken for this recipe as I want the soft meat to fall off the bone into the spicy broth. However, Nigerian chicken pepper soup usually calls for hard chicken, and you can use it if you prefer; it will take longer to cook.
- Pepper soup spice: I would recommend a good ground spice blend as it is easier to use without buying individual spices. It is available in most African grocery stores.
- Basil: This is a substitute for scent leaves (efinrin), which I couldn't find. If you have access to scent leave, then you must use it. Thai basil is another substitute for scent leaves. It is even better than regular basil as it is very aromatic and closer to scent leaves in characteristics.
How To Make It
Peel the onion and garlic. Remove the stalk from the scotch bonnet pepper. Blend into a puree in a food processor.
Pour the chicken into a pot and sprinkle in the stock cubes. Add the blended puree, half of the pepper soup spice and a little salt to taste.
Add 2 cups of water into the pot and mix the content well.
Cover and allow simmer for around 20 mins until the chicken is tender.
Add enough water to cover the chicken. Add the remaining pepper soup spice blend, and the crayfish.
Reduce the heat and allow to cook for another 20 mins.
Remove from heat and serve.
Sure! Pepper soup is easy to freeze. Make more than you need and keep the remaining in the fridge or freezer.
Some of the spices used for pepper soup are intense with strong flavours. You only need to use a little of the spice blend. Bitter taste comes from using too much of spice blend
Pepper soup can be eaten on its own or served with white rice, yam, green plantain, agidi, starch etc
Other Nigerian foods...
Nigerian Chicken Pepper Soup Recipe
- Peel the onion and garlic. Remove the stalk from the scotch bonnet pepper. Blend into a puree in a food processor.
- Pour the chicken into a pot and sprinkle in the bouillon cubes. Add the blended puree, ½ of the peppersoup spice and a little salt to taste. Add 2 cups of water into the pot and mix the content well.
- Cover and allow simmer for around 20 mins for the chicken to cook.
- Add enough water to cover the chicken, add the remaining pepper soup spice blend and the crayfish. Reduce the heat and allow to cook for another 20 mins.
- Remove from heat and serve.