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Did you Know? 9 Traditional Spices from the Nigerian Kitchen

From time immemorial, spices have been used in the Nigerian kitchen to flavour and preserve food. These spices are derived mainly from plants. Some of them are sweet while others are savoury. Some have medicinal value too. Despite the influx of exotic spices into the country, some local spices are still used to prepare local delicacies. Today, we’ll briefly discuss some of those traditional spices.

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This is the king of spicedom, Lol. Salt is actually a mineral. One would not be wrong to call it one of the most important minerals produced in Nigeria. It is so valuable that it was once used as a medium of exchange. Food is tasteless without salt.  Salt is also used to preserve food.


This very important vegetable also doubles as a spice. It’s always in demand. Onions gives a subtle flavour to meat and other dishes. It has numerous health benefits.


This is the unapologetic queen of spicedom; no wonder it occupies an enviable position along with salt on dinner tables. Without pepper, food is unappetizing. When it is used well, pepper adds a zesty kick to food without changing its taste.


This aromatic condiment is also called Calabash Nutmeg or African Nutmeg. Before it can be added to food, this seasoning is ground or grated. Ehuru has a distinctive aroma and flavour; it can overpower other ingredients if it’s used in large quantity.


This spice comes in two parts, the vegetable and the seed. Both the Uziza seed and the vegetable are commonly used for the aroma and flavour that they add to food. However, both are rarely used together in the same food. Also, while the Uziza seed just functions as spice, the leaves play the dual role of spice and vegetable when it is added to food.

Scent Leaves

This homegrown, sweet smelling plant is loved by many because of the unique taste and flavour it gives to local foods. Scent leaves doubles as vegetable and spice. It is used to enhance the taste of local delicacies like palm oil rice, yam pottage and egusi soup. Scent leaves is enriched with calcium, Iron and vitamin A.

Fermented Locust Bean

This condiment is obtained from the pod of the African locust tree. It is a very popular soup and stew ingredient in Nigeria. The Igbo call it ogili okpei, the Yoruba call it Iru while the Hausa call it Dawa-Dawa.  On its own fermented, locust beans has  a pungent smell but it enhances the taste of food when it is added to it.  This is why it is used in cooking Egusi Soup,  Ogbono Soup,  Efo Riro, yam pottage and a number of other delicacies.

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This seasoning is also known as negro pepper.  It is used to promote healing and lactation after delivery. This is why it plays a prominent role in nri omugwo  like pepper soup, Ji Mmili OkuOfe  Nsala. Uda is slightly bitter. Both whole and ground uda can be used in cooking . However,  if you want to obtain the maximum strength of this spice, it should be ground before use.

Curry Leaves

This leafy condiment is absolutely bae. It jazzes up your stew, transforming what should have been usual to something mouthwatering and delicious. The next time you make tomato stew, replace processed curry powder with curry Leaves and you will testify.

In conclusion, our homegrown spices are responsible for the unique taste and aroma of our traditional delicacies. Thus, they should still have a respected place in our kitchen.


Eat Well Abi

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Obiamaka Angela Udevi

Udevi, Obiamaka Angela holds a Master of Arts degree in History & International Studies. She's a freelance writer with a passion for food and healthy living. She can be contacted through her email address,

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