Thursday 14 March 2013

Vegan Nigerian Stew or Obe Ata | Buka Stew

I can already see the shaking heads and wagging fingers of staunch Nigerian foodies, but bear with me a second guys. My veggie makeover of this classic dish is just as jaw-droppingly good as the original. I promise!

And if you haven't heard of buka stew (a.k.a. obe ata or ayamashe), it's a pepper-based sauce with an assortment of meats (usually beef, tripe, goat meat and cow leg) cut into small, bite-size pieces and fried in palm oil. Go to any local restaurant in Nigeria and you're sure to find it on the menu.

This veggie version can be made using fresh seasonal vegetables or meat alternatives, while retaining the signature 'buka' taste.

Roasted mushrooms, soya chunks (as I've used here) or garden egg/aubergine work particularly well to replace the meat in this dish. If you're going to use tofu, try the smoked, firm version for a greater depth of flavour. I recommend cutting it into bite-size pieces and roasting it for 10-15 minutes before adding to the stew. Even veg as basic as carrots and courgette can be included if that's all you have lurking in the fridge.

Not sure about palm oil or unable to source a sustainable brand? Try using coconut oil instead.

- 3 large tomatoes or 1 tin plum tomatoes
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper (or two if you're feeling brave)
- 2 tbsp palm oil or coconut oil
- 1 large onion (roughly chopped)
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- Salt to taste
- Meat alternative of your choice (mushrooms; plain or smoked tofu; aubergine...etc)

Blend the tomatoes, pepper, garlic and scotch bonnet pepper with about 1 cup of water until smooth.

In a saucepan or large pot, "bleach" the palm oil by cooking it for 2-3 minutes on high heat (warning - your kitchen might get a bit smoky so pop the windows open!) Reduce the heat to medium and add the onions and whatever meat replacement you have chosen. Stir continuously until the onions start to soften.

Add the tomato/pepper mixture and thyme. Season with salt.

Simmer on medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until the stew reduces slightly. Serve on a bed of fragrant rice, with a side of fried plantain. Perfection!

Jazz up your stew with a mix of veg

Try different meat alternatives

Simple but flavourful


  1. Im not really for 'bleaching' palm oil because it is not a healthy option so I have always cooked my own version of this stew with olive oil and it tastes as lovely even though it does not have the 'mama-put' look.

    1. Yes, olive oil beats palm oil hands down. That's why I used a relatively small amount of it in this recipe. Might try a version with olive oil too. Thanks for the tip!

  2. I'm so glad I've found your website! Thank you so much for all these recipes. I can't wait to try them all.

    I'm not vegan, but I cook veggy or vegan most of the time. For the African dishes, I would just make them traditionally with meat. Now I can finally make these vegan too!!

  3. Oh and how many portions is this one? :)

  4. I love this with mushrooms and plantain fufu <3