Monday 18 March 2024

Cooking Techniques in Nigerian Cuisine | The Art of Fermentation, Drying and Grilling

Nigerian cuisine, rich in flavours and traditions, offers a vast array of techniques that enhance the natural taste of plant-based ingredients. Among these, fermentation, grilling, and drying stand out for their ability to transform simple vegan components into extraordinary dishes.

We’ll explore how each technique is used to create distinct flavours and textures in Nigerian dishes, providing insight into traditional cooking methods and how they can be adapted to modern kitchens. 

Whether you’re looking to experiment with new ingredients or learn more about the rich history of Nigerian cuisine, this article will offer a fascinating insight into the techniques that have helped shape this delicious and diverse cuisine.


Fermentation is a revered practice in Nigerian cuisine, breathing life into dishes with its unique flavours and health benefits. This age-old technique involves the metabolic process of converting carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids using microorganisms, under anaerobic conditions. In the vegan Nigerian kitchen, fermentation is celebrated through dishes such as Ogi (fermented corn porridge), and ingredients/condiments such as Ugba (fermented African oil bean seeds), iru (fermented locust beans) and ogiri (fermented sesame or egusi seeds).

Ogi stands as a testament to the versatility of fermentation. Made from ground corn, millet, or sorghum, this porridge is left to ferment for a few days, developing a sour taste and a slightly tangy aroma. It's typically served as a breakfast dish, sweetened with natural sweeteners and accompanied by fresh fruits, making it a nutritious start to the day.

The condiments iru and ogiri add depth and richness to stews and soups, imparting a wonderful umami taste. With their signature pungent flavours, a little goes a very long way. 

In the production of garri, cassava undergoes fermentation before it is dried and fried. As well as enhancing its flavour, this technique also reduces harmful compounds, making it safe for consumption. 

Fermented yoghurt drinks - such as nono - enjoyed in the northern parts of Nigeria can be made vegan by using soy milk. Other fermented drinks include palm wine, sorghum beer and burukutu (Guinea corn and millet beverage).


Grilling or roasting is another cornerstone of Nigerian cooking, revered for its ability to infuse dishes with a distinct smoky flavour. While traditionally applied to meats, this technique is easily adapted to a vegan diet, highlighting the natural flavours of vegetables, fruits, and plant-based proteins.

Grilled plantains (Boli) are a popular vegan-friendly treat and street food. Ripe plantains are grilled over an open flame until the skin is charred and the inside is tender and sweet. This dish is often served with roasted peanuts, offering a delightful combination of sweet, smoky, and nutty flavours.

Vegan suya can be made using mushrooms or plant proteins such as tofu and seitan. Grilling provides the signature charred flavour that makes this popular street food so iconic. 

Grilled corn (Agbado) is another popular street food that is made by grilling fresh corn cobs over an open flame until they're tender and slightly charred. Served alongside roasted coconut or ube, this makes for a very filling snack. 

Other foods that taste delicious grilled include: yam, sweet potatoes, and tofu (wara).


Drying is a preservation method widely used in Nigerian cuisine, aimed at extending the shelf life of ingredients while concentrating their flavours. This technique is especially valuable in vegan cooking, where dried fruits, vegetables, and grains become staples in the pantry. These dried ingredients also ensure that seasonal produce can be enjoyed year-round.

Dried mushrooms and vegetables are common in Nigerian vegan dishes, rehydrated to bring soups and stews to life. Drying intensifies their umami and savouriness, providing a depth of flavour that is unparalleled. 

Black-eyed peas, cowpeas, and brown beans are often dried, serving as a staple protein source in vegan diets. They're used in dishes akara, moin moin and bean stews.

Certain grains and tubers are also dried and milled into flour. Millet and sorghum flour can be used to make traditional porridges and fermented drinks, while yam is dried and processed into a flour known as ‘elubo’ for making the popular Yoruba dish, amala. 

Herbs such as scent leaf and spices such as ginger and garlic are also dried and used for flavouring an array of traditional dishes.

In the north, greens such as moringa and baobab leaves are dried and powdered, then used to fortify stews and soups. 

_ _ _

The techniques of fermentation, grilling, and drying are pillars of Nigerian cooking, offering pathways to explore a rich culinary heritage within a vegan diet. By adapting these methods to plant-based ingredients, we can create dishes that are not only deeply rooted in tradition but also cater to a modern, health-conscious lifestyle.

In embracing these techniques, we open the door to a world of culinary creativity, where the essence of Nigerian cooking is preserved, and the delights of vegan cuisine are explored to their fullest. Whether it's through a bowl of tangy Ogi, smoky grilled plantains, or a hearty stew with dried mushrooms, the journey through vegan Nigerian cuisine is one of discovery, tradition, and, above all, taste.

No comments:

Post a Comment