Food Tourism in Nigeria: Exploring Nigeria Through its Food

Written by Robin Okwanma

For some folks, travel is an exciting hobby. In ancient times, explorers sought for new lands to discover what is new and perhaps conquer them. Otherwise, they would make new trade and political partners in other lands (at the very least). Along the line, they introduced different food species from one nation or continent to another; and they must have eaten foreign foods. Perhaps this is where food tourism in Nigeria (and other lands) originates from.


But modern tastes and trends have evolved. Folks now travel to attend school, partake of special events or celebrations, and to relax – far away from all stress. Beyond all this, there is a growing trend to explore different foods grown and cooked in other lands. Much of this is borne out of necessity (as you need to adapt to foods in a foreign country to survive). 

But there is a fun edge to exploring a broad spectrum of flavors and aromas found in foods all over the world. Join us as we briefly embark on food tourism in Nigeria, in an attempt to understand the cultural diversity and beauty of the African giant. 

What is Food Tourism?

The tourism industry around the world is an exploration of cultural and historical sites of importance, as well as the natural wonders of each nation. It is also an exploration of diverse cultures, societies, philosophies, survival strategies, spirituality, and definitely food and drink in its vast variety. 

Food tourism (or culinary tourism) enthusiasts often travel around the world to explore and taste different foods and beverages. But it does not stop there. Culinary tourists can go as far as investigating local markets and farmers. 

They even investigate how such farmers and indigenes grow and preserve their local foods, spices, herbs and vegetables. They go further to investigate how these foods are prepared and served, and learn any existing food etiquettes and taboos. 

The Benefits of Food Tourism

In all, these food tourists actually add value to the businesses of farmers, food traders and the local community. Some of the benefits include the following.

  • They bring income into the land by booking hotels or lodgings, and patronizing cab/taxi ride services. 
  • Food tourists also provide knowledge to local business owners who want to cater to the needs of foreign nationals. Namely local restaurants, travel and tourism experts, traders in local markets and supermarkets, and private cab/taxi services (amongst others). 
  • They provide work opportunities for experts in local translation services and guided tours around the country (or any targeted region). 
  • They provide a platform for local cooks and other food specialists to showcase their culinary expertise in preparing and serving traditional dishes. They are not merely targeting locals this time, but an international clientele. And they earn higher financial returns, and greater appreciation for it. 
  • Showcasing the cooking artistry of local cooks contributes to preserving the food traditions and traditional cooking techniques in that locality. Thus it will boost the morale of the younger generation to inculcate and continue practicing those traditions. 
  • It helps to promote entrepreneurship and creativity, thus sustaining the livelihoods of local people whose businesses surround indigenous food. 

Every Local Dish tells a Story

Behind very traditional food is a history of surviving traditions, adaptability, cross-cultural influences, and making optimal use of natural resources. There are iconic foods that originated from specific regions of Nigeria; they are even considered the flag-bearers of cultures in that region. 

Iconic Traditional Foods: The Flag Bearers of Food Tourism in Nigeria

Northern Nigeria

Northern Nigeria is known for certain traditional dishes and snacks that are pointers to the peculiar nature of that region. Northern Nigeria is largely grassland or savanna, which progresses into the fringes of the Sahara desert as one goes further northwards. These grasslands generally provide fodder for the cattle of the nomadic Fulani. 

The soils are lighter in composition and have less humus content than those of the forest regions down South. Thus the soils can sustain the growing of vegetables, cereals, legumes and some spices. 

As such, one should expect to encounter meat-based foods and snacks because of the abundance of cattle (sheep, goats and cows). The most popular foods in that space are the spicy Suya (skewered filets of meat) and Kilishi (dried and seasoned filets of meat). As northerners move from one Nigerian city or town to another, they have eagerly carried the Suya tradition with them. 

Suya is now so popular that it is a relished delicacy in many cities across Nigeria. It is often sold in the evenings to attract the crowds coming from their workplaces and business as they return home. It is often served with chopped vegetables and the renowned Yaji spice. 

There is also the famous Kununzaki (or Kunu) and Fura da Nono; they are special food-drinks prepared from cereals. Kunu is a fermented mixture of blended grain (sorghum, millet, corn or rice) and tiger nut. While Fura is made from ground millet or guinea corn, chili pepper, ginger and cloves. 

We are not forgetting the iconic Tuwo recipe, a popular Hausa and Fulani meal made from ground cereals (guinea corn, maize, millet or rice) as well. Tuwo is abundantly supported with spicy soups called ‘Miyan’; and one of the commonest is Miyan kuka (baobab leaf soup). There is also the unforgettable and tasty groundnut soup

Southern Nigeria

Southern Nigeria is a network of rainforests and rivers. As you progress southwards, the forest vegetation leads into mangrove swamps, creeks, and a vast delta. They ultimately lead into the West African coast fringing the Atlantic ocean. 

These lands are humus-rich soils suitable for growing of tuber crops (such as yam, cassava, cocoyam and potatoes). Corn, plantain, legumes, fruits and vegetables in amazing varieties are also grown. 

Fish, crabs, crayfish, and other seafood are quite abundant in the rivers, creeks and lagoons. They are also abundant in the Niger Delta, and in the coastal areas of the South-South states as well. As such, the traditional foods in these regions are a testimony of the environment and natural resources immediately available. 

We will not forget the numerous herbs and spices peculiar to southern Nigeria, and used in abundance to prepare foods. By the way – these spices and herbs are highly medicinal.  

Notable spices in that regard are several varieties of pepper. They are widely consumed across Nigeria, but more heavily in the southern regions (especially southwest Nigeria). There are also the special group of spices used in cooking pepper soup across the southeast, South-South, and Niger Delta regions. 

The flag-bearers of Nigerian food in the southern region include Pounded yam, Fufu/Starch, Amala and Gbegiri (southwest), Egusi soup, Edikang-Ikong soup (southeast), Pepper soup, Seafood Okra soup, and one-pot Rice dishes (especially Jollof rice). 

Southwest Nigeria:

There are numerous other tasty dishes found in the southwest region. They include Asaro (yam porridge), Ikokore (water yam porridge), Eko/Agidi (Corn pudding), Moin-Moin (Bean pudding) and Efo Riro (Spinach soup). Trust us when we say the Yorubas of southwest Nigeria are lovers of savory and sweet foods. Their soups and stews come well-endowed with plenty of meat, fish and pepper. 

Southeast Nigeria:

The Igbo people of southeast Nigeria are well known for cooking dishes, soups and stews that are super-packed with rich ingredients. Namely abundant spices, vegetables, herbs, meat, fish, and plenty of palm oil. 

Get ready to feast your eyes (and stomach) with additional choice foods. They include Ugba (Oil bean salad), Abacha (African salad), Isi Ewu (Goat head), Nkwobi (spicy Cow foot) and Ukwa (breadfruit porridge). Soups like Palm Nut soup, Bitter leaf soup, Oha Soup, Nsala soup and many others will blow you away with their flavorful taste and richness. 

South-South Nigeria:

Your visit to the riverine areas of South-South Nigeria will surely reward you with a feast of rich seafood and roasted plantains. Enough of them as well. And yet more abundant spices thrown into the mix. 

Ever heard of Ukodo (spicy pepper soup cooked with yam/unripe plantain)? Have you tried Grilled plantain and fish? Or Fisherman’s soup? The Banga (palm nut) soup is another wonder. They also eat plenty of cassava starch and yam as staples along with their rich, spicy soups and stews.


An abundance of meat, fish, herbs, vegetables and spices are the soul of Nigerian food. The spices and herbs guarantee high levels of nutrition along with special health benefits. Any food tourism expert or enthusiast on a visit to any of the regions in Nigeria will certainly never be disappointed. 



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About the author

Robin Okwanma

Hi, I'm Robin Okwanma. Software Engineer || Django, Python || React, React Native || Blogger. Technical Writer.