The Cultural Cuisine of the Igbo Tribe in Nigeria

Calista Charles
June 19, 2023

Nigeria is a country in west Africa, popularly known as the giant of Africa. It is blessed with an abundant supply of natural resources, a fertile soil and is also rich in diverse cultural heritage.

There are over 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria with over 500 languages spoken. But amidst this plethora of ethnic groups, 3 groups appear to be the largest, they are called the Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba ethnic groups. There are also many other ethnic groups which includes the Tiv, Ibibio, Ijaw, Kanuri and a host of others.

The Igbo’s are a people from the Southeastern parts of Nigeria who where said to have come into existence through a divine figure named, “Eri”. Eri is believed by some to be a son of Gad who came from the lineage of Jacob from the Christian Bible. Therefore, the Igbo people are predominantly Christians, although there is still an existence of traditional gods in some local parts of the Igbo land.

Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Abia and Ebonyi are the major  Igbo states in Nigeria, although traces of this culture can be found in Delta, Rivers and a few other states. Traditionally, the Igbo people can be referred to as subsistence farmers because of a few Tuber crops that can be associated with them, crops like; Yam, Cassava and Cocoyam which can be found in abundance in the Eastern parts of Nigeria, but the king of all these crops is “Yam” which is dominantly prepared in all parts of the Igbo land.

Photo from The Guardian Nigeria

The yam is celebrated annually on the new yam festival day which comes up in the month of August. On this special day, this delicacy is prepared in various ways. It could be boiled then pounded and eaten as Fufu with different local soups. It can also be roasted and eaten with Palm oil, sliced Onion and pepper with a little salt can be added to make a sauce, or it could be made into a porridge and garnished with vegetables and meat.

Igbo cuisine is usually made from yam, Cassava, Cocoyam, Bambara nut, melon seeds, Cow Peas, Breadfruit seeds and various local vegetables. Palm oil is also a dominant ingredient utilized in the preparation of Igbo dishes especially for cooking soups. And mostly, soups are a favorite delicacy for the Igbo man, it is also served in large occasions like weddings, funerals, coronation ceremonies and other festivals, it is eaten in various ways and always with a kind of Fufu.

Below are examples of Igbo dishes prepared from the aforementioned crops:

Abacha : Abacha which is the local name for African salad, This local dish is taken from fermented cassava roots which are then grated thinly with the help of a special machine, it can be soaked in clean water and eaten with coconuts as a snack or prepared with other ingredients like onion, pepper, garden egg, special vegetables and palm oil, to make a tasty delicacy.

Photo from The Guardian Nigeria

Okpa : This delicacy is made from Bambara nut flour, water, palm oil is added to give it a rich color, while pepper and salt is added, then the mixture is poured into a banana leaf (an aluminum cup or a leather bag could be substituted) and wrapped before boiling. The cake is served and eaten or spiced up with tomato stew.


Akpu : This is a type of Fufu made from fermented cassava flour, boiled, pounded, molded and cooked over intense heat before eaten with soup.

Pounded Yam: A kind of Fufu where Yam is boiled and pounded into a soft paste then served with various soups, most preferably with Egusi soup.

Ofe Egusi : This soup is prepared from crushing melon seeds into powder, the powder can be mixed in a bowl and added to boiling water, palm oil is added then while it boils, seasoning and other spices are added including stork fish or other kinds of meat or fish and some Ugu( fluted pumpkin leaves.) vegetables . It can be eaten with pounded yam , akpu or other kinds of Fufu.

Ofe Onugbu : This soup is made by washing a bitter vegetable called Bitter leaf, then boiled Cocoyam is pounded into a very smooth paste and added to water, the leaves are added and palm oil too, while it boils, locust bean is includes as this has a special flavor which makes the soup stand out, varieties of meat and fish are added also, the spices are included and all left to cook for sometime before serving with a bowl of Fufu .

Photo from Punch Newspapers

Ofe Oha : African rosewood plant locally called Oha or Ora leaf is a special kind of smooth vegetable which is added to boiled and pounded Cocoyam, other ingredients and meat are added and the soup is served, eaten with Fufu.

Photo from The Guardian

Ofe Ogbono : African Mango or Dika nuts is a kind of seed grounded into a fine powder and used to prepare a gooey kind of soup.

Ukwa : This seed is also known as African breadfruit, which can be cooked in a porridge form and enjoyed alongside rice or any desired substitute. It can also be roasted and eaten as a snack and it tastes so good!

Photo from The Guardian

Akidi : This is a kind of beans which is known as cowpea. It can be cooked as a whole meal or just used to decorate other foods like rice or combined with the regular beans to make a sumptuous meal.

The Igbo cultural food is a rich one and comprises of a myriad of healthy natural recipes which are combined together to create an appetizing delicacy. The Igbo’s believe in eating natural food thus, most of their soups comprises of medicinal herbs and vegetables which is believed to make them strong and immune to various diseases.

When next you go on a trip to Africa, in search of a place to spend a memorable vacation while enjoying delicious delicacies, then do not hesitate to visit the Igbo land, there’s a lot to explore and experience and stories to share with the world.

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