Egusi Soup is a rich and savory West African soup made with ground melon seeds and eaten with fufu dishes. It makes a wonderful and satisfying low carb dinner!
Egusi soup has a wonderful complex flavor and is made with traditional West African ingredients and spices. It is a very thick soup, and is actually more of a stew, as you can also eat it with rice or other dishes.
What is Egusi?
Egusi is made from melon seeds that grow primarily in the warm regions of Africa. It is composed of about 50% healthy fats and 30% protein, which makes it perfect for a low carb diet.
Egusi seeds are also packed full of healthy nutrients like Vitamins A, B1, B2, and C.
Egusi is also known as Elegusi or Agushi, depending on what part of Nigeria you are from.
Ingredients used to make Egusi Soup
- Egusi seeds: Egusi (melon seeds) are usually sold in African stores. I use roughly 2 cups for this recipe.
- Meat: African soups are mostly cooked with an assortment of meat like beef, goat meat, cow feet, or tripe (shaki). For this recipe, I use goat meat and cow feet but you can really add any type of meat you want to.
- Vegetables: Tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, habanero peppers, and spinach. The traditional Egusi soup is made with scotch bonnet peppers but if you're in the U.S, habanero peppers make a great substitute.
- Palm Oil: Palm oil gives a rich, traditional taste to this soup but you can use olive oil if that is what you have on hand.
- Smoked catfish: This is made from catfish that has been dried and smoked and is used to flavor a lot of Nigerian dishes. It gives a really unique traditional taste and flavor. You can omit this if you don’t have any.
- Spices: For Egusi soup, I use ground crayfish, salt, cayenne pepper, and bouillon (Maggi cubes). I also use black pepper to boil the meat.
- Broth/Stock: You can use water if you have none but you will need to add more spices.
How do you blend Egusi seeds?
You do not add water when blending, but as you blend you would notice the consistency changes to a somewhat powdery paste. You can buy the actual seeds or buy them pre-ground.
How to prepare Egusi Soup
Start by prepping the vegetables, meat, and dried smoked catfish.
Prepare the meat: Boil the meat you want to use. I used goat meat and cow feet. You can use any beef of choice. To use goat meat or beef, add the meat to the pot and add just enough water to cover it.
Add about a tablespoon of salt and black pepper and boil for 30-40 minutes till the meat is tender.
Prepare the dried smoked catfish: Soak the dried catfish in hot water for about 10 minutes and break into small pieces. Remove as many pieces of bones as you can and rinse under running water.
Prepare the vegetables: Blend the tomatoes, bell pepper, and habanero peppers using a food processor with minimal water added.
If the blended mixture looks watery, pour it into a bot and let it boil for about 10 minutes, until it becomes a bit thicker.
Chop the onions and spinach and set aside.
Cook the Egusi soup: Add palm oil to a pot on medium heat. When it gets hot, add the chopped onions.
Add the blended tomato, bell pepper, and habanero pepper to the palm oil and stir for a few minutes.
Then add your smoked fish and let cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes.
Add the meat and broth if you have some on hand, if not just add water. When it boils, add your ground egusi seeds and stir.
At this point, different tribes in Nigeria have their own spin on how to add the Egusi seeds. The Yorubas like to chop onions, mix with the egusi, and form balls, before adding it.
I didn't use onions but I just formed balls and placed them into the mixture. Stir a few minutes carefully and slowly and let simmer on medium heat.
Add the goat meat and cow feet or whatever meat you have on hand. Add ground crayfish, salt, pepper, and bouillon powder. Let sit for another 10 minutes on medium-high heat.
Lastly, add the chopped spinach. I use fresh spinach here but you can also use frozen.
The spinach should be added at the end because you don’t want it to overcook and become wilted in the soup. Leave on low heat for 5-10 minutes.
I make different versions, sometimes with a lot of leafy greens and sometimes barely any, depending on my mood or what I have available in the house. It still comes out tasting great!
This recipe serves 8 and contains 4 net carbs per serving.
What can I eat it with?
Nigerian Egusi soup goes great with fufu dishes, though it can also be eaten with cauliflower rice. Some great low carb options are:
Tips and Substitutions
You can substitute spinach leaves with other Nigerian leafy greens like bitterleaf, ugwu (pumpkin leaves), or basil (scent leaves).
Feel free to add as many leafy greens as you want. You can also add less.
Don't add salt until you are done adding all the spices. You might not need to add more because of the broth.
Check out these other delicious African low carb soups:
Egusi Soup - Nigerian Melon Seed Stew
- Cook the goat meat and cow foot. Add it to a pot and add just enough water to cover it.
- Add 1 tbsp of salt and black pepper and let it boil till tender, about 30 - 40 mins.
- If using smoked catfish, soak in hot water for 10 minutes.
- Break the dried catfish into smaller pieces and remove as many pieces of bones as you can.
- Chop the onions and spinach.
- Blend the tomatoes, red bell pepper and habanero pepper. Add as little water as possible.
Make the Egusi Soup
- Heat the palm oil on medium heat for a few minutes, then add chopped onions.
- After it becomes translucent, add your blended tomato and pepper mix and stir.
- Add your smoked fish and cook on medium heat for about 10 minutes.
- Add broth or water and bring to a boil.
- Pour the ground egusi seeds into a bowl, add a sprinkling of water and form them into balls.
- Add the egusi seeds to the soup and stir.
- Bring to a boil and let it cook for 5 more minutes.
- Add the goat meat, cow feet, crayfish, bouillon, and cayenne pepper.
- Taste for salt and add some if you need to.
- Let it boil for 10 minutes on medium-high heat.
- Add spinach and leave on low heat for 5 minutes.
- Serve with your choice of fufu and enjoy!
- You can substitute spinach leaves with other Nigerian leafy greens like bitter leaf or Ugwu leaves.
- Feel free to add as many leafy greens as you want. You can also add less.
- Don't add salt until you are done adding all the spices. You might not need to add more because of the broth.