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Food Profile: Ogiri, Iru, Dawadawa, Okpei

Now this is one ingredient in soups you can’t miss even if you were miles away. With its uniquely “funky” pungent aroma, it’s bound to keep you on your toes while cooking. It is incorporated in soups like egusi soup, oha/ora soup, onugbu soup, utazi soup etc. It is also a crucial ingredient in the preparation of African salad(Abacha).
Ogiri is a paste of fermented oil seeds. There are many types of ogiri but the most common varieties are Ogiri-Ijebu, Ogiri-Igbo and Ogiri-Nwan. The names are derived from the region of origin.
-Ogiri-Ijebu is  made from fermented Egusi seeds and is of Ijebu Yoruba origin – a south western Nigerian tribe. 
-Ogiri-Nwan is fermented fluted pumpkin seeds
-Ogiri-Igbo are of two types and is of Igbo origin – a south eastern Nigerian tribe.

They are:- 
1. The ones prepared with a combination of  melon seeds (egusi) and castor oil seeds (ugba seeds)
2. The ones prepared exclusively with castor oil seeds (ugba seeds).
Castor oil seeds are available in all parts of Africa. In old times, castor oil was valued for its laxative properties and it is used by many new parents in caring for their newborn children

The Egusi seeds/ugba seeds are boiled until very soft. They are then wrapped tightly in banana leaves and left to ferment in large clay pots for about five days. After fermentation is complete, it is smoked for 2 hours and mashed into an oily paste which is ogiri.

Ogiri igbo follows the same process but the fermentation process could take three to five days. The longer the fermentation process, the stronger the Pungent smell, flavor and value .

Ogiri has an oily gray pasty consistency and a very strong pungent smell. The smell is greatly reduced when frozen. 

Other local Nigerian favor enhancers :::

1. Iru (Yoruba)
Iru (Fermented locust beans), mostly used by the yorubas
2. Dawadawa (Hausa)
dawadawa (fermented and compressed locust beans), mostly used by the Hausas
How to make dawadawa:::
1. Sort the locust beans to remove any foreign particles. Soak the locust beans in hot water and leave for seven days or boiled for about 8 hour to de-hull.

2. Place the seeds in a mortar and pound with a pestle to de-hull. Sieve off the chaff. The cleaned seeds are then steamed and spread inside a calabash whose inside had previously been rubbed with wood ash and covered in leaves. 

3. The calabash is covered and wrapped with clothes or sack for about 24 to 36 hours for fermentation to take place. Dawadawa is then pressed into cakes in form of discs. This can now be used as a condiment for soups or stews. Research has shown that fermentation of the seeds increases its digestibility and vitamin content. Dawadawa is a rich source of protein, vitamins and nutrients.

3. Ogiri Okpei (Igbo)
Ogiri Okpei (Fermented, mashed and compressed locust beans), Mostly used by the igbos
How To Make Ogiri Okpei 
1. The seeds of choice are first sorted, washed and cleaned thoroughly in clean water. Remember that you can use either egusi seeds, fluted pumpkin, Prosopis africana (Mesquite seeds), castor oil seeds or sesame seeds.

2. Cook the seeds until they get softened so that the seeds coverings can easily peel off for easy removal. Afterwards wash the cotyledons and pour in a sieve to drain excess water.

3. Then add the cotyledons into a canister or vessel then cover with local leaves like plantain leaves etc and allow to stay for at least 4 days to undergo fermentation.

4. It is optional to place the vessel under sunlight during the process of fermentation so as to hasten up the fermentation process.

5. Once the fermentation process is complete, ground the fermented seeds into a smooth thick paste, then mold into small balls and allow to dry under the sun.

6. Once the ogiri okpei is sun-dried, it is then ready for usage.   

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  1. I loooooovvve Ogiri so so Much!

  2. Can you find it in London?

    1. Hmmm!! i sincerely don't know if it's sold there as i reside in nigeria.

    2. You can find ogiri in Dalston or Peckam markets. Thank Dobby for the method of preparation. Not I can explain to people better.

    3. Yes, check in any African store.A wrap is £1.20

  3. Thank you. I learned a lot. Never knew how it was prepared.

  4. Hmmn, yum! Ogiri is also the secret ingridient in ondo ila asepo - Okra soup, it gives the soup a unique aroma and taste.

    1. yayyy!!! Thanks for the contribution aunty mo :)

  5. Very informative. I always wondered about how it was made.
    My question is how much of it do you add to a pot of stew and what is the result if you add too much?

    1. A tsp. for a medium sized pot would do for the paste like ogiri. For locust bean types, a tbsp. would do.

  6. hi can you ferment it with out plantain leaves? im guessing your talking about the banana like leaves not the weeds from the ground, what other alternatives are there

  7. Help !! I put too much Ogiri in my soup! My husband hates the smell.. How do I fix the soup ?

    1. There's simply no known remedy for now. You could make a different batch of the same soup without ogiri and mix the two together.

  8. What a great site.. Is it possible to cook off nsala without okpei/ ogiri cos my hobby doesn't like d smell. I've tried convincing him that it tastes great with d flavor but he just doesn't want it. What should I do?

  9. What a great site.. Is it possible to cook off nsala without okpei/ ogiri cos my hobby doesn't like d smell. I've tried convincing him that it tastes great with d flavor but he just doesn't want it. What should I do?

    1. Yes it is possible, infact some people do.

  10. Please can I use ogiri to prepare melon soup ??

    1. You can use Iru especially if you are using a lot of vegetables in the soup but the others, i wont advice.

  11. The ogiri in south western Nigeria has only been acknowledge as ijebu ogiri,whereas people from ondo state( I know of ondo town and igbara oke) makes theirs. My grandmother did that for a living even before her demise. Its medicinal properties and nutritional value is really wonderful. Including the iru and dawadawa.for more pharmacognostic advice on this and other things especially leaves to treat serious ailment contact ojuobe1@gmail.com

    Oyindamola- ojuobe

  12. Nice post. I also wish to make a correction. Castor seed/Castor bean is not the same as Oil Bean Seed (Ugba/Ukpaka).


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