This vegan egusi soup is nutty, spicy, and just as finger-licking delicious, as the classic version.
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why you will love this recipe
Next to Jollof rice, egusi is one of Nigeria’s and West Africa’s most known dishes. Normally made using crayfish and a medley of meats, this vegan version is so good, you will wonder why you have not been making your egusi this way. Here are a few reasons why you will love this recipe:-
- combining the traditional flavors of ground melon seeds, spinach, and other fragrant spices, it is delicious, you will not even be able to tell that it is meat-free!
- This one-pot meal is relatively easy to make.
- Vegan and budget-friendly. Well, hello! Times are hard and it doesn’t hurt to save a coin here or there!
what is egusi soup?
Egusi soup is a traditional and staple one-pot West-African soup that is popular in countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon. The hallmark of egusi is melon seeds, which the soup is named after.
Also known as egusi stew, agushi, ikopoghiri, ibara, agushi, guna shanu, and neri niri, egusi seeds are oil-rich seeds derived from inedible hard green melons (cucumeropsis mannii) related to melons and squashes. The seeds are removed from the melon’s flesh and then sun-dried until they obtain a beige color. Once dry, they are deshelled, stored as they are, ground to a course flour, then used in the kitchen for various purposes.
Traditionally, egusi is made using a variety of meats, but this vegan version is so good, it will definitely be in rotation in your home.
This is a summary of the ingredients needed to make vegan egusi soup, as well as possible options for substitution, if any. The full ingredient measurements and detailed instructions have been provided in the recipe card below.
- egusi seeds (melon seeds) - you will find egusi seeds online and in most African shops.
- palm oil - the palm oil helps give the dish a wonderful red colour, so I totally recommend that you use it if you can get your hands on it. Otherwise, just use regular cooking vegetable oil.
- vegetables - mushrooms, onions, red bell peppers, scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, African bird eye chilis, and some spinach or greens such as ugwu or uziza leaf.
- vegetable protein - you will also need some tofu or awara. Watch how you can make your own awara here.
- aromatics and seasonings - locust beans (iru), vegetable seasoning cube, salt to taste, and black pepper (optional). You will also need some mushroom powder, but this is optional as well. You can easily make your own mushroom powder by blending dried mushrooms.
- vegetable stock and water.
how to make vegan egusi
- Blend the onions and peppers.
- Blend the egusi seeds (melon seeds). Set aside in a bowl and mix this with a tiny amount of water, to form a paste.
- Fry tofu (awara) on both sides, then set aside.
- Using palm oil, fry some onion and locust beans in a saucepan or pot.
- Add the blended onion and peppers, and seasoning to the saucepan. Allow this to cook until most of the water has evaporated from the sauce.
- Add the mushrooms, tofu, and vegetable stock or water. Combine, and allow this to simmer for about 5 minutes.
- Form small lumps of egusi paste and add this to the soup. Cover and allow the soup to simmer until cooked. Add more water or vegetable stock if necessary.
- Add the spinach, gently stir to combine, and cook for about 5 minutes.
- Serve it with fufu, swallow dishes such as ugali and sadza, or your favourite sides.
storing and reheating instructions
Vegan egusi can be made ahead to be eaten later (actually, this is how I mostly make mine). Simply transfer it to an airtight container and keep in the fridge for 4-5 days. You can also store the soup in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To reheat, simply warm in a saucepan on the stovetop under low heat or in a microwave in 2-minute increments using a microwave-safe dish until warmed through.
Store ground egusi seeds in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. Otherwise, it just reacts with moisture in the atmosphere and tends to go bad quickly or attract weevils. It will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days and in the freezer for 3-4 months or even longer, depending on how cold your freezer is. Also bear in mind that the taste of the ground melon seeds tends to change if you store them for too long.
tips to nailing this recipe
- In addition to Habanero, we sometimes like to additionally use Fresno chiles. Try this variation, and use more hot peppers, if you like your food spicier.
- Don’t like seeing locust beans in your egusi soup? Simply blend it with a little bit of water, then fry as per the recipe instructions.
- Avoid stirring too much, if you prefer your egusi more chunky.
- While I used spinach for this recipe, you can use your favorite greens such as kale or ugwu leaves. You can also use a combination of leafy greens.
frequently asked questions
Dried mushroom powder and nutritional yeast are good vegan and vegetarian alternatives to crayfish. Both can be easily purchased in shops online. You can also make your own mushroom powder at home by grinding dried mushrooms in a coffee grinder, pestle, and mortar, or in a high-speed blender.
You can substitute egusi seeds for ground pumpkin seed meal but bear in mind that this may not be as creamy. Depending on the pumpkin seeds you use, the colour may also differ from the classic egusi melon seeds but this is not a problem as it is hardly noticeable, once the soup is cooked.
Use any type of pulses such as black-eyed beans or chickpeas for this recipe, if you do not have tofu.
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Vegan Egusi Soup
- 2 cups egusi seeds (melon seeds)
- ⅓ cup water
- ⅓ cup palm oil (to fry the tofu)
- 250 g mushrooms - approximately ½ lb
- 250 g ready-made tofu or homemade awara approximately ½ lb
- ⅓ cup palm oil to cook the egusi soup (use more or less, depending on your preference)
- ½ onion diced
- 2 tablespoon locust beans (iru)
- 1 tablespoon mushroom powder - optional (make your own by blending dried mushrooms)
- 2 large red bell-peppers
- 1-2 scotch bonnet or habanero peppers (use more or less, if preferred)
- 3-5 African bird eye chilis
- 1 medium-sized onion
- vegetable seasoning cube
- ¾ teaspoon salt (to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper (optional)
- 1 cup vegetable stock (or water)
- 500 g sliced fresh or frozen spinach - approximately 1 lb (or a mix of green vegetables such as ugwu and uziza leaf) - see notes.
- Blend the red bell peppers, habanero or scotch bonnet peppers, bird eye chilis, and onion until smooth then set aside. If necessary, add a small amount of water but not too much to help with the blending.
- Separately, blend the egusi seeds to a powder and transfer it to a bowl. Add some water and mix to form a smooth and thick paste.
- Heat some palm oil in a pot or pan. Fry the tofu on both sides, then set aside.
- Add the remaining palm oil to the same pot and allow this to heat, without overheating. Add the diced onion, and locust beans, then fry for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the mushroom powder (optional) then combine.
- Next, add the blended peppers, vegetable seasoning cube, and salt, pepper, and cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until much of the liquid has reduced, stirring from time to time. The oil will come to the top once ready.
- Add the mushrooms, tofu, and vegetable stock or water then combine. Cover and allow the soup to simmer for 5 minutes.
- Gently pinch medium-sized chunks of the egusi paste and add this to the sauce, but do not stir. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and allow the sauce to cook for about 20 to 30 minutes with little or no stirring, or until the egusi forms a compact mass. Keep an eye on the sauce so it does not burn. Add more vegetable stock or water if necessary.
- Once this time is up, add the spinach and use a wooden spoon to gently stir. Break the egusi lumps accordingly, depending on how chunky you like your soup. Cook covered for a further 5 minutes, check for salt, and add more if necessary.500 g sliced fresh or frozen spinach - approximately 1 lb
- Serve this vegan egusi soup with different types of swallow, such as fufu or pounded yam.
- You can use fresh or frozen spinach to make vegan egusi stew. If using fresh leaves, make sure to rinse them properly to get rid of excess dirt.
- Nutritional information is an estimate, calculated using tools that we use. It should only be used as a guide, and we highly recommend that you make your own calculations.