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Daring Cooks go nuts in July: Nigerian Suya & nut butters

by on July 15, 2010

When my 7 year old daughter talks about Nigeria and going back, one of the things on the top of her list is Suya. My 4 year old doesn’t remember the absolutely delicious bits of spiced beef on sticks, cooked over hot coals by specialists – men from the northern part of Nigeria, where this is their trademark. Suya is one of those things which Nigerians in diaspora miss, just like the Dutch yearn for dropjes and stroopwaffels! And if you dig further, you’ll find most people have jars of suya spice in their pantries. I got my mum to bring me a small sack of the stuff which is stashed in the deep freezer!

IMG_8180Though the experts are from the North you’ll find them all over the country. Usually every area in a town will have a ‘suya spot’, with its ‘Malam’, a name for the owner or controller of the joint. All day, every day, you’ll see the suya spots rife with activity from early morning till dusk, when orange trails blaze the skies with the setting of the sun.

NIGERIA-VOTE-SUYAPhoto credit: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images

The early hours of the day are spent prepping the meat – beef from cows that have trekked from one end of Nigeria to the other, eating lush green grass along roadsides, drinking cool, refreshing waters from streams running north, south, east and west – talk about free-range cattle. These cows serve up the tastiest beef you ever ate (save for Argentina perhaps) , not to mention being organic :-). The beef is sorted into groups – soft, tender cuts, chewy, hardier portions with fat, bony bits and more. Some chickens also join the fray, winged, giblets and gizzards. When preparations are all done, the meat is marinated in a dry rub of nuts and spices – toasted peanuts (we call them groundnuts), chili powder, ground ginger and salt form the basic spices but as you can imagine, each malam has his special blend, with special proportions and secret ingredients. Other add-ins might be garlic powder, onion powder, spice cubes and paprika.


Then, the meat is threaded onto stick, large pieces cut across the grain. Sometimes, I am reminded of birds and flapping wings as the flat beef pieces dangle from side to side.


About 4 pm, the Malams and their boys set up shop by the roadside, fanning the flame of glowing coals, while turning the meat on sticks gently. As customers troop to purchase suya by the stick, the boys load the stands with more stock. People ask for the type of meat they want, pick and choose specific sticks and then opts to eat it off the stick or have it stripped off the sticks and wrapped up in newspaper to take home. Both options are served with sliced tomatoes, red onions and chili pepper. All fresh.


In addition, extra spoonfuls of  the dry spice rub are sprinkled over the meat or served on the side.


The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a savoury recipe (not a sweet dessert). Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

I love peanut butter in sauces because the pack flavour as well as act as a thickner, for example when I make my peanut buttter chicken, I don’t need to add cornstarch to thicken the sauce. Isn’t that fab?


For the challenge, I chose to make peanut butter and use that, mixed with some spices as a wet rub for beef and thus, homemade suya. But not suya like I make in the winter months in the oven, this time real suya, cooked over smoky briquettes in my back garden. Note, this is a spicy recipe but, and that is a capital BUT, you can adjust the spices to suit you, just like Ka did when she made a chicken version – and she’s Dutch! The sauce/paste can also be used on fish and veggies too……


In Nigeria, to keep peanuts fresh for as long as possible, they are sold in their skins after roasting, usually in little bags or in transparent glass bottles. When you want some, you cup a little in your hands, squeeze together to loosen the skin and then lightly blown the soft, brown skin away. That works for small portions only though. To skin a large batch, the services of a kitchen tray are employed.
IMG_7972 IMG_7976IMG_7977 IMG_7980
Steady, ready hands rub the skins off and then those same hands grab either end of the tray and flip the peanuts up in the air, moving back and forth, while blowing. What happens is the peanuts collect on one side and the skins on another, which you get rid off. A few repeats later, the skins are almost all off and you have your peanuts to enjoy!
Like other nuts which are high in fats, store in the fridge or deep freezer to keep from going rancid.


Peanut butter


1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, skinned
1/4 – 1/2 cup vegetable oil
Pinch of salt

How to

In a blender or food processor, grind the peanuts till they are crushed.

The ground nuts will stick to the sides of the mixing container, so using a spatula, loosen bits from the bottom and round the sides.

IMG_7985 IMG_7988

Then add oil, drizzling in along with a pinch of salt, blending till you get your required consistency.

I wanted a loose butter so I added more oil, till it reached a ‘thick cream’ consistency.


Ingredients, makes a dozen skewers/sticks

250g beef steak (, sliced against the grain  into thin (slightly thicker than carpaccio), wideish pieces
Portion of peanut butter (from above)
1 teaspoon chili pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 -2 tablespoons lime juice
Fresh red onions, tomatoes and coriander leaves, to serve
  1. Its easier to slice the beef if you freeze it for an hour prior to use
  2. Adjust the spices to suit your taste, my measurements are just guides.

How to

Make the peanut paste by combining peanut butter, chili pepper, salt, ground ginger and lime.


Stir well {My 4 year old helped me stir}.

IMG_8016Adjust to taste and place beef slices in a large bowl . Pour peanut sauce over it, then using your hands, mix well ensuring the pieces of beef are coated with the sauce.

IMG_8026Leave to marinate for a few hours or overnight. I wanted to compare the taste of the suya using the peanut sauce versus the original suya spice (dry rub) and so I made two batches (and ended up with 2 dozen sticks, which are almost all gone!)

IMG_8035When ready to cook, thread them unto  (soaked wooden) skewers, accordion style so the meat is stretched out, not bunched up.


You can grill them in a pan, the oven or on the barbeque. I’ve done all of the above but the most authentic method of course, is over the fire.


Heat up your grill….


Till the coals are red hot and have a layer of grey ash. Carefully place the skewers on an oiled grill rack.

IMG_8155Let cook for a few minutes, and then turn over and cook the other side. The sticks should be cooked in less than 10 minutes, depending on how thick your slices of meat are.


If they aren’t ready after 10 minutes, and you should notice a change in colour, take them off direct heat and let them cook slowly.


L: Suya with dry rub; R: Suya with peanut sauce

Now, we had them almost immediately for dinner. Majority preferred the suya with peanut sauce to that with the spice rub – it was moister but funny enough was not as tender as the latter. I think my omitting paprika gave the peanut-sauced version a dull brown colour, compared with the overall reddish speckled appearance of the original. Overall, we ate almost all of them up!


While everyone was happy to have a food from ‘home’, my husband thought the beef wasn’t as tasty as in Nigeria. Anyhow, I left some pieces for a photo shoot and then later, he tried them, as did I – we both agreed letting them rest for an hour or two was essential – they tasted much better but still, the beef doesn’t taste like it would…..

I really enjoyed this month’s Daring Cook challenge (see more on the Daring Kitchen), especially since I’ve spent the last few weeks eating better (and making various nut butters) in a bid to transform our lives into healthier ones. On this note, I say a big thank to our hostesses, Margie and Natashya.

IMG_8189Have you ever had suya? Do you make marinades with peanut sauces? What’s your favourite meat or veggie on sticks?

Leave a reply » 1 2

  • JazzFest
    August 25, 2012 at 3:18 AM

    Thanks for posting the recipe for suya spice! I had almost given up my fruitless search. Do you have a method for making the peanut powder (I think it’s called kuli kuli?)


  • Jo Somebody
    July 22, 2011 at 11:10 PM

    Drool. All over my laptop. I WILL be making this over the summer!


  • Elro
    March 20, 2011 at 8:04 PM

    Really enjoyed this blog love suya to bits, we have a few Suya joints here in london though. Has anyone tried Kilichi (dry suya} and ‘cut’ suya nice .
    @ Hellen you can make kuli kuli with Crunchy peanut butter, some flour and ginger ( savoury) for sweet version add honey, sugar , dry fruits, coconut be creative . nice for snacking whilst blogging LOL


  • chinyere
    October 19, 2010 at 8:40 PM

    This IS what I miss most about Nigeria! I loved going to the market, women braiding hair, many different aromas in the air…and SUYA!


  • joke
    September 18, 2010 at 2:56 PM

    whaooo!! u really give me something here i eat suya everynow n den bt i never tot of making mine my self now i tink i no wat to do u are a great teacher n nice pics


  • Gift
    September 9, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    Looks really scrummy! How many people does the measurements you provide serve?


  • Debb
    August 18, 2010 at 9:52 PM

    Great article on suya! Made my mouth water too. Only discrepancy is that Nigerian beef is NOT anywhere close to Argentina beef. I lived there. Nigerian cows are pretty rangy with very little fat. But with the suya spices and cooking over an open fire, even the toughest beef is DELICIOUS!


  • August 18, 2010 at 9:16 PM

    This is fantastic, and makes me want to make suya, or anything with peanuts. Do you know how to make kuli-kuli? That’s one food I really miss from Nigeria.


  • August 4, 2010 at 6:06 PM

    I have eaten suya in Mali, Cameroon and Guinea, (I’ve never been to Nigeria) and it is one of my favorite foods. Hot off the grill, you don’t have to worry about getting sick. The meat is always “local” and the flavor is divine. Thanks for breaking it down.


  • July 31, 2010 at 2:44 AM

    Thank you so much for the inspiration…I just tried it, using my own amounts of seasoning. We loved it! I am not sure how it would taste in Nigeria, but it was a wonderful new dish for us… which we really enjoyed. Thank you for sharing. ~Ellie


  • John Kelly
    July 27, 2010 at 9:31 PM

    Bon apetit Koken Vlinder! Good luck for tomorrow evening 😉


  • July 26, 2010 at 11:55 PM

    Hi, I am a “Chow & Chatter” follower and I saw your post there.
    Congratulations on your fabulous work.
    Great photos and recipes ♥


  • July 22, 2010 at 5:35 PM

    beautiful photos! and what memories you have brought back for me- suya is a favourite and was a treat for us after our weekend swim. i absolutely adored it. and the malam used to give us a few tsps of the powder to dip the suya in. suya and jolloff rice are synonymous with Nigeria for me. ah, lovely days. love your recipe! x shayma


  • Layide
    July 20, 2010 at 8:36 PM

    Ozoz so u know what I will be having for dinner tonight???? You guessed right…Suya and garri…
    I am sure yours tatsed just as nice as the ikoyi hotel mallam’s…


  • Maseca
    July 20, 2010 at 5:33 PM

    I saw this recipe on FoodGawker yesterday and made it for dinner last night. WOW is this delicious!

    I used packaged, natural peanut butter and mashed ginger paste. My sauce turned out very thick, so I thinned it out using some coconut milk. I also cooked down the leftover marinade to make a “gravy” for rice, which turned out fantastic.

    Thanks for the recipe, it’s my family’s new favorite!


  • July 19, 2010 at 7:37 AM

    Posts like this remind me that no matter how many restaurants and dishes I try here in the US, I will only just scratch the surface of the wondrous foods available around the globe. This is the first I’ve learned of suya – how I’d love to have a taste!

    Many thanks for an excellent and appetizing introduction to this dish!


  • July 18, 2010 at 10:43 PM

    Wonderful post, Oz! Reminds me a little of Malaysian satay. Loved the photos, particularly the one of the Malam cooking his suya over coals. One question, did you blow peanut skins all over your kitchen? :)


  • July 18, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    A georgous recipe!!

    Your grill is huge & lovely!! Grilling all the way!!

    MMMMMMMMMMMMMMM,..stunning & very appetizing pictures!!


  • July 18, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    In new York we have our street vendors that sell their “pinchos”

    Your detailed posts always impress me


  • July 18, 2010 at 1:11 PM

    Wow Oz your grill is huge! I’m jealous :)
    This recipe sounds really exciting and I don’t get easily excited. I’m going to try this for sure. Looks so so good!


    • July 20, 2010 at 10:40 PM

      Oysterculture – yep, it has the hallmarks of satay….save for peanuts all wrapped around, versus on the side. Thanks

      WIzzy, Let me know if it goes well. LOL

      Rebecca dear, thanks. I’ll send you some photos!

      My little expat kitchen – don’t be jealous dear, it was a gift from a great friend!


  • July 18, 2010 at 5:37 AM

    oh wow I want a few now these look unbelievable tasty Ozoz would you consider letting me using the content and pictures on chow and chatter alot of folks read both of our blogs, but I have a weakness for cool street food and would love to share with any folks who should be reading over here!!


  • July 18, 2010 at 4:07 AM

    Oh goodness. I’m going to have to hide this one from my husband he’s ready to pull out the grill at the slightest provocation….ooops to late he’s spotted it and is now rooting around the pantry for peanut butter. Lordy!


  • July 17, 2010 at 10:36 PM

    This dish looks amazing and it reminds me of satay with the addition of peanuts. I cannot wait to try it.


  • July 17, 2010 at 4:20 PM

    Love this great post. Your photos capture your story very well. Do you ever plan to return to Nigeria?

    The suya look so good I wish I could have some right now!


    • July 20, 2010 at 10:38 PM

      Jessica, thanks. I would ♥ to go back to Nigeria, especially with the eye for food I have now – it would be a great opportunity to showcase some of the finer points of ‘Naija’ but at the moment, I’m in the Netherlands for work!


  • July 17, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    Another great post! I loved your take on this challenge. I’m going to have to try this when I have a real kitchen again. And I have to ask, how do you keep your photos so sharp – I’m assuming you’ve sized them for the web? Mine always look great in my editing program… until I try to resize them… hm.


    • July 20, 2010 at 10:35 PM

      Shea, thanks. I tend to take all my food photos by my kitchen window where I have the best light. I also use my macro mode and I don’t edit them…but then I take a lot and at the end of the day i have a handful I’m happy with. I upload them unto Flickr and when I incorporate them in a post, I have the option of various sizes – I guess Flickr does the resizing. Thank you.


  • July 17, 2010 at 9:27 AM

    wow You have a huge grill! I love skewers prepared this way too.


    • July 20, 2010 at 10:34 PM

      Chef Dennis, Thanks

      Angie – blame my American friend for such a huge grill – she gave it to us when she was leaving and it was the first time I’d used it….It is huge but it was PERFECT for the suya because I could grill 2 dozen sticks in one go!


  • July 17, 2010 at 4:30 AM

    your images are amazing!! your grilled beef looks delicious, what a wonderful sauce for this dish……a nice combination of spices for this flavorful dish!


  • July 16, 2010 at 9:23 PM

    Ooh, I am absolutely ravenously hungry after reading this! Your writing is so evocative, and the photographs are beautiful. I’ve never tried cooking with peanut butter but I definitely will be soon.


    • July 20, 2010 at 10:32 PM

      Shaz, Penny – this is almost like a satay save for the meat being marinaded in the peanut sauce vs being served on the side! Thanks.

      Lyndsey, Margie – Thank you!

      Racheal, thanks, you’d love cooking with peanut butter – it is rich and creamy and you don’t have to use a large quantity.


  • Ediri Montoya
    July 16, 2010 at 8:28 PM

    I miss SUYA!!! There is nothing better than eating good suya. Beautiful pictures luv! Wonderful description of good food from home. I am sooooooooooooooooooo hungry now.


  • July 16, 2010 at 6:40 PM

    Thanks for the introduction to Nigerian Suya. I can’t wait to try your recipe, your bbq’d beef on a stick looks seriously good! The peanut paste recipe sounds delicious with ginger & lime. I really enjoyed your post and learning about this traditional Nigerian dish.


  • July 16, 2010 at 4:42 PM

    Yum! Nothing like meat on a stick. I love going to any festival and getting meat on a stick! I have been making my own nut butters for sometime now, because of my dad! My daughter always had to have grandpa’s peanut butter. I like the almond butter. Anyhoo…this I have got to try! It looks so tasty and perfect for a summer treat! Thanks for such great photos!


  • July 16, 2010 at 3:14 PM

    Suya is just like satay and we serve it with peanut sauce. Very interesting read :)


  • July 16, 2010 at 2:27 PM

    SO many interesting things to read about here Ozoz. Suya looks so similar to the Asian satay (with different spices of course), and Malaysians call peanuts groundnuts too. As a kid, my job was to help de-skin the groundnuts, in exactly the method you described, we used a shallow bamboo tray instead of the kitchen tray. Wonderful post :)


  • July 16, 2010 at 10:08 AM

    Absolutely fabulous, this is the most exciting post I’ve seen with these nut butters, that Getty images shot is awesome, I really want to try these now!


    • July 20, 2010 at 10:29 PM

      Thanks Sarah G, the lacquer spoon and Sarah MC, I agree that Getty image is superb – it makes me want to buy a DSLR and go back home!


  • July 16, 2010 at 7:22 AM

    Thanks for the lovely recipe! It looks like SE Asian satay, so maybe there’ve been food exchanges between them in history. As for something on sticks, I sometimes cook skewered Indian kofta :)


  • July 16, 2010 at 6:04 AM

    What a fantastic post. I learned so much and would love to visit Nigeria and experience this. I love satays and these look similar. I will have to try them. Your pictures are wonderful, too.


  • July 16, 2010 at 5:32 AM

    These pictures and these recipes remind me of my time spent in Africa…I would love to give this a try with some type of meat substitute


  • July 16, 2010 at 5:26 AM

    This is the first time I’ve heard of Suya and it looks absolutely delectable. I love peanut sauces so I’m sure I’d love this, can’t wait to try it.


  • July 16, 2010 at 5:13 AM

    This is the first time I have read about suya and it’s making me very hungry! it’s very good that you have shared part of your culture through this recipe. I will definitely try this!


  • July 16, 2010 at 4:00 AM

    Astonishing blog this is my first time visiting your blog and I’m so impressed with your photography skills (stunning) but it is your writing skills that jump from the page, your lyrically words really evoke strong mental images so so good. You make Nigeria sound so wonderful.

    Suya is something I haven’t hear of before it does look so delicious and the recipe is inspiring. Bravo on your efforts. Cheers from Audax Sydney Australia.


  • July 16, 2010 at 12:14 AM

    Woohoo! Hooray for meat on a stick! 😀 😀 😀

    I always love reading your posts, especially when you talk about Nigeria. Thank you so much for sharing with us! :)


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