Egusi soup is a West African stew of meat and leafy greens that is thickened with egusi. Egusi is made from melon seeds that are dried and ground into a powder.
Chef Gabi Odebode shares her recipe for a Nigerian egusi soup, a dish she learned from her mother-in-law. Egusi soup is commonly prepared with a combination of meat and leafy greens that are thickened with dried and ground melon seeds, called egusi. There are variations throughout West Africa, including egusi stew from Odebode’s home country Ghana and Sierra Leone’s sawa sawa.
Egusi is a protein-rich dried melon seed that can be consumed whole or ground to thicken soups or stews. Chef Gabi emphasizes that the egusi or melon seeds cannot be substituted. The egusi gourd resembles a watermelon, but the flesh is white, bitter, and almost inedible; the seeds are what you want anyway. You can find the seeds already ground available at African markets or online.
This one-pot dish is nutty, meaty, and full-bodied, with a seafood flavor that comes mid-bite from the dried shrimp. The buttery deep red palm oil coats every cluster of egusi and swirls of spinach. The chicken melts into the soup in the best way.
Chef Gabi Odebode is the owner of Afromeals, a catering company specializing in African and Caribbean foods, featuring a product line of spices. While some people like a smooth egusi, Chef Gabi prefers the soup with sticky clusters meant to be scooped up with eba, a swallow made of fermented cassava.
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
1 pound of red mini sweet peppers or red bell peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped
2 plum tomatoes, quartered
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1/2 cup palm oil
2 tablespoons dry ground shrimp or crayfish
2 pounds bone-in chicken or meat of choice, par-cooked
1 cup of chicken stock
1 tablespoon of Knorr bouillon powder
1 pound of dried herring fish or dried catfish (optional)
8 ounces egusi (ground melon seeds)
10 ounces of spinach leaves or any other greens, roughly chopped
Salt to taste
Add the tomatoes, peppers, onion, and garlic to a blender and blend until smooth.
Heat up a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the pot is hot, add 1/2 cup of palm oil.
Once the palm oil is hot enough, about 1 minute (watch for overheating), pour in your blended mix, then stir and reduce the heat to medium.
Stir the ground shrimp or crayfish into the sauce. Let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the chicken, chicken stock, bouillon powder, and dried fish, if using. Stir well and cover with a lid to cook for another 5 minutes.
In a separate medium bowl, use a spoon to mix the egusi with 2/3 cup of water to create a paste.
Scoop the egusi paste into the sauce. Do not stir to allow small clusters of egusi to form.
Cover the pot with the lid, reduce to low heat, and let the egusi cook. After 5 minutes, remove the lid and stir.
Add the spinach and salt to taste, and stir. Cook for another 10 to 15 minutes on low heat.
Serve the egusi soup in a bowl with fufu, eba, or pounded yam.