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Dissecting the Easiest, Tastiest Ofe Nsala Recipe Ever

Kitchen Butterfly's Nsala

Kitchen Butterfly’s Nsala

My husband loves Ofe Nsala.

Before I met him, it was one of those Igbo soups. I’d never seen it or tasted it. They said it was “white soup” and I half-imagined that it looked like white ogi, or cooked flour. After I met him, it was the Igbo soup without oil or vegetables or substance. No vegetables, no egusi, no ogbono, no okra,  no red pepper. Depending on the cook, it was a light as peppersoup or as thick as curry. I did not understand why anyone would want to eat a soup so light with eba or pounded yam.

Don’t Knock It Till You’ve Tried It.

But he loves Ofe Nsala.

So I had to learn to make it. Because…love. Because…”wife material”. Because…”Hey, another soup to add to my repertoire.” Because…curious.

My family teases me often about being an internet cook. I’m sorry, I like recipes, especially if I’ve never made the dish before. I like steps and precise measurements. Miss me with that “soul food” vibe. So I Googled “Ofe Nsala”. There were a few recipes but I wasn’t confident enough to take it on my own.

Enter Ozoz, the Kitchen Butterfly: Patron Saint of the Kitchen, Fairy Godmother of the Oven and Stove and First of Her Name.

At lunch time, we went to a market near our office. We figured market women would answer our questions best, and we weren’t disappointed. They pointed out spices, recommended dried fish options, shared their prized tips. It was an experience as rewarding as the meal itself and we could hardly wait.

I won’t go into details of the recipe itself; Ozoz does a fantastic job of that on her blog here. I won’t talk about the meal we eventually shared with half a dozen other women; laughing and eating at Ozoz’s dining table.

I’ll talk about ogiri, the curious flavouring that gives this soup its characteristic pungency and umami-ness. It’s made from fermented cottonseed (thanks for that, Ozoz) and it does for Igbo soups what Iru (fermented locust beans) does for Yoruba soups and what I imagine certain cheeses do for Western cuisine. I’d never seen ogiri before or used it; and when I reproduced Ozoz’s recipe as lunch for Kingsley and his friends, I optimistically used two packets of ogiri. Lol. The house. The smell. But it tasted great. I made it with fresh catfish instead of chicken and from the smiles on their faces, I hit it out of the ball park. (Yay for wife material. Lol.)

I still struggle to eat it with eba (I like thick soups!) and I’d rather eat Nsala as pepper soup. I think it goes great with plantain flour, though. I’m not a fan of eating it with pounded yam; it seems like Yam Overload seeing as yam is my preferred thickener for this soup (Heretic, I know cocoyam is the traditional thickener!) I always add extra extra crayfish and more dried fish. If I had my way, I would fill the soup chock-full with periwinkles and prawns but Kingsley’s not a fan of either. I recommend it, though.

But most importantly, I like the fact that it’s a quick soup. You can go from “Market” to “Dining Table” in about 30 minutes (if you aren’t cooking with meat). What more can a girl ask for?

Recipe here: Lunchtime Capers: Eastern Nigeria Ofe Nsala, ‘White Soup’

Have you eaten Nsala? Do you like it? What Igbo soups do you recommend we try next?


  1. Hahahaha…. I’m an internet cook too and I’ll have to say that my most successful adventure was Banga soup. It’s fairly easy to make (if you can scrap the pounding of the kernel part) and pretty tasty too. I’ll try this out but without the fish (hubby not a fan). Hope it’ll taste as great too.

  2. Love it! It’s my fave soup after Ora(Oha) and I prefer it with pounded yam…. glad you liked it too ….

    • I love Oha. I don’t know how to cook it though. Google to the rescue! Maybe I’ll do it next with Kitchen Butterfly.

  3. I enjoyed reading this 🙂
    Ofe nsala is no stranger to me (because, Igbo) but it’s not one of my favourites.
    It’s really easy and quick (never made it, I watch my mom) BUT in my house it is made with fresh fish or chicken and I’m not really a fan of anything with fishy or chickeny essence. I could try it with goat meat one day though and see how that goes. Fave soup is Ofe Onugbu (bitter leaf) and a very close second is Ofe Ora/ Oha. I love that with Oha, you don’t need to struggle with cutting the veggies. They are soft and not supposed to be tiny so you can shred/tear by hand. If you haven’t tried the Igbo bitterleaf soup, I think you really should!

    • Ah, yes. It’s best with fish and chicken. But we made our first pot with meat so it should work. I like Oha, never eaten Onugbu. I’m thinking I should do a series on Igbo soups. Hmmm…

  4. Is53y says

    Ofe Nsala is the tastiest “simple looking” soup till you overload the utazi leaf. I love is every other sunday meal in my household..sometimes I retrofit it to Ukodo – yam and pepper soup- to manage the Sapele taste buds. Have a go at the OhA Soup.very rich scent And taste. Banga recipe on 9jafoodie is good . Peace and Love.

  5. I loose all form of control with Ofe Nsala. Absolutely love it! You should try Ofe Uziza. Same recipe with Oha soup, just replace Oha leaves with Uziza. Thank me later 🙂

  6. ruth says

    Next time try it with assorted meat and a host of dried fish…make sure its a traffic meat-jam and add a little uziza seed (grounded)…thank me later.

  7. You should definitely do the Igbo soups challenge, haha! I’ve had ofe nsala just once and I thought it was alright. My favorite soup has be banga or afang! I have to try this soup on my own once I’m home. Loved this!

  8. Wow…! I really like the fact that Nsala soup is very quick to prepare but Seriously, I’m not really a fan of Nsala Soup, If i must eat it, then i need to add a combination of some veggies(Utazi and Uziza leaves) to it. The veggies give it a sweet-bitter taste,which is more realized when one drinks water.
    It will be amazing if you could try Ofe Akwu (Banga) Or Ofe Onugwu (Bitter Leaf Soup) . These two are irresistible…lol

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