Nigerian tomato stew, also called red stew or just "stew," is a simple yet flavorful staple that you can make as spicy as you wish. Originally published February 2017. Last updated January 2023.
A prepared pot of stew is a mainstay in any proper Nigerian household, even the Black American/Nigerian one I grew up in. Because it's not only tasty but so versatile. This post will take you through the steps to make red stew like a Nigerian auntie and many ways to enjoy it--including special tips to get it right the first time. Let's get into the delicious details!
What You'll Need for this Recipe
What is Nigerian stew made of? Stew is comprised of tomatoes, aromatics, savory broth or bouillon, and spices. Here are the West African stew ingredient list to add to your grocery list.
- Bell Pepper
- Black Pepper
- Curry Powder
- Maggi Cubes
- Roma Tomatoes
- Scotch Bonnet Peppers
- Sea Salt
- Tomato Paste
- Tomato Sauce
- White Pepper
*Pro tip: You can use a variety of oils in making stew. Palm oil and vegetable oil or a combination of both are the most common. I also like using avocado oil because of the high smoke point.
What kind of meat goes in Naija stew?
Just about any kind of animal protein tastes good in stew and it's a catch-all for all different cuts of meat, including organ meat and skin. My family loves stew with salmon, chicken, or beef. For today's pot, I'm using chicken and flavorful liquid from cooking the chicken adds an extra punch of savory and umami taste to stew so don't skip it. Keep scrolling for the full flavor profile.
What Does it Taste Like?
Naija tomato stew is rich and savory. Depending on how many peppers you include and the grade of curry, it can also be quite spicy. I recommend starting with just one scotch bonnet or habañero pepper if you're new to Nigerian cuisine. The vegetable puree in stew is also a flavor base for many Nigerian staple recipes. If you've had jollof rice before, you'll recognize the flavor!
Tips & Tools for Making Naija Stew
Grab a blender to puree the tomatoes, peppers, and onion. In the old days this was pounded by hand but now, most Naija households have a blender for this express purpose. You'll also need a sharp knife, cutting board, and a large, deep pot. I use a wooden spoon to mix and stir all the ingredients while cooking. This is aligned with tradition but you can use what you have on hand.
How do I know when stew is done? Taste as you go. As you cook a pot of stew, the texture thickens and the flavor deepens as more water is released from the vegetables. Feel free to enlist taste testers, too. My Aunty Toyin and Aunty Faosat taught me how to cook this dish and could tell me what it needed with just a single bite!
How to store? I've been known to leave a pot of stew on the stove for a day or so but for the best results use an airtight container and store refrigerated. Stew will keep for about a week.
Can I freeze the stew? Absolutely! I recommend portioning it out into single servings before freezing so that you can just reheat what you need.
How to Serve
What do Nigerians eat? At just about any time of day, stew is a reasonable answer because it can be eaten with breakfast, lunch or dinner. It's versatile and flavors a variety of meats. Stew is typically served with fluffy white rice but can work with a variety of starches, including pounded yam and fried plantain. In the morning, it's great on eggs.
Make it your own. I'm bringing you the best representation of how we make Nigerian rice & stew in my family but everybody makes it at least a little bit differently.
More Popular Nigerian Dishes
Dodo Sweet and simple fried plantains
Ewa Riro Beans stewed in aromatics and spices with smoky meat
Jollof Rice Spicy, smoky rice cooked in layers of flavor
Yaji Nutty dry spice rub that's great on grilled meats and roasted vegetables
Zobo Drink Fruity, earthy brewed hibiscus tea
I hope you'll try try Nigerian stew with rice soon and very soon. And sharing is caring so be sure to pin this recipe for later and follow me on Pinterest. Thanks for reading!
Classic Nigerian Stew Recipe
Nigerian Red Stew and Rice
- 6 Roma tomatoes
- 2 habanero or scotch bonnet peppers
- 1 bell pepper seeded
- 1 white onion
- ¼ cup water
- oil of choice I use recommend palm oil or avocado oil
- 1 ½ pounds meat of your choice I used chicken drumsticks
- sea salt to taste
- black pepper to taste
- 1 rounded tablespoon tomato paste
- 8 ounces tomato sauce
- 2 maggi cubes crushed
- curry powder to taste
- white pepper to taste
- 4 cups cooked rice
- Cut tomatoes, peppers, and onion into chunks. Set aside ¼ onion and add remaining produce to a blender with about ¼ cup of water. Blend until liquefied then set aside.
- Meanwhile, add enough oil to a large pot or skillet to coat the bottom of the pot over medium-high heat. Slice the remaining onion into thin strips and add it to pot, followed by chicken, black pepper, and sea salt. Cook for about 10 minutes or until chicken begins to brown and release juices.
- Pour tomato mixture into pot, followed by tomato paste and sauce. Add crushed maggi cubes, curry powder, and white pepper and stir until incorporated.
- Let stew cook, stirring regularly and reduce heat to medium if it begins to splatter too much. After 10 minutes or so, the tomato mixture should become bubbly, thickened, and darker in color. Continue stirring to release more of the liquid. The oil that cooked the chicken will cook the raw tomato taste out of the stew.
- Next, taste test and salt the stew as necessary. The maggi has a lot of salt so you may not need to add much. Continue cooking until the stew reaches your desired consistency and some of the oil dissipates. If desired, spoon out any excess oil upon completion.
- Serve with cooked rice or starch of your choosing.