Skewers of thinly sliced meat, oven-grilled and doused with yaji spice. There’s nothing quite like suya. Its unique taste is irresistible! It’s lip-smacking, finger-licking good!!
Beef Suya – West African grilled meat skewer
This is one of the most popular kabobs you can find on the streets of Nigeria. It is a very popular evening snack sold by roadside vendors.
You can also find it in restaurants and clubs. However, the roadside suya smells more mouthwatering than anyone served in fancy restaurants. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated the menu is at a restaurant.
My Childhood memories
Suya, just the name is mouthwatering! This particular kabob has always been my favorite. It is reminiscent of my childhood in Nigeria: walking at nighttime, inhaling all the smoke and wonderful aroma of beef suya that would fill the air.
So much has changed since then, but I try to keep up with the tradition and make suya here in America for my family and friends every chance I get. I now make them in the oven or air fryer.
What is Suya
Suya is a delicious, spicy Nigerian grilled Meat delicacy. It’s like shish kebab, but with a spicy kick! It is made with thinly sliced skewered beef.
The meat is rubbed with suya spice (yaji) – a dry spice mix containing ground peanut snacks known as kuli kuli, with other spices such as cayenne pepper, ginger, paprika, and onion powder.
Suya is traditionally cooked over an open flame on skewers, but you can also cook it in your oven if you don’t have access to an outdoor grill or don’t want to use one.It will be very delicious but without the smoky taste.
While beef seems to be the most common choice of meat, goat meat, lamb meat, chicken, turkey, and fish can be made into suya. Even meat parts like kidney, liver, and tripe can be made into suya!
How to serve suya
When you buy suya from street vendors, they carefully remove the skewer from the skewers and serve the meat with sliced onions, tomatoes, and sometimes cabbage with more sprinkles of yaji spice. The meat is then skillfully wrapped in a large newspaper.
However, when I make this at home, I like to serve it with cucumber in addition to onions and tomatoes. I also like to make it a round meal by making fried plantains or fried yam as a side.
Suya spice – Yaji
The use of yaji spice is what gives suya its unique character and flavor. Suya spice makes everything you grill taste better!
It has a complex flavor and a pleasant aroma. While the heat level varies from cook to cook, the depth of flavor stays consistent.
Keep in mind that the yaji spice is not ”one cap fits all”. There are variations dictated by personal taste and the regional availability of certain spices. But no matter the variation, the bold peanut flavor in the seasoning will always make the spice shine.
Mai Suya – roadside vendors
You will always see the mai suya by the roadside with very modest equipment that sometimes can be as simple as a small charcoal grill and a knife.
You will also find them with a stack of old newspapers used for wrapping the suya, a large bowl of finely sliced beef ready to be grilled, onions, tomatoes, yaji spice, oil, and cabbage/lettuce.
The unmistakable aroma of grilled suya is sure to draw in crowds of hungry buyers. There is a lot of preparation and skill needed to make suya. The real fun is watching your meat getting grilled right before your eyes.
A cultural & culinary experience like no other
Suya is literally everywhere in Nigeria, and it’s hard to resist. If you’ve ever been to Nigeria and never had suya, you’ve missed out on a culinary experience like no other.
For those who are yet to visit Nigeria, when you do, don’t miss out on this authentic Nigerian street food experience that will have you smacking your lips, licking your fingers, and craving more!
Ingredients for making suya
- Beef: My favorites are flank steak, skirt steak, sirloin, and topside
- Yaji spice: A delicious blend of peanut-based spice. I have a simple recipe for it here.
- Oil – Peanut oil is preferred but not mandatory. You can use any other oil of your choice
- Others: Salt, bouillon, cayenne pepper
How to Make Beef Suya (Nigerian Beef Skewers) – At home
- Before you start, be sure to soak your skewers in water for at least 30 minutes. If you plan to grill outdoors, it’s best to soak overnight.
- The preparation of suya always begins with the meat. Be sure to slice the meat as thinly as you can. I always tell my butcher to do that for me. Then I cut it into small pieces before marinating it.
- Also, depending on the cut of meat I choose, I sometimes tenderize before cooking, so make the meat a little tender.
- Next, I season the beef with salt, bouillon, and a bit of cayenne pepper. Add the oil and mix well, then cover and leave in the refrigerator to marinate for at least one hour. You can as well leave overnight. This will allow for better flavor absorption.
- Note: Cayenne pepper is optional. If you don’t like spicy food or if your yaji spice is spicy, you can skip it.
- Thread the meat onto skewers, about 4 to 5 pieces on each skewer, making sure that each piece of meat is touching the other pieces (this will help keep them from drying out).
- Put the yaji spice ( a little at a time) in a pan or bowl big enough to accommodate the skewered beef, then place the meat on the plate to coat the two sides with the spice.
- Once all the skewered meat are well coated, arrange them on a wire rack placed over a large tray and roast in the oven.
Where did suya originate from?
Suya is a type of kebab that is believed to have originated from the Northern part of Nigeria – The Hausas in particular. It has now become popular in many West African countries.
The Hausa tribe is one of the three most prominent ethnic groups in Nigeria. They have a rich history and culture, which is reflected in their culinary tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation.
They are known for having a hearty diet that features lots of meat and grains and plenty of vegetables and spices.
Apart from suya, some of their foods include:
And so much more!
What Is the Best Beef Cut for Making Suya?
The truth is, suya can be made with almost any cut of meat. I prefer flank steak because it’s lean and the connective tissue in the meat makes for a chewy mouth-fill experience. I also like to use sirloin and skirt steak.
But really, you can use any cut of beef that you have on hand—from steaks and roasts. As long as it’s not too fatty, it’ll work just fine!
- Sudanese call this Agashe
- Ghanaians call it chichinga
- Cameroun soya
Note: Cayenne pepper is optional. If you don’t like spicy food or if your yaji is spicy, you can skip it.
Other Beef Recipes You Will Love
- Meat Floss (Beef Floss) – Dambu Nama
- Nigerian Beef Stew (African Stew Recipe)
- Easy One-Pot Ground Beef Pasta
- Beef Couscous Recipe – 20 Minutes
- Best Easy Ground Beef Recipe – Homemade Ground Beef
- Basmati Jollof Rice recipe (The Party style with beef)
- Ground beef and potatoes Dinner
- Stewed Beef Potatoes
- Fall Off the Bone BBQ Beef Ribs – Grilled Ribs Recipe
- 2 ½ lb beef Flank steak, skirt steak, sirloin
- ½ to 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon beef bouillon or chicken [or use the cube]
- cayenne pepper optional
- 3/4 cup suya spice plus more for dusting
- 1 tablespoon peanut oil or any other oil of choice
- Prep the skewers: Soak the skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before using them.
- Prep the steak: Slice the meat into about 1/8-1/4 thin slices. Then cut into roughly 2-inch pieces.
- Season: Season the beef with salt and bouillon powder (or cube). Add the oil and mix well.
- Marinate: Cover with a tight-fitting lid or plastic wrap. Then leave it in the refrigerator for at least an hour to marinate.
- Thread the beef onto the skewers—about 4 to 5 pieces per skewer.
- Coat with the suya spice (yaji)
- Cook at 400F for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through the cooking process.
- Serve: Remove from skewers and serve with freshly sliced tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers.
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