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Black Joy Through Food: The Vegan Nigerian

Black Joy Through Food is a Sweet July series in collaboration with Black Women Photographers. This photo essay is by Iko-Ojo Mercy Haruna

I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of a Nigerian plant-based diet. It was hard for me to imagine how it would work considering so many of our dishes contain meats of all kinds as well as fish, crayfish, and other seafood. To get the inside scoop, I spent an afternoon with Tomi Makanjuola, the Nigerian-born, London-based creator of The Vegan Nigerian. It’s a platform where Makanjuola shares traditional Nigerian recipes adapted for veganism. 

On becoming a vegan

Makanjuola’s journey to being a vegan started nearly a decade ago when she found herself sluggish and lacking in energy while consuming meals rich in processed meats and dairy. She instinctively cut all animal products from her diet and experienced increased energy and improved digestion. After doing further research into veganism by reading books and watching documentaries, she concluded that becoming a vegan was the way forward. In her own words, “Once I had seen all of that, I just couldn’t unsee it, particularly in relation to animal cruelty.”

The Challenges of being a vegan and Nigerian

At the beginning of the switch to a vegan lifestyle, Makanjuola was worried that she would not be able to eat the foods she grew up on. Visiting family and friends who did not fully understand the vegan diet was also difficult. However, since she always loved cooking and experimenting in the kitchen, she willingly took on the challenge of modifying traditional Nigerian dishes whilst retaining their flavours and ingredients. That led to the creation of The Vegan Nigerian blog where she shares her experiments and recipes. Makanjuola is now intent on spreading awareness about plant-based nutrition and correcting the misconceptions surrounding this type of diet.

During my afternoon visit, Makanjuola prepares one of her favourite vegan Nigerian dishes, Plantain Porridge (and she shares the recipe below). Her cookbook contains 100 classic recipes with a plant-based twist.

With The Vegan Nigerian, Makanjuola seeks to showcase the beauty of Nigerian food while also showing people that there are alternative ways to enjoy traditional foods—ways that can be both healthy and tasty. Having an open and abundant mindset in the kitchen, she stresses, is important.  

Get Makanjuola’s Plantain Porridge recipe from her Vegan Nigerian Kitchen cookbook below!

Recipe:

Tomi Makanjuola's Plantain Porridge

Serves 4 people

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp palm oil or coconut oil
  • 3 green or just-ripe plantains (peeled and cut into bite-size pieces)
  • 1 red onion (sliced)
  • 3 cups stew base (3 large tomatoes or 1 tin of plum tomatoes, 1 large red bell pepper, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 or 2 scotch bonnet pepper, 1 large onion, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme)
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups meat substitute of your choice (such as mushrooms or roasted tofu)
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes cut into quarters
  • 1 cup shredded or finely chopped kale or spinach

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat and add the diced plantain and onions. Fry for 4-5 minutes over high heat, stirring occasionally. Add the stew base, vegetable stock cube, curry powder and salt to taste. Mix well, bring to a boil, then cover the pot and simmer over medium-low heat for 12-15 minutes until the plantain is soft. Add the meat substitute, tomatoes and kale or spinach and cook for a further 3 minutes on high heat. Serve hot.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp palm oil or coconut oil
  • 3 green or just-ripe plantains (peeled and cut into bite-size pieces)
  • 1 red onion (sliced)
  • 3 cups stew base (3 large tomatoes or 1 tin of plum tomatoes, 1 large red bell pepper, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 or 2 scotch bonnet pepper, 1 large onion, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme)
  • 1 vegetable stock cube
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups meat substitute of your choice (such as mushrooms or roasted tofu)
  • 2-3 medium tomatoes cut into quarters
  • 1 cup shredded or finely chopped kale or spinach

Instructions

  • Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat and add the diced plantain and onions. Fry for 4-5 minutes over high heat, stirring occasionally. Add the stew base, vegetable stock cube, curry powder and salt to taste. Mix well, bring to a boil, then cover the pot and simmer over medium-low heat for 12-15 minutes until the plantain is soft. Add the meat substitute, tomatoes and kale or spinach and cook for a further 3 minutes on high heat. Serve hot.
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