Nigerian Beef Suya

December 16, 2021
0 Ratings
  • Prep time 40 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • makes About 12 skewers
Author Notes

Suya. Home food. One thought and my mouth begins to water—its deliciousness is engraved in the heart, mind, and tummy of my 7-year-old daughter who left Nigeria for the Netherlands four years ago as a mere toddler. The flame-grilled, peanut-spiced pieces of beef are one of the few memories she’s preserved, along with the tropical heat.

Suya is Nigerian street food at its most popular; it's never made at home. Well, almost never. The exceptions? If you invite the suya man himself into your humble abode to rustle some up, and if you are (like me) away from home, in diaspora, and hankering after spicy meats of years past, then of course permission is granted to try this at home.

On the street, it's prepared by Mallams, men from the north of the country, trained in the art and spice of meat preservation. It has very humble origins, being the preserve of pastoral nomads who travelled with their herds of cattle and often had to use the meat of the animals both for food and trade. Thanks to the ‘wandering' of these men, every nook and cranny in every Nigerian city boasts a suya spot.

So what is suya? It's similar to Asian satay. Thin strips of steak (sirloin, flank, or topside) are coated in a dry peanut rub, flavors heightened by a balanced combination of powders: ginger, garlic, paprika, chili, and salt. The cut of meat matters, but not that much as the marinade tenderizes it wonderfully. Of course each mallam has his own special spice mix. Hours later and meat threaded onto sticks, they're cooked over hot coals 'til ready, then set aside to await the onslaught of clients at the end of a hard day’s work.

At 4 or 5 p.m., the suya spots are suddenly transformed into a hive of activity. Amongst the crowds are boys trying to woo girls (rarely the reverse), parents treating kids, colleagues, friends, and everyone in between. No one is too rich, too poor, too southern or western, of the right name, wrong height to get suya from the same open-flamed shop—it's a delicacy that cuts across every social level one can think off.

As soon as the orders are in, the suya sticks are warmed up again and served in newspapers, meat on sticks or sans, with a sprinkling of the marinade mix, fresh tomato wedges, slices of red onion, and for the brave only, slices of fresh hot chiles.

Some tips:
It's easier to slice the beef if you freeze it for 1 hour prior to use. You can use store-bought peanut butter, but you will need to thin it by gentle heating. Add a dash of coconut milk or water to create a thick pouring consistency. The spice measurements are a guide; adjust them to suit your taste. And the best tasting suya is cooked, left to rest for a couple of hours, and then reheated gently over the flames...of your grill! —Kitchen Butterfly

What You'll Need
  • 250 grams flank, sirloin, or topside
  • 1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, skins removed
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cups vegetable oil, plus more for grilling
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) sweet paprika
  • Thinly sliced cabbage, red onions, tomatoes, and cilantro leaves, for serving
  1. Slice the steak against the grain into thin, wide pieces (about 5 millimeters thick and 4 to 5 centimeters wide), slightly thicker than carpaccio; set aside.
  2. In a food processor or blender, pulse the peanuts until crushed. The ground nuts will stick to the sides of the container, so using a spatula, loosen the bits from the bottom and sides. With the motor running, drizzle in the oil along with the kosher salt, blending until a thick cream forms. Add the lime juice, chili powder, ginger, onion powder, sea salt, and paprika; pulse to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
  3. Place the beef in a large bowl. Pour the peanut sauce over. Using your hands, mix well to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to overnight.
  4. Thread the beef strips onto soaked wooden skewers accordion-style, so the meat is stretched out, not bunched up.
  5. You can cook them on a grill pan or grill. Obviously, the smoky grill ones taste much better. The grill is ready when the coals are red hot and have a layer of gray ash.
  6. Brush the grill rack with oil and carefully place the skewers on the rack. Grill for a few minutes, then turn and grill the other side. They should be cooked through in about 10 minutes, depending on how thick the slices of meat are.
  7. If they aren’t ready after 10 minutes, move them to grill over indirect heat; the meat will be soft and tender.
  8. Transfer the skewers to a plate and let rest for 1 to 2 hours. Gently rewarm and serve with the cabbage, onions, tomatoes, and cilantro.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Rey Compañeros
    Rey Compañeros
  • HRH
  • TheWimpyVegetarian
  • Sagegreen
  • lorigoldsby
I love food and I'm interested in making space for little-heard voices, as well as celebrating Nigerian cuisine in its entirety.

24 Reviews

Rey C. August 14, 2017
Is there any reason I couldn't use this Suya marinade for the Swordfish Suya?
Kitchen B. August 20, 2020
No reason you can't use this. Sorry this is late :)
HRH October 14, 2015
lady, i love your style! your descriptions are lovely :)
looking forward to making this recipe, as well as, a few
of your others... how did I not see these before?!?
Kitchen B. August 20, 2020
Thank you
TheWimpyVegetarian August 8, 2011
This is the perfect Fair food!!
Kitchen B. August 11, 2011
Thankz ChezSuzanne - I'm smack in the middle of an international move, back home to Nigeria from the Netherlands. I'm sad about moving but so looking forward to SUYA!!!!!! Thanks
TheWimpyVegetarian August 18, 2011
I've been so busy the last couple weeks with an event I'm really behind on comments! This is a BIG move - and I understand the mixed emotions. I hope the move goes well for you and that enjoy settling in back home in Nigeria. Looking forward to more recipes from there!!
Kitchen B. August 19, 2011
ChezS....we're on! Thank you for your thoughtful words - appreciate it, in the sweltering Nigerian heat! Actually waiting for my lil sis to come back with some suya now! Once we find a house and I get my mojo/camera/thoughts together, I'll share recipes 'out of Nigeria/Africa'. Take care
Sagegreen July 20, 2011
I want to try these!
Kitchen B. July 22, 2011
Thanks Sagegreen
lorigoldsby July 19, 2011
Somehow I missed seeing this dish twice before!! I used to only read the "recently submitted" category but figured out I was missing anything that hadn't been submitted that week! So now I click under contests and read thru those before going to recent submissions. Beautiful story to go with a wonderful recipe.
Kitchen B. July 22, 2011
Thanks Lorigoldsby
fiveandspice July 19, 2011
Oh my gosh, these look so good KB!
Kitchen B. July 19, 2011
Thanks fiveandspice
SKK July 18, 2011
We are so luck you resubmitted this recipe because somehow I missed it in the street food contest. I have been to Lagos and Abuja, Ota and Kano State and your story brings back the experience of the people and the food. This is now a favorite!
Kitchen B. July 19, 2011
Oh WOW SKK - Fantastic......I feel strong kinship I didn't expect anyone to know Ota! Wow.....Thanks
MyCommunalTable July 18, 2011
Sounds great, but my son is allergic to peanuts. I think I will use the sunflower butter to make this. Sounds great.
Kitchen B. July 19, 2011
Sorry to hear about your son's allergy MyCommunalTable - but other nut butters would work. I'd recommend 'toasted' versions if possible but raw would also work well. Thanks.
Beautiful, M. June 18, 2011
I am a huge fan of satay and am excited to learn of its Nigerian cousin! Looks fantastic, and more doable at home than I would have thought.
Kitchen B. June 8, 2011
Thank you everyone for your comments!
Midge June 7, 2011
So evocative! And your photos are amazing. Would love to try these someday.
Oh wow, this sounds just wonderful. And I really enjoyed so much reading the story about them - it brought such a sense of place to this great recipe. I love all these spices and I can't wait to try your Suya.
boulangere June 7, 2011
Your story is beautifully evocative of the place and your recipe. These sound simply wonderful. I have a good friend who raises bison, and I'm going to try this with one of her steaks. Thank you so much for everything here.
EmilyC June 7, 2011
I've never had these but based on your picture, description and recipe -- I really want to try them!