Food Profile - Nigerian Brown Beans

Nigerian Brown Beans ( Cowpeas)
There are over a 100 varieties of beans known to man. Some of these are specific to certain regions of the world.

The popular Nigerian brown beans are actually brown cowpeas which are cultivated and consumed in most of Sub-saharan Africa. This variety also exists as white cowpea. The beans are highly nutritious containing good levels of carbohydrate, protein, dietary fibre and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, iron, zinc, manganese and copper.

Brown beans are an important crop which plays a significant role in the diets of Nigerians. They serve as a major source of protein in the absence of sufficient animal protein. There are two further categories of the brown beans namely Oloyin and Olo 1&2. The Oloyin beans have a naturally sweet taste and preferred in certain dishes. It is thought the the beans were introduced to Africa over 2000 years ago but Nigeria is currently the world’s largest brown beans producer accounting for about 22% of total production followed by Brazil.

Nutritional Data for Brown Beans (based on 100g boiled brown beans):
Calories: 378.9 (kcal)
Protein: 25 (g)
Dietary Fibre: 10.7 (g)
Carbohydrates: 59 (g)
Fat: 1.2 (g)
Vitamins: A, Folates
Minerals: Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Sodium, Iron, Zinc, Manganese and Copper

Note: Other ingredients added to beans during the cooking process such as oil and other vegetables will impact on the overall calorie count of the dish.

Uses: Brown beans are prepared and consumed in a variety of ways. Arguably, Nigerians have the highest numbers of ways/methods of cooking and eating beans. They can be boiled and eaten alone, or in combination with cereals such as rice or corn. They can also be mashed up, made into soups, milled (usually with peppers, onion etc.) and fried as a fritter (akara, acaraje as it's called in Brazil) or steamed into a savoury pudding (moin-moin).

In recent times, the beans have also been dried and milled into flour for use, again in different ways.

Tips for cooking beans:
  • Beans can take a really long time to cook so cooking with pressure cooker can half cooking time.
  • Inspect individual bean seeds to check for insect infestation. Insect infested beans will not give a suitable result when used in cooking
  • Ensure all chaff and other debris are removed from beans before using
  • Soaking beans for a minimum of 15 minutes makes peeling faster and easier
  • Soaking beans before cooking also reduces the flatulence factor

Popular Nigerian dishes made with beans:

Dish Name
Boiled Beans

Beans cooked alone in salted water. Eaten alone or with with rice or bread. A spicy sauce is usually served with it.

Mashed Beans

Beans cooked with tomatoes, peppers, onion, and oil. Beans are mashed up to form a thick stew/potage and served with boiled yam, fried plantain or bread.


A Yoruba dish made with a combination of beans, corn, dried pepper, onions and oil.


A Yoruba dish made from peeled and finely milled beans with added fresh peppers and onions. The milled bean paste is wrapped in broad leaves and steam cooked. Moin-moin can be served with rice dishes, corn porridge or eko, agidi (a corn meal dish).


Another Yoruba dish made in a similar way to moin-moin except that peppers and oil are not added. The dish comes out as a whitish cream cake and served with a spicy pepper sauce.

Akara, Kosai

This is a very popular street food made from peeled and finely milled beans with added peppers, onions and spices. Served as a breakfast food or light snack. This dish is also popular in other West African countries and in particular Brazil where it is called acaraje.

Bean Soup

Another popular Yoruba dish. Gbegiri, as it is referred to locally, is made from peeled beans subjected to prolonged cooking to soften them. When soft, the beans are crushed into a fine semi thick soup. Peppers, onions, meat and other condiments are added. Best served with another vegetable soup, ewedu.

Aganyin Beans

A popular Togolese bean dish which involves cooking beans in a cast iron pot until soft. The beans are then mashed up and served with a spicy sauce and eaten with bread or boiled yam.

Try some of my Fusion Brown Bean recipes:
  1. Nigerian Brown Bean Salad 
  2. Hummus Style Brown Bean Paste

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