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Fish pepper soup is a warm and soothing West African soup, simmered in a flavorful, spicy broth made up of catfish, vegetables, and spices. It is so healthy, nourishing, and satisfying!

nigerian fish pepper soup served and ready to eat

In Nigeria, no party is complete without pepper soup. You can make it as complex or as simple as you want, but the flavor is what hooks you.

It makes a perfect light meal at home and you can eat it any time of the day, it doesn’t matter if the weather is hot or cold. If you’re sick or feel a cold coming on, pepper soup works wonders to make you feel better in no time.

It is made using a range of spices with complex but warm and earthy flavors. It is quite spicy but very soothing.

Fish pepper soup is one of those dishes that the first time you taste it, you’ll keep trying to guess what flavors make up this mouthwatering and hearty soup.

Pepper Soup Ingredients

catfish used in making nigerian fish pepper soup
  • Catfish: I use about two pounds of catfish which is roughly the size of a large catfish. I like to buy my fish from Asian or Mexican stores in the U.S because it is cleaned out and gutted.
  • Spices: I make this recipe using cayenne pepperbouillon powdersmoked paprikaground crayfish, salt, and a unique blend of African spices. This spice blend is made of spices commonly found in West Africa but in this post, I give an alternative method on how to make it using ingredients commonly found in grocery stores. If you don’t have ground crayfish on hand, you can substitute with coconut aminos.
  • Vegetables: Habanero pepper and basil leaf. Habanero pepper gives a lot of heat to this fish pepper soup so it lives up to its name. Basil leaf lends a minty, slightly sweet flavor to this soup and completely transforms it. In Nigeria, the basil leaf variety commonly used in pepper soup is known as Scent leaf.
Fish pepper soup

How To Make Fish Pepper Soup

To start, boil some water on the stove. If the fish isn’t cleaned out, you will have to gut it and clean it out yourself. Thoroughly clean the inside and outside with lime or lemon to get rid of the sliminess.

Chop the habanero pepper into tiny pieces. Also, loosely chop the basil leaves and set aside.

Cut the fish into medium-sized pieces. When the hot water boils, pour it over the fish and leave for about 30 seconds.

Catfish is quite notorious for completely breaking apart when cooked for long periods but doing this will help toughen the skin so that it can withstand prolonged cooking which is essential for this pepper soup.

Drain out the hot water, rinse under the tap, and place in a pot. Add about 6 cups of water or until the fish is completely submerged. Add the bouillon powder and bring to a boil.

When the soup starts to boil, add in the rest of the spices and the chopped habanero pepper and let simmer for about 20 more minutes on medium heat.

The spices will begin to blend together and create a wonderful fusion of spicy and musky aromatic flavors, which will be completely absorbed by the catfish.

african fish pepper soup being made

After 20 minutes, add the chopped basil leaves and almost immediately, you will begin to perceive the minty flavors.

Let simmer for about 5 more minutes and your fish pepper soup is ready to eat!

This recipe serves 6 and contains 0 net carbs per serving. It keeps for up to 5 days in the fridge.

If you love catfish as much as I do, try this super flavorful Baked Whole Catfish recipe. It’s so good!

african fish pepper soup is low carb and has zero net calories

Tips And Substitutions When Making Fish Pepper Soup

  • This fish pepper soup is made using catfish but you can substitute with tilapia or codfish.
  • Only add the cayenne pepper if you want it spicier.
  • If you want it slightly less spicy, don’t chop the habanero pepper. Add it whole and after the soup is done, discard it. You will still feel the heat from the habanero pepper but it will not be overpowering.
  • If it’s still too spicy for you, then omit the habanero pepper and use the cayenne pepper instead.
  • If you don’t have ground crayfish, substitute with one tablespoon of coconut aminos.

Try these other low carb flavorful soups!


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