Spice up your culinary adventures with this nkwobi recipe! Tender cow foot is perfectly cooked and mixed with bold and flavorful palm oil sauce.
Serve as a side dish or main course. This traditional mouthwatering delicacy will propel your taste buds to the heart of Nigeria.
What is Nkwobi
It is a popular Southeastern delicacy from Nigeria. It’s prepared with tender cow feet and a colorful, spicy soup base fragrant with African nutmeg, a.k.a ehuru.
It is usually served as a side dish on special occasions or as a main course in some Nigerian restaurants or “beer parlors.”
It is usually served piled high in a shallow wooden bowl accompanied by local palm wine, cold beer, or soft drink.
Reasons why this recipe works
- Easy to make: While this dish may seem intimidating, it is actually quite easy to make at home with the right ingredients. You can impress your friends and family with your culinary skills and introduce them to this delicious delicacy.
- Flavorful: Like my okra soup, yam porridge, and Efo riro recipes, this cow leg recipe is packed with authentic seasonings that bring out the traditional taste we love.
- Versatile: you can use a combination of animal protein or strictly cow foot to make this dish, which will taste equally delicious.
- Nutritious: Cow foot is a good source of protein and collagen, which is beneficial for skin, hair, and joint health. The palm oil used in the sauce is also rich in vitamin E and antioxidants.
Here are the main ingredients needed for this cow foot recipe
Palm oil (Elaeis guineensis): use 100% pure unrefined red palm oil that is rich with a thick consistency. I swear by this Omni brand found on Amazon, or get one from your local African or Caribbean grocers.
Baking Soda: Traditionally edible Potash, a.k.a Kanwu is used for this dish. It’s a type of lake salt similar to sodium carbonate that has been dried and hydrated. Most potash contains metals and silicon, which I do not like. Therefore, we will use baking soda; you won’t taste the difference. This will aid the palm oil in cuddling, creating a thick base for the rest of the ingredients.
Animal protein: Although cow leg is the usual culprit for this dish, we will use Cow leg, ponmo (cow skin), and stock fish (air-dried cod).
Ground crayfish: this is a staple in Nigerian cuisines. Crayfish are sun-dried prawns that can be used whole or ground into a powder-like texture. They add an instant umami flavor to any dish.
ehuru/ehu seed (African nutmeg or Jamaican nutmeg): these seeds have a pungent nutmeg-like overtone, adding an authentic local flavor to the dish. Don’t skip this ingredient if you want an authentic-tasting dish.
Herbs: the classic dish uses fresh utazi leaves (Gongronema latifolium). They are slightly bitter and hard to find, especially here in the U.S. If you can’t get your hands on utazi, fresh kale or Uziza leaves are great options.
** Search my chop chop website, amazon, or Etsy if you can't find these ingredients in your local African or Caribbean store.
Substitutions and Variations
An authentic nkwobi recipe uses cow leg, potash (akaun), palm oil, onion, seasoning like African nutmeg, chili peppers, and fresh uziza. If you live in the diaspora, these ingredients might be hard to find, so here are some substitutions or variations you can use to make the dish with the same great taste.
Other animal protein: instead of cow leg, use any of the following to add a nice spin to the recipe: cow tail, goat head, goat meat, chicken, or kpomo.
Herbs: utazi leaves are hard to find when they are not in season, so use frozen utazi leaves instead or another readily available scented leaf-like fresh basil.
Other add-ons: I have made this recipe with Abacha and ugba interchangeably, and it never ceases to wow my guest.
Step-by-Step Instructions on how to prepare cow leg
Here are some easy steps on how to make nkwobi:
Step 1: Season and cook the cow foot. Once cooked, chop the meat into chunks. Save some of the stock for later.
Step 2: Roast the ehu seed. Place the ehu seed in a frying pan or over an open flame. Stir it frequently until you hear the seeds crack. Remove the shell and grind the seeds. Use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle.
Step 3: combine the baking soda with water, and set aside for the next step.
Step 4: Place the palm oil in a large saucepan or cast iron pan. Begin to stir in the baking soda slurry. Keep stirring until the pm oil curdles up. It should be bright yellow.
Step 5: Add the spices and seasonings into the mix. Give it a nice stir to incorporate the ingredients.
Step 6: add the animal protein, and stir to combine.
Step 7: stir in the kale leaves and chopped pepper.
Step 8: Serve in a wooden bowl or round bowl. Garnish with onions.
- Do not heat up the oil or dish once you finish mixing. The residual heat from the cooked meat will heat up the sauce while mixing. Heating the sauce will make the cow foot mix taste oily; you want a creamy mix, not liquid.
- If you don’t like the consistency of the sauce with the baking soda, you can use kaun. The hue of the sauce will be a deep yellow, not bright.
- It’s best to eat the dish immediately. However, you can store leftovers in the freezer and defrost them. Reheat on low heat until warm. I’ve found the best result in placing it over a steaming basket, as the oil taste is pungent when heated at high temperatures.
It comprises chunks of cow feet that have been cooked tender. It is mixed in a vibrant fragrant soup base consisting mainly of pure unrefined palm oil, potash, ehuru, chili pepper, seasoning powder, and utazi leaves.
You can enjoy a bowl of this cow-leg dish without using potash (kanwu/akaun) by substituting it with an equal amount of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate). They share similar properties and can be used interchangeably.
It is a tasty delicacy from the Eastern parts of Nigeria. It has a rich umami taste and a spicy undertone. It’s made with cow foot and other local ingredients. The spice level is dependent on the cook.
No. Although they are cooked similarly, Nkwobi is generally made with cow legs, whereas Isiewu is made with goat head (like the name implies in Igbo).
LOVE AFRICAN DISHES? HERE ARE MORE TASTY AFRICAN DISHES TO TRY:
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Nkwobi- Spicy Cow leg
- 1 Pressure cooker
- 1 Sauce pan or cast iron skillet
- 1.5 lbs cow leg
- 160 g cow skin - ponmo cooked or raw
- 168 g stock fish
- 1 stock cube (or 2 teaspoons chicken powder)
- salt to taste
- 4-6 ehuru seeds de-shelled or 1 tablespoon ground ehuru
- 2 tablespoons baking soda
- 3 tablespoons water
- ½ cup pure unrefined palm oil
- 2 tablespoons ground crayfish
- 1 teaspoon chicken powder (optional)
- 2 small habanero peppers, finely chopped (use less if you don’t like it spicy)
- 1 mini sweet pepper, finely chopped or scotch bonnet
- ½ cup fresh chopped kale
- 1 small purple onion, thinly sliced in rounds divided
- Add the cow foot, stock fish, kponmo, chopped onion, stock cube, salt, and pepper to taste in the pot of a pressure cooker. Stir it to incorporate the ingredients.1.5 lbs cow leg, 168 g stock fish, 1 stock cube, salt to taste, 1 small purple onion, thinly sliced in rounds, 160 g cow skin - ponmo
- Add enough water to cover the top of the cow feet (about 4 cups or so). Close the pressure cooker lid and lock.
- If using an instant pot, set it on Hi for 13 minutes (no warm), then release pressure once the timer is done.
- If using a stovetop pressure cooker, once the pot comes up to pressure, cook for 25-30 minutes. Open the pressure cooker’s valve to release the steam.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the meat from the pot. Save some of the stock for later.
- While the cow feet cook, roast the ehuru seeds on a small pan or open flame for about 3 minutes or until the seeds crack. Remove the shell, transfer it to a spice or coffee grinder, and pulse until fully grounded.4-6 ehuru seeds
- Stir together the baking soda and ⅓ cup water. Set aside.2 tablespoons baking soda, 3 tablespoons water
- Place a medium pan or pot over a sturdy flat surface. Add the palm oil, then stir in the baking soda slurry. Stir until the sauce turns from a bright red to pale yellow and thick. (See photos in the post)½ cup pure unrefined palm oil
- Add the seasoning and spices, and stir until it’s fully incorporated.2 tablespoons ground crayfish, 1 teaspoon chicken powder, 2 small habanero peppers, finely chopped, salt to taste
- Stir in the chopped cow leg, stock fish, and kponmo. Add more stock from earlier if you want the base to have more liquid.
- Add the kale or utazi leaves and sweet peppers (if using). Stir to incorporate all the ingredients.1 mini sweet pepper, finely chopped, ½ cup fresh chopped kale
- Spoon the nkwobi into a wooden bowl or ceramic bowl. Garnish with onion rounds and leaves, and serve immediately.
- Don’t heat the nkwobi. The residual heat from the cooked meat will heat up the sauce while mixing. Instead, heat up the meat in the microwave for a minute or so before adding it to the soup base.
- For best results, serve immediately.
- Freeze and reheat leftovers on low heat until warm, preferably over a steaming basket or double broiler.