This seed -- nutty, protein-rich, and not always well known -- is so important in West African cuisine that we named our company after it! Also known as melon seeds, it’s versatile and can be a snack, used as a flavoring agent, or pressed for its oil.
What Are Egusi Seeds?
Egusi seeds come from the Egusi gourd, which looks very similar to a watermelon. Unlike a watermelon, however, the fruit from the Egusi gourd is bitter and not edible, so these gourds are grown primarily for their seeds. These seeds are similar in size to small pumpkin seeds and a bit creamier in flavor.
They make up a really important component of many West African staples, including Egusi soup, which is a West African classic. It’s widely enjoyed in countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Cameroon. Even though many of these countries and regions have their own little variations for how they prepare Egusi soup, the importance of the Egusi seeds remains the same.
Why Do We Love Egusi Seeds?
Like a lot of other nuts and seeds, Egusi seeds are very high in oil. They’re 50% oil, 78% of which is unsaturated fatty acids, which are the healthier type of fat! The oil produced from these seeds is rich and flavorful. They’re also 35% protein.
Egusi seeds are rich in vitamin A, which is crucial for forming and maintaining healthy bones. In addition, Egusi seeds are high in vitamins B1 and B2, which are both important for growth and the production of red blood cells. There’s a high concentration of vitamin C, too, which helps the body absorb iron and maintain healthy tissue. Finally, Egusi seeds are also high in Niacin, which helps maintain healthy skin.
Because of their high protein content, they can also serve as a good plant-based meat substitute.
How Do You Use Egusi Seeds?
Aside from being pressed for their oil, or acting as a stand-in for meat in plant-based dishes, Egusi seeds can be soaked, fermented, and sauteed. They can then be used to thicken soups, or even season food. They’re an integral part of Egusi Soup -- a dish we’ve made our own version of -- which is very popular in West Africa.
Soups are a crucial part of the cuisine in West Africa, and Egusi soup is a really special one. The seeds themselves are used as a fundamental soup ingredient to thicken it and boost the flavor. Before making the soup, the seeds are sun-dried, shelled, and then they’re ground down. Both raw and roasted Egusi seeds can be ground.
Try Egusi Soup For Yourself
Our own version, Egunsi soup, is a great way to give this West African staple a taste. It’s delicious, flavorful, and can be eaten on its own or used as a way to spice up another meal. It’s creamy and savory, nutty without the nuts, and full of vegetables, and it still has that little extra kick from the habanero. It’s sure to introduce a new world of flavor to any dish you have on the menu this week!