Ofe Onugbu (Bitterleaf Soup)

Ofe Onugbu is a popular soup in the Eastern region of Nigeria. It is the Igbo bitterleaf soup and the key ingredient for this soup as the name implies is Onugbu (bitter leaves) with cocoyam used as thickener for the soup.

I enjoy bitter leaf soup and it amuses me when people say they don’t like bitter leaf soup because it’s bitter. Yes. Bitterleaf itself is bitter. Infact, very bitter! but well washed bitter leaves and well prepared bitter leaf soup should not be bitter. The Yoruba saying that goes ‘ Adun loun gbeyin ewuro’ ( sweetness ends bitter leaf) is so spot on. There is this sweetness that lingers at the back of your throat when eating bitter leaf soup and it’s just wonderful. Bitter leaf soup is delicious and has been said to be medicinal.
I was going to first make a post on how to wash bitterleaves but I couldn’t lay my hands on fresh bitterleaves and I have postponed putting this up for too long. Here I used the ready washed bitterleaves but I promise to make a post on how to wash bitterleaves as soon as I get my hands on fresh bitterleaves. For now, let’s get cooking..

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 50 minutes

Total time: 65 minutes


Beef and assorted meat

Smoked catfish

Stock fish

1/2 cup Grounded crayfish

1 cup Palm oil

3 pieces Scotch bonnet or 2 tablespoons grounded dry pepper

3-4 Stock cubes


3 big corns Cocoyam

Bitter leaves (well washed and squeezed)



1) Wash the smoked fish by pouring hot water and salt on it, leave the fish in the water for 3 minutes then washout the dirt. Debone and shred the fish.

2) Boil the assorted meat ( shaki, ponmo,etc) seperately and set aside then boil beef in a separate pot.

Remember my tip on not adding water to the beef. Beef brings out water when boiling. Just boil (more like steaming) on low heat and watch the meat bring out water.


3) While beef is boiling, Wash the cocoyams, cover with water in a pot and put on separate burner to boil.

You can also peel the cocoyam before boiling if that’s what you’d prefer.


4) When Cocoyam is cooked and soft, make it into a smooth paste.

This is the part where one is meant to get out the mortar and pestle to pound the cocoyam into a smooth paste but as a 21st century woman who loves easy, I brought out my food processor instead 🙂 . If you do not have a food processor you can also use blender.

IMG_4515See..Smooth cocoyam paste in a matter of seconds…


5) By now, the beef should be tender and there will be stock in the pot from the beef. Add the assorted meat, smoked fish and prawns.


6) Add grounded crayfish, cover and leave to cook for 2- 5 minutes


7) Add Palmoil, pepper and ogiri and leave to cook for another 3-5 minutes

8) Scoop cocoyam paste into the beef, pepper mixture , cover the pot and leave to cook for 5-10 minutes

Cocoyam serves as thickener so quantity depends on how creamy you like Ofe Onugbu. I personally like it very creamy. If you don’t want it so creamy, reduce the quantity of cocoyam used. 


9) When you open the pot, the cocoyam would have dissolved in the stew. Stir and add in the washed bitterleaves.


10) Leave to cook for another 10 minutes and take off heat.


11) Ofe Onugbu is ready.

Ofe Onugbu

Serve with Eba, pounded yam or any swallow of your choice.

bitterleaf soup

I served it with Yellow Garri the Ibo way😊

Ofe Onugbu (bitterleaf soup)Cook Ofe Onugbu and appreciate the essence of bitter leaf😊

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“When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow”- Shauna Niequist

6 thoughts on “Ofe Onugbu (Bitterleaf Soup)

  1. It is fantastic knowing your roots. I am from Jamaica, we cook our soup similar. The cocoyam not only thicken the soup, we eat it firm in the soup

  2. Nice recipe, to remove the bitter taste in bitter leaf, i just boil the leaves. It leaves litle or no traces of bitterness.

  3. *moans and rocks back and forth* I cook and love my bitterleaf soup exactly how yours turned out – creamy. I have used eddoes, cocoyam and oatmeal. I think Eddoes are my favourite. Oatmeal was for a small emergency soup. I ran out of Iru a few months ago so I got some smoked herring, soaked and rinsed them twice(they are super salty), removed the skin and blended it into the soup. They stunk up my house and I loved it!

    1. Lol @ they stunk up my house. I like smoked Herring in soup too. Even ogiri smell is badass but the impact on the soup is worth bearing the smell. I have never used oatmeal but if ever I have emergency I now know what to try. Thanks for the tip😊

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