Last Updated on February 2, 2022
These nutty chicken skewers are a delicious addition to grills and weeknight dinner, especially if you have the signature spice blend—a staple across Nigeria—on hand.
Yajin kuli belongs to a family of northern Nigerian spice blends known collectively as yaji. It typically combines dried chiles, ginger, garlic, onions, salt, and other spices. Yajin kuli has these base ingredients as well as ground, defatted peanut powder which lends a complex, nutty flavor to the mix.
There are many ways to use the blend. It’s traditionally used as a dry rub and as a seasoning in soups and stews. But it can also serve as a dipping or sprinkling blend for rice, beans, salads, and so on. It pairs well with chicken, poultry, seafood, vegetables—basically everything.
Traditionally, whole chickens are coated in the spice and grilled. And while beef skewers are more common than those with chicken breast, it is an equally delicious way to do suya. There are also many ways to cook the skewers—from stovetop to broiler—but grilling delivers additional, delicious smoky goodness.
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Nigerian Chicken Suya Skewers
For the yajin kuli:
- 1/2 cup spooned roasted groundnut/peanut powder
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon fine sea or table salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the chicken suya:
- 1 pound boneless chicken breast
- 3 tablespoons neutral cooking oil (We like peanut oil for this dish specifically, but any neutral oil will work.)
- Thinly sliced red onions, tomatoes, and cilantro leaves
For the yajin kuli:
- Combine all ingredients in a jar with a lid. Secure the lid and shake to combine. This mix will keep on the counter, but we like to make a bigger batch and store in the fridge or freezer, where it will keep for six months.
For the chicken suya:
- If using wooden skewers, soak them for at least 30 minutes in cold water so they don’t burn during cooking.
- Cut the chicken breasts into at least 1-inch to 1 1/2-inch cubes.
- Place chicken chunks in a large mixing bowl and drizzle the peanut oil over it. Sprinkle a scant 1/2 cup of yajin kuli over the chicken, reserving the rest to serve. Toss carefully to ensure all the pieces are evenly coated in the blend.
- Thread about 6 to 8 pieces chicken cubes onto each skewer with the pointy end up. Don't leave any space between pieces: You don't want any of the skewer exposed except for a 2 - 3 inch section at the bottom that serves as a handle. Repeat for the rest of the chicken.
- Set the broiler to high and position a rack 6 to 8 inches from the heat source.
- Place the chicken skewers on a lightly greased baking sheet and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, turning halfway through.
To cook on stovetop:
- Heat a grill pan to medium heat and lightly oil with peanut oil (or other high smoke point oil you have).
- Cook for 10 to 12 minutes, giving a quarter turn every 3 to 4 minutes until all sides are cooked.
- Light the grill and lightly grease the grates.
- Place the skewers on the grill and cook for 5 to 6 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes. If the chicken isn't completely cooked, move to indirect heat until the temperature registers 160°F.
- Transfer chicken to a platter and rest for a few minutes. Serve with fresh sliced tomatoes, red onions, and cilantro.
Peanut butter -If you can only find raw peanut powder, toast it in a dry pan on medium to low heat for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring constantly and making sure you're stirring to the bottom of the pan, until it goes from beige to peanut butter brown. Remove from heat and spread on a plate/baking sheet to cool. Once cool, you can pass it through a fine sieve to get rid of any clumps. If you can't find peanut powder, you can use the same amount of unsweetened peanut butter.
Ozoz Sokoh–the Kitchen Butterfly–is a Nigerian food explorer, culinary anthropologist and food historian passionate about food in its entirety – cooking, eating, dreaming, researching, writing, photographing, and styling it, especially on her blog, Kitchen Butterfly.