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Dec 7, 2020

This West African dessert is a crispy, golden ball of sweet satisfaction.

Beignets, doughnuts, fritters, funnel cake, fry bread—the humble fried-dough sweet is loved across many cultures and continents, and the Nigerian version, puff puff, is no exception.

This simple sweet is known throughout West Africa where it goes by many names—puff puff in Nigeria and Sierra Leone, bofloto in the Ivory Coast, or mikate in Congo.

Puff puff is a beloved street food eaten as a breakfast, side dish, or late-night snack. The ingredients are simple — just flour, sugar, yeast, salt, water, and oil for frying. Some recipes also call for nutmeg and an egg. Vendors pinch the dough into their palms to drop in the hot oil until the floating balls are golden brown. Then they are scooped up, rolled in sugar, and served hot.

Why does this kind of comfort food make us feel so good? Perhaps because it reminds us of home on a lonely day, or brings back joyful childhood memories.

Comfort food is usually a treat—something a little rich, heavy, maybe a little unhealthy, but oh so delicious. Beyond just tasting great, there’s a reason we crave it—eating food high in fat, sugar or salt activates the brain’s reward system, improving our mood, and creating good feelings.

With its sugary coating and crunchy fat fried crust, these puffs are the perfect bite of comfort.

Try It: Here’s a recipe for authentic Nigerian puff puff from All Nigerian Recipes, or you can look for a store-bought mix.

Nigerian Puff Puff

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 pinches salt
  • lukewarm water
  • vegetable oil for frying

Directions

In a bowl, mix the ground nutmeg, powdered yeast, sugar, salt, and flour.

Add water in small quantities and mix everything by hand till you have a good blend of all the ingredients. Use warm water to mix the puff puff ingredients if you want it to rise faster. Pro tip: Don’t leave the batter rising too long (about 45 minutes is enough) or else puffs will be tough and chewy.

Keep mixing, adding water in small increments until the batter is smooth but not too watery to flow from a spoon. The mix should be much thicker than pancake batter.

Cover the bowl with aluminum foil and make sure it is airtight by pressing the edges of the bowl. Leave to rise for about 45 minutes. When ready to fry, the batter should have risen in quantity and will have some air bubbles. Pour some oil into a deep pot and allow it to heat up. It's not advisable to use a deep fryer for puff puff because of the netting but if you want to use it, set the temperature to 170°C. Note: The oil should be at least 3 inches deep. This is so that the puff puff will become spherical when scooped into the oil.

Test that the oil is hot enough by putting a drop of batter into the oil. If it sizzles and comes up to the surface of the oil, then the oil is hot enough. If the oil is not hot enough, the batter will go down to the bottom of the oil and stay there.

When the oil is hot enough, scoop some batter into the oil with your hand by pressing the batter to come out from between your thumb and index finger.

Drop in more scoops of the batter, as much as the space in the frying pot will allow without overcrowding. Once the underside of the puff puff has turned golden brown, flip the ball so that the topside will be fried as well.

When both sides are golden brown, take out the puff puff balls and place them in a sieve. If you want to reduce the oil on your puff puff as much as possible, then line your sieve with paper towels. Roll in granulated sugar if desired, and serve.