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Ghana’s black pepper sauce - a fiery treat!

Add a dash of excitement to your meals with Shito! This popular hot black pepper sauce that's a cornerstone of Ghanaian cuisine is a feast for the senses. Our article warms you up to its slightly fiery flavours.

Ghana’s black pepper sauce - a fiery treat!

Imagine a sauce that adds a depth of flavour to everything it touches. That's Shito! The famous hot black pepper sauce - a staple in Ghanaian cuisine - adds a kick to any dish! It is also known as ‘Ghana hot pepper sauce’ or ‘Ghana hot sauce’. If you are a foodie, don’t mind a spicy touch to your meals, and are looking for authentic Ghanaian culinary experience, this must be on your list.

Shito has been a part of Ghanaian cooking traditions for generations. While its exact origins are unknown, the use of chilies and spices in West African cuisine dates back centuries. The name "Shito" comes from the Ga language of Ghana, meaning "pepper."

After trying Shito, ketchup simply makes little sense anymore. It is gaining popularity in other parts of the world, among Ghanaians in diaspora, who use it to add a ‘taste of home’ to their meals. Unlike your average bottle of hot sauce, Shito boasts a complex flavour profile. Sure, it packs a spicy punch, but the real magic lies in the unique combination of ingredients.

Shito recipes and spiciness can vary depending on the region, however, the core ingredients remain similar. The key ingredients include chilli peppers (fresh or dried), dried fish, ginger, oil (usually vegetable oil), tomatoes, dried shrimp or shrimp paste, onions, and garlic. Although black pepper is the common ingredient, the colour of the dip can range from deep red (made with fresh peppers) to a rich brown (because of caramelization). Some regions focus on the smoky and savoury aspects, while others crank up the heat with scotch bonnet peppers or habaneros. In coastal areas, you will find versions with a stronger seafood flavour with shrimp paste or crayfish. In the north, nutmeg and cloves add the extra aromatic touch.

The preparation takes time and patience but it is worth the wait. The cooking process starts with blending the ingredients into puree, then frying the onions until golden brown, adding tomato paste and spices, and then adding the ginger, garlic, pepper, and onion puree. All this mixture then cooks over low heat for about 2 hours until it thickens and turns dark. Then you add fish and shrimp powders and cook it further. The result? A smoky, savoury, and deeply flavourful, umami-like, condiment.

Similar to a chilli sauce or ketchup (just a bit better) it can be used as a side, dip, or dressing. It goes perfectly with Ghanaian dishes like kenkey, waakye, banku, and many others. It can also be simply spread on bread, used in stir-fries, salads, pasta, barbecue meat, fish, or vegetables, or added to soups and stews. It magically adds that perfect kick, depth and character to each bite, to even the simplest of meals.

Another great advantage is that Shito is made with preservation in mind. The slow cooking process and oils allow it to be stored at room temperature for weeks. This is a great staple condiment in Ghanaian households.

Now that you are intrigued by Shito, try it! Why not try making your own? Next time you are looking for a way to add some excitement to your meal, reach for the Shito!
Edite Strautmane

Hi, I’m Edite, I am part of the core team of GhanaTRVL and also one of the Insiders.