Eat Shito – Ghana’s black pepper sauce

Ingredients for shito

Ingredients for shito

My understanding of the word “shito” is that it is the Ghanaian word for pepper. Whether you are dealing with scotch bonnet or chillies, or the fresh peppery salsa, in Ghana, we simply refer to these as “shito”. We may differentiate between different types by appending the type before the word, for instance kpakpo shito (pictured) used in the fresh shito salsa, for which I do not know the English word.

Kpakpo Shito

Kpakpo Shito

Now onto the black pepper sauce. Note, we used to refer to this type of shito as simply black pepper when we were kids. I made this as an accompaniment at my Christmas feast. You will need:

400ml of vegetable oil (um, yeah, not fat-free, this is a condiment)
2 onions
3 inches of ginger (you can’t overdo it)
4 cloves of garlic (as much or little as you like, mama would skip altogether)
1 tube tomato paste (200g)
4 fresh ripe tomatoes
3 x 40g packets ground dried shrimp, fish or crayfish (availability)
2 tbsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp each smoked paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander (all optional)
salt to taste

Spices - cumin, smoked paprika, chilli flakes

Spices – cumin, smoked paprika, chilli flakes

1. Finely chop the onions, ginger and garlic. Me, I just blitz them in my chopper! Fry these in the oil. Remember this shito is a condiment and can be kept for 6 weeks, so it is important that all moist ingredients are fried dry.

2. Add the tomato paste and fry for a couple of minutes to get rid of the sour taste. Add your blended or blitzed tomatoes. You will find that it fries to a thick rich paste but you need to give this time to release all the moisture and keep stirring to prevent burning.

3. Add the dried ground ingredients. The sauce will rapidly take on the rich brownish black colour due to the added prawns or crayfish. Lastly add the spices, these are already dry. Check for seasoning at this point. I normally do not add salt before this point because sometimes the fish/prawns are already salted. Allow to cool. The full-bodied flavour sets in after cooling.

Shito - Ghana black pepper sauce

Shito – Ghana black pepper sauce

Enjoy as an accompaniment a spoon at a time. Store in a re-used glass jar; jam or pasta sauce jars are perfect. Oh and by the way, I know the name “shito” might crack you up just as much as it did to my friends in Australia. Well, it tastes great so just shut up and eat shito!

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22 thoughts on “Eat Shito – Ghana’s black pepper sauce

  1. Awesome.non ghanaian..never had much interest coz I’av tasted a couple.liked and didn’t like some.tried it out after reading your instructions.I’m impressed wit the outcome.I’m waiting on my ghanaian boo to comment on it.
    Cheers

    • Wow Sandra! I am so glad you found my blog, tried my recipe and liked it! Fingers crossed on your Ghanaian boo’s verdict. My shito is quite mild compared to the store bought wrath of fire. I would love to know how he likes it. :)

  2. I tried the recipe out and the only part that had me a little confused was knowing when the ingredients were fried dry. When frying them, I just fried them until no more water vapor was coming out of the pan. The only issue I ran into is that the tomatoes burned then. I did have the oil at a medium heat, so if that is the best way to make sure they are dry, is a different oil temp better?

    Thanks again for posting this, ever since my trip earlier this summer, I have been craving shito, so I would love to get it right myself.

    • Hi Mark! I am so glad I am getting feedback on this. I think by emphasising “fried dry”, I may have been overdoing it. I just want to make sure people appreciate that this is not the same as cooking a pasta sauce. The whole sauce “fries” rather than boils and simmers. Hmmmm, I am not sure how else to describe “fried dry” other than using the photo as an example. The sauce or stew looks quite fried as opposed to saucy pasta sauce, the “stew” begins to appear as though it is curdling in small bits. The oil, though there is lots of it, should be on the surface of it, separating easily. Medium heat is a good call. I will emphasise regular stirring, it does have a tendency to stick. Burning or the more optimistic caramelising will give it a bitter taste. Either way, so long as you are putting it in a sterilised jar, keep in fridge etc, you should be fine. I am currently enjoying a batch made by my mom, not being kept in the fridge and it is actually hot in London, and it is still fine. I hope this helps and look forward to the review of your next attempt.

      • That definitely helps, I am going to try again soon. One other thing that might help, when frying the onions and then the tomatoes, should it take around 5 minutes or 10 minutes or 30 minutes on medium heat? I know that different stoves will handle it different, but having an approximate time will help me a lot.

      • Hi Mark

        It depends in the quantity too but I tried a small batch the other day (experimenting with a vegetarian version) and the onions took 5 to 10 minutes, it just felt like a longish time to get golden brown. I also had my mother over my shoulder when I added the tomatoes. At some point she said, “when you notice it starting to stick at the bottom, it is ready to add the dry ingredients”. I think It was probably 15 minutes with the tomatoes. But needs attention.

    • I wonder whether a video to accompany this post might help. This is one of the reasons why I have not written a jollof recipe yet, a whole lot of rhythm and feeling which cannot quite be quantified goes into it.

  3. Has anyone tried a variant without onions? I love ‘em but they don’t love me so I avoid them if possible and two would really be a bender for me! Otherwise sounds like quite an interesting condiment.

    • Oooooh Richel. Welcome and thanks for your comment. If it has burned to the point of bitterness, I am afraid there isn’t much you can do to take that away even if you make another batch to mask the taste.

  4. Thank you so much for this recipe! I have fond memories of eating shito and homemade Ghanaian food on the floor of a college dorm room. Might be time to try my hand at it. I think I was given a jar of dry shito mix brought back from ghana recently. Just add oil? Does that sound right?

  5. I just tried making shitor for the first time and it came out so nice,just like the one I eat in Accra. Wow I’m so excited. I can’t wait to get back to Accra and show my skills to my Ghana ian friends. Lol! Thanks so much for the recipe. It was worth a try

  6. Do you have any recipes that you would add it into? I assume rice with chicken would work, but what other ingredients would work in a dish with this? I have not tried it yet but I can’t find any recipes that use this sauce?

    • Hi Bamkopp and welcome to my blog. You are on the right track. Shito as a side condiment to rice and chicken is very popular. You can have it with minute noodles as well. My best friend loves it so much she jut has it with bread. :)

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