Fermenting Ugba/Ukpaka (African Oil bean seed)

Fermenting Ugba is key to enjoying Ugba related dishes like Abacha, Ugba is sliced African oil bean seed (Pentaclethra macrophylla) which is a popular ingredient in eastern Nigerian cuisine. This post will show how To ferment Ugba in case you find yourself in the same situation I found myself in recently.

Fermenting UgbaFermenting Ugba

What is Ugba /Ukpaka (African Oil bean seed)

Ugba or Ukpaka as it’s also called is the seed from the African oil bean tree. This is a tree found in the tropics and belongs to the leguminoseae family.

The Igbos call it Ugba or Ukpaka of which its popularly known because of the popular Nigerian dishes Ugba salad and African salad. However it is known by other names in other parts of Nigeria. The Yorubas call it Apara while it’s called Ukana in Efik.

To be honest, I have never ever thought of fermenting Ugba until recently. Because I  always got my Ugba already fermented and ready to use, I have never given much thought to how to how ugba is fermented. The little things we take for granted.. I know.

Fermenting UgbaFermenting Ugba

My brother came visiting and brought some Ugba. Because his visit was an impromptu one, most of the things he brought along from Nigeria were bought in a haste. My Ugba was one of them.

Usually my mom-in-law would place the order to her customer ahead of time but like I said my brother’s visit was impromptu.

The Ugba was fresh so I needed to ferment it. I didn’t know how to, but my momma thought me. She sent me a text outlining how I should go about it even before the Ugba arrived. When the Ugba arrived I received more instructions. This time it was from mom and dad.

What you need

  • Ugba slices
  • Salt
  • A bowl with a cover

Fermenting UgbaFermenting Ugba

How to ferment Ugba/ Ukpaka in easy steps

  • Transfer Sliced Ugba / Ukpaka into a clean bowl.
  • Sprinkle some salt on it then gently massage salt into it.
  • Cover bowl and place in a warm place for 3-5 days.
  • When it’s ready preserve by transferring into zip lock

Why Ferment Ugba?

  • Some studies showed unfermented African oil bean seeds contained traces of a poisonous alkaloid known as paucine, as well as small amounts of caffeoylputrescine, (which is a growth depressant)
  • Bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus, as well as molds that can produce mycotoxins in foods, have also been isolated in African oil bean seeds, cooking and fermenting Ugba helps take care of these harmful substance.
  • Fermented Ugba has a softer texture and tastes better. I haven’t tasted unfermented Ugba but I have been told it has a bitter taste. However, I can’t confirm since I haven’t tried it.

What dishes or Recipes can you use Ugba for.

Benefits of African oil bean seed

  • Ugba is very nutritious and has a high protein content
  • It also contains some fats and oil
  • It contains saponins, or phytochemicals found which is also found in most vegetables, beans and herbs, and which has been linked to lower cholesterol levels*

* Fermentation of Ugba may reduce the levels of these phytochemicals

How to preserve and store

Traditionally it is wrapped tightly in leaves and sold in the market. However when I buy some I transfer into a freezer bag and freeze. Frozen Ugba can last for months.


This post is not about how to process Ugba from scratch but rather the process of fermenting ugba at home. But I will give you a bit of insight on how it is done (from the little I gathered).

Fresh African Oil bean seed is cooked for up 12 hrs then sliced washed and fermented for up to 5 days. Read more about it in this article.

If you live in diaspora, then you need to learn how to ferment Ugba you never know when you might find yourself with an unfermented package straight from Naija.

So let me show you how to ferment Ugba and be sure to check out this Ofe Ugba and If you know any tips and tricks to help this our fermentation process kindly drop your comments below, I would love to hear from you.



Read more on how to process Ugba from scratch

Read more on the benefits of Africans oil bean seed

How to Ferment cooked African oil bean seed ( Ugba )

Fermenting Ugba is key to enjoying Ugba related dishes. Ugba is sliced African oil bean seed (Pentaclethra macrophylla) which is a popular ingredient in eastern Nigerian cuisine. This post will show how To ferment Ugba in case you find yourself in the same situation I found myself recently
Prep Time10 mins
fermentation time3 d
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Igbo, Nigerian
Keyword: African oil bean seed, ugba
Servings: 4
Author: Chichi Uguru


  • 500 g already processed Ugba (processed means cooked and sliced but not fermented)
  • 1 tsp salt


  • Put the processed Ugba in a bowl that has a lid
  • Sprinkle the salt over it and mix in thoroughly by hand.
  • Cover the bowl with the lid
  • Store in a warm place for 3 to 5 days see recipe notes
  • Divide the Ugba into two small freezer bags and store in the freezer till ready to use.


How to know if the Ugba is fermented

  • The color will change from light gray or beige to a dark brown color
  • The Ugba will be softened

* Unfortunately I couldn’t find any nutritional info for Ugba 

Did you try this tutorial? Tag @mydiasporakitchen on instagram and hashtag it #mydiasporakitchen


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