Chin Chin: The Crunchy Nigerian Dessert You Should Know About

Why can you find fried dough everywhere in the world? Because it's so darn delicious. There's the heavenly churro, that deep-fried piece of perfection often dusted with cinnamon and sugar that the BBC explains originated in either Spain or Portugal or China, depending on who you happen to ask. In Peru, you'll find picarones, a doughnut made from sweet potatoes. Fried dough is everywhere: Italian struffoli, Chinese youtiao, and beignets from the U.S.

Western Africa is no exception to the global affection for fried dough. According to Yojo's Crunch, countries like Nigeria, Ghana, and Sierra-Leone have their own delicious version of this dessert, with a set of traditional flavorings that are distinctive and not a little addictive. Yewande Ojo founded Yojo's Crunch in 2004 to bring her twist on the West African chin chin to a fresh audience. She explains that her delicious treats are based on the flavors and textures she enjoyed as a child. But what exactly is chin chin?

Simple ingredients, fried to perfection

Taste Atlas explains that chin chin is a snack that's popular in Nigeria. It's made from a dough of flour, sugar, butter, and milk, and it's typically flavored with nutmeg, lending a warm spice to the mixture that's rolled and cut into small pieces — typically squares or strips — that are fried golden brown in vegetable oil. The texture can vary, from light and crisp, to nearly, per Yojo's Crunch, rock-hard.

Food Historian Peggy Lutz points out that the treat is present at every Nigerian wedding, and while the snacks used to be made for special occasions, they're now found at supermarkets and from food vendors on street corners. Serious Eats adds that it is enjoyed at Christmas time when enormous batches are made to enjoy with friends and family. While chin chin used to be primarily homemade, unless, of course, you had a family friend who would make and sell it to save you the trouble, packages of the sweets are often purchased, rather than prepared in every Nigerian home.

Chin chin can be made with a number of delicious variations

The recipe provided by Serious Eats includes traditional nutmeg and vanilla extract while adding in some citrus zest for an unexpected brightness. Because the basic recipe is so simple, there's no limit to the flavor additions you can make to customize your own. A bit of fiery Nigerian red pepper is sometimes added, along with variations that feature masala chai, pumpkin spice, and aromatic rose water.

Chef Lola's Kitchen notes that there are savory versions of the snack as well, like the one enjoyed in Ghana, which features onion, ginger, and chili powder. Many recipes point out the range of textures the snack can have, and Chef Lola aims for somewhere in between pillowy soft chin chin and those that put your teeth at risk. Her sweet version of the recipe includes a little kick from cayenne pepper, and she includes tips for adjusting the texture to suit your preferences. Nigerian chin chin deserves its place among the great fried dough desserts of the world, and it would be a delightful way to finish a meal that features another West African dish like jollof rice.