foods and cuisines

Iyan (Pounded Yam) | The Staple of the People

One of the world’s largest producers of yams is Nigeria, so it’s no surprise Iyan is one of those Nigerian foods that is loved so much. In fact, the saying, “yam is food and food is yam” is popular in many parts of the country.

A popular method of preparing yams in the country is by pounding them into a somewhat solid paste. Depending on the ethnic group preparing the dish, the yams may be pounded slightly differently. Once the yams are pounded out to create a smooth paste, they are then formed into balls. These pounded yam balls, Iyan, are part of a great group of foods called “swallows”.

It’s common to serve the pounded yam alongside some soup, such as a vegetable stew. Make it at home with this great recipe.

Pounded yam or Iyán (Yoruba) or Ruam-Yo (Tiv) is a Nigerian swallow food native to the Yoruba, Igbo, Tiv and Ebira and the Okun ethnic groups. It is a traditional food. It is prepared by pounding boiled yam with a mortar and pestle. Pounded yam is similar to mashed potatoes but heavier. It is a smooth and tasty delicacy traditionally eaten with the hands. Although there is an alternative for pounded yam which is called poundo yam, the pounded yam still remains the favorite of most Nigerians.

Iyán is consumed in Ondo State, Ijesha, Kogi State, Okun, Edo, Benue and Ekiti in Nigeria, among others. It can be served with egusi, soup, jute leaves soup (ewedu), stewed spinach (efo riro) or okra soup.

Types of yam (Iyan (Pounded Yam)

The type of yam used for pounding yam is the African yam which is common in Africa and some parts of Asia.[19] It is also known as puna yam, true yam or white yam.[20][21] The texture is rough with brown skin and off-white flesh; its length ranges from that of regular potatoes up to five feet long

Ingredients needed for making Iyan (Pounded Yam)

Yam, the primary ingredient in pounded yam, is a staple food across West Africa.  The type of Yam we use is commonly referred to as puna yam, true yam, or African yam. It has a dark brown rough skin with off-white flesh. They can be boiled, roasted, or fried. If you live outside Africa like the united states, the best place to find true yams will be the ethnic market or online stores.

Water – water is the second ingredient, and this is needed to boil the yam until it becomes fork-tender.

How to make pounded Yam

Preparing pounded yam involves a two-step process: boiling and pounding

First, the yams are peeled, washed, and cut into even-sized chunks. They are then boiled in water until they become tender and easily pierced with a fork. Once cooked, the yams are drained and transferred to a mortar.

The pounding process, which gives the dish its name and distinctive texture, is traditionally done using a pestle and a wooden mortar. The cooked yams are pounded until they transform into a smooth, elastic dough. This requires considerable strength and technique, as the yams must be continuously turned and pounded to achieve the desired consistency. In modern times, food processors and yam-pounding machines have made the process more accessible and less labor-intensive.

Pounded yam’s significance in Nigerian culture extends beyond its culinary attributes. It is often prepared for important events, such as weddings, naming ceremonies, and religious celebrations.

To make Pounded Yam:

  • Peel the yam and cut it into small cubes.
  • Rinse about once or twice till you get clear water.
  • Boil until the Yam becomes fork-tender.
  • Pound or blend into a dough-like consistency until it’s completely smooth with no yam chunks left.

What to serve with pounded yam

Pounded yam is typically served with a variety of Nigerian soups and stews such as:

  • Egusi soup
  • Stewed Spinach
  • Okra soup
  • Jute leaves soup – ewedu
  • Ogbono soup

To eat pounded yam, simply cut bite size piece, shape it into a ball using their fingers, and use it to scoop up bites of the accompanying soup. So good.


The amount of water you will need to boil the yam will vary depending on how dry the yam is. Fresh yams in the early season of the harvest will take less water while yams harvested in the later season will require more water. This also applies during the pounding, you will need more water for the dry yam and less water for the less dry yams.

Pounded Yam is best enjoyed while it’s still hot and fresh.