Shito (pronounced SHEE-toe; short for shitor din) is a Ghanaian hot pepper sauce. Shito is used as a seasoning or condiment in a lot of Ghanaian dishes. This includes yele kakro, tatale (typically used in the bean sauce), and rice dishes such as jollof rice and my personal favourite, waakye. I don’t limit myself to using shito for only Ghanaian food, I use it for Caribbean food, Chinese food, just about any food that I think will go well with it.
The original recipe for shito came from the Ga people of Ghana but now a days just about every region of Ghana has their own version of the sauce. The ingredients that are commonly used in shito are dried chili peppers, dried fish, ginger, and oil (usually vegetable oil). Some versions of shito include tomatoes, dried shrimp, onions, and garlic. This recipe for shito is my mom’s recipe that she is kindly allowing me to share. I might be a little biased but I think my mom has the best shito recipe.
Ingredients to make shito
To make shito, you’ll need 8 fresh or frozen sardines, 120 g of whole dried chili peppers, 2 medium onions (roughly chopped), 2 medium fresh tomatoes (roughly chopped), 3 garlic cloves (chopped), 2¼ cups of water, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, and 500 ml of vegetable or canola oil (plus extra, if required).
How to make shito
If you purchased frozen sardines, let the sardines completely thaw. Clean the sardines, removing the scales from the fish. If you don’t know how to do this, you can get the fishmonger to do it for you, if you buy fresh sardines. If you’d like to learn to do this yourself, here’s a YouTube video that shows an easy way to clean sardines. Place the sardines on a lightly greased baking pan and bake them in a preheated oven (350°F/175°C) for 1 hour; we want the fish to be very dry.
Once the sardines are done baking, remove them from the oven and let them cool completely. Cut the fish lengthwise and use a fork or your fingers to remove the bones from the sardines. Discard the bones and break the sardines into smaller pieces. Place the sardines in a blender, add one cup of water to the sardines and blend them into a puree.
Place the chili peppers into a blender with 1 cup of water and blend the chilies until they turn into flakes; you might need to do this in small batches. Pour the blended chilies into a bowl and set aside. If you are using chili pepper flakes, skip this step of blending the chilies in the blender. Pour the onions, tomatoes, and garlic into the blender along with ¼ cup of water, blend until everything turns into a puree.
Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan on the stove at medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the blended chili peppers to the oil as well as the onion and tomato mixture. Pour the blended sardines into the pepper mixture and add the salt and black pepper. Mix everything together using a large spoon. Let the sauce cook for 1 hour or until the colour turns very dark brown. Stir the sauce occasionally as it is cooking to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from the stove and let the sauce cool completely.
How to can shito
Sterilize mason jars to can the sauce (there are YouTube videos on how to properly can sauces). There should be at least ½ inch layer of oil on top of the sauce in each mason jar. If there isn’t enough oil on top of the sauce, you will need to heat extra oil, let it cool completely and then pour it on top of the sauce. The oil helps to preserve the sauce so you want to make sure that the sauce is covered with enough oil. Cover the jars with lids and store the shito in the fridge. I find that the sauce usually lasts for 3 months when properly canned. Shito is used to season food and as a condiment. Enjoy!
Related Ghanaian Recipes
Shito (Ghanaian Hot Pepper Sauce)
- 8 fresh or frozen sardines
- 120 g whole dried chili peppers
- 2 medium onions (roughly chopped)
- 2 medium tomatoes (roughly chopped)
- 3 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 2¼ cups water
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 500 ml vegetable or canola oil (plus extra, if required)
- If you purchased frozen sardines, let them completely thaw. Clean and remove the scales from the sardines; here's a YouTube video on how to clean sardines.
- Place the sardines on a lightly greased baking pan and bake them in a preheated oven (350°F/175°C) for 1 hour or until the sardines are dried out.
- Remove the sardines from the oven once they’re done and let them completely cool. Using a knife and a cutting board, cut the heads from the sardines and discard them. Cut the sardines lengthwise and use a fork or your fingers to remove the bones from them. Discard the bones and break the sardines into smaller pieces.
- Pour the sardines in a blender with 1 cup of water and blend them into a puree. Pour the fish puree into a bowl and set aside.
- Put the chili peppers into a blender. Add 1 cup of water to the chili peppers and blend the chilies until they turn into flakes. Pour the blended chilies into a bowl and set aside.
- Place the onions, tomatoes, and garlic into the blender. Add the remaining cup of water and blend everything into a puree.
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil with the stove at medium heat for about 5 minutes.
- Pour the blended chili peppers into the saucepan. Add the onion and tomato mixture as well as the blended sardines, salt, and black pepper to the oil. Mix everything together using a large spoon.
- Let the mixture cook for 1 hour or until the colour turns very dark brown. Stir the sauce occasionally as it is cooking so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Remove the pan from the stove and let the sauce cool completely.
- Can the sauce in sterilized mason jars. There should be at least ½ inch layer of oil on top of the sauce in the mason jars. Cover the jars with lids and store the sauce in the fridge.
- I find that the shito will usually last for 3 months when it’s properly canned.