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Ginger lights up these Nigerian chin chin, bite-size fried sweets

(Scott Suchman for The Washington Post/food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post)
Zobo Chin Chin
Active time:45 mins
Total time:1 hour 30 mins
Servings:8 to 10 (makes 80 to 100 miniature cookies)
Active time:45 mins
Total time:1 hour 30 mins
Servings:8 to 10 (makes 80 to 100 miniature cookies)

Chin chin isn’t really considered a cookie in Nigeria. It’s more of a snack that people have whenever the occasion calls for it, be that after a day of work or as nibbles for guests at a wedding. Chin chin is very moreish, and because each “cookie” is tiny, big batches are made to serve a big crowd. This recipe is my take on the little fried pillows of dough complemented by a glaze made with the flavors of zobo, a popular drink made from hibiscus, pineapple rinds, orange and ginger that is served year-round in Nigeria and other parts of West Africa.

I have fond memories of drinking zobo with family on particularly hot days and on school trips to the beaches in Badagry, a town not too far from Lagos. It’s refreshing, with some kick and a touch of sweetness.

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The drink’s flavors go well with these one-bite cookies, as well as the festive holiday season thanks to the warming ginger flavor and vibrant color, which is why I transformed zobo into a glaze for my chin chin.

Zobo Chin Chin

These tiny cookies fry quickly, so don’t walk away from the stove.

Make Ahead: The dough can be tightly wrapped and refrigerated up to 2 days in advance or frozen for up to 1 month.

Storage: The cookies are best when freshly fried, but can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Where to Buy: Dried hibiscus can be found at well-stocked tea shops and online.

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For the chin chin

  • 1 1/2 cups (190 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Scant 1/4 cup (45 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons (40 grams) finely chopped crystallized ginger (oil the knife for easier chopping) or 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons (20 grams) finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) oat milk or milk of choice
  • 2 tablespoons (27 grams) unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • Sunflower or canola oil, for frying

For the glaze

  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons pineapple juice, plus more as needed
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried hibiscus flowers, chopped if whole
  • 1 cup (120 grams) confectioners’ sugar

Step 1

Make the chin chin: Line one large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Step 2

Into a large bowl, sift together the flour, ground ginger, nutmeg and baking powder. Add the granulated sugar, along with the crystallized or fresh ginger, and stir until thoroughly combined.

Step 3

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oat milk, butter or coconut oil, egg yolk, orange juice and zest until combined. Add to the flour mixture and stir together with a flexible spatula until the dough comes together into a uniform ball. The dough should be soft to the touch but not sticky. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Step 4

Generously flour a work surface and set the ball of dough on it. With a rolling pin, gently roll the dough out into a rectangle that is 8-by-10 inches (20-by-25 centimeters) and no more than 1/4-inch (about 1/2 centimeter) thick, a little thinner is fine, re-flouring the surface as needed. Using a cookie cutter or knife, cut the flattened dough into 3/4-by-1-inch (2-by-3-centimeter) rectangles. If you have dough scraps, reroll into a ball, then repeat rolling and cutting.

Step 5

Transfer the cookies to the lined baking sheet. If they are stuck to the work surface, you may need to scrape them off using a sharp knife, thin spatula or bench scraper. Cover the baking sheet with clean dish towels and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Step 6

Set a wire rack inside a large, rimmed baking sheet and place it near the stove.

Step 7

In a large, deep pot, add about 1 inch of oil over medium-high heat (the total amount will vary depending on the pot dimensions, but expect around 4 cups/about 1 liter). Heat until a deep-frying or instant-read thermometer registers 350 degrees. If you don’t have a thermometer, drop one dough square into it — the oil should sizzle right away and the chin chin should float straight to the top.

Step 8

To ensure even frying, fry the chin chin in batches. Transfer some of the chilled dough squares to a plate and then gently slide them into the oil, holding the plate just above the oil. Don’t crowd the pot, but the batches can be fairly large; fry as many chin chin as you can in a single layer.

Stir constantly, until the chin chin are pillow-shaped and golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Use a slotted spoon or spider skimmer to transfer the chin chin to the wire rack on the sheet pan and let cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

Step 9

Make the glaze: While the chin chin are cooling, in a small bowl, whisk together the pineapple and orange juices, ginger and hibiscus, and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes; longer for deeper color. Pass the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into a glass measuring cup.

Step 10

Place the confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl and gradually whisk in the juice mixture until thoroughly combined. The glaze should be thick and easily coat the back of a spoon; add more pineapple juice as needed to make it fluid enough to drizzle.

Step 11

Leave the cooled chin chin on the wire rack set over the baking sheet, making sure none are touching. Using a fork, drizzle the glaze over the chin chin and leave undisturbed until the glaze has dried, about 30 minutes.

Nutrition Information

Per serving (10 chin chin), based on 10

Calories: 194; Total Fat: 5 g; Saturated Fat: 2 g; Cholesterol: 24 mg; Sodium: 16 mg; Carbohydrates: 36 g; Dietary Fiber: 1 g; Sugar: 20 g; Protein: 2 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

From food writer Lopè Ariyo, adapted from her cookbook, “Hibiscus” (Harper Collins, 2017).

Tested by Debi Suchman and Suzy Leonard; email questions to

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