This post may contain affiliate links which means I will get a commission if you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Please read my disclosure for details.
Spinach never tasted so good! With this easy Nigerian spinach stew recipe, you’ll be able to make a delicious and healthy meal that the whole family will love.
Efo riro, aka Nigerian spinach stew, is one of the best ways to enjoy spinach. It is a hearty meal that is very popular among the Yorubas in Western Nigeria.
Efo riro is a highly nutritious soup packed with various kinds of meat and fish that will entertain the mouth from its looks to the very last bite.
I still remember those days in elementary school when my twin sister and I realized we should save our lunch money and buy fresh spinach on our way home so our darling cook would make Efo, as we darlingly called it, in lieu of anything else.
Those were the days!
What Is Efo Riro?
Efo riro is a native Nigerian vegetable soup derived from two Yoruba words; efo meaning “leafy vegetables or spinach” and riro meaning “to stir” (source).
Efo riro, thus, means “stirred leafy vegetables or stirred spinach.”
Some, however, refer to Efo riro as “Nigerian spinach stew,” as it is stirred in a rich pepper mix loaded with varieties of meat and fish.
What Is The Difference Between Edikaikong and Efo riro?
Edikaikong vs Efo riro: Glad you asked! Edikang Ikong is a Nigerian soup typically prepared by ethnic groups in the south (Efiks, Ibibio, etc) and is very similar to Efo Riro.
The major difference between these two dishes lies not only with their ingredients but also in how they’re cooked; while Edikang Ikong calls for Pumpkin leaves, Efo riro is made with African spinach leaves.
What Does Spinach Taste Like?
Spinach is a cross between cabbage and lettuce. Its taste varies on how it is made and how it is eaten.
Spinach tastes light and fresh. Unlike lettuce, it has no bitter taste. Spinach has a distinct flavor depending on the variety.
It is bold, refreshing, but not overpowering, with a crunchy texture when eaten fresh (similar to arugula, watercress, or kale).
Cooked spinach is opposite to raw. It becomes softer and loses some of its crunchy texture. Its flavor is slightly bitter compared to its natural state.
Cooked spinach, however, tastes fresh and flavorsome when properly seasoned.
Should I Use Tomatoes To Cook Efo Riro?
Although it is very rare, tomatoes can be used to make Efo riro. We, however, do not typically use tomatoes when making Nigerian spinach stew because tomatoes contain a lot of water and can make the soup sour if it is not eaten immediately after preparation.
To get the best out of tomato in the Nigerian spinach stew, boil the water till it dries out before using.
Is Efo Riro Healthy?
Efo-Riro is a healthy vegetable soup with various nutritional ingredients like Red bell pepper which has twice the amount of vitamin C in green pepper and nine times more vitamins A and K.
It promotes wonderful sight and aids digestion. Spinach, the key ingredient in the efo riro dish, is also of high nutritional value.
Spinach is one of the best sources of magnesium, which plays an essential role in more than 300 different bodily functions.
A cup of raw spinach contains about 7 calories, 1 mg of protein, fiber, and carbs each.
African Spinach Stew Ingredients
- Bell pepper: Red bell pepper, preferably Romano pepper, also known as Tatashe pepper in Nigeria, is a great ingredient to add to the pepper blend for the Nigerian spinach stew. Tatashe gives the stew a sweet taste and a much fuller flavor. This pepper has thinner flesh and is a favorite across the continent as it provides a perfect and soothing taste that makes it inviting to eat a good quantity.
- Scotch bonnet: Scotch Bonnet peppers, also known as ata rodo in Nigeria, are usually added to the pepper blend for efo riro because of the edginess and optimal heat it adds to the soup. This chili pepper has a sweeter flavor and stouter shape and is well known for its spiciness. Before use, make sure to remove the stalk from the scotch bonnet.
- Onion: Red Onion is the most preferred for this soup. It adds a special taste to the soup and helps mask the strong spinach flavor. Red onions have a higher sulfur content and are more flavorful after cooking.
- Palm Oil: Palm oil is known for its bright reddish-orange color. It has a balanced savory and earthy flavor, making it a fantastic base for most soups and stews. It is the perfect oil for the African spinach stew, giving it that native taste of home.
- Crayfish: Crayfish is a common ingredient in Nigerian soups. It is well known for its great taste, vitamins, proteins, and minerals. Crayfish is low in fat and contains only a trace of carbohydrates. It adds a very traditional flavor to the efo riro soup.
- Locust beans: Locust beans, also called Iru in Yoruba and Eware in Edo, is a special condiment used in cooking. It is quite popular among the Yorubas. It has an intense aroma that is not attractive, but in a sauce or stew, the unmistakable umami flavor enhances the taste. A small amount of fermented locust beans in the Nigerian spinach stew lifts the taste delightfully.
- Bouillon cube: This is literally dehydrated broth or stock formed into a small cube about 13 mm wide. It is made from dehydrated vegetables or meat stock, a small portion of fat, salt, and seasonings, shaped into a small cube. It is available in granular, powdered, liquid, and paste forms.
- Blanched spinach: Spinach blanching is done by adding salt and hot water to the fresh spinach, soaking for 1-2 minutes, and sieving & squeezing to remove any excess water*. Frozen spinach can also be used. It should, however, be left to thaw and excess water squeezed out before use.
- Smoked fish or stock fish: Stock fish does not have a pleasant smell, but it tastes divine. It is packed with vitamins, lean protein, calcium, and iron and is low in calories and fats. When left in soup overnight, all flavor from the fish and other ingredients infuses with the soup to give the best taste possible and a very rich vegetable soup.
- Meat: A Mixture of beef, tripe, and cow skin, also called assorted meat are important ingredients for this Nigerian spinach stew.
- Salt to taste.
Tools Need To Prepare Efo Riro
Nigerian Spinach Stew Ingredient Additions & Substitutions
Crayfish can be substituted with dry fish, smoked fish, or smoked turkey to give the soup a much-desired umami flavor without adding seasoning cubes.
Bouillon cubes can be substituted with knorr and salt, or the meat stock gotten from the meat after boiling.
The beef mixture can be substituted with goat meat, chicken, or any other variety of meats or fish of choice. The beef mixture can also be substituted for Oz mushrooms for a vegan version of the Nigerian spinach stew.
Palm oil can be substituted with olive oil, a cup of vegetable oil, or any other oil of choice. Efo riro can even be prepared oil-less. However, to get the ultimate efo riro taste, palm oil is best to use.
If not available, Nigerian spinach can be substituted with arugula, watercress, or kale.
How to Make Efo Riro
STEP 1: Start by blending your onion, bell peppers, and scotch bonnet.
STEP 2: Next, preheat the palm oil on medium heat. Too high a heat will create a look of smoke and will bleach the oil.
STEP 3: Carefully add the roughly blended onion and locust beans to the pot. Fry for about 5 minutes to bring out the flavor.
STEP 4: Add the scotch bonnet and bell pepper mixture to the pot. Cook for 10 minutes stirring occasionally until most of the water evaporates.
STEP 5: Add your meat and seasoning cubes. We used tripe, beef, and cow skin in this recipe.
STEP 6: Add the smoked fish and crayfish and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Remember to stir the pot.
STEP 7: Add the blanched spinach and mix thoroughly. Allow the Efo riro to cook for another 5 minutes without covering the pot.
STEP 8: Adjust seasoning and serve. We served this Nigerian spinach stew with pounded yam.
What To Eat With Efo Riro
- Poundo or pounded yam
Tips About Making The Efo Riro Recipe
- When blending pepper with a blender, use the pulse button once or twice to get the needed coarse texture. Do not blend for too long at each pulse.
- If the efo riro seems dry after adding spinach, allow the soup to simmer for a bit to make the spinach release some water.
- When using tomatoes, boil to dry out the water before using.
- Fry the locust beans (iru) and crayfish in the palm oil to improve the flavor and taste of the soup.
- Efo riro soup can be left to steam for about 5 mins more after preparation on low heat to make it softer and less chewy.
How To Store Efo Riro
Efo riro can be stored in the fridge or freezer. This tasty dish can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days and in the freezer for up to a month without losing taste.
Before storing the Nigerian spinach stew in the fridge or freezer, ensure it is completely cool and in an airtight microwave-safe container.
The stew can be left to thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat over medium heat while constantly stirring after being stored in the freezer.
Nigerian spinach stew can also be reheated directly from the freezer in the microwave.
FAQ About Efo Riro (Nigerian Spinash Stew)
What is Efo riro in English?
The English name for Efo riro is Nigerian spinach stew.
Is Efo riro spicy?
There is no Nigerian soup that is not spicy. Efo riro is a rich and flavorful soup that excites its eater’s palate with its spiciness.
What leaf is used for Efo riro?
The two vegetables most commonly used to prepare efo riro are Celosia argentea (ṣọkọ̀ yòkòtò) and Amaranthus hybridus (ẹ̀fọ́ tẹ̀tẹ̀) also known as Lagos spinach and African spinach, respectively. If this ingredient is unavailable (especially those in diaspora), spinach or kale can be a great substitute for this soup.
Is Efo riro good for weight loss?
Efo riro is a great Nigerian food for weight loss. It has little carbohydrates, and there are only 80 calories in 2 large cups of cooked spinach. Some people make efo-riro without oil to get the best out of their weight-loss journey.
- Start by blending your onion, bell peppers, and scotch bonnet.
- Next, preheat the palm oil on medium heat. Too high a heat will create a look of smoke and will bleach the oil.
- Carefully add the roughly blended onion and locust beans to the pot. Fry for about 5 minutes to bring out the flavor.
- Add the scotch bonnet and bell pepper mixture to the pot. Cook for 10 minutes stiring occasionally until most of the water evaporates.
- Add your meat and seasoning cubes. We used tripe, beef, and cow skin in this recipe.
- Add the smoked fish and crayfish and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Remember to stir the pot.
- Add the blanched spinach and mix thoroughly. Allow the Efo riro to cook for another 5 minutes without covering the pot.
- Adjust seasoning and serve. We served this Nigerian spinach stew with pounded yam.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 5 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 594Total Fat: 40gSaturated Fat: 18gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 172mgSodium: 885mgCarbohydrates: 14gFiber: 5gSugar: 3gProtein: 47g
* Please note that all nutrition information are just estimates. Values will vary among brands, so we encourage you to calculate these on your own for the most accurate results.
Efo riro is an enjoyable healthy recipe packed with enough vitamins to boost the immune system. It is a quick-cooking dish that takes about 30-45 minutes to finish preparation.
This African spinach stew can be served with rice, yam, or any other swallow of choice.
If you found this post helpful, consider rating this recipe and leaving a review. Not only will it help others find the recipe, but it will also help me improve it for future readers
I hope you liked these easy-to-follow instructions for Efo riro (Nigerian spinach stew recipe). For more African food ideas, check out our complete list of Nigerian food. Here are a few suggestions for you: