What is Efo Riro?
It is a Yoruba word and it loosely means ‘stirred spinach’. Riro means “to mix” – so efo riro translates to a “mixed spinach” (sounds like every vegan’s dream, I know). In Nigeria, the vegetables used for this soup are ‘Efo Shoko’ (Lagos spinach) or ‘Efo Tete’ (African spinach).
These are the local spinach varieties that are very popular and easily available. In other parts of the world, any spinach greens will do.
This African stew is popular in some West African countries like Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon. The recipes are similar with only slight differences but my version is commonly made in Nigeria among the Yoruba tribe.
How To Cook Efo Riro
I remember vividly how my mother makes efo riro back then, it is not the number of ingredients that goes into it but how you cook it. It is also called efo elemi meje, as it can be cooked with any choice of protein. You can also cook it with the core ingredients available to you. The base is made with red bell peppers, habanero peppers, onions, and tomatoes, so I occasionally just use the African pepper sauce that I make in batches instead.
This recipe is an adaptation of the smoky spinach Stew. Built on a base of onions and ginger sautéed in palm oil, made fiery with habanero, and thickened with ground pumpkin seeds and tomatoes, the stew calls for African smoked, dried shrimp powder; its flavor is amazing. (Asian versions are typically unsmoked and chewier.) But smoked paprika and fish sauce make a serviceable substitute.
If you want to make efo riro the Yoruba way, you must use locust beans, smoked fish/dried fish, and palm oil. Every other thing you decide to add after the core ingredients just complements it. Also, you need coarsely blended pepper to make the vegetable soup.
Tips When Making Efo Riro
- Only add the stock/water if using fresh spinach.
- You can leave the spinach in for about 5 mins more on low heat if you want it softer and less chewy.
- If you want the spinach stew to be less spicy, use only 1 tsp or 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper.
- I made my efo riro with goat meat and mushrooms. Even though efo riro does not traditionally use mushrooms, I wanted to show just how versatile this stew is and how it can be made vegan.
What To Eat With Efo Riro
Is Efo Riro Good For Weight Loss?
Yes, it is. Efo riro makes it a great choice as a Nigerian food for weight loss.
Can I Use Vegetable Oil?
If you can’t find palm oil where you live or you don’t use it for personal reasons, then yes, you can use it.
Is Locust Beans Compulsory in this Recipe?
Yes, it is but if for any reason you can’t source one, then omit it from the list of ingredients. Ensure the stew (base) is well fried and you should still achieve a delicious vegetable soup.
If you made this recipe, don’t forget to leave me feedback.
- ½ cup palm oil or vegetable oil
- 1 medium red onion chopped
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 3 tbsp minced ginger
- 1 ounce habanero chile, seeds and ribs removed, minced (include seeds if you love heat)
- tablespoon tomato paste
- salt(to taste)
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 ½ pounds plum tomatoes, chopped
- ¾ cup egusi or raw shelled pumpkin seeds
- 4 teaspoons African smoked dried shrimp powder (or 2 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika plus some fish sauce)
- 1 pound spinach, washed, dried and roughly chopped
- 3 large sweet (yellow) plantains, peeled and boiled in salted water until just tender
- In a Dutch oven, warm the palm oil over medium heat, and add the onions, garlic, ginger, chile and a couple pinches of salt.
- Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are golden brown and sweet, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste, and cook for 3 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and a few generous pinches of salt. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer and partly cover the pan.
- Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has cooked to a rich tomato-soup consistency, about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pulse the egusi or pumpkin seeds in a food processor or blender to a fine powder, until it just starts to get clumpy. (Do not overprocess into a butter.) Remove to a bowl.
- When the tomatoes have reduced, add the shrimp powder (or smoked paprika and fish sauce to taste), and simmer 2 minutes.
- Stir in water, a tablespoon at a time, to the bowl of egusi powder until it is a loose paste. Add the egusi paste on top of the tomato sauce, and spread it out.Cover the pan, and cook 5 minutes.
- Stir the sauce all together; it will look like a thick porridge.Add a few splashes of water, and increase heat to a boil.
- Stir in the spinach, until wilted and tender.
- Taste, season with salt (or more fish sauce, if using) and serve with boiled sweet plantains.