Efo Riro Vegetable Soup (Nigerian Spinach Stew)

January 23, 2017 (Last Updated: April 7, 2020)

This Nigerian spinach stew, also called vegetable soup and natively known as “Efo Riro” is guaranteed to be one of the most savory and delicious spinach recipes you will ever taste!

Efo riro a Nigerian spinach stew or vegetable soup served with seafood

I’m sure most of us have already come up with (and hopefully not yet broken) some new year resolutions. If you’re like me, the majority of your new year resolutions tend to focus on a more healthy lifestyle. One specific resolution I made this year was to eat more vegetables. One of my favorite vegetables is spinach, and though that word sometimes triggers distasteful memories of its bland taste usually unmasked by boring recipes, or disguised in green smoothies, allow me to introduce you to a very common Nigerian recipe that will change the way you feel about this vegetable forever! This Nigerian spinach stew also called vegetable soup and locally known as ‘Efo Riro’ (pronounced ‘eh-faw ree-roh‘) is guaranteed to be one of the most savory and delicious spinach recipes you will ever taste. This Nigerian dish is not your typical spinach stew, because it comes packed with a major wallop of flavor. Efo Riro is a favorite Yoruba staple that is so well beloved, it is sometimes the basis on which cooking skills are assessed! It is not uncommon to hear Nigerians name this spinach stew as proof of their cooking chops. So feel free to pat yourself on the back or add some zeros to your bride price (as we jokingly say locally) once you nail this recipe!

Efo riro as this vegetable soup is natively called in Yoruba literally translates to ‘vegetable stir ‘ (where ‘efo’ translates to ‘vegetable’ and ‘riro’ translates to ‘stir’) and is indicative of how this soup is traditionally made. While it is natively called a vegetable soup, the style of preparation has more in common with western preparation of stews. Efo riro is natively prepared with a choice or even a combination of local green leafy vegetables such as ‘efo shoko’ (pronounced ‘eh-faw shaw-kaw‘, the native yoruba name for green amaranth), ‘tete’ (pronounced ‘teh-teh‘ , the yoruba name for red amaranth) or ‘ugwu’ (pronounced ‘oo-goo‘, the yoruba native name for fluted pumpkin leaves) stewed and stirred in fried blended peppers. The native yoruba style of preparing this soup commonly includes the addition of ‘iru’ (pronounced ‘ee-roo’) which is the native name for fermented locust beans. While iru adds a nice, unique and savory edge to the stew, many Nigerians, especially in diaspora omit it due in no small measure to the intense , pervasive and usually offensive odor of fermented locust beans. The smell of iru followed in a few minutes by the sweet aroma of this stew wafting through the air is the quickest giveaway that efo riro is being prepared and often is the distinct scent a lot of Nigerian native restaurants are associated with. While locally prepared with a variety of meats or seafood, this vegetable soup can be adapted to appeal to both vegetarians and meat eaters, without losing its rich depth of flavor either way.

How to Make Efo Riro

Ingredient Highlights and Tips

Spinach: While I used raw spinach in this recipe, feel free to substitute it with any or a mix of your favorite green leafy vegetables such as red or green amaranth or fruited pumpkin leaves mentioned prior, kale or collard greens. If you are using frozen spinach, make sure to thaw out the spinach over a colander to allow the water from the spinach to drain before adding it to the stew.

spinach prepared and freshly washed

Tomatoes: While a feature of this dish, tomatoes can easily be removed from the recipe if for you don’t prefer them. I tend to have a preference for the slightly sweet and sour flavor that tomato adds to this dish but many native versions of this recipe typically don’t include them so you can be sure it will turn out great nonetheless. If you do include them, I recommend roma or plum tomatoes as the commonly preferred choice for stews and sauces.

roma or plum tomatoes stacked

Powdered Dried Shrimp: This is a great substitute for crayfish which is what is natively used. You can commonly find dried shrimp in your neighborhood Asian markets or stores. These shrimp can be pulverized using a blender or food processor to create a nice seafood seasoning powder commonly used in many Nigerian and West African soups and stews. Feel free to substitute this with the traditional powdered dried crayfish if you can find some in an African store near you.

Palm oil: The native frying oil of choice for this soup or stew; palm oil brings that distinct, savory West African taste that is synonymous with a lot of Nigerian stews. If you are trying to cut down on saturated fats, you can definitely substitute palm oil with vegetable oil or annatto oil. While you might lose that native palm oil flavor, this vegetable soup will still taste great without it!

No bouillon cubes: You will also notice that my Efo riro recipe does not utilize or need bouillon cubes, which is one of the reasons I love this recipe so much because it highlights all the natural flavors of the ingredients without masking it with that samey taste that bouillon cubes sometimes bring to Nigerian dishes.

Blend Tomato Mixture & Saute Onions

To prep, blend half of a red onion with tomatoes, bell pepper, garlic, and hot pepper. Chop the other half of the red onion. In a deep saucepan or stock pot, heat the oil and saute the onions over medium heat until its golden brown.

Cook Tomato Sauce

Add the blended pepper mix, and allow to cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid the mix from burning. After 30 minutes, the sauce should be significantly reduced, at this point season it with powdered dry shrimp and salt to taste.

If cooking with cooked red meat or chicken, add them to the sauce at this point. If using dried mushrooms, re-hydrate and add them at this point as well.

Stew the Spinach

Add the fresh shrimp to the sauce, then add the spinach. At this stage, the spinach may look too much, but allow to sit in the pot for about 1 minute.

Gently stir the stew and the spinach until the spinach is wilted till about half the its original volume. Adjust the seasoning with salt to taste if necessary. At this point I added the fried tilapia, stirred and served. This stew is best served warm and freshly cooked.

Efo Riro  served in a bowl

Vegan or Vegetarian Substitutions

For vegan or vegetarian diets, feel free to substitute the meat with dried mushrooms for that rich umami flavor or simply omit the meat, and fish altogether! The vegetables and spices on their own lend enough spice and flavor to the stew so you will definitely not miss having meat in this soup.

What Can I Eat this With?

Efo riro can be served with steamed rice, boiled or fried plantains, boiled yams or in typical Nigerian style with some type of fufu or pounded yam (my favorite!).

Sound off below if you’ve tried my Efo Riro recipe. I know for sure you will love it! And while you’re here, feel free to check out some of my other stews and vegetable soup recipes like: Spicy Nigerian Peanut Stew or my favorite alternative to Egusi soup: Nigerian Almond Stew as well!

Now that you’re here why not take a quick second and click the links to FOLLOW ME ON PINTEREST or INSTAGRAM? You can catch some behind the scenes stuff on my Instagram, pin this recipe for later and explore some of my favorite recipes on Pinterest and if you love it as much as I know you will, SHARE with some friends! 

Nigerian Spinach Stew: Yoruba Style - Ready and served with eba
Print Recipe
4.88 from 8 votes

Efo Riro: Nigerian Spinach Stew (Yoruba Vegetable Soup)

This Nigerian spinach stew, also called vegetable soup and natively known as "Efo Riro" is guaranteed to be one of the most savory and delicious spinach recipes you will ever taste!
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Nigerian
Servings: 8
Calories: 221.6kcal
Author: Yummy Medley

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds of spinach chopped
  • 1 pound of cooked meat of choice I used fried Tilapia
  • 1/2 pound of small fresh water shrimp
  • 2 roma tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2 habanero peppers
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup palm oil/ annatto oil
  • 3 tbsp powdered dried shrimp
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  • To prep, blend half of the red onion with the tomatoes, bell pepper, garlic, and hot pepper. Chop the other half of the red onion.
  • In a deep sauce pan or stock pot, heat the oil and saute the onions over medium heat until its golden brown.
  • Add the blended tomato mix, and allow to cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid the mix from burning.
  • After 30 minutes, the sauce should be significantly reduced, at this point season it with powdered dry shrimp and salt to taste.
  • If cooking with cooked red meat or chicken, add them to the sauce at this point. If using dried mushrooms, re-hydrate and them at this point as well.
  • Add the fresh shrimp to the sauce, then add the spinach. At this stage, the spinach may look too much, but allow to sit in the pot for about 1 minute.
  • Gently stir the stew and the spinach until the spinach is wilted till about half the its original volume.
  • Adjust the seasoning with salt to taste if necessary. At this point I added the fried tilapia, stirred and served.
  • This stew is best served warm and freshly cooked.

Notes

Efo Riro Calories and Nutrition

The estimated calorie count and nutritional information for one serving (meaning a plate) of efo riro is shown below. Please note that the nutritional information below, including ingredients and calculations is sourced from a third party site and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will depend on the brands used, measuring standards, portion sizes and other factors.

45 Comments

  • Reply
    Isi
    January 23, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    This looks so amazing Ms. Yum. Wow.

    • Reply
      Ms. Yum
      January 23, 2015 at 1:52 pm

      Thanks Isi! Hope you try out the recipe.

    • Reply
      Don L.
      February 19, 2017 at 9:55 pm

      My Ex used to prepare this for me, as it was taught to her as a little girl. I had never had anything this amazing in my life, at the time, and have tried to make it since then. I’ve been close, but your recipe not only gave me the confidence to perfect it, but also allowed me to get over her lol! Thank you so much Ms. Yum!

      • Reply
        Ms. Yum
        February 20, 2017 at 11:53 am

        I am glad you found the recipe helpful. Enjoy!

      • Reply
        Dee
        October 20, 2018 at 7:05 am

        Whatever happened can you reconnect?

      • Reply
        Ronald Johnson
        March 21, 2019 at 12:49 am

        I would like to know where can i buy the spinach from

        • Reply
          Lois
          March 21, 2019 at 11:12 am

          Hey Ronald! You can find the spinach at any grocery store that carries fresh produce. You could also try an Asian grocery store, they carry fresh bundles of spinach there most of the time.

    • Reply
      Adaku
      September 10, 2017 at 8:45 pm

      I had this at Tasties resteraunt while visiting Lagos Island. The stew is legit! Thanks for posting this. I’m gonna try it out.

      • Reply
        Ms. Yum
        September 11, 2017 at 9:46 am

        You are very welcome Adaku! I hope you like it!

    • Reply
      Dd D
      September 18, 2017 at 4:26 am

      5 stars
      Wow Im not Nigerian but try this for sunday dinner and lets just say the pot was bare..all a win win dish in my house! Thank you for sharing
      Dd.

      • Reply
        Lois
        September 18, 2017 at 8:24 am

        This is awesome! I am happy to hear the recipe worked from you and your family.

  • Reply
    Tim
    February 6, 2015 at 11:27 am

    This is good!!! You need to also talk of the health benefits of these healthy meals. Most of us eat without consideration for the health benefits. Let you followers know why they should pay the cook instead of the doctor. When your meals are healthy and balanced, you have zero visit to the doctor. Let this site be complete for food and healthy eating habits. Kudos!!!

    • Reply
      Ms. Yum
      February 6, 2015 at 11:33 am

      Thanks for the tip, I will definitely take it into consideration. I like the idea of paying the cook instead of the doctor.

  • Reply
    ChiO
    February 6, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    This soup just screams come and eat! well done ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      Ms. Yum
      February 7, 2015 at 7:59 am

      Thanks!!

  • Reply
    Judi Jordan
    August 9, 2016 at 12:47 am

    Years ago my Senegalese friend made a delicious spinach dish with red palm oil. I tried to duplicate it with horrible results. Today, I decided to try the dish again. I had a huge bag of spinach and wanted something different than my ordinary recipe. Saw your recipe and followed it exactly without the seafood. I had some leftover rotisserie chicken. I also didn’t have the habanero peppers and substituted with 1/2 a jalepeno. One daughter doesn’t like spicy. The results were absolutely amazing and delicious. My family really enjoyed this dish. Thanks for sharing!!!

    • Reply
      Ms. Yum
      April 25, 2017 at 1:15 pm

      I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed the recipe Judi!

  • Reply
    Mark
    April 25, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    I always forget to say thank you each time I visit your page, I’m a guy and an absolute beginner when it comes to cooking, No girl will be able to do yanga from me after I am through with this. LOL

    • Reply
      Ms. Yum
      April 25, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      It is awesome to hear that you are giving this recipe a go Mark… show them how it is done o! When you are done cooking I am sure they will be begging you for the recipe. Feel free to share the pictures with me when you are done.

  • Reply
    Gifted hands
    September 19, 2017 at 7:30 am

    5 stars
    This is my all time favorite Nigerian soup/stew. I will be making it this week following your recipe and will let you know how it turns out. Thank you for sharing!

    • Reply
      Lois
      September 19, 2017 at 9:58 am

      That is awesome Gifted. I am sure you will enjoy it.

  • Reply
    iCelebrateU365
    February 19, 2018 at 3:50 pm

    4 stars
    I love all the ingredients in this recipe. I love the vegetarian option as I embrace a fasting lifestyle. Thank you for posting. I will sign up for your news letter. #iCelebrateU365 ๐Ÿ’š๐ŸŒฑ๐Ÿ’œ Yummy Medley.

  • Reply
    Anna
    April 7, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    oh my god this is staight heaven to the mouth ! amazing recipe thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Reply
      Lois
      April 8, 2018 at 10:36 pm

      You are very welcome Anna!

  • Reply
    Joann
    June 19, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    If I can’t find powdered shrimp, will it greatly affect the flavor?

    • Reply
      Lois. O
      June 20, 2018 at 11:08 pm

      Powdered dry shrimp can be subbed with whole dry shrimp. If you don’t have that available, it will still taste great, so I won’t worry too much about it.

  • Reply
    Amy
    July 17, 2018 at 9:53 pm

    5 stars
    This helped me cook today it was so yum thank you

    • Reply
      Lois
      July 18, 2018 at 2:23 am

      That is really awesome to hear Amy! I am glad you liked it!

  • Reply
    Faith
    September 12, 2018 at 5:24 am

    I couldn’t get the spinach leaf.So which leaf can i use to replace the spinach that can still taste well.We have Ugu,water leave ,green and bitter leave.Thank u…

    • Reply
      Lois
      September 19, 2018 at 9:05 am

      Ugwu or green would work very well. water leaf would make your stew too watery, and bitter leaf completely changes the flavor and the texture of the stew.

  • Reply
    Mary
    October 25, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    5 stars
    The recipe was on point. Made it and loving it!

    • Reply
      Lois
      October 28, 2018 at 1:19 pm

      That is awesome Mary!

  • Reply
    Linda
    January 12, 2019 at 10:45 pm

    5 stars
    Hi, i am Linda from Malaysia. I have a few friends from Nigeria. And tried to make it for them. Thanks, not only your photo looks yummy, the one i make too is not disappointing. Thank you again for the recipe.

    • Reply
      Lois
      January 24, 2019 at 10:59 pm

      You are very welcome Linda! I am so happy that you liked the recipe and it worked out for you.

  • Reply
    Rue
    January 29, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    5 stars
    Yummy!. Just wondering, what can I serve this with? Do you eat it on its own or can you add yam etc.

    • Reply
      Lois
      January 30, 2019 at 9:16 am

      Hey Rue! Typically it eaten with Fufu, but you could also eat it with rice or yam.

  • Reply
    Michelle
    February 10, 2019 at 11:39 am

    Thank you, this was so easy to follow. I subbed the fresh shrimp and tilapia for chicken. I don’t eat meat, I made it for friends, and they really liked it.

    • Reply
      Lois
      February 15, 2019 at 7:13 am

      I am so happy your friends liked it Michelle!

  • Reply
    Ingrid
    March 3, 2019 at 3:36 pm

    I’ve tried making different Nigerian dishes, this was one of the best I’ve ever tasted โค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธโค๏ธ

  • Reply
    Walida
    August 21, 2019 at 6:32 pm

    5 stars
    Thank you so much for your delicious and well written recipes. Dating a Nigerian man I have acquired a taste for Nigerian foods. I made this recipe for myself and my (picky eater) daughter this week. My daughter loved the recipe so much and asked for it over and over again. I am looking forward to making this for my boyfriend and I am sure he will enjoy it as well.

  • Reply
    Racquel
    August 30, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    Do you have a recipe for your fried tilapia (which looks amazing)?

  • Reply
    Cooking for my Husband
    September 18, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    can you use frozen spinach for this recipe

    • Reply
      Lois
      December 1, 2019 at 7:53 pm

      You most certainly can

  • Reply
    Grace
    April 8, 2020 at 8:51 am

    Beautiful!!!

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