Nigerian Spinach Stew (Efo Riro): Yoruba Style
This spinach stew locally known as “Efo Riro” is guaranteed to be one of the most savory and delicious spinach recipes you will ever taste!
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 in 2015, I even bought a squash the other day… (still not sure what I’ll be making with it, but more on that later). 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 spinach stew locally known as “Efo Riro” is guaranteed to be one of the most savory and delicious spinach recipes you will ever taste.
This dish is not your typical stewed spinach, because it comes packed with a major wallop of flavor. Locally this Efo Riro stew is made with a Nigerian spinach called Efo Shoko literally translated as “Lagos Spinach”, but as you can see, any local spinach will suffice nicely! 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!
This stew can be adapted to appeal to both vegetarians and meat eaters, without losing its rich depth of flavor either way. In this recipe, I primarily used seafood, but for vegetarians, feel free to substitute the meat with dried mushrooms for that rich umami flavor ( you will find the instructions in the recipe below). This stew can be served with steamed rice, or in typical Nigerian style with fufu or pounded yam (my favorite!).
- 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
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.
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 my Spicy Nigerian Peanut Stew, Afang Soup, my hometown favorite or my favorite alternative to Egusi soup: Nigerian Almond Stew as well!