Efo Riro – The African Stewed Spinach also popularly known as Efo riro is a one-pot stew with layers of flavor. It requires quite a number of ingredients but little work from the cook putting it all together (as long as you already have all your ingredients prepped).
EFO RIRO – STEWED SPINACH
Efo riro is derived from the Yoruba language in Nigeria. Efo means ”Green leafy vegetable” or ”spinach”, and riro, means ”to stir”. So basically, Efo riro simply means ”stirred leafy vegetable”. However, we just don’t stir this by itself, we stir it in a rich pepper sauce which is loaded with Meat, Crayfish, Dry Fish, and other Meat or Fish of Choice.
A fermented traditional condiment called Iru (locust bean) is usually added to this stew which adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the stew. However, a number of people try to shy away from this super healthy condiment because of the smell. If you are not a fan of Iru you can skip it.
Also, Crayfish is almost a must for the traditional Yoruba style Efo riro, however, if you don’t have access to it, I will suggest you use smoked Fish or Smoked Turkey to give your stew the much-desired umami flavor without adding seasoning cubes.
To make a good Efo Riro (stewed Spinach):
Get all your ingredients together: The boiled Meat, Fish, Turkey, Chicken, or any other choice of protein.
Heat up the Oil: I like to heat up my Oil a bit. I’m not a fan of bleaching palm Oil so I simply add the Onion once the Oil is hot and while the Onion is cooking in the Oil, the palm oil too is cooking. That does the trick for me.
Fry the blended peppers: I wish the computer has a function to show emotions – emoticons are not strong enough to show the type of emphasis I’m talking about :). My emphasis is on fryyy… You need to fry till the water in the sauce evaporates and the sauce is reduced. Please remember to pay attention to the sauce, you don’t want it to get burnt, so be sure to stir constantly till you achieve that thick consistency.
Season and add the Meat and Spinach: The sauce should be seasoned at this point with all those nice spices and condiments. Add the Meat, Stockfish, and dried Prawns or your choice of protein. Let it cook so that it can absorb all the yumminess of the sauce. Then, stir in the spinach.
Finally: Adjust the seasoning if there’s a need to. Remove from heat and serve.
Watch Video on how to make the African stewed Spinach:
Reasonable Substitutions for the stewed spinach:
I have been asked several questions about reasonable substitutions in making Stewed Spinach. Here is my take on this
Can Vegetable Oil be used in making stewed Spinach?
Ideally, Palm oil is used for making Efo riro. This will give you the indigenous flavor. However, I’m aware that Palm oil can be difficult to get in some places. In this instance, you can use vegetable oil as your ls option.
If you don’ know what palm oil is, feel free to read this article to give you more insight.
Can I skip dry fish?
Absolutely! Feel free to use Beef, Chicken, Turkey, or any protein of your choice.
Must I add locust bean?
As much as the traditional stewed spinach calls for locust bean, you can skip it if you can’t find it.
- I usually blanch my Spinach before I stir them in the sauce – I do this by adding the cut spinach in hot boiling water on high heat then I take it off the heat immediately it reaches its boiling point. I then pour the spinach into a sieve and I rinse it under the coldest water I can get from the tap a couple of times in order to stop the cooking process.
- When frying the Onions, don’t leave them to burn. Once it turns a bit brown, continue with the rest of the process.
- Remember to drain off as much water as you can from the Spinach. (Excess water from the Spinach can cause your stew to be too watery)
- I don’t always use tomatoes in cooking my traditional stewed spinach. However, I see no reason why it can’t be added especially if you are making a lighter version of this stew.
- I love to use coarsely blended peppers for my stewed Spinach so using a food processor rather than a blender will give you that coarse consistency.
- This stew is not a vegan stew, nonetheless, for a vegan version, I will advise you to use fried Tofu or mushrooms or a combination of both.
- It’s very important not to leave the spinach too long on the stovetop, otherwise, the Vegetables will turn brown and lose most of their nutrients in the water.
For my sauce, I used:
- 3 large red bell peppers,
- 2 scotch bonnet
- 1 small onion
Stewed Spinach is often eaten with Fufu – a general term used to describe swallow foods like Eba (made with garri), Amala, Plantain Fufu, Pounded Yam, and more. On the lighter side, you can serve this over Rice or boiled Puna Yam.
- The African peanut soup
- Egusi soup
- Nigerian Chicken Stew
- Ogbono soup
- catfish stew
- Okro soup
- Okro pepper soup
- Goat meat Pepper soup
- Gomen Wat
- Doro Wat
Spinach Stew (Efo Riro)
- 3 large red bell peppers
- 2 scotch bonnet
- 1 small onion
- 1/4 cup Palm oil
- 2 tablespoons crayfish blended
- 2 tablespoon locust bean
- 1 bouillon cube
- Salt to taste
- 1.5 lb spinach blanched
- 1/2 cup stock Fish About 2 handfuls shredded
- 1 prawn about a handful, Dried
- 1 onion medium size diced
- 1 lb Beef A mixture of Beef, Tripe, and cow Skin.
- Blend the bell peppers, scotch bonnet, and onion.
- Preheat the palm oil - I like it hot but not bleached. Add the diced onion and stir-fry till golden brown. Add the blended peppers and fry until the sauce thickens up. It takes about 15 minutes, and you need to stir constantly to prevent burning.
- Stir in the crayfish, locust bean, bouillon cube, and salt to taste. Stir until everything is well blended.
- Add the meat, stockfish, and dried prawns and add some water or stock to thin out the sauce, then cover it up again and allow it to come to a simmer.
- Finally, add the spinach and mix well. Then leave it to cook uncovered for about 2 to 5 minutes. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Serve with your favorite food like rice and yam, or swallow foods like Amala, Fufu, or eba!
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If you make this African stewed Spinach recipe, I’d love to see pictures of your creations on Facebook or Instagram. #cheflolaskitchen
Wednesday 18th of January 2023
This might be the best stew I've ever eaten! This was my first time cooking with iru and I love how rich and earthy it is. Thanks so much for sharing, Chef Lola!
Chef Lola's Kitchen
Thursday 2nd of March 2023
You're welcome, Ariel.
Tuesday 25th of October 2022
Delicious. I used shrimp and salmon cause I don’t eat meat. Easy and simple dinner
Chef Lola's Kitchen
Monday 19th of December 2022
That's so great, Mari. I am happy it came out well.
Thursday 12th of May 2022
It turns out sooo good. I think I am eating all the whole pot tonight with nothing else. Thank you!
Chef Lola's Kitchen
Saturday 28th of May 2022
You are Welcome, Kay. 👌👌
Karen Rose Osarolai
Sunday 28th of November 2021
Purrfeeeccctt the meal turned out tops. I did it with plantain and I also added tomatoes to mine
Tuesday 9th of November 2021
How do you determine the quantity of efo and pepper to buy?