Efo riro (Nigerian Spinach Stew) is a mouthwatering, savory, African stew made with spinach and is oh so flavorful! Who knew spinach could taste so good?
Raise your hands if you loved your leafy greens as a kid! Nope, that wasn’t me. Just trying to get my vegetables in was like a punishment to me. Not like I had a choice, my mama don’t play!
But there was one dish that would get me salivating every time - the Nigerian Spinach Stew, also known as Efo Riro, in my native Yoruba language.
What was not to love? This spinach stew transforms a bland vegetable like spinach into a mouthwatering dish you won’t be able to get enough of. You will eat it with everything and sometimes, just by itself.
This stew has turned a former spinach-hating kid into a Spinach Loving Queen.
What is Efo Riro?
Efo Riro is a Yoruba word and it loosely means ‘stirred spinach’. In Nigeria, the vegetables used for Efo Riro 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.
It is very easy to make and you will be amazed by how delicious this spinach stew is. You really can’t go wrong with this recipe!
Ingredients used in making Efo Riro (Nigerian Spinach Stew)
Spinach: I use roughly 8 cups of chopped spinach. You can use fresh or frozen spinach.
Meat: You can use beef, lamb, goat meat, chicken, smoked catfish, tripe (shaki) or any meat of your choice, or even mix and match! For a vegan option, you can leave out the meat or use mushrooms.
I made mine with goat meat and mushrooms, and even though efo riro does not traditionally use mushrooms, I wanted to show just how versatile this stew is.
Vegetables: Plum (roma) tomatoes, red bell peppers, habanero peppers, and onions. Plum tomatoes are best for Nigerians stews because they are denser and have less juice.
Broth: Just a bit for flavor and to reduce the chance of the stew burning when using fresh spinach.
Spices: I used bouillon, black pepper, cayenne pepper, ground crayfish, and salt. Ground crayfish is a Nigerian condiment similar to fish sauce, which you can get from an African store or from Amazon.
You can omit this if you don't have any. I also use crushed red pepper flakes as an optional garnish.
How to make Efo Riro
Start by cooking whatever meat you decide to use. I prepared my goat meat by rinsing it over running water and boiling it with about a teaspoon of salt, bouillon and black pepper. Let it boil until it is tender.
I did not add the time to cook the meat in the recipe because it varies widely depending on what type of meat you use. And it is quite common to use whatever leftover meat you already have in the fridge.
Blend the tomatoes, red bell pepper, habanero pepper, and half of the onion together using a food processor. Chop up the other half of the onion and set aside.
If using fresh spinach, chop it up into smaller pieces and rinse in a colander, squeezing out as much water as you can. Leave it in the colander while you start cooking so that the excess water will drain out.
This will help prevent the spinach stew from becoming watery.
I like to use fresh spinach for this but frozen will work too. If using frozen, microwave for a few minutes till it begins to thaw out and drain the excess water.
Also, wash and drain the mushrooms (if using mushrooms).
Heat 1/2 cup of palm oil in a pot on medium heat, add in your onions and stir for about 2 minutes. Add in your blended tomato and pepper mix and add in your spices after about a minute. You can use only 1 tsp of cayenne pepper if you want it less spicy.
I like plum tomatoes for this recipe because after blending, they are not too watery. If you use another type of tomatoes, you might need to pour the blended mixture into a pot and cook it separately till some of the water evaporates. Use medium heat or it will begin to splash everywhere.
If using fresh spinach, add 1/4 cup of broth/stock. You can use water if you don't have any but will need to adjust the spices.
If using frozen spinach, do not add any water as frozen spinach already contains water.
Add the goat meat and mushrooms and any other meat of choice and let it cook for another 5 minutes so it can soak up the flavors.
When it begins to boil, add in the spinach. It will most likely fill the pot and look like it might spill over but it wouldn’t.
Stir intermittently over a period of 5 minutes and the spinach will shrink considerably. Taste for salt and add more spices if you desire.
I like mine just slightly chewy so I don’t leave it in for more than 5 minutes but if you like it softer, you can leave it for a few more minutes on low heat.
This recipe serves 8 and contains 5 net carbs per serving. It stores well in the fridge for about 5 days and you can also freeze it.
What to eat with Efo Riro
Nigerian spinach stew goes great with a lot of different foods! It is traditionally eaten with rice or fufu, but for a low carb option, you can eat it with plain cauliflower rice or low carb fufu dishes like cauliflower fufu or coconut fufu.
Tips when making African Spinach Stew
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 of cayenne pepper (or 1/2).
Efo riro - Nigerian Spinach Stew
- 8 cups spinach chopped
- 12 oz cooked meat I used goat meat but you can use any.
- 2 cups mushrooms
- ½ cup palm oil
- 2 plum tomatoes also known as roma tomatoes
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 habanero pepper
- 1 onion
- ¼ cup water or stock optional
- 2 tsp bouillon powder
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 tsp ground crayfish
- 1 tsp pepper flakes optional
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- Blend tomatoes, red bell pepper, habanero pepper and half of the onion together using a food processor.
- Chop up the other half of the onion and set aside.
- If using fresh spinach, chop it up, wash and squeeze, and leave in a colander. If using frozen spinach, microwave for a few minutes.
- Wash and drain the mushrooms.
- Heat palm oil in a pot on medium heat, add in your onions and stir for about 2 minutes.
- Add in your blended tomato and pepper mix and stir for about a minute.
- Add the bouillon powder, crayfish, black pepper, cayenne pepper and salt, and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.
- If using fresh spinach, add stock or water and bring to a boil.
- Add the goat meat, mushroom, and any other meat you desire and let boil for another 5 minutes.
- Add the spinach and stir intermittently for about 5 minutes.
- Add more salt or spices if desired.
- Garnish with red pepper flakes, if you want it spicier and enjoy!
- 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 of cayenne pepper (or 1/2).
- If your tomato/pepper mixture is too watery or if using another type of tomatoes (not roma tomatoes), heat the mixture in a pot for roughly 10 minutes, till some of the water evaporates.
Check out these other low carb African stews and soups!