9 Ingredients | 30 Minutes | This African spinach stew is a Nigerian delicacy and is packed full with flavors. Make a big pot of this efo riro, and have it with rice all week!
As you may all know by now, my partner is Nigerian and loves traditional Yoruba dishes like no one else. While many Nigerian dishes are “vegan friendly”, it’s usually hard to find vegan versions outside. This traditional spinach stew is something he grew up eating, and I made a vegetarian version so both of us can enjoy. If you’re in a split-household, read along to find out how I make two versions with minimal additional steps!
🍛 But first: what is efo riro? How do you make it vegan?
Efo is the traditional African wild spinach. Riro literally means “to mix” – so efo riro literally translates to a “mixed spinach” (sounds like every vegan’s dream, I know). The base is made with red bell peppers, habanero peppers, onions and tomatoes, so I occasionally just use my African pepper sauce that I make in batches instead. If you do this too, then just sub the “puree” here with 2 cups of the African pepper sauce.
The traditional recipe uses stock fish and crayfish to give umami flavors, but my recipe uses a tidge of tahini to accomplish the same. I use vegetarian bouillon instead of traditional Maggi cubes, and I add mushrooms to give it the meaty texture.
I also use vegetable oil instead of palm oil, because it’s often easier to find and a bit healthier. If you want to use palm oil, just use 1/4 cup of palm oil and 1/4 cup of vegetable oil, and start by first heating the palm oil, then add the vegetable oil
📖 How to make both vegan and meaty efo riro at the same time?
So, my partner is a carnivore, we all know that. But this is one dish that’s super easy to make both versions simultaneously. Follow the steps in the recipe until you add the seasoning. Then, split the stew into two pots. To one, add mushrooms, stew, and then add spinach. To the other, add your stockfish, crayfish, and meat, and then the spinach. Done!
🥬 How do you blanch spinach? How long do you blanch it for?
Spinach is the star of the show with this dish, so don’t skimp out. But we all know that a forest of spinach essentially turns into a handful when it wilts. So, the key is to boil some water, and when it hits a rolling boil, dump the spinach in for about 30 seconds. Remove and drop it into a bowl with cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain the water and set aside!
🥬 How to make efo riro with kale or frozen spinach?
Kale is actually closer in texture to the traditional African spinach than baby spinach, so you can follow the same blanching process described above and use the kale in this dish instead. If you’re using frozen spinach, just thaw completely and blot dry with a paper towel.
🥗 How to store or freeze efo riro?
I simply store mine in an airtight container, in the fridge and reheat just the portion I’m about to eat. If you want to freeze it, I would recommend also storing in an airtight container, portioned beforehand, and make sure to thaw the portion you want to eat for 30 minutes before reheating.
🍴 What do you eat this with?
B loves to eat this with eba, which is essentially pounded cassava flour. We also eat this with simple rice, or my favorite – with Nigerian jollof rice. That said – you can eat this as a stew by itself. Truly, the possibilities are endless.
If you want to try other African recipes, check out:Print
Delicious Nigerian spinach stew with complex African flavors. This vegan efo riro uses mushrooms instead of meat and can be eaten with rice or by itself.
For the puree (see notes for spice adjustments)
- 3 red bell peppers
- 2 habanero pepper (adjust to your spice tolerance)
- 1 tomato
- 1/2 medium yellow onion
For the stew:
- 1 red bell pepper (chopped finely)
- 1/2 medium onion (diced)
- 4 oz mushroom (1 package, I typically use crimini)
- 30 oz of fresh spinach (see notes for frozen spinach or kale)
- 1/2 cup of vegetable oil (palm oil is more traditional, but vegetable oil is easier to find and healthier)
- 2 cubes of vegetarian bouillon (substitute with curry powder if unavailable)
- 1 tbsp of curry powder (in addition to above)
- 1 tbsp of iru, tahini or other umami seasoning (optional)
- Boil water for blanching spinach – this recipe uses two pots to minimize cook time, but you can do this step in the same pot if you desire. If so, just finish blanching the spinach first, and then clean the pot before adding oil. See notes in post for blanching spinach (or skip ahead a couple of steps)
- Add oil to a deep pot and heat it on medium flame
- In the meantime, blend the red bell peppers, habanero peppers, tomato and onion to form a coarse puree (see notes) and set aside
- Once the oil gets hot, add the onion and red pepper, and fry until translucent (about 30 seconds)
- Then, add the puree and fry until the raw smell disappears (about 4 to 5 minutes)
- While the puree is frying, blanch the spinach – as soon as the water reaches a rolling boil, dunk the spinach in the water for 30 seconds, remove from the pot, and wash under cold water – set aside
- Add the bouillon, curry powder, and umami seasoning of choice (optional) and fry for 1 minute
- Now add the mushrooms and let it come to a soft simmer (you’ll notice bubbles appearing)
- When bubbles appear, add spinach, stir it in well and let it cook uncovered for about 2-3 minutes
- Serve hot with rice (or other traditional “swallows” like pounded yam or cassava)
- To adjust the puree to your spice levels, you can reduce the habanero peppers, substitute red bell peppers with more tomatoes, or if you want to increase spiciness, add more habanero peppers
- If using frozen spinach, make sure to thaw before using; if using kale, follow same instructions
- I prefer to use a food processor because it lends more texture to the puree, but a blender would also work if you want it more fine
- Category: Soups and Stews
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Nigerian
Keywords: efo riro, african spinach stew, vegan efo riro, nigerian efo riro