Efo Riro: Nigerian Sauteed Spinach

Usually, when you ask someone their favorite food, they don’t answer with an enthusiastic, “Spinach!” or “Kale!” Regardless, leafy greens are an important part of a healthy diet, and I have the perfect solution for sneaking a few more in: Efo Riro.

What is Efo Riro?

Efo Riro is a traditional West African vegetable stew, and spinach is the main ingredient! It’s a great dish to really spice up those greens and enjoy eating them. 

The name is derived from the Yoruba language and loosely translated to “stirred leafy greens.” The spinach available in West Africa tends to be a little different than what you can find on American supermarket shelves: it has larger leaves, and it’s a bit heartier. The variety traditionally used for this dish is Efo ṣò̩kò̩, or Lagos spinach. But you can certainly make this stew with whatever type of spinach you can find. 

The Pepper Sauce is Key

The key to a delicious Efo Riro is the pepper sauce. This can sometimes make the dish seem complicated or time consuming, due to the longer ingredients list and the need to make a sauce from scratch. I love to take a little shortcut with Egunsifood’s Ata Din Din sauce. It’s our African red pepper sauce, and it packs the same flavorful punch, but it comes ready to go in its own little jar.

Traditional Efo Riro Ingredients

Most traditional Efo Riro recipes also include a couple of other unique ingredients: Iru, or fermented locust bean, crayfish, smoked fish or other seafood, and various assorted meats. The Iru, smoked or dried seafood, and meats are usually used to give the stew a heightened depth of umami flavor. My recipe does use the crayfish, but I keep mine pescatarian without the meat. I promise it doesn’t compromise on taste, though!

Ingredients

1 tsp palm or vegetable oil

1/2 medium onion, diced

1 jar Egunsifood's Ata Din Din sauce

1/4 broth (chicken, seafood, or vegetable), hot

1 Tbsp crayfish

4 cups chopped spinach

Salt, to taste

Grain of choice, for serving

Fried egg, to top (optional)

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat the palm or vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat. Add the diced onion and saute until soft and just translucent, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add the Ata Din Din sauce and the crayfish and saute for another minute, until fragrant. Then add the broth. Allow to simmer and reduce for another 5 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped spinach and cook until wilted, about 5 to 8 minutes. 
  4. Taste for flavor and add salt if necessary.
  5. Serve the Efo Riro over your grain of choice or with a traditional West African swallow. Top with a fried egg and enjoy!
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