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Origin of Nigerian Foods: Efo Riro

Up for discussion on our food history segment today is the culinary jewel, Efo Riro. This rich vegetable soup is native to the Yoruba people of South-Western Nigeria. The word, is derived from two Yoruba words, efo which means green leafy vegetable and riro which means to stir. One can, therefore, deduce from this synergy that efo riro is leafy vegetable that is stirred in rich pepper stock.

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Variously called soup, stew or sauce, efo riro is prepared with three major ingredients. They are the Nigerian spinach which the Yoruba call efo shoko or efo tete (green amaranth), fermented locust bean, and palm oil. Fermented locust bean is a traditional condiment that adds a wonderfully unique flavor to the soup. A well prepared pot of efo riro is thick; thus, it is important for the meat stock to have very little water. Palm oil, which is the base for this soup, can either be heated or bleached. Tomatoes is an optional addition to this soup. It is worthy of mention that a well prepared pot of this soup is fresh; the spinach is not overcooked. This way, the consumer enjoys it and benefits from its nutritive value.

Efo riro is the Yoruba version of edikang ikong soup. Like edikang ikong, this soup is loaded with all manner of orishirishi. However, the difference in the two soups lies in the ingredients used. While efo riro is prepared with spinach, edikang ikong soup is prepared with a combination of pumpkin and water leaves. Also, tatashe, shombo, and fermented locust bean, are not used in cooking edikang ikong soup.

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Efo riro is one spinach recipe that should be on everyone’s menu. Meat lovers love this soup like kilode. But it can also be adapted to appeal to vegetarians without losing its rich depth of flavor either way. This soup can be served with steamed rice or boiled yam. It can also be enjoyed with amala, fufu, pounded yam or any swallow of choice.


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Obiamaka Angela Udevi

Udevi, Obiamaka Angela holds a Master of Arts degree in History & International Studies. She's a freelance writer with a passion for food and healthy living. She can be contacted through her email address,

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