Massive reactions were recently stirred online from a young Nigerian lady’s post on food items she regretted taking while relocating to Canada. She mentioned garri, palm oil, cocoyam powder and dried okro as the main items she took along with her, and this got netizens asking why she would regret her actions, knowing full well that they are sought-after items among Africans abroad. Her major regret was that the items could be purchased there. Come to think of it; can these items be really purchased in their raw forms? Will they taste as good as the ones we have back home when used for the preparation of meals? Well, a lot of Nigerians abroad say that all items for making Nigerian dishes can be got fresh over there.

Speaking with Ademola Adewole, a Nigerian from South-west, Nigeria currently based in the United States of America, there is absolutely no feeling of isolation for him because he has full access to virtually all Nigerian delicacies, one of which is “Efo riro”, the special Yoruba delicacy. In his words, “Variety is the spice of life. If I eat Egusi soup today, Ogbonor soup tomorrow, I need to eat Efo riro the next day. I cannot just stick to a particular meal. As such, the body needs a balanced diet. The good news is; I easily eat these from nice African restaurants here in America. Efo riro is in high demand here”. Having known about this demand, what then is Efo riro?

Nigerians in the Diaspora

Efo riro is the most popular Yoruba native vegetable soup. The people of Yoruba land in the Western part of Nigeria own this delicacy thus, Efo which means “green leafy vegetable or spinach” and “riro” which means “to stir” both combine to give the meaning of “ Efor riro” as “ stewed spinach” . It is ususlly a combination of two types of vegetables “ Efo tete “ ( Amaranthus hybridus ) and “ Soko yokoto” ( Celosia argentea).

Efo Riro Leaves (Commonly called “green leaves'” across Nigeria)

Soko Leaves

Having known that this delicacy is not ‘manner from heaven’, how then do we come to have our sizzling pot full of Efo riro?


“Little drops of water make a mighty ocean”. The process of going to the market, purchasing various ingredients and coming home to cook would definitely yield great result of a tasty “Efo riro” pot of soup. Mama Ekiti is a Yoruba food vendor at Bogije in Ibeju -Lekki local government area of Lagos state, Nigeria.

“Mama Put”, “Buka” (Food vendor)

This food vendor gives us a detailed Efo riro recipe;


  1. Efo tete (spinach)
  2. Soko
  3. Bell pepper ( Tatashe) or chilli pepper (Sombo)
  4. Scotch Bonnet ( Rodo)
  5. White onion
  6. Meat
  7. Fish
  8. Palm oil
  9. Locust beans (Iru)
  10. Blended crayfish
  11. Seasoning cubes
  12. Salt

It is pertinent to note that tomato is not used for this soup. Besides, the quantity of ingredients depends on what the cook wants. All Efo riro ingredients should be carefully prepared before starting to cook. This is because it is not meant to stay long on fire. To cook therefore, you start by;

  1. Washing and blending your bell or chilli pepper, scotch bonnet, onion and cray fish. Put aside when you are done.
  2. Washing your fish, putting aside, then washing your meat, seasoning and boiling.
  3. Washing your “Efo” and “Soko” separately in a clean water and chopping.
  4. Boiling water, adding little potash (Kaun) and salt. After this, pour the boiled water into separate bowls: Put sliced or chopped Efo in one of them, stir and drain immediately. Repeating same process for Soko is necessary, as this retains the green colour of the leaves.
  5. Frying your ingredients properly by first putting palm oil, then sliced or blended onion, locust bean, blended pepper, and crayfish. Properly frying these guarantees a tasty “Efo riro”, as the main secret to this delicacy is the stew base.
  6. Adding your fish, meat with stock, seasoning cubes and salt to taste. You need to stir properly too.
  7. Lastly, you add your green vegetables; “Efo” and “Soko”, stir and put down immediately. This is to avoid over- heating the vegetable, which was once put in hot water.

These processes are best illustrated in the pictures below:

Pouring Palm Oil to the pot

Adding Blended Onions

Adding Locust Beans

Adding roughly blended bell pepper and scotch bonnet pepper with crayfish

Adding meat, fish and other condiments

Adding meat stock

Frying the stew

Adding sliced Efo (vegetables)

Efo Riro is ready

Efo riro can be served or eaten with swallow of your choice; amala, fufu, iyan (pounded yam), eba, among others. It can also be served with white rice, boiled yam and eko, depending on what an individual wants. There is more to just making and eating this delicacy. Let us find out.


Besides having that delicious local taste, making variety the spice of life according to “Ademola Adewole, “Efo riro usually reminds me of my root as a core Yoruba man. This delicacy is exclusive to my people and I feel happy seeing Nigerians from other tribes keying into it at eateries.”

Moreover it has a lot of health benefits. Let us talk about the vegetables; regular intake of these vegetables used for its preparation adds freshness to the skin and aids bowel movement. 

For Mama Ekiti, “Efo riro” is incomplete without the locust bean known as “Iru” in Yoruba dialect. This is one of God’s best gifts to the African soil. Despite its unpleasant smell, it is that single most significant ingredient which takes “Efo riro” to its greater height. Research has it that the locust bean aids good vision, eliminates hypertension and other diseases like diabetes and stroke. It controls blood sugar levels and enhances weight loss too.

The potash (kaun) added to hot water for soaking the vegetables is not excluded from having health benefits as well; it helps relieve tooth ache and serves as a preservative, although high intake may lead to liver problems and severe damage to the kidney. Hence, moderation is key.

Conclusively, “you are what you eat”. Tapping into this African delicacy from the Western part of Nigeria will add to one of your multiple sources of freshness and healthy lifestyle.

Hello, I am Lilian Chudey Pride. Good to welcome you to my online world. I am a Writer, Teacher, Encourager, Author of Life Beyond Motherhood, Dignity of Womanhood and Publisher, iwriteafrica.com online Magazine. I love Africa so much and I derive joy in telling the world about her beauty and strength. I share the challenges of the childless African community, providing Support, Encouragement and Empowerment. While guiding the childless African woman to trust God, I help her to understand her peculiarity, grieve properly, heal and embrace purpose. See my book: Life Beyond Motherhood on Amazon. Welcome to Africa.
Mary Grant
Lilian Chudey Pride


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