This vegan efo riro is a Nigerian spinach stew with complex flavors. This African dish uses mushrooms instead of meat and can be eaten with rice or by itself!

Prep Time10 mins

Cook Time20 mins

Total Time30 mins

Course: Main Course

Cuisine: Nigerian

Diet: Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian

Servings: 6 servings

Calories: 169kcal



  • 3 red bell peppers, ends and seeds removed
  • 2 habanero peppers, adjust to spice tolerance
  • 1 tomato
  • ½ red onion, medium


  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil, see notes for palm oil substitution
  • ½ onion, diced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, white or Cremini
  • 16 oz fresh spinach, see notes for substituting frozen spinach, kale
  • 2 cubes vegetarian bouillon, substitute with 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder, in addition to above
  • 2 teaspoons nutritional yeast, optional, substitute iru (locust bean) or tahini
  • 2 cups vegetable broth, optional, substitute water or omit
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  • Boil water in a large pot for blanching spinach. Prepare a bowl with ice cubes. Once it reaches a rolling boil, add 30 ounces of fresh spinach to the water for 30 seconds, and then move to the bowl with ice cubes. Drain, squeeze excess water out and set aside.If using frozen spinach, thaw the spinach and then blot dry and set aside.
  • Dump the water from the pot. Add ⅓ cup of vegetable oil and heat the oil.
  • While oil is heating, remove the stem and seeds from 3 red bell peppers. Add bell peppers, ½ a medium onion, 2 habanero peppers, and 1 tomato to a food processor and pulse into a coarse puree. Set aside.
  • Then, chop up ½ a medium sized onion. Add to hot oil along with 8 oz of sliced mushrooms, and fry for about 2 to 3 minutes (until onion is translucent or brown, if using red onion).
  • Add the puree to the pot. If using African pepper sauce, add two cups of the sauce instead. Fry until the raw smell disappears (about 4 to 5 minutes).
  • Add two vegetarian bouillon cubes, 1 (or 2) teaspoons of curry powder, and 1 teaspoon of nutritional year or tahini paste or iru (locust bean) and fry for 1 minute. The nutritional yeast / tahini paste / iru is optional, but does make a difference in the authenticity of flavors!
  • Now add broth or water and let it come to a soft simmer. Then, blanched spinach, stir it in well and let it cook uncovered for about 2-3 minutes. If you want a thicker stew, you can add the spinach directly to the blended puree. Add salt to taste at this stage.
  • Serve hot with rice (or other traditional “swallows” like pounded yam or cassava)


  • Spice adjustment: Habanero peppers are spicy! Efo Riro originates in the Yoruba culture, which has a lot of spicy food. To adjust puree to your spice tolerance, take seeds out of the pepper or reduce the number of peppers. You can also add more tomatoes. Alternatively, if you want to increase spiciness, add more habanero peppers! 
  • Fresh versus frozen spinach or kale: If using frozen spinach, make sure to thaw before using; if using kale, follow same instructions
  • Making a coarse versus fine puree: I prefer using a food processor because it lends more texture to the puree, but a blender would work if you want it more fine!


Calories: 169kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 630mg | Potassium: 772mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 9325IU | Vitamin C: 107mg | Calcium: 89mg | Iron: 3mg