Efo Oriro: All You Need to Know About Nigerian Amaranth Soup

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Efo oriro is a famous Nigerian soup originating from the Yoruba people in the southwest of Nigeria. This soup is full of nutrition and flavour with different ingredients to create a tasty and delicious made with greens, meat, fish, and palm oil.  

The soup is popular among the Yoruba people and is now enjoyed nationwide. Several other tribes and regions have their version of the soup; for instance, Calabar people prepare Edikaikong, a vegetable soup made of ugu(pumpkin) and water leaves. Other tribes in Nigeria have their version of Efo oriro, which can be loosely translated as vegetable soup or stew.

In this article, you will learn about what efo oriro is, where it came from, the healthy aspects of the soup, how to cook it, and how best to enjoy it. There is also information on side effects and how they can affect pregnancy and weight loss. By the end, you will understand why this soup is famous among the Yorubas. You’ll know how to make it and the nutrition, history, and taste of efo oriro.

Efo Oriro: All You Need to Know About Nigerian Amaranth Soup

What is Efo Oriro?

Efo Oriro is a Yoruba word that means “stirred leafy vegetable”. It is a soup made with various kinds of green leaves, such as spinach, amaranth, or Lagos spinach. The leaves are cooked in a rich sauce with palm oil, tomatoes, peppers (tatashe), onions, crayfish, iru (locust beans), and salt. 

The soup also contains different kinds of meat and fish, such as beef, goat, chicken, tripe, smoked fish, dried fish, or shrimp. Efo Oriro is usually eaten with swallow foods, such as pounded yam, eba (cassava flour), amala (yam flour), or fufu (fermented cassava). It can also be eaten with rice, couscous, or yam.

History and Origin of Efo Oriro

Efo oriro is a traditional soup that originated from the Yoruba people of southwestern Nigeria. The Yoruba have a long, rich history and culture dating back to the 11th century. As one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa, the Yoruba developed a diverse cuisine using the wide variety of agricultural products available to them.

Efo oriro emerged as one of the Yoruba famous foods prepared using different types of nutritious leaves, meat, and fish. The key ingredients – leafy greens (Efo tete or Efo Shoko), palm oil, and other vegetables – were ingredients native to the Yoruba regions and the main ingredients used in making soups and stews. It became a staple dish for everyday meals, ceremonies, and special occasions.

While the exact origins are unknown, the soup is thought to have roots dating back hundreds of years to the time of early Yoruba communities. The soup exemplifies the skill and creativity of Yoruba cooking traditions. Over time, it has retained prominence within southern Nigeria and emerged as one of Nigeria’s national dishes, known across different ethnic groups.

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The soup originated centuries ago within the rich cuisine of the Yoruba people, incorporating indigenous ingredients into a soup that became a standard bearer for Nigerian cooking. It reflects the long and diverse food culture of the Yoruba ethnic group.

Nutritional Value of Efo Oriro

Efo Oriro is a nutritious dish that provides many health benefits. It contains various nutrients that are essential for the body according to fitnesspal, such as:

  • Serving Size: 93.1 g
  • Calories: 173 kcal per serving
  • Carbohydrates: 5.7 g per serving
  • Dietary Fiber: 4.1 g per serving
  • Sugars: 1.6 g per serving
  • Fat: 10 g per serving
  • Saturated Fat: 7.2 g per serving
  • Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.8 g per serving
  • Monounsaturated Fat: 3.6 g per serving
  • Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Protein: 15 g per serving
  • Sodium: 432 mg per serving
  • Potassium: 416 mg per serving
  • Cholesterol: 49 mg per serving
  • Vitamin A: 116% Daily Value per serving
  • Vitamin C: 49% Daily Value per serving
  • Calcium: 6% Daily Value per serving
  • Iron: 13% Daily Value per serving

The soup is a nutritious green soup that is rich in protein, dietary fibre, vitamins A and C, monounsaturated fat, and essential minerals like calcium, potassium and iron. Consumption of this traditional Nigerian amaranth soup can contribute to a healthy, balanced diet.

Health Benefits of Efo Oriro

Efo Oriro is a highly nutritious meal that offers a range of health benefits. These benefits include: 

  1. Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Effects: The soup contains antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, quercetin, and phenolic acids that help prevent cell and tissue damage caused by free radicals. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce inflammation and pain caused by infection, injury, or stress. 
  2. Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Control: Efo Oriro contains nutrients like potassium, magnesium, calcium, fiber, and iru that help regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels. These electrolytes balance fluid and sodium levels in the body and relax blood vessels. Fibre helps lower cholesterol and glucose absorption in the intestine, while iru contains probiotics that can lower “bad” cholesterol and raise “good” cholesterol. 
  3. Diabetes Management: The soup contains nutrients like fiber, magnesium, vitamin C, and iru that can help manage diabetes and prevent complications. Fibre slows digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and sugars, while magnesium improves insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake in cells. Vitamin C prevents oxidative stress and inflammation that can impair insulin secretion, and iru improves gut and metabolism of glucose and fatty acids. 
  4. Anemia Prevention: Efo contains nutrients like iron, vitamin C, B12, folate, and iru that can prevent anaemia and its symptoms. Iron is a component of haemoglobin that carries oxygen in red blood cells, while vitamin C enhances iron absorption and prevents a deficiency. Vitamin B12 and folate are essential for synthesizing DNA and red blood cells, and iru contains probiotics that synthesize vitamin B12 and folate in the gut. 
  5. Digestive Health: It contains fibre, vitamins A and K, iru, and phytochemicals that promote digestive health and prevent gastrointestinal disorders. Fibre promotes bowel movement and prevents constipation, diarrhoea, haemorrhoids, and diverticulitis. Vitamins A and K maintain the integrity of mucous membranes in the digestive tract and prevent infections, ulcers, and bleeding. 
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List of Ingredients for Efo Oriro

Efo Oriro is a simple dish that can be made with a few ingredients that are readily available in most Nigerian markets or grocery stores. The main ingredients are:

  • Efo tete (amaranth greens)
  • Efo Shoko (Nigerian spinach) 
  • Ugu (fluted pumpkin) – tough, sweet
  • Beef 
  • Smoked/dried fish 
  • Palm oil
  • Peppers
  • Onions
  • Crayfish
  • Iru (locust beans)
  • Salt

The amount of spices, condiments and leaves needed for the soup depends on the number of servings and individual preference.

How to Cook/Prepare Efo Oriro

Efo Oriro is an easy dish that can be cooked in less than an hour with simple steps. The steps are:

Step 1: Wash and Chop the Leaves

  • Rinse the fresh leaves or soak the dried leaves in water for a few minutes to remove dirt and insects.
  • Drain the water and squeeze the leaves to remove excess moisture.
  • Chop the leaves into small pieces with a knife or a blender.

Step 2: Blend the Peppers and Cut Onions

  • Wash the peppers and onions
  • Cut the onion into small pieces with a knife or a blender.
  • Blend the pepper into a smooth paste with a bit of water.

Step 3: Cook the Meat and Fish

  • Wash the meat, fish, and Ponmo, then cut them into bite-sized pieces.
  • Season them with salt, curry powder, thyme, bay leaf, and other spices of choice.
  • Boil them in water for about 20 minutes or until they are tender.
  • Remove them from the water and reserve the stock for use later.

Step 4: Fry the Blended Mixture in Palm Oil

  • Heat some palm oil in a pot over medium-high heat.
  • Add the blended mixture and stir constantly to prevent burning.
  • Fry for 5-10 minutes or until the oil separates from the mixture.

Step 5: Add the Meat, Fish, and Spices

  • Add the cooked meat, fish, crayfish, iru, and salt to the pot.
  • Stir well to combine all the ingredients.
  • Add some of the reserved stock or water and stir very well, then allow to boil for a few minutes. 

Step 6: Add the Leaves and Simmer

  • Add the chopped leaves (Efo Tete and Efo Shoko) to the pot and stir well to mix them with the sauce.
  • Allow the soup to boil for 10 minutes or until the leaves are soft and tender.
  • Turn off the heat and serve the soup hot or warm.

How to Enjoy/Eat Efo Oriro

Efo Oriro is a delicious dish that can be enjoyed in various ways. Some of them are:

  • Amala
  • Pounded Yam
  • Eba
  • Fufu
  • Rice
  • Yam 
  • Couscous and any other swallow or food of your choice.

Side Effects of Efo Oriro

Efo Oriro is a safe soup and stew that most people can eat without any adverse effects. However, some people may experience some side effects due to some of the ingredients in the soup. Some of them are:

Oxalate Content

Oxalate is a compound found in some plants such as spinach, amaranth, and Lagos spinach. It can bind to calcium and form crystals that cause kidney stones or gout in some people. People with a history of kidney stones or gout or who have high oxalate levels in their urine should limit their intake of oxalate-rich foods such as Efo Oriro.

Sodium Content

Sodium is an electrolyte essential for fluid balance, nerve transmission, muscle contraction, and blood pressure regulation. However, too much sodium can cause some people to have high blood pressure, oedema, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease. People with hypertension or kidney problems or a low-sodium diet should limit their intake of sodium-rich foods such as Efo Oriro.

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Efo Oriro and Pregnancy

Efo Oriro provides essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory compounds that support the health and development of both mother and baby during pregnancy. It can help prevent anaemia, osteoporosis, digestive problems, and inflammation.

However, pregnant women should be aware that Efo Oriro contains oxalates, which can cause kidney stones in those prone to them. It also contains sodium, which can cause high blood pressure.

Pregnant women with kidney issues, gout, hypertension, or who are on low-sodium diets should limit intake. As with any food, pregnant women should discuss proper portion sizes and frequency of consumption with their healthcare provider.

Efo Oriro and Weight Loss

Efo Oriro is a healthy meal option for people who want to lose weight. It provides numerous benefits for weight loss. Here are the ways it may help you to lose weight:

  • The soup has low calories and high fibre, which helps reduce total calorie intake and increase satiety levels. The fibre content slows digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and sugars, preventing spikes in blood glucose levels. Additionally, fibre fills the stomach, reducing hunger and appetite and preventing overeating and snacking, promoting weight loss. 
  • Efo Oriro is rich in nutrients that regulate hormones and neurotransmitters in satiety and appetite control, helping to reduce cravings and emotional eating, which can sabotage weight loss efforts.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is The English Name for EFO?

The English name for Efo (Yoruba) is Green leafy Vegetables or simply vegetables. This vegetable can be a green leaf, Efo Tete or Efo Shoko (Lagos/Nigerian Spinach) or even Ugu (spinach)

What Does Efo Riro Taste Like?

Efo Riro tastes like a rich and spicy stew with flavours from leafy greens, meat, fish, palm oil, peppers, onions, crayfish, iru, and salt. It has a savoury, sweet, sour, and bitter taste that can vary depending on the type and amount of ingredients used. It is a soup that can satisfy different taste buds and your stomach.

What Does Efo Riro Mean?

Efo Riro means “stirred leafy vegetable” in Yoruba language. It is a name that describes cooking the soup by stirring the leafy greens in the sauce. It is also a name that reflects the soup’s main ingredient, the leafy greens. Efo Riro is a simple and descriptive name that captures the essence of the soup.

What Leaf Is Used for Efo Riro?

The leaf used for Efo Riro can be any green leafy vegetable that is available and edible. The most common leaf used for Efo Riro is spinach, also known as efo tete or amaranth green. Spinach has a dark green colour, a soft texture, and a mild flavour. It is also rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Other leaves that can be used for Efo Riro are Lagos spinach (efo shoko) and fluted pumpkin (ugu). These leaves have different textures, flavours, and nutritional values. They can be used alone or in combination to make Efo Riro.

Can I Use Water Leaf for Efo Riro?

Waterleaf can be used for Efo Riro, but it is rare. Waterleaf has a high water content that can make the soup too watery and slimy. Waterleaf also has a mild flavour that the other ingredients in the soup can overpower. Waterleaf can be used for Efo Riro if mixed with other leaves such as spinach, Lagos spinach, or fluted pumpkin to balance the texture and flavour of the soup.


Efo Oriro is a delicious Nigerian soup made with green leaf vegetables, meat, fish, and palm oil. It has a rich history dating back hundreds of years and is enjoyed by many ethnic groups in the country. It has numerous health benefits, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, blood pressure and cholesterol control, and digestive health. 

However, it also has side effects like high sodium and oxalate content. Efo Oriro is a versatile dish that can be enjoyed with various accompaniments and is easy to make at home. Try it out today!