Seventy-three villages randomly selected in 29 ethnic areas and three regions or agro-ecological zones of Benin were investigated by a participatory rural appraisal survey to assess the diversity of the species used as traditional leafy vegetables (TLVs). In total, 187 plant species belonging to 141 genera and 52 families were recorded. Among these, 47 (25.13%) were cultivated and 140 (74.87%) were gathered from the wild. Herbs (64.78%) were the most numerous followed by shrubs (19.78%) and trees (15.50%). The Shannon–Weaver diversity index calculated was 3.232. The total number of TLVs used highly varies, across ethnic groups, from 15 (Toli tribe) to 58 (people Mahi) with, on average, 36 species per ethnic group. The relative proportions of the wild and cultivated species used also vary with the tribes but on average appeared almost the same. Of the species inventoried, 18 of national importance were found among which Solanum macrocarpon, Corchorus olitorius, Amaranthus cruentus and Gymnanthemum amygdalinum ranked first. The matrix scoring technique yielded 12 criteria of different natures used to define preference. Among these, four (taste, ease of preparation, availability and quantity of required condiments) were the most important and represent, all together, more than 72% of responses. Despite the diversity of species used as leafy vegetables, they were all basically consumed in the same way. Sauces were the main type of preparation and involved all the species. The perceived nutritional and medicinal (curative, regulative and stimulative) properties of the species as well as their cultural significance were documented. Some TLVs are known and consumed by all or many ethnic groups while many others were simply ethnospecific or used by only a few peoples. However, no correlation was found between the distribution of the utilisation of the species and their degree of consumption which all depend on the eating habits of the peoples. Cluster analysis revealed that peoples sharing a common geographical space and/or cultural identity or origin seem to consume almost the same types of TLVs and cluster together. Given the large quantity of evidence of the importance of the TLVs, there should be a systematic effort to improve their understanding and their uses to reduce if not alleviate rural poverty and malnutrition in Benin.