Legume plants form a root-nodule symbiosis with rhizobia. This symbiosis establishment generally relies on rhizobium-produced Nod factors (NFs) and their perception by leguminous receptors (NFRs) that trigger nodulation. However, certain rhizobia hijack leguminous nodulation signalling via their type III secretion system, which functions in pathogenic bacteria to deliver effector proteins into host cells. Here, we report that rhizobia use pathogenic-like effectors to hijack legume nodulation signalling. The rhizobial effector Bel2-5 resembles the XopD effector of the plant pathogen Xanthomonas campestris and could induce nitrogen-fixing nodules on soybean nfr mutant. The soybean root transcriptome revealed that Bel2-5 induces expression of cytokinin-related genes, which are important for nodule organogenesis and represses ethylene- and defense-related genes that are deleterious to nodulation. Remarkably, Bel2-5 introduction into a strain unable to nodulate soybean mutant affected in NF perception conferred nodulation ability. Our findings show that rhizobia employ and have customized pathogenic effectors to promote leguminous nodulation signalling.