Greek Spinach and Rice – Spanakorizo

January 18, 2016

Spinach RiceAh the spanakorizo… This dish was a winter staple in our home. My mom would make it once a week, all winter long. She would usually accompany it with a small cheese pie (tiropitaki) or one or two Greek meatballs, and while you may think that as children we would hate it because of the spinach, it actually was a comfort food.

It is soft and creamy, and along with plenty of lemon juice, a bit of olive oil and of course feta, it was delicious (and still is).

It is such a simple dish as many Greek ones are, but yet delicious and easy to make. Oh, and did I mention its nutritional value? Spinach full of antioxidants and fiber, the lemon helps with some absorption of the iron in the spinach and the rice is a source of carbohydrates to provide sustenance. The actual recipe has little olive oil during the cooking stage, but adding some olive oil while serving makes it even more delicious and the addition of fat helps with the absorption of antioxidants. Now this recipe makes about 2 main course servings, so basically you are getting ½ pound of vegetables in one sitting. The beauty of the Greek diet… getting your vegetables effortlessly.

A note about the rice: It is important to use the right type which in this case is medium grain rice. You do not want short grain rice which may end up giving your dish a sticky texture, but not long grain either as you will not have the smooth texture we are looking for in this recipe. As for brown rice, it takes a while longer to cook and as a result you may be overcooking the spinach as well.

This can be enjoyed plain (without feta) for a vegan dish or with feta. And this is considered a main course, but you may serve it as a side dish. It goes well with fish or beef patties (biftekia).

Greek Spinach and Rice – Spanakokorizo

Yield: 2 Main Course servings or 4 sides

Greek Spinach and Rice – Spanakokorizo

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh spinach rinsed
  • Juice of half lemon
  • 1 onion chopped or 2-3 spring onions chopped
  • 2 ½ tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling
  • I teaspoon dry mint
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped dill
  • 2/3 cups water
  • 1/3 cup medium grain rice
  • Salt/Pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a large pot wilt the spinach with the lemon juice and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Set aside to drain.
  2. In another pot sauté the onion with the rest of the olive oil until soft.
  3. Add the spinach, dry mint, dill and 2/3 cup warm water and bring to a boil.
  4. Add the rice, salt (as needed) and pepper and simmer for about 20 minutes until rice is soft. Add additional warm water as needed.
  5. Serve warm or at room temperature with a squeeze of lemon juice and a bit of olive oil and feta.

Notes

You may add the tomato paste in step 4.

Photo by Elena Paravantes

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47 Comments

  • Reply Daphne Halkias January 18, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    I just made this today. Spanakorizo is a staple in our home once a week in the winter– a great way for kids to eat their veggies. I also add leek (prasso). We serve with feta and enjoy!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD January 18, 2016 at 4:35 pm

      Thanks for sharing Daphne! Great winter meal.

  • Reply Nancy Messer January 18, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    Can you make it with brown rice?

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD January 18, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      Hi Nancy,
      Yes, you could but, you want to make sure you cook the rice long enough without overcooking the spinach. I find brown rice always has a bite to it, so may not necessarily the best choice here as you want a creamy texture.

  • Reply Anonymous January 18, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    I was wondering how the recipe would be with frozen spinach. My second question : is spinach available all year round in Greece? Many thanks!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD January 18, 2016 at 4:55 pm

      Almost year round, except in the summer months. Although I try to eat seasonal. Frozen spinach would not have the same flavor or texture, I really recommend using fresh for this recipe if you can find it.

  • Reply Anthe January 18, 2016 at 10:36 pm

    My Mom always made it with frozen spinach and so do I along with the tomato paste and no mint just a little dill! Her family was Spartan. My dad’s Mom made it without the tomato paste, she was from Crete! Either was it’s good and the best comfort food dish!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD January 19, 2016 at 6:08 am

      Thanks for sharing. Yes, the tomato paste is a funny thing: my mom uses tomato paste, but my grandmother (her mom) did not.

      • Reply Artemi July 28, 2016 at 11:48 am

        I always use frozen spinach as well, comes out great and no tomato paste. Funny though because both my husband and I prefer it with lemon only, where both our Moms made it with tomato paste! Then again both our Moms used vinegar in most of their salads whereas my husband and I don’t care for vinegar so we use lemon in almost all salads. 🙂

        • Reply Elena August 1, 2016 at 6:30 am

          Thanks for sharing Artemi!

  • Reply Sherry January 18, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    I think I’ll give it a try with kale. I bought quite a bit of it yesterday and I think it should work. I hope so anyway!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD January 19, 2016 at 6:09 am

      It should work Sherry, it will just have different flavor profile.

  • Reply Anonymous January 19, 2016 at 11:00 pm

    What kind of rice do you recommend? I’ve read elsewhere that arborio works well for spanakorizo.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD January 22, 2016 at 6:18 am

      Arborio should work fine. You are looking for a medium grain rice -arborio is a short grain rice but works well.

  • Reply Catherine January 23, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    I intended to eat half of this as a full meal but ended up eating the whole thing, as it was so good! Ah well, it’s healthy enough to splurge on and not a terrible number of calories.

  • Reply Debbie February 16, 2016 at 11:27 pm

    My mother and I always added stewed tomatoes, and personally I can even eat it cold. Great with fish and pork.

  • Reply Theresa February 21, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    I’ve made this every week since first reading the recipe. It’s so good! Thank you!!

  • Reply Nicole February 22, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    First I want to say thank you for this website, it’s been wonderful in gaining knowledge on the Mediterranean diet. I did wonder though, there seems to be a lot of white rice/pasta/filo pastry. How often would pies or white rice and pasta be eaten? We’ve been taught that whole grains are better because they offer more fiber and do not convert into simple sugars as quickly, thus maintaining more constant blood sugar levels. Can you provide any insight on this? Thank you!

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD February 23, 2016 at 1:36 pm

      Hi Nicole, Rice or pasta dishes I would say on average are consumed about once (sometimes twice) a week. Regarding the pies, this type of phyllo is quite thin. One piece of a typical pie wold correspond in terms of phyllo, to a half slice of bread.

  • Reply Kellie Guevara February 28, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    The first step of the cooking process, am I adding any water to the lemon and olive oil to wilt the spinach?

  • Reply Alita March 3, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    I’ve only ever had this dish with tomato; maybe that’s why I’ve never liked it! Always felt too heavy on the stomach and gave me nausea. I didn’t know you can make it without tomato and I am very excited to try it this way, so thank you!

    • Reply Linda April 25, 2016 at 10:47 pm

      try using diced (petite) 8 oz can
      in the recipe it adds just the right amount of flavor.

  • Reply Johanna March 23, 2016 at 9:20 pm

    I’m not sure why, but my Cretan mother used Uncle Ben’s Converted rice for all her Greek recipes, including spanokorizo and spanakopita and in Gourvalakia.

  • Reply Chris April 2, 2016 at 10:05 am

    This is great food.We make it everything week or so . Adding a handfull of shrimps makes it even better!

  • Reply Dee April 18, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Hi,
    I was wondering if I could make this using rice pilaf in place of plain rice…..I really look forward to trying this recipe and thanks for providing this great source of information.

    • Reply Elena Paravantes RD April 26, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      Hi Dee, Do you mean long-grain rice? It will not provide the creamy risotto-like texture.

  • Reply Le April 22, 2016 at 2:46 pm

    Made this last night to go with Greek meatballs and it was great. I added some garlic but didn’t change anything else.

  • Reply Nancy May 6, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    My husband and I enjoyed this for lunch today! He said he would like it better as a side dish, than as a main dish as I served it (I guess too much of a good thing for him, lol). It was fabulous! Would have been terrific with grilled chicken, etc.

    I went out and bought medium grain rice, and everything – and presume maybe it made a creamier dish like risotto, and stirred it often, adding more water.

    I was afraid to put the tomato paste in, and possibly “ruin” it. What is the verdict or practice that is most common, with the tomato paste?

    • Reply Elena May 22, 2016 at 7:26 am

      Hi Nancy, Tomato paste is fine. My mother adds it. It will add a slight reddness to the dish.

  • Reply Julie Rigolfi May 8, 2016 at 2:07 am

    I am going to try this but use crumbled cauliflower in place of the rice. Yummm!

    • Reply Elena May 22, 2016 at 7:24 am

      Sounds good!

  • Reply Hafsa May 17, 2016 at 8:13 pm

    wonderful recipe !

    • Reply Elena May 22, 2016 at 7:17 am

      Thanks Hafsa!

  • Reply Leila May 22, 2016 at 3:15 am

    Made this with whole wheat pastina instead of rice. Elena, I have made almost all your vegetarian recipes for my family and we just love them. As a full time working mom I’m always looking vegetarian recipes that are not labor-intensive but are nutritious– you deliver every time. My spouse and my 1 year old love every recipe we’ve tried. Thank you so much!

    • Reply Olive Tomato May 22, 2016 at 7:06 am

      Thank you Leila! I appreciate the feedback!

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  • Reply A March 28, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    What a revelation! Elena, thank you so much for this recipe: it has been a staple of my diet throughout the winter, and even now that spring is here I can’t seem to stop making it. I’m not sure I even remember what I used to eat all the time! 🙂 It made me want to ask though – because the taste is similar – if you have a good recipe for dolmades (the vegetarian ones)? I love them and I eat them whenever I go to Greece, but I’ve never managed to find a recipe that tastes the same. If you have one I’d love if you could post it! Thanks again – love your site 🙂

    • Reply Elena April 7, 2017 at 5:18 am

      Thanks! I will be posting a dolmades recipe in the future.

  • Reply Melanie April 3, 2017 at 10:30 am

    spanakorizo as a base for stir-fry – with or without meat/chicken – is delicious; a combination of culture-cooking, it is colourful & very healthy.

    • Reply Elena April 7, 2017 at 5:15 am

      Interesting!

  • Reply Eleni April 11, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Do you precook rice? And when do you add the onion?

    • Reply Elena April 11, 2017 at 5:26 pm

      Hi Eleni, No you do not precook the rice, it cooks with the rest of the ingredients for 20 minutes. For the onion in step 3 you add spinach etc. in the pot that you have sautéed the onion.

      • Reply Eleni April 11, 2017 at 5:47 pm

        Thank you

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