Spanakorizo (Greek Spinach Rice) is the comfort food of your dreams. It gives you all the cozy, feel-good vibes but is also loaded with nutrients from spinach, plus flavor from garlic, onions, herbs, and fresh lemon juice. Serve this easy Greek rice recipe as a vegetarian main or a side dish.
What is spanakorizo?
A soft and creamy rice and spinach dish, Spanakorizo is classic Greek comfort food. It's become one of my go-to dishes, especially when I want to dig into something cozy, while sticking to healthy, whole foods.
I love that spanakorizo has vibes and flavors similar to spanakopita, my favorite crispy Greek spinach and feta pie, but is a less involved dish I can make any night of the week.
This spinach rice dish can be served as a vegetarian meal, and you can easily make it vegan by omitting the feta cheese at the end (although I think it really adds flavor and a touch of luxury to this dish). As a side, it is particularly great with meatballs, fish, or lemon chicken.
Every bite of this Greek rice dish is packed with flavor and nutrition. This recipe calls for 2 heaping cups of spinach to 1 cup of rice. It may sound like a lot of spinach for the amount of rice used, but because the spinach wilts as it cooks, this rice-to-spinach ratio is perfect. Plus, it's a way to amp up the nutrition since spinach adds antioxidants, fiber, iron, calcium, as well as vitamins K, C, B12, B6, E and more.
The next time you're craving comfort food, give spanakorizo a try!
What kind of rice to use for Greek spinach rice?
The kind of rice you use is key to the success of this recipe and achieving the perfect spanakorizo. I chose a medium grain rice. If you end up using short grain rice, you risk having a mushy/sticky result. And long grain rice will not give you the silky, creamy texture you need here.
And as far as brown rice vs. white rice. While brown rice may give you a slight advantage from a nutrition standpoint, it does take a bit longer to cook and you will risk overcooking the spinach to a point that it affects the taste negatively.
What you'll need for this recipe
The ingredients and flavors of spanakorizo are simple, and that the focus is really on the two star ingredients of rice and spinach. I use a couple of dried herbs, some garlic, and a splash of lemon juice which adds a pop of bright flavor to the dish and lightens the flavor profile. Here's what you'll need to make this rice:
- Medium grain rice - As I mentioned earlier, short and long grain rice will alter the texture of this dish, so that is why I recommend medium grain rice (and I have a few tips below for cooking it just right).
- Quality extra virgin olive oil - You can find olive oils I use here at our online shop
- Yellow onion - Try to chop the onion as finely as you can, it does not have to be perfect, but you don't want big chunks of onions in the rice
- Baby spinach - Look for spinach leaves that are dark in color and crisp-looking. You can use regular fresh spinach as well, but it will require some prep to remove the leaves from the steam and to chop them to smaller size pieces
- Lemon juice - Freshly squeezed is best
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- Garlic cloves - minced.
- Tomato paste for some umami.
- Herbs - dried mint and dill weed.
- Feta - Used for garnish at the end. You can omit the feta for a vegan option.
How to make Greek spinach rice
This healthy rice dish is simple to make. Including the time to soak the rice, you'll need just under an hour to make Greek Spinach Rice.
- Rinse and soak rice. Rinse rice until the water runs clear, then cover it in a bowl with water to soak for about 20 minutes or until you are easily able to break a grain of rice.
- Cook the onions, spinach, and garlic. Saute the onions in extra virgin olive oil until soft and golden brown. Add the baby spinach, lemon juice, garlic, tomato paste, and a good dash of salt and pepper. Cook, tossing regularly, until the spinach is just wilted, then add the dried mint and dill weed.
- Add the rice and cook. Drain the rice well and add it to the pan with 1 ½ cups warm water. Boil for 3 minutes then reduce heat to low and cover. Cook, covered, until the rice is tender and fully cooked through and no liquid remains in the pot (about 20 minutes or so).
- Allow the rice to sit for 10 minutes before serving. Just leave it alone with the lid on top for 10 minutes or so, then you can fluff it up before serving.
- Garnish and serve. I love adding a handful of crumbled creamy feta and fresh spinach to finish this dish.
Tips for cooking rice
Properly cooking the rice is the most important part of making Spanakorizo. The goal is rice that's perfectly cooked, not mushy or sticky. Here are a few tips to help.
- Always rinse and soak the rice first. Rinse the rice under cold water until it runs clear, instead of cloudy. Then soak it in a pan, covered with an inch of water, for 20 minutes. Rinsing the rice removes the starch, which is what makes rice too sticky. And soaking the shortens the cooking time and allows the interior to cook before the exterior loses its shape.
- Don't remove the lid during cooking. Though it may be tempting, avoid removing the lid while the rice is cooking. Doing so will allow all the steam to escape and affect the cooking time.
- Allow rice to sit undisturbed. Once the rice has finished cooking, allow it to sit for 10 minutes or so before adding the garnishes. This is the perfect time to finish up any meat or anything else you'll be serving with it.
What to serve with spanakorizo?
Greek spinach rice makes an easy vegetarian dinner that can be served hot or cold. Just scoop it into a bowl, topped with feta and a lemon slice. You can also add a dollop of Greek yogurt on top. If you'd prefer a vegan rice dish, just omit the feta and yogurt.
For a side dish, Spanakorizo pairs nicely with beef, lamb and fish. A few of my favorites to serve it with would be Boneless Leg of Lamb, Chicken Souvlaki, and Garlic Salmon. You can turn it into a bowl meal and top it with Greek Meatballs or Shrimp Kabobs.
How to store leftovers
Store Greek Spinach Rice in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
One great thing about this dish is that since it can be enjoyed hot or cold, the leftovers are ideal for meal prep. You can easily pack them in your lunch and not need to worry about finding a microwave. I like to turn leftovers into a cold rice salad bowl, topped with feta and leftover meat too.
If you want to reheat the leftovers, you can do so on the stovetop or in the microwave.
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Spanakorizo - Greek Spinach Rice
- 1 cup medium grain rice
- 4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 yellow onion chopped
- 1 pound baby spinach
- 1 lemon, juiced
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 ½ teaspoon dried mint flakes
- 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
- Feta for garnish
- Rinse the rice well a few times until the water runs clear. Put the rice in a bowl and add water to cover it by 1 inch. Let is sit to soak for 20 minutes or until you are easily able to break one grain of rice between your fingers.
- Heat ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil in a braising pan. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft and golden brown. Add the spinach, lemon juice, garlic, tomato paste, and a big pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Sautee the spinach until just wilted. Stir in the mint and dill weed.
- Drain the rice well and add it to the pan. Add 1 ½ cups of warm water. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes until the water reduces a bit. Turn the heat to low and cover.
- Let the rice cook undisturbed for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender and fully cooked through and all the liquid has been absorbed.
- Once cooked, let the rice sit covered for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
- When ready, fluff the rice with a fork and garnish for feta and parsley, if you like.
- What kind of rice to use? As explained in the post, medium rice is best to give you the right creamy texture but without being too sticky. Brown rice takes longer to cook, so if you end up using brown rice here, you may overcook the spinach to a point that will affect the flavor.
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