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.
- Visit Our Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oils and spices.
Addicting! Only had wild rice on hand but it still worked out well. Love the ratio of veg to carbs. Can’t wait to make again!
Loved this! It was a perfect way to use up fresh spinach that I bought too much of.
It is quite lemony, which I really enjoy but if you want to dial back the lemon you certainly could.
I will make this again-- reminded me a lot of my Greek Yia Yia. 💕
Thank you so much, Niki!
Question….we prefer cauliflower rice…can you make this recipe with cauliflower rice?
Hi, Holly. That might work, but it's not something we've tested before with this recipe, so I can't be 100% sure. If you give it a try, please stop back and share your thoughts!
This would have been better without as much lemon juice. The lemon juice was just too overpowering. The addition of goat cheese was the only way we could save the rice. The problem with "the juice of one lemon," is that some lemons have more juice than others. I would prefer a measurement. I may try the recipe again and use 2 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and half the amount of dill.
This is another winning recipe! This is a perfect cold day dish or a main dish anytime of year when you want something simple and loaded with flavors. It amazes me each time I make this how all the flavors explode in every bite. Thank you for giving me/us so many easy and flavorful recipes! I can't wait for the cookbook!!!!!
would orzo be a good substitute for rice? hubby hates rice but he will begrudgingly eat orzo LOL!!!
Hi, Lou. That's not something I've tried before with this recipe, but I feel like it would work. You may have to make some adjustments to the liquid amount and cooking time, though. I recommended using the directions on the box of orzo as a guide here.
Is it okay to use fresh mint? I have so much in my garden - hate to buy dried!
Hi, Betsy! Sure! That would work! A good rule of thumb for this type of substitution would be 1 tablespoon fresh herbs = 1 teaspoon dried herbs.
This tastes so much like spanakopita, it’s crazy! I absolutely love it. I’m making this again soon and was wondering if leftovers freeze well? Thank you so much for your delicious and healthy recipes.
Glad you enjoyed it, Ava! I don't recommend freezing this one. I feel like it would affect the texture of the rice and spinach in a not-so-good way.
Hi Suzy! I plan on making this recipe this week. I bought a huge 16oz container of spinach like the one you have pictured. Do you just use that entire container? That's what I was planning on doing, but noticed your comment that you use 2 heaping cups. I'm really looking forward to trying this one. I love all your recipes and so does my family! Tonight we're having harira soup and its one of my all time faves! Thank you for all your delicious recipes and yummy items in your shop. I'm a big fan!!
Delicious and easy! Worked fine with long grain rice. Mine needed a little something to put it over the top. A Greek friend suggested a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and more salt. Perfect!
Glad you enjoyed the recipe, Sylvie!
This sounds fabulous. Would it work with medium grain brown rice? If so, what adjustments would you make to water and timing?
Hi, Kate. I really prefer to use white rice with this one. 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.
Hi! I’ve had success with brown rice, but I cook the rice separately with the lemon juice and 1/4 tsp garlic better than bullion (as directed with rice cooker after 30 min soak). So, 1 cup rice = 1/4 cup lemon + 1-3/4 cup water. At T-15, I fry up the onion, chopped garlic, spinach, and tomato, add herbs, then mix the veggies in with a rice paddle. I have wondered if minute brown rice might work in a one pot dish, though, if you wanna try that?
Thanks so much for sharing, Cygni!
Made this tonight. Easy and delicious! Definitely will be making again and again.
I love all your recipes and enjoy reading the comments. It is a pet peeve of mine when people do not read the comments, thus asking the same questions over and over. I always admire the patience of bloggers who answer those questions over and over...and over, Keep up the good work!!!
You are very sweet, Brenda. Thank you :).
The perfect comfort food!
I agree!! 🙂
Hard to find a spinach and rice recipe that includes tomato like yours! Tried other recipes and tasted like there was always something missing. Talked to my yiayia and she confirmed it - it's the tomatoes. Amazing recipe thank you!
Yay! Glad to get yiayia approval :).
This is wonderful, a real comfort food. Mmmmmmm….
Thanks so much!
Can you make ahead and freeze?
Hi, Elaine. I don't recommend freezing this one. I feel like it would affect the texture of the rice and spinach in a not-so-good way.
Just confirming the accuracy of the 1 pound of spinach. That is a LOT of spinach to only 1 cup of rice. Is that really what it is?
Hi, Stacey. I typically use 2 HEAPING cups of spinach here.
I’d like to make this tomorrow but I can only find extra long grain rice. Will this work and do I need to adjust the recipe? Also, is it a pound of baby spinach or 2 heaping cups?
Hi, Karen. I really recommend sticking with a medium-grained rice here. Using an extra long grain rice would alter the texture quite a bit. As for the spinach, I usually eyeball around 2 heaping cups of the spinach.
Super delicosas el queso feta le da un sabor esquisito y el limon no se diga .. Gracias Sra. Suzy
Wow, another winner, I think this may be my favorite way to make rice -- the $17 a pound steak was really good but the rice was the STAR of the show. My wife and I ate a portion for 4 between us.