Spanakorizo, or Greek Spinach and Rice, is a delicious, healthy, vegan Greek side dish or plant-based main course, flavored with fresh lemon and dill. This version uses a few tricks for fast cooking time: green onions (which also add great flavor), basmati rice (which cooks quickly), and baby spinach (which has a very mild taste and doesn’t require washing or chopping). Spanakorizo is the perfect side dish to grilled chicken or shrimp, or on its own as a light meal!
If you’re looking for the PERFECT side dish to almost anything, look no further than Spanakorizo, or Greek Spinach and Rice.
Greek Spinach and Rice is packed with healthy spinach, boosted with flavor from lemon and dill. I like drizzling it with extra-virgin olive oil at the end and garnishing with some crumbled feta, fresh herbs, and sliced green onion.
Traditional, authentic Spanakorizo is often made with mature chopped spinach and converted rice, but I like using baby spinach for its mild flavor and faster cooking time, and basmati rice which cooks really fast with a fluffy, light texture. I also opted for green onions (scallions) instead of yellow onion for a brighter flavor and quicker cooking time.
In this post I’ll explain how to make Spanakorizo, how to use other kinds of leafy greens and rices, and what to serve it with!
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Baby spinach – you can use other leafy greens, mature or baby greens, if you like (more on that below). Frozen spinach may also be used.
- Basmati rice – you can use other kinds of rice if you like (more on that below).
- Green onions – a yellow or other bulb onion can also be used. You’ll add part of the dark green sliced scallions at the end of cooking, so make sure you reserve about 1/2 cup!
- Chopped fresh dill – or other herbs, or a combo, such as mint and/or parsley.
- Lemon juice and zest
- Vegetable broth – or chicken broth if you don’t need it vegetarian/vegan, or even water.
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- Extra-virgin olive oil
How to make Spanakorizo
- First, SAUTÉ the light green and white parts of the scallions in olive oil. You only need a couple of minutes here – just until they soften and begin to brown.
- Then, ADD the baby spinach. It will seem like a lot but will wilt down to practically nothing (see photo collage below). Give it a little stir and you’ll see it begins to wilt quickly with the heat of the pan. To speed up the wilting process, you can add a lid to the pot to keep the steam in. This should only take a couple of minutes (unless you are using mature greens, which will take longer).
- STIR IN the rice and get it coated in the oil.
- POUR IN the vegetable broth (or water, or chicken broth), add the salt, stir it, bring it to a boil, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, or until the rice is completely cooked.
- STIR IN the fresh dill, lemon juice and zest, and dark green sliced onions.
- SEASON TO TASTE, then serve! I like to garnish it with some crumbled feta cheese, a drizzle more of extra-virgin olive oil, and more fresh herbs and sliced green onions.
Can I use mature spinach, kale, or other greens?
Yes! Traditionally, Spanakorizo is made with mature spinach – and LOTS of it. I just used baby spinach because it cooks faster, it comes pre-washed, and you don’t have to chop it.
You can use mature spinach – up to 1 lb. of it! – if you like. Give it a good chop and a good wash. Mature greens will take longer to sauté as well, especially if you get them fresh from the garden as their water content will be quite high.
You can also use Swiss Chard (including the stems), or kale. Here’s a tutorial on how to prep, wash, and store kale that will be helpful for any mature green you choose to use for this Spanakorizo recipe.
You can also use another baby green, like baby arugula or baby kale. Arugula has a peppery flavor, and mature arugula has an even stronger peppery flavor, so keep that in mind.
Can I use frozen spinach?
Sure! This is another great way to save time for this Greek spinach and rice recipe. Just defrost the spinach and make sure to squeeze as much water out of it as you can, then proceed with the recipe. It won’t need but a minute of sautéing time.
To do this, I usually place the frozen chopped spinach in a mesh sieve and run hot water over it until it’s defrosted. Then, I use a wooden spoon to squeeze to press as much water out as possible.
You can also defrost it by spreading it out on a clean towel, then wringing it out in the towel to get the water out.
What about other kinds of rice?
I used basmati rice because of it’s fast cooking time and light, fluffy texture. But basically any kind of rice can be used in this recipe! Just be aware of how long the kind of rice you choose to use takes to cook and how much liquid you need for 1 cup of rice.
- Another kind of long-grain white rice (which is what basmati rice is) will work well and still be quick to cook.
- Converted rice, or parboiled rice, is used often in Greek cooking. It works well here. It’s the least starchy of the rices – it’s lower in carbs and won’t stick together at all.
- Short grain white rice, such as arborio, is quite starchy and will result in a creamy, heavier texture. It also takes much longer to cook and requires more liquid.
- Brown rice is a favorite in healthy cooking and can be used here, but takes quite long to cook with more liquid. You can find it in short grain or long grain. Brown basmati rice will probably be the fastest to cook.
What to serve with Spanakorizo
Spanakorizo is often eaten on its own as a healthy, vegetarian and vegan, light meal, but you can serve it on the side of a more traditional “main course” if you like. Here are my suggestions:
- Sautéed Garlicky Shrimp
- Pan-Fried Sea Bass with Lemon Garlic Herb Sauce
- Roast Chicken
- Greek Chicken Bites
- Juicy Oven-Baked Pork Chops
- Salmon Croquettes
- Keftedes (Greek Meatballs)
Other Greek and Mediterranean Side Dishes
- Orzo Pilaf with Lemon and Dill
- Greek Salad
- Greek Green Beans (Fasolakia)
- Egyptian Barley Salad
- Mediterranean Chickpea Salad
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Spanakorizo (Greek Spinach and Rice)
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 bunch green onions thinly sliced, 1/2 cup dark green tops reserved (about 8-10 green onions)
- 8-10 oz. baby spinach (see notes for other greens)
- 1 cup basmati rice (or other long grain white rice or parboiled rice)
- 2 cups vegetable broth or water, or chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more if needed
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped dill or mint, parsley, or a combination
- juice and zest of 1 lemon (about 1 teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice)
- fresh cracked pepper, crumbled feta cheese, plus extra olive oil and chopped fresh herbs for serving, optional
- In a large heavy pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil (1/4 cup). Add the sliced green onions (remember to reserve 1/2 cup of the dark green tops) and sauté until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the baby spinach and sauté until wilted, about 2 minutes.
- Add the basmati rice (1 cup) and stir to coat. Pour in the vegetable broth (2 cups) and add the kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon). Bring to a boil, stir once, cover, and simmer on low for about 15 minutes (or until rice is cooked – you should see holes in the top, and if you tilt the pot you should no longer see any water pooling).
- Stir in the fresh chopped dill or other herbs (1/4 cup), the lemon zest (1 teaspoon) and juice (2 tablespoons), and the reserved sliced green onions (1/2 cup – keep some out for garnish if you like).
- Season to taste with salt, and serve garnished with fresh cracked black pepper and crumbled feta cheese, with an extra drizzle of olive oil and sprinkling of fresh herbs, if desired.
- For a richer taste, 1-2 tablespoons of butter may be stirred in at the end with the lemon juice, zest, and dill.
- Other leafy greens may be used – such as mature spinach, fresh kale, or Swiss chard. Give them a chop and make sure to wash them well (here’s a guide on how to prep and clean fresh kale, which is also helpful for other mature leafy greens), and allow for a bit more cooking time for them to wilt. You can also use baby or mature arugula, which will give the recipe a more peppery taste. If you like a lot of spinach, you can also double the amount to 1 full lb. (16 oz.).
- Frozen spinach may be used. Thaw the spinach and squeeze out as much water as possible (I usually use a wooden spoon in a mesh sieve to push the water out). Add it to the scallions and butter and give it a quick sauté and then add the rice as directed.
- Other rices may be used. Basmati rice and other long grain white rices cook very quickly and have a light and fluffy texture, which I prefer. Par-boiled (or converted) rice is common in this and other Greek recipes, and this recipe will also work with short grain white (such as arborio) or brown rice. Keep in mind you will need to adjust the cooking time and the liquid to rice ratio depending on what kind of rice you use.
- You can add garlic if you like. It was purposefully left out to be more authentic (Greek food doesn’t always have tons of garlic in it, despite what some people think!), and because I think the flavor is perfect without it. But if you like, you can add a couple of cloves of minced garlic after the scallions are done sautéing, until it becomes fragrant (about 30 seconds), then add the spinach as directed.
- Large Pot with a lid or Dutch Oven