Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Spanakorizo

In the Greek Orthodox religion, a number of people fast during the forty days of Lent leading to Easter Sunday, yet most people fast only during Holy Week. Abstaining from eating meat, fish, dairy products and eggs is common, but there are some people that go as far as not consuming olive oil, an ingredient that is never absent from any type of Greek meal. That is some hard-core fasting in my book. It is difficult enough not to eat meat and fish for me.

Nature is at its best right now as far as vegetables are concerned so it isn’t too hard to find something flavorsome to eat. The fact that Greek cuisine has numerous vegetable dishes that are both delicious and imaginative is a plus for anyone looking to eat well and fast at the same time.

Like this classic Greek dish. Spanakorizo (σπανακόρυζο) literally means spinach rice and is a dish falling under the category of “ladera”, Greek vegetable dishes with an olive oil-based sauce. Spanakorizo is creamy, with the rice being somewhat al dente and the spinach silky and juicy, the green onions and dill giving a fresh note and the lemon juice adding a much needed acidity to balance the astringency that the spinach leaves in the mouth.
It is an easy and quick dish to prepare and if you end up with leftovers, you have an excellent lunch option for the day after, as spanakorizo tastes even better the next day.

Spanakorizo (Greek Spinach Rice)

The rice used in this dish is Karolina rice, a very typical type of white, medium-grain rice used a lot in Greek cooking, but the Italian Arborio would work perfectly as well.

Spanakorizo is usually made with lemon (that’s the way we have always cooked it in my family) but it can also be made with a red tomato sauce. I will have to give you that recipe another time.

Accompany the spanakorizo with some feta, fresh crusty bread and lemon to squeeze over the top.

Yield: 4 servings

1 kg fresh spinach
150 ml olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
8 green onions, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
40 g fresh dill, divided into stems and leaves, finely chopped
150 g (¾-1 cup) Arborio rice
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of ½ lemon, plus extra for serving

Special equipment: large, heavy-bottomed pan with lid, colander

Clean the spinach, cutting and discarding the thick, hard stems with a knife. If the leaves are large, cut them into smaller pieces. Rinse them well under cold running water and drain them in a colander.

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, add the olive oil and place over a medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the chopped onion, green onions and dill stems and sauté until they soften but don’t color.

Add the spinach, the rice, salt and pepper and stir until the spinach settles. It will take a few minutes as there’s a lot of spinach.
Put the lid on the pan and simmer for 15-20 minutes, making sure to check after 10 minutes to see if it needs more water. Spinach usually releases quite a lot of water while cooking so you will most probably won’t need to add any water but to be on the safe side, check, and if you find that it looks dry, add a little (no more than ¼ cup).

The spakanorizo, as already mentioned, is ready after 15-20 minutes of cooking or when the rice is cooked. The rice must be a little al dente and not mushy and the spinach must be soft but not mushy. Also, the dish should be wet but not soupy, and it shouldn’t be dry.
When ready, check the seasoning, adding more if needed, add the chopped dill leaves and the lemon juice and stir. Take the pan off the heat and allow to stand for 10 minutes with the lid on.

Serve warm or at room temperature with extra lemon juice.


  1. Looks great! I'll have a try any time soon!

  2. This is beautiful - such a wonderful way to pack in more spinach (and iron! like in your calf's liver post) and comforting for this cooler weather that is creeping in in our part of the world.

  3. my mouth was watering looking at this dish! it reminded me of the spinach stew that is made here, minus the meat. Love the similarities between the two types of cuisine, as we also squeeze lemon on just about anything!

  4. I think this will be own of my favorite Greek dishes soon (once I make it) - but, sadly, I don't think I will be having leftovers. This is just the kind of dish we can't stop eating! The balance of flavors and textures is just perfect. And, while it is getting chilly for Yasmeen, it is getting warm here and I think this would make a great summer's evening meal. ~ David

  5. Cozinhar sem Lactose — I hope you enjoy it!

    Yasmeen — yes! Have to boost those iron levels! It is a dish eaten all-year round in Greece. Enjoy!

    Joumana — there are so many similarities in our cuisines. Lemon is widely used in cooking in Greece, so much so that each house comes with its own lemon tree, or it ought to be! :)

    David — I hope it becomes your favorite. It is delicious and simple and quick and definitely perfect for Spring and Summer!

  6. You might not believe this, but only a few days ago I was thinking to find a way of "requesting" a spanakorizo recipe....and this holy week, my prayers were listened!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I will leave feedback as soon as I make it. For those who haven't tried it yet, I recommend it 100%. A very tasty reminder of my childhood...
    Thank you again!!

  7. Madga, I love spanakorizo and do it often. Because Marco lived in Greece during 8 years, we do eat a lot of greek food cos we both love it :)

    I'm looking fwd to see the recipe with tomato, as I normally do it this way you just showed!

  8. Oh my this is a really great recipe. We eat fresh spinach at least 3 times a week, mostly in salads, but I am going to try this recipe to give us alternates ways to eat such healthy greens. Lovely.

  9. I was so excited when you posted a photo of this a while back, and now I can't wait to make it--thank you!

  10. Anthony Skalafouris — i hope you enjoy it! Καλή Ανάσταση!

    Ondina Maria — i have never made it with tomato but when I try it I will share the recipe, for sure.

    Teresa — do try it. It's a lovely and easy dish.

    Maeru — thank you, I hope you enjoy it!

  11. OH man how did you know I LOVE mushy vegetables!? I like them so much better than when they're still crunchy and green. It's my ultimate comfort food.

  12. Outside of Lent and fasting, another way to improve this recipe is to drop a poached egg on top of each plate/portion.

  13. Love this way of making risotto with spinach! I also love adding some pecorino at the end. It gives the rice great bite.

    1. Hi Pola. In Greece we don't add any cheese on top as this is not an Italian risotto. It may look like it but the cooking process is completely different.

  14. I always go back to your recipe when cooking Greek food. It works well for me, as authentic as my Grrek friend has taught me. The smell o dill permeates my kitchen right now, in Adelaide South Australia Thank you for a delicious blog.

    1. Well, I am Greek :)
      Glad you like it and thanks for trying it.