Make Ahead

Yoghurt & Spinach Dip, 'Borani Esfanaaj', in the Persian Manner

March  7, 2010
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Serves 2-4
Author Notes

A borani is a cold yoghurt-based dish from Iran. But that is a bit of a boring piece of info, right? Well, apparently, it has been said that Poorandokht, the daughter of the Sassanian Persian King Khosrow Paravaiz, loved cold yoghurt-based dishes. When she was proclaimed Queen, the name Poorani was given to yoghurt-based dishes. Later on Poorani turned into Borani. I so do like to believe this story :) I love spinach and how it melds so well with yoghurt. This creamy appetiser is lovely with some lavash (flatbread from Iran) or some crisped-up-in-the-oven whole wheat pita bread. The combination of spinach, garlic, thick & creamy yoghurt, walnuts and mint, begs for a Pinot Gris from Alsace. Promise. —shayma

Test Kitchen Notes

Don’t let a little blanching stop you from making this wonderful dip. While it’s true that blanching spinach is a pain in the neck, once the water comes to a boil, the whole process is over in a minute, and then you’re well on your way to bliss. Shayma smartly heats the blanched and chopped spinach in a little garlic-scented oil and then adds more fresh garlic to the creamy, tangy dip. Our tips: Don’t worry about squeezing the spinach in step 4, unless it looks particularly soppy. Do use whole milk Greek yogurt -– the low-fat stuff will be watery and joyless. Use a wide shallow dish so you have room to spread out the dip, making a broad landing pad for the oil, mint and walnuts. And reach for your best olive oil for sprinkling over top. – A&M —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 2 packets baby (or regular) spinach, (6 oz packets)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced and divided into two separate batches.
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (not your best, but the type you use for sautéing)
  • 2 small tubs very thick, drained yoghurt- I use Greek Yoghurt, 'Total Tage', (they come in a 5.3 oz tub).
  • salt
  • dried mint for garnish (please do use dried vs. fresh mint, therein lies the beauty of this dish- the use of a woodsy, earthy dried herb)
  • handful crushed walnuts
  • your best olive oil
  1. Blanch your baby spinach.
  2. Drain well, make sure to get all the liquid out. Chop fine.
  3. Sauté 1/2 clove of garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil and add the baby spinach. Add a pinch of salt. Stir for a few minutes.
  4. Remove from stove, allow to cool, then squeeze out any excess liquid.
  5. In a bowl, add yoghurt, 1/2 clove of minced garlic, baby spinach and stir gently. Add salt to taste.
  6. Transfer to the bowl you are serving it in (I use a shallow, round bowl) and sprinkle with dried mint, crushed walnuts and a lazy trail of olive oil.
  7. Serve with lavash or whole wheat pita. And don't forget the Pinot Gris :)
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Shayma Saadat is a cookery teacher, food writer, stylist and photographer who focuses on the food of her heritage - Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, which she refers to as Silk Route cuisine. Shayma lives in Toronto with her husband and son. You can follow her culinary journey on Instagram @SpiceSpoon.

93 Reviews

jenny April 21, 2016
YUM!!! The photo alone made me want to make this immediately, and its a combo of so many of my favourite ingredients in one dish.... And it didn't disappoint, such an delicious dip.
Transcendancing March 19, 2016
Loved loved loved this! I let my garlic in the oil get quite toasty (but not burned) and that toasty flavour carried through beautifully! Also added a small amount of goats cheese and that added a nice tang and depth too. Gorgeous, new favourite!
beejay45 February 20, 2016
Revisiting this dip, I thought it would make a great filling for a bourek kind of thing. I doubled the spinach, plumped up a few currants and sultanas in the yoghurt, crumbled in some feta and put it all in a phyllo crust. I didn't realize I'd forgotten the nuts until it was all together, so I diluted some yoghurt with water to make a wash for the top to hold on some chopped pecans (what I had on hand). It turned out great. The wash did hold the nuts on and gave a little extra golden to the top crust. I cut it in wedges (made it round) for dinner, and wrapped the leftovers for lunches during the week. If I do this iteration again, I'm still going to leave the nuts on top, but I might just stir a little honey (just a smidge) into the wash for even better glue-ing and because I think just a hint of sweet on the outside would be a nice echo of the sweet currants and sultanas on the inside. FWIW.
Nancy February 20, 2016 the sound of your variations. For your future experiments, I can tell you the egg wash with a little honey works a treat...I made Molly Yeh's challah with rye a few weeks ago and it includes such a wash. Gives a lovely browned, crisp and slightly sweet result to the crust. Imagine is would work similarly on pastry.
Kris February 19, 2016
this dip is awesome. I made it the easy way. I washed, drained and roughly chopped baby spinach. Then I sauteed it after garlic in olive oil for about 2 minutes. I let it cool, mixed the yogurt and a bit of cayenne pepper for some heat ( I couldnt resist) and then savored every bite.
SallyBR February 21, 2015
I suppose that should read Total Fage? ;-)
JanieMac December 2, 2014
I think it would be fine the next day, though maybe not so aesthetically pleasing if your yogurt starts to separate. We have never had any left over for the next day!
Kristie December 2, 2014
Can this be made early? The day before?
Texas C. December 2, 2014
Yes, but you might need to add milk to get it back to that creamy consistency.
Texas C. November 17, 2014
This is a great recipe! It's simple to make and is great served warm or cold. I didn't have walnuts so I used walnut oil to drizzle over the dip
Aliwaks June 16, 2014
This was amazing...I made it for my Game of Thrones finale dinner in my mind this went with my "Dornish" style dinner in homage to Prince Oberyon.
I cant believe it took me so long to make it after admiring it for years.. I used chard instead of spinach because that's what came in my CSA
Fiona R. March 14, 2014
This is absolutely delicious. I followed the recipe to the letter and it came out perfectly
Nancy February 10, 2014
wonderful recipe! If flavorful full fat Greek yogurt n/a: drain any plain yogurt overnight in fridge (cheesecloth or coffee filter lined strainer) and use. Thicker, tastier. Enjoy!
beejay45 January 26, 2014
Well, after trying this with pine nuts, I found it to be just delish. In my second batch, however, I eliminated the blanching of the baby spinach. It occurred to me as I was tossing the blanched spinach with the garlic and olive oil in that first batch, that that step would wilt the spinach without ever having blanched it. In fact, I think I prefer the flavor this way. I was afraid it might lose some of it's green, but it didn't seem to. Also, this second batch, I used a sprinkle of nutmeg when I wilted the spinach and subbed finely chopped hazelnuts for the walnuts. ;) I know, going all Italian on the recipe, but it was a very tasty alternative. I served it with thinly sliced garlic bread, but any of the other authorsuggestions would be equally good.

Thanks, again, for posting this, shayma. A recipe that you can riff on is golden!
Katherine August 19, 2021
I did your method of not blanching the spinach and instead wilting it along with the garlic. Delicious!
Kathy C. January 26, 2014
I made this yesterday for a dinner party and it turned out delish. I was unable to find full fat Greek yoghurt in our small town but used the 2%. It was too bland and used the suggestion of adding some lemon juice which helped brighten the flavors up. Also I added a lot of garlic powder to brighten it too. I may not have had to do that if I could have found the full fat yoghurt. Do try for that - Also using a really good olive oil over the top was divine. Some even commented that it made it taste very good. All in all it was very delicious. Thanks so much for this good addition to my dinner parties.
beejay45 March 29, 2013
Would blanching the walnuts really ruin the dish? I love walnuts, but the skins make the roof of my mouth blister, and I'd love to make this. I can't see how subbing any other nut, except maybe pine nus, would compare though.
carswell July 5, 2013
I would think that pine nuts would be more than acceptable as a substitute - they have a slightly bitter quality that echoes walnuts.
Dani R. February 7, 2013
This is a great recipe! I made it with koufteh berenjee and grilled Persian zucchini the combination was delicious!
Bakezoid February 3, 2013
Made this today with pistachios instead of walnuts & dried oregano instead of mint - it was amazing!
JanieMac February 3, 2013
How wonderful this sounds, fully of wonderful simple things. Need to make it right now. Call it dinner.
jifferb January 28, 2013
I love how simple this is. And how it could be served before a dinner party or at a bbq. I didn't have any dried mint when i made this the first time but I do now and i can't wait to try it again! Fantastic recipe!
serenity0055 May 16, 2012
Is it good if made in advance? Like 9 hrs prior?
betty888 April 29, 2012
I made this for a tapas party this weekend. Really easy and super tasty. I used full-fat Greek yogurt and I do think that makes a big difference. The walnuts, mint and olive oil really elevate this to a more sophisticated level. My guests loved it.