Spinach Rice with Beet Raita

October 29, 2021
2 Ratings
Photo by Julia Gartland Prop Stylist: Sophia Pappas Food Stylist: Yossy Arefi
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 40 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

As much as it can be dressed up for a more festive menu, spinach rice needs little more than raita to complete a weeknight meal. When I first started making it, I started with the most obvious suspect: a mixed vegetable raita, a true Indian classic. A version with grated carrots and cilantro came next, inching closer to rightness but still somehow lacking. I dumped a bag of boondi (savory pearls of fried chickpea flour) into whisked yogurt along with some chopped scallions, which felt like an acceptable placeholder as I continued to experiment.

A few years into tinkering, I finally got my answer. Of all the raitas that could serve as an accompaniment, one made with beets was the clear standout. The sweet undertones of the beets perfectly complemented the herbaceous rice. Chaat masala offered just the right lift. The fact that the colors looked beautiful together on the plate didn’t hurt either.

Spinach rice has become my standard contribution to potlucks; I’ve held impromptu cooking demonstrations of it in our California kitchen; and emailed the instructions to friends and family. During one of her recent visits from Chennai, my mother asked for the recipe. It was the first one she had ever asked me for, a unique reversal of our roles as teacher and student.
Purnima Mani

What You'll Need
  • Spinach Rice
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut, freshly grated (thaw if frozen)
  • 1 small green chili, roughly chopped (I use Thai birds eye chilies, but ½ jalapeno or serrano will also work)
  • 1 cup tightly packed chopped cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or neutral oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4 cup raw cashew halves
  • 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
  • 6 ounces bag baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup long grain basmati, cooked (at room temperature)
  • 1 handful green peas (optional)
  • 1 handful corn kernels (optional)
  • 2 ounces paneer, cubed (optional)
  • Beet Raita
  • 1 tablespoon neutral flavored oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 3/4 cup beet, grated (using the large holes of a box grater)
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ¼-½ teaspoons red chili or cayenne powder
  • 3 cups plain whole milk yogurt
  • Fine sea salt, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon chaat masala, or to taste
  1. Spinach Rice
  2. Using a food processor or blender, pulse the coconut, cilantro, green chili, lemon juice, sugar, and ½ tsp of salt until they form a smooth, thick paste, using a teaspoon or two of water if needed to get the ingredients moving. You should end up with approximately ¼ cup of paste.
  3. In a large saute pan, heat the ghee or oil of your choice over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cashews, and stir for a minute or two until the cumin sizzles and the cashew pieces turn golden.
  4. Add the chopped red onion, season with ½ tsp salt, and saute until the onion softens and begins to brown around the edges, about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add the coconut-cilantro mixture, another ½ tsp of salt, and saute for 1-2 minutes until the blended paste turns a darker green and most of the liquid evaporates.
  6. Add the chopped spinach, a handful at a time, letting it wilt before adding more. Increase the heat to medium-high and saute for another 2 minutes, until any excess water from the spinach evaporates. If you’re using any of the optional add-ins, add those now. Give the mixture a few final stirs, then turn off the heat.
  7. Allow the mixture to cool for a few minutes. Add the cooked basmati rice to the pan and gently fold it in.
  8. Taste the spinach rice and adjust for salt.
  1. Beet Raita
  2. In a small skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle.
  3. Add the grated beets, turmeric, red chili or cayenne powder, and ½ tsp salt. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes, then uncover and cook for another minute so the beets can give off some moisture. Turn off the flame and set aside to cool completely.
  4. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the yogurt with a few tbsp of water until smooth.
  5. Add the cooled beets and ½ tsp chaat masala, and swirl it all together. Taste to check if you’d like more salt or chaat masala.
  6. Serve beet raita with spinach rice.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Purnima Mani
    Purnima Mani
  • Rfarinaccio
  • patricia gadsby
    patricia gadsby
  • beckyanand

8 Reviews

Rfarinaccio July 3, 2022
This recipe has been a hit with everyone from an 18-month-old to elderly relatives. I can’t recommend it enough! It tastes fresh and new, so much more interesting than many other dishes. It will be in my repertoire forever! Thank you, Purnima- for an outstanding recipe and a sweet story!
Purnima M. July 4, 2022
Aww, I love hearing about this recipe’s multigenerational appeal, thank you! So glad it’s become a part of your cooking arsenal.
patricia G. January 8, 2022
In love with your writing and I can almost smell the aromas rising from the pan into the kitchen. Spinach on my next shopping list!
Purnima M. January 9, 2022
Thank you so much! I hope you love it.
beckyanand November 26, 2021
Amazing dish! As a non-Indian married to someone of Indian descent, I am always looking for unique Indian dishes to serve family and friends (because really, their curries will almost always be better). This one hits the spot! It’s also one of the healthier recipes out there, which makes it a great weeknight meal. I’ve already made it 3 times this month!
Purnima M. November 26, 2021
I love that this dish has become a regular at your house, too!
Claudia November 3, 2021
This recipe is to die for. I don’t often come across one that doesn’t need doctoring up, but this one is perfect as it is.
Purnima M. November 3, 2021
That’s high praise, thank you! I could make this recipe with my eyes closed after all these years, glad it’s paid off. :)