This Instant Pot Spinach Rice (also known in Indian cuisine as Palak Pulao) is a nutritious and healthy dish that can be served as a side dish with your favorite curry or a main dish with some vegetables or salad on the side. This rice recipe is super simple and is gluten-free, vegetarian and can be made vegan-friendly.
Indian Spinach Rice
When it comes to nailing a good rice dish, Indian cooks certainly have a few tricks up their sleeves. From complex biriyani dishes to perfectly flavored rice, ingredients such as coconut, cilantro, spices, dried fruit, nuts and seeds are used to infuse and cook this simple grain to perfection.
Why have a plain rice side dish when you can turn it into something special?
Our Indian-inspired spinach rice is a great example of this process. You can get creative by adding tasty and nutritious ingredients to the cooking rice, which will infuse it with flavor and color, and add interesting textures.
This spinach rice is gluten-free and vegetarian-friendly. You can replace butter or ghee with extra olive oil for a vegan version. It's great a side dish!
How To Make Instant Pot Spinach Rice
In this recipe, the rice is cooked together with aromatics like onions, ginger and garlic and mild spices as well as pureed spinach, taking on gorgeous flavors and green colour.
Using the Instant Pot to make this Indian rice dish will save you time and washing up as everything is made in one pot and only takes 15 minutes resulting in perfectly cooked grain.
What Goes Into Indian Spinach Rice
The key ingredients for this Indian spinach rice are, of course, rice and spinach. Indian pulao rice is often made with Basmati rice, which is long-grain rice. It has a lower glycaemic index than other types of white rice, making it a good choice for those watching their blood sugar levels.
To get that perfectly fluffy rice, it's important to wash uncooked rice under cold water a few times to rinse off as much starch as possible. This will prevent cooked rice from getting gluggy or mushy.
Can I Use Brow Rice For Palak Pulao?
Brown rice takes longer to cook in the pressure cooker but you can absolutely make this dish.
Repeat all steps but only rinse the rice one and set the Instant Pot to Pressure Cook on HIGH for 22 minutes with Natural Pressure Release or 25 minutes with quick release.
As it will cook for longer, the colour of the spinach might not be as vibrant green as in the white rice version.
For the spinach, we used baby spinach leaves but you could use any leafy green: English spinach, Swiss chard, silverbeet, and even arugula. Spinach is blended with some water into a coarse puree and added to the rice.
Can I Use Frozen Spinach?
Yes, the amounts will be different as frozen spinach has already been partially cooked and compacted so you need a lot less (see recipe notes). We suggest partially defrosting the spinach in some warm water and roughly chopping it with a knife. Add chopped pieces with water, no need to puree.
Aromatics & Spices
Sauteed onions, garlic and ginger add a lot of aromas and flavor to the rice. The spice level is mild and you should be able to find what you need in most supermarkets.
To be honest, if you don't have all the spices, you could just use the aromatics, rice and spinach and will get beautiful tasting rice just with fewer Indian notes. Alternatively, you can add a teaspoon of cumin powder or mild curry powder and just use that.
Other Indian Recipes You Might Like
- Instant Pot Butter Chicken - we can't get enough of this classic!
- Rice Pilaf With Chickpeas - another fabulous vegetarian rice dish.
- Indian Chicken Curry & Rice - learn how to cook both in one pot.
- Mushroom & Green Pea Curry - creamy, hearty and vegetarian and vegan-friendly dish.
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Instant Pot Spinach Rice (Palak Pulao)
- 1.5 cup Basmati rice rinsed well
- 2 packed cups baby spinach leaves or another type of spinach
- 1.5 cups water
- ½ medium onion finely diced
- 1.5 tablespoons ghee butter, or olive oil (25 g)
- 2 garlic cloves grated or diced
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 jalapeño pepper or small green chili (can be omitted or halved)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- 2 cardamom pods optional
- 0.5-1 cube of vegetable stock optional
- To finish: 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Rinse the rice in cold water 4-5 times and strain through a sieve. Set aside.
- Add spinach and water to a blender (do it in batches if needed) and process until just pureed. It doesn't have to be super smooth. Set aside.
- Turn the Instant Pot on and press the Saute function key. Add the butter, onions, garlic, ginger and chili and cook for 2 minutes, stirring a few times, until softened. Add the spices and vegetable stock cube (crumbled, if using) and stir through. Press Cancel to stop the Saute process. If any of the garlic or ginger gets stuck during sauteing, make sure to scrape it off the bottom. You can add a tiny splash of water to let it soften. This will prevent any burning during pressure cooking.
- Add the rice and pureed spinach liquid and stir through. Pop the lid on top and lock, making sure the top valve is pointing to Sealing. Press Manual/Pressure Cook, HIGH pressure and adjust the timer to 4 minutes. The Instant Pot will take about 5 minutes to build up the pressure and then the timer will begin. Once the timer goes off, allow 3-4 minutes for natural pressure release and then point the top valve to Venting to perform quick release to let off the steam.
- Open the lid and drizzle a little lemon juice into the rice. You can also add a little more ghee or butter if you want a richer flavour. Stir through and serve.
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