In Memory Of Karen Nicole Smith, 1972 - 2016

Making bhaji with tender baby spinach and coconut cream.

One of my favorite side dishes to eat with sada roti as a kid growing up on the islands was dasheen bush bhaji. But living in North America in the early years meant that we had to improvise in the ingredients we used in many of our normal dishes. Dasheen bush (leaves form the dasheen plant) was not readily available, we started using any other type of “greens” we could find. Like spinach and swiss chard to fill the need for some traditional food. Over the years things have changed a bit and we can now get dahseen bush and many of the other ingredients we couldn’t before. However they’re usually quite expensive and the quality lacks a bit. The long voyage from the Caribbean and the Far East takes it’s toll on the fruits and vegetables (even though there’s overnight shipping).

Here’s my version of bhaji made with baby spinach and cooked gently in coconut cream.

You’ll Need…

11 oz baby spinach (pre washed)
1 medium onion sliced thin
3 cloves garlic sliced
1/4 hot pepper (optional) I used habanero
dash of black pepper
salt to taste (I used a little less than 1/4 teaspoon)
3 tablespoon olive oil (I like using extra virgin – love the additional flavour)
1 can coconut milk (5.6 fl oz)

Even though I purchased the pre-washed spinach (please get baby spinach for best results) I still wash it before cooking. Blame our mom for that.. she believes in washing just about everything. Then in a wide sauce pan heat the olive oil on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the sliced garlic and allow to cook for a few minutes to infuse the oil with the flavours of the garlic.

bhaji recipe

spincah cooked in coconut

how to cook spinach

If you look closely at the edges of the garlic you’ll notice that it’s starting to go golden in color, this is a good indication that it’s time to add the spinach. Since we washed the spinach, make sure to drain it well before adding to the pan with the hot oil and garlic. At first you’ll doubt that the entire batch of spinach will fit in the pan, but as it wilts… everything will fit. Just keep adding as needed.

trini bhaji recipe

how to cok bhaji

The next step is to add the black pepper, sliced onion, hot pepper and salt. As mentioned I used a little less than 1/4 teaspoon of salt, so I suggest you add a similar amount and at the end add additional if needed. TIP BTW, if you have a heavy hand and add more salt than necessary, feel free  to add a sliced tomato to the pot to try and diffuse some of that salty taste. I then pour in the coconut milk into the pan, cover, turn down the heat to low and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes. You’ll notice that the spinach released a lot of it’s own liquid. No worries.. we’ll burn all that off later.

caribbean spinach

how to cook trinidad bhaji

bhaji from trinidad

After 20 minutes cooking with the cover on the pan, you’ll notice that there’s still a bit of liquid left in the pot. After-all we added coconut milk as well to the natural juices of the spinach itself. Remove the cover and turn the heat up to medium/high to cook off all that liquid. Keep a close eye.. if you notice the spinach starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, turn down the heat. It must cook off the liquid evenly.

trinidad bhaji recipe

bhaji with coconut

Note: I like my spinach cooked as we do with dasheen bush bhaji.. melted to a sort of smooth paste. But if you prefer, you can cook this much faster with the lid off the pan for about 7-10 minutes (instead of 20) or until the liquid (coconut) milk dries off. On a higher heat setting. This way you’ll have a finished dish with more texture.

As the liquid dries off, you’re done. It will look a bit mushy, but trust me.. this is packed with flavour and healthy goodness.

I was cooking stew chicken with rice for our daughters, so I added the spinach bhaji to my plate. Still trying to get them to eat bhaji.

spinach recipe

vegetarian spinach recipe

I’d love for you to leave me your comments and questions in the area provided below. Maybe you have a different way of preparing this dish?

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  1. Ann-Marie
    February 16, 2019 / 12:11 pm

    Hi Chris,

    I cook the spinach with brown rice and add pumpkin and coconut milk along with garlic onions and sweet pepper.

    I have never cooked it alone,will try your recipe.


  2. Kim
    January 10, 2019 / 11:40 am

    Is there anything I can substitute the coconut milk with. My husband has high cholesterol and I’m try8ng to limit use of coconut milk

  3. Monique
    April 2, 2018 / 2:53 pm

    Taste delicious. I love coconut , I put it in all my food and it just gives it such a wonderful flavor. Thanks Chris , keep up the excellent job.

    This recipe taste great with Dahl and rice.

  4. Selma
    December 7, 2016 / 5:28 pm

    Hi Chris, I have a question in the ingredients listed it say Cream of Coconut but in the directions of how to cook everything it says Coconut Milk. I have coconut milk is that the correct one to use?

    • admin
      December 7, 2016 / 9:36 pm

      so sorry.. I corrected it. use coconut milk

  5. November 10, 2016 / 9:28 am

    Looks delicious. i will have to try this recipe.

  6. Barb
    August 17, 2016 / 12:41 pm

    I’m going to try this, it looks delicious. Thank you!

  7. Nadine
    June 30, 2016 / 1:32 pm

    Instead of using salt & the coconut milk. Can i use salt pork instead?

    • September 15, 2016 / 1:56 pm

      Then it wouldn’t be Carribean

      • Kaya
        November 21, 2017 / 5:54 am

        Oh but it would, I’m a trini and my grandparents would add it at times. Just add a pinch of sugar, and you can still use the coconut milk.

  8. lorrie
    May 29, 2016 / 1:26 am

    Hi Chris, Once again this dish was GREAT. As always will be taking some to work for my pals. Who state they can not get enough.

    Thank you so much for the recipes and keep them coming

    Lorrie family and friends

  9. Trish
    April 7, 2015 / 12:57 pm

    I am going to make this for dinner ..looks delicious

  10. Rosalind
    January 16, 2015 / 1:14 pm

    I love this but as you stated it is difficult to get the children to eat it. I wonder what other ingredient could be added? I tried sugar but the spinach is too pungent.

  11. Lystra
    June 20, 2014 / 12:08 am

    Looks delicious…will try this for sure…..

  12. DAWN
    February 26, 2014 / 10:54 am

    I love spinach and I am going to try this recipe.
    Thank you Chris…

  13. Linda Ferguson
    October 21, 2013 / 5:08 pm

    I just love spinach and garlic. Wil be sure to try this recipe. Thanks Chris for all your recipes and the videos I enjoy all.

  14. nicole francois
    March 24, 2013 / 8:02 am

    Gosh Chris! My taste buds were watering after viewing your tasty dish. I love spinach, dasheen bush bhagi. My daughters prefer the dasheen bush to eat with sada, floats etc. My mom was visiting recently, she enjoyed it all, including bodi and pumpkin. Delicious!

  15. Lyn
    March 9, 2013 / 6:24 pm

    I've now tried your recipes for bhaji, stew chicken and red beans, all of which have been well received by my Trini husband and our children. We have just returned to UK after three weeks spent with family there, where I must admit to becoming a little inspired by my Aunt in law who is a very good cook. I have to say though, whilst I thoroughly enjoyed her food, I honestly believe that your stew chicken recipe tastes better…not that I would ever tell her that! Thank you for the recipes and further inspiration which have helped me on my way to domestic goddess status. I love the helpful pictures, your very easy to understand description of what to do as well as helpful suggestions for alternative ingredients that are more readily available outside the Caribbean. Looking forward to continuing my journey of the demystification of Caribbean cooking!

  16. Myrts
    January 1, 2013 / 5:51 pm

    Good job thanks for the info Chris I bought Jamaican callalloo and have no clue how to cook it, this helps. I'm Trini and used to dasheen leaves.

  17. April 13, 2012 / 11:44 am

    Thanks Chris. Bhaji is something that I love. This combination with stew chicken is a must try.

  18. vision2020
    January 19, 2012 / 3:01 pm

    There is a way to really get added flavour to the dish…when you heat the oil and add the garlic, before you add the spinach add half of the pepper and onion…this will flavour the oil then add the spinach. The flavoured oil will allow the flavour to be well distributed add the rest of the onion and some thyme reduce the heat and for those who need to cut dowm on cholesterol, add 1/2 cup of coconut water it gives the flavour and reduces the double wammie of oil and coconut milk. If you want you can also use coconut flakes less cholesterol if you can find unsweetened flakes..I love this dish and our staple was not roti but ground provisions or rice……my favourite dish with stewed chicken orsalted cosdfish stew……

  19. Sommer
    December 21, 2010 / 11:26 am

    Okay so I never really learn to cook that much being the last of nine girls. Got married to a Trini man who love his belly. I will be trying out these recipes, they look so good.

  20. Jeanne
    July 21, 2010 / 10:09 pm

    Do you use coconut milk or coconut cream? I brought some coconut cream, b/c it's listed in the ingredients. The cream that I purchase was in the refrigerated section and it's hard like a frozen stick of butter.

    • admin
      March 4, 2010 / 5:15 pm

      Thanks for sharing Paula.

  21. Nicole
    February 14, 2010 / 6:56 pm

    THis dish looks great, I’m going to try it and see what my Trini husband thinks

    • admin
      February 21, 2010 / 3:24 pm

      Nicole, be sure to try some of the others as well. trini men love their belly.

      happy cooking


  22. February 11, 2010 / 4:48 pm

    Good Day,

    I dis cook mi bhaji de same except add sum pig tail ….de pics real nice.

    Jah bless

    • March 31, 2010 / 11:42 am

      pig tail.. you sound like my dad. he believes that "salt" meat should be included in every dish prepared. He makes a killer bhaji with pigtail and coconut milk. Enjoyed with "sailors" (flour dumplings)

      happy cooking


  23. February 4, 2010 / 4:58 pm

    Thanks so much for stopping by my blog. I stopped by to check out your blog and spent way more time than I had planned. What a great sigbt, I’ve subscribed and look forward to more fabulous recipes.

    • admin
      February 9, 2010 / 11:01 pm

      Lea Ann, I happy to have found yours as well.

      happy cooking


  24. February 4, 2010 / 9:59 am

    That looks wonderful!!!!I love spinach and garlic…..that is a perfect recipe.
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Cod Fish and Yuca Cakes =-.

    • admin
      February 9, 2010 / 11:02 pm

      Erica, welcome and thanks for commenting.

      happy cooking


    • admin
      January 30, 2010 / 10:15 pm

      Shelly, thanks for taking the time to leave your comment. While in Trinidad, eat some for me too! I’m usually there for Carnival, but this year will see me in the bitter cold. Enjoy.


      p.s. I took a peek at your blog (love the content). Would you consider sharing some “natural” tips on another blog I manage? I will mean a link back to your site and full credit for anything you post. Let me know your thoughts.

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