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Sri Lankan Inspired Chicken Roast with Baby Spinach

Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 120 minutes
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Why we love it:

Did you know you can get cookbooks in the library? This recipe is loosely based on/inspired by a gorgeous cookbook called, Sri Lanka: The Cookbook by Prakash K Sivanathan, that I saw in the library one day last fall. I’ve made a few variations and I’m sure my result is off but it is delicious and it has definitely made me put “Eat in Sri Lanka” on my to-do list. Have you been? Tell me more!


  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 4 cloves Garlic
  • Fresh Ginger (½ inch piece)
  • 12 cup Ketchup
  • 1 Tablespoon Chili Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Turmeric
  • 1 Tablespoon Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon White Sugar
  • 12 teaspoon Black Pepper
  • 1 Lime (zest and juice)
  • 12 teaspoon Kosher Salt (divided)
  • 14 teaspoon Cardamom (optional)
  • 2 pounds Chicken Thighs (bone in)
  • 112 cups Jasmine Rice (White)
  • 212 cups Water
  • 112 cups Baby Spinach
  • 12 teaspoon Unsalted Butter

Cooking Instructions


    In a blender (ideally - or you can make it work in a food processor) combine the ingredients for the marinade: onion - peeled and chopped in large pieces, garlic, ginger, ketchup, chili powder, turmeric, soy sauce, white sugar, black pepper. Add the zest and juice of the lime and about ½ teaspoon of salt. Add the ground cardamom (if using it). Blend until mostly smooth. Add a few teaspoons of water if needed to blend.

    When done, scrape out of the blender into a large bowl.

  • 2. CHICKEN

    Prep the chicken so you have thighs, legs, or breast pieces - whichever you’re using. Toss the chicken in the marinade and turn to coat well. Let this sit up to 24 hours in the fridge or up to 2 hours on the countertop.

  • 3. RICE

    Place rice and the water in a small pot with a fitting lid. Add about 1 teaspoon salt (if scaling recipe, add 1 teaspoon salt for every 1.5 cups of rice). Bring to a boil over high heat, then stir well. Place the lid on and turn the heat down to low. Simmer, untouched, for about 19 minutes. Then open and fluff the rice, remove from the heat and partially cover until ready to serve.


    You can cook the chicken anytime after marinating for at least 15 minutes and up to 24 hours. Place the chicken in one layer on a baking sheet and into the oven. Or if BBQing outside, just place it on the grates.

    Bake chicken for about 35 - 45 minutes (if you are using boneless chicken breast,s bake for only about 20 - 25 minutes). If you’re BBQing, turn a few times and cook for about 30 minutes or until it’s cooked through.

  • 6. SPINACH

    While chicken is cooking, wash the spinach and let it drip dry in a colander. Heat a large pan or tall sided pot over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the spinach and use tongs to turn it as it wilts. Season with a pinch of salt and as soon as it’s about 80% wilted, turn off the heat.

  • 7. SERVING

    Serve a scoop of rice topped with chicken. Baby spinach on the side.

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  • RICE:
    roasted potatoes or your favorite grain
    use your favorite green vegetable
    this is a little sweet and potentially familiar with the ketchup and non-spicy spice blend, but for kids new to this, you could scrape the marinade off their pieces, or grill them with salt and pepper for really “plain” preferring kids. White rice and their fave green (or other color) veg rounds it out
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