Georgian Pkhali (Beet and Spinach Pkhali)

Vibrant Georgian Beet and Spinach Pkhali are incredibly flavorful, stimulate the appetite, and add a vibrant pop of color to any table!

Pkhali is a Georgian appetizer that can be made from a variety of vegetables, such as beets, spinach, eggplant, green beans and carrots. The vegetable of choice is combined with walnuts, garlic, spices and fresh herbs to create a pâté-like mixture. Pkhali can be shaped into small balls, as with our beet and spinach Pkhali, or it can be served in a dish as a spread.

Colorful Pkhali with beets and spinach arranged on various trays and served with crusty bread.

Key ingredients

  • Vegetables: You’ll need beets and spinach to make these two types of Pkhali. Make sure you’re using fresh spinach — frozen just won’t cut it to get the right flavor and texture.
  • Walnuts: A handful of walnuts gives the Pkhali a rich, almost buttery taste.
  • Garlic: Several cloves of garlic adds a bit of sharpness to the beet and spinach mixtures.
  • Fresh herbs: I add cilantro to the spinach Pkhali. You could add it to the beet Pkhali as well, but it will slightly alter the consistency of the bright pink color.
  • Spices: To flavor the Pkhali, I used a combination of coriander and blue fenugreek, but a pinch of Khmeli Suneli would work just as well.
  • Vinegar: White wine vinegar adds just a touch of acidity and brightens up the vegetable spreads.
  • Toppings: Whole walnuts, pomegranate arils and cilantro are the typical toppings for these Pkhali.

Recipe substitutions and variations

  • Add some heat. A pinch of hot chile powder, such as cayenne, is often added to Pkhali. I left it out in this version, but I recommend giving it a try if you want a bit of a kick. Red pepper flakes would also work well.
  • Use regular fenugreek. Blue fenugreek, called Utskho Suneli in Georgian, is a bit milder than regular fenugreek. If you want to use regular fenugreek, start with a bit less and add more to taste.
  • Switch up the vinegar. Red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar are both good substitutes for white wine vinegar in this Pkhali recipe.

Step by step instructions

Step 1: Prepare the vegetables. Blanch the spinach and cook the beets in boiling water until tender. Roughly chop the spinach and grate the beets. I used the grater attachment on my mixer for the beets, but a box grater or even food processor will work just as well. Just make sure not to over-pulse the mixture!

Step 2: Make the walnut paste. Place the walnuts and garlic in a food processor and pulse until a coarse paste forms. This can take up to five minutes! If preparing both types of Pkhali, I recommend processing all ingredients for the walnut paste at once and then dividing the mixture in two. This is just because my food processor has an easier time processing larger quantities.

Step 3: Make the Pkhali mixture. Combine all Pkhali ingredients in a large mixing bowl and use your hands to knead until it forms an almost dough-like mass.

Step 4: Refrigerate and shape. While you can serve your Pkhali in a serving dish, I like to form them into little balls. The spinach Pkhali can generally be formed right away. The beet Pkhali mixture, on the other hand, often needs an hour or two in the refrigerator to cool down and firm up. After chilling, it’s much easier to shape.

Step 5: Garnish and serve! I like to garnish the spinach Pkhali with pomegranate arils for a bright pop of color. And for the beet Pkhali, I generally go with whole walnuts and cilantro for a nice contrast.

Storage

The best thing about Pkhali is that they can easily be made a day in advance. In fact, some even say the taste is better on the second day! I tend to make and shape my Pkhali a day ahead of time, but wait to garnish them until right before serving.

Leftover Pkhali will keep covered in the refrigerator for 3-4 days before the flavor and texture begin to diminish. I don’t recommend freezing Pkhali, as the texture won’t keep its original quality after thawing.

Expert tips

  • Get all moisture out of the spinach. After blanching the spinach, make sure to wring out the excess moisture. Be patient, this process can take a bit of time. But it’s essential to ensuring the Pkhali texture comes out right.
  • Refrigerate before shaping. This is especially important for the beet Pkhali. Trying to shape the beet mixture right away can result in a mess. Let the mixture firm up in the fridge for a few hours first.
  • Adjust the vinegar, spices and salt to taste. All of the flavorings in Pkhali can and should be adjusted to taste. Keep in mind that adding vinegar will also change the texture of your Pkhali.

FAQs

What is Pkhali?

Pkhali is a traditional Georgian dish made from minced vegetables, garlic, spices and herbs.

How do you eat Pkhali?

Traditionally, you can eat Pkhali plain — almost like a compact salad! But I often serve it alongside bread, lavosh or crackers.

What should I serve with Pkhali?

If you’re looking for other Georgian dishes to serve with your Pkhali, try our Khachapuri or Khinkali.

Can I use a different vegetable to make Pkhali?

Of course! Pkhali can be made with many types of vegetables, including carrots, green beans, cabbage, white beans and eggplants. I have only tested these recipes with beets and spinach, so you may need to adjust the other ingredients accordingly to get the right texture.

Is Pkhali vegan or vegetarian?

Our beet Pkhali and spinach Pkhali are both vegan and vegetarian.

More Georgian recipes

Loving this Pkhali recipe? Here are a few more Georgian-inspired favorites:

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Colorful arrangement of beet Pkhali and spinach Pkhali.

Georgian Pkhali Recipe


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  • Author: Brit Kapustina
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 10
    • Prep Time: 15 minutes
    • Cook Time: 40 minutes
    • Category: Appetizer
    • Method: Stovetop
    • Cuisine: Georgian

Ingredients

Beet Pkhali

  • 1 lb (450 grams) beets
  • 3.5 ounces (100 grams) walnuts (approximately 1 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon blue fenugreek*
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • kosher salt to taste
  • fresh cilantro to garnish

Spinach Pkhali

  • 1 lb (450 grams) fresh spinach
  • 3.5 ounces (100 grams) walnuts (approximately 1 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ½ bunch (25 grams) cilantro, chopped (use leaves and thin stems)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon blue fenugreek*
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • kosher salt to taste
  • pomegranate arils to garnish

Instructions

Beet Pkhali

  1. Prepare the beets. Place the beets in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Cook until the beets are very tender, about 20-40 minutes. The beets are ready when a fork can go into the beets with little resistance. Allow to cool and then peel or scrub off the skin. Grate or finely chop.
  2. Make the walnut paste. Place the walnuts and garlic in a food processor and process until it transforms into a coarse paste. This will take about 5 minutes.
  3. Make the beet Pkhali. Place the grated beets, walnut paste, coriander, fenugreek, vinegar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Use your hands to form the ingredients into a cohesive mixture. Adjust the salt and vinegar to taste. 
  4. Refrigerate. Cover the beet mixture and transfer to the refrigerator for at least one hour. This will make it easier to shape.
  5. Form the Pkhali. Form the beet Pkhali into 7-8 small balls. Slightly flatten and make a small indent in the center. Garnish with fresh cilantro and extra walnuts if desired.

Spinach Pkhali

  1. Blanch and prepare the spinach. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the spinach and cook for 1 minute, or until wilted. Transfer the spinach to a colander and drain under cold water. Squeeze out as much excess liquid as you can with your hands. Then transfer to a cutting board and chop.
  2. Make the walnut paste. Place the walnuts and garlic in a food processor and process until a coarse paste forms.
  3. Make the spinach Pkhali. Place the spinach, walnut paste, chopped cilantro, coriander, fenugreek, vinegar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Use your hands to form the ingredients into a cohesive mixture. Adjust the salt and vinegar to taste.
  4. Form the Pkhali. Shape the Pkhali into 6 small balls. Slightly flatten and make a small indent in the center. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.

Notes

Blue Fenugreek: You can substitute regular fenugreek, but please note that it has a slightly stronger flavor. Instead of using a combination of fenugreek and coriander, you can also substitute Khmeli Suneli.

Make Ahead and Serving: Pkhali can be made a day in advance, but I recommend waiting to add the garnish until right before serving. They can be served cold or at room temperature, but have the best texture closer to room temperature.

Storage: Pkhali can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

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