Cheera Thoran: This Spinach Stir Fry From Kerala Has Our Heart
Image Credit: Cheera Thoran

Cheera Thoran is made with Red Spinach, or Laal Bhaji (referred to as Cheera in Malayalam), and grated coconut. It is a savoury side dish from Kerala. Cheera Thoran or Laal Bhaji Thoran is a very simple and easy to make recipe which is loaded with lots of nutrition. Red spinach is known to have a range of health benefits and is known to be good for digestion, anaemia and improving kidney function and overall immunity.

When making Cheera thoran, slightly young stems are preferred, since it will have relatively soft stems and will be devoid of flowers. But if you are buying your spinach from the local market you may sometimes get spinach with hard stems and flowers. But don’t worry, just cut off the hard portion of the stem and discard all the floral parts too.

You can find different variations for making this thoran, like mixing grated coconut along with the spinach leaves and cooking it all together or adding the grated coconut at the very end. Here, we put the step by step procedure to make the Red Spinach (Laal Bhaji) Thoran recipe the way  Mallu moms used to make it.

Cheera Thoran is yummy in the truest sense of the word. If you love spinach and leafy vegetables then giving this South Indian dish a go would be a good idea. You can make this for a casual dinner or lunch at home to give a twist to your usual meals. You can even make this Spinach Bhaji for your lunchbox and have a power-packed lunch at the office. You can serve Cheera Thoran with simple chapati or parathas. If you have a vegetarian friend who loves to experiment with their food then making this dish for them would be a good surprise. This lip-smacking dish is very simple to make and a good way to hone your cooking skills. Get your hands on some fresh spinach leaves at the earliest and take out your pans since you are about to make this Kerala delicacy at your home. Just follow this step-by-step recipe of cheera thoran and you are good to go. 


    500 gm red spinach 

    3/4 cup grated coconut 

    1 medium onion (chopped) 

    6-7 garlic cloves 

    14 tbsp cumin seeds 

    1 tbsp turmeric powder 

    12 teaspoon red chilli powder 

    1-2 slit green/red chilies (optional) 

    12 teaspoon mustard seeds 

    7-8 curry leaves 

    1 tbsp sunflower/coconut Oil 

    1 tbsp coconut oil (for garnishing)


    Remove the root of the red spinach along with the thicker part of the stem. Wash the spinach thoroughly under running tap water for 3-4 times or until free of dirt.

    Spread the spinach on a clean cloth which in turn soaks up the excess water from the leaves. Doing this prevents the thoran from being too mushy and wet.

    Once the leaves have lost the wetness, chop the leaves finely, and keep aside.

    In the meantime, transfer the grated coconut, garlic, cumin seeds, turmeric powder, red chilli powder in a grinder (You may not see the masala in the picture, since I added it beforehand and is therefore concealed under the coconut layer)

    Grind it coarsely so that it is mixed well. Avoid grinding the coconut to a fine  paste.

    In a pan, heat some oil and add mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start spluttering, add the curry leaves and chopped green chillies.

    Next add the chopped onions.

    As soon as the onion turns translucent (no need to brown the onions), add the spinach leaves and saute for 2 minutes. At this time, the leaves will start to release water. Cover it with a lid and let it cook on low heat for 2-3 minutes.

    After 2-3 minutes, when the leaves start to soften a bit, it's time to add the grated coconut mixture. For this, make a well in between by shifting the spinach to a side.

    Add the coconut mixture in the centre.

    Now cover it with spinach, sprinkle salt and some water and again close the lid and let it cook for 5 minutes.

    Open the lid and pour a little coconut oil. (skip this step if you don’t like the taste of coconut oil). Now mix everything well and cook on high heat for 2 minutes so that the leaves lose some of the visible moisture.

    Red spinach thoran is ready to be served. Garnish it with some grated coconut and serve it as a side dish along with hot steaming rice.