Bobor Bayam: Spinach in Coconut Milk (Vegan)

This refreshing soup, made by boiling spinach in coconut milk, is a typical recipe from Central Javanese home cooking.

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Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk Sri Rahayu
Nunuk hails from Solo, the historic royal capital and cultural centre of Java, Indonesia. She has been cooking since the age of 12, and also performs and teaches traditional Javanese dance. Her dream is to eventually write her own Indonesian cookbook.

Living in a tropical country means we only have two seasons: dry and rainy. I remember the dry seasons of my childhood, which lasted from April to October. The weather would be scorching, and there was nothing I enjoyed more than having a cold, sweet popsicle on my way home from school, right before lunch.

In those hot days, my grandma used to make different varieties of vegetable soups, paired with fried chicken, tofu or tempeh (fermented soybean cake) and, of course, sambal. The dishes were simple, but always satisfying.

One of my favorite soups from that era is this bobor bayam, or spinach in coconut milk. It has the distinct flavor of a type of rhizome known as kencur in Bahasa Indonesia, known in English as lesser galangal, alpinia officinarum, or Indonesian rhizome.


This dish has a distinct taste which comes from the lesser galangal. This rhizome is essential to make this soup, but it might be difficult to find in your local grocer’s, and I unfortunately haven’t found any substitute for it yet. This dish goes really well with sambal terasi. 

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Bobor Bayam: Spinach in Coconut Milk (Vegan)

Bobor Bayam: Spinach in Coconut Milk (Vegan)

  • Author: Nunuk Sri Rahayu
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 3 1x
  • Category: Vegetables
  • Method: Boiling
  • Cuisine: Indonesian
  • Diet: Vegan


This refreshing soup, made by boiling spinach in coconut milk, is typical of Central Javanese home cooking. Ideal for a quick vegan lunch or dinner. Not to be confused with bubur, which is porridge.


  • 250 grams spinach, washed and rinsed several times, cut into serving pieces
  • 1 chayote (labu siam), peeled, wash and cut into pieces 1×2 cm
  • 1 litre water
  • 200 ml coconut milk
  • 3 cm galangal (lengkuas), bruised
  • 2 salam leaves (use bay leaf as substitute)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic 
  • 4 shallots 
  • 2 cm lesser galangal (kencur)
  • 1 teaspoon of dried whole coriander seeds


  1. In a food processor or blender, blend the garlic, shallots, lesser galangal (kencur) and coriander seeds into a smooth paste.
  2. Bring the water to a boil, then add the blended paste, galangal (lengkuas), salam leaves, salt and sugar. 
  3. Lower the heat and add the coconut milk. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning.
  4. Add the chayote pieces (labu siam) and cook for another 5 minutes.
  5. Add the spinach, turn off the heat and cover the pot. Let the soup simmer for a few minutes to further cook the vegetables, and then it’s ready to serve.


  • To remove the sap from the chayote, cut the chayote in half and rub the two halves against each other until the white thick sap comes out. Remove the sap, peel, and the chayote is ready to be used.

Keywords: Soup, Vegetarian, Non-spicy

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