Steamed Chaya – Spinach Tree

Steamed Chaya - Spinach Tree is so delicious, made with chopped chaya cooked in onions, garlic, tomatoes until tender. Serve with scrambled tofu and baked plantains for a delicious breakfast or brunch.

Steamed Chaya – Spinach Tree

On my recent trip to the farmer's market, I was introduced to a vegetable with a bright green leaf called Chaya, aka Mayan Tree Spinach, Mexican Tree Spinach, or Chicasquil. The funny thing is I recognized the leaves right away but didn't know it was edible. The gentleman went on to share with me how to prepare chaya. I was so excited to get home so I could do more research on this new vegetable that I knew very little about.

To my surprise, it was very nutritious and had so many health benefits. It reminded me of other leafy greens that I have prepared before, like Jamaican Callaloo, African Style Braised Kale And Tomatoes, and Southern-Style Collard Greens. To make life easier, I decided I would prepare a simple dish with chaya leaves and to my surprise, it turned out very delicious. I can't wait to get more fresh chaya leaves!

Chaya leaves for steamed chaya -spinach tree

Steamed Chaya - Spinach Tree

If you are adventurous like I am, then you would love to try this vegetable. The main thing is to do your research and talk with people who eat the food you are interested in trying. Question them to find out exactly how they prepare it.

I decided to prepare the leaves and save the stems for planting so I can have my own plant by next year, to experiment with more recipes. 

What Is Chaya?

Chaya is an evergreen shrub from the Yucatan peninsula, and has been the staple food of the Mayans for centuries. Chaya is a member of the Euphorbiaceae family, a cousin to the hibiscus and cassava plant. Chaya grows in hot and humid weather and the plant grows up to 6 meters. 

Chaya leaves are usually prepared boiled in water for 20 minutes then cooked just like you would spinach. Chaya is also traditionally prepared with eggs, rice, soup, stir-fries, and other traditional Mayan dishes.  The leaves must not be eaten raw, but must be cooked before being eaten, because the raw leaves contain hydrocyanic glycosides, which is easily neutralized once cooked. 

Step by step images of chaya leaves being prepared.

Health Benefits Of Chaya

Studies suggest that Chaya has way more nutritional benefits than spinach and callaloo (amaranth). Chaya has been used traditionally to treat many ailments such as diabetes, kidney stones, arthritis, obesity, eye problems, and acne. Read more.

Chaya is a good source of Vitamin A and C, a great source of protein, calcium, iron, phosphorus. Read More.

Where Can I Buy Chaya Plant?

Chaya plant can be purchased here in Florida at local nurseries, in Texas or online on Amazon. Seeds and capsules, are also sold on Amazon.

How To Make Chaya?

  1. To make steamed chaya, remove leaves from stems of the plant, rinse under cold water. 
  2. Cover chaya leaves with cold water in a medium saucepan. Bring the leaves to a boil on medium-high, reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. Discard water and roughly chop the boiled leaves.
  3. Heat oil in a saucepan on medium high, add onion, and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and tomatoes and cook until fragrant, about one minute.
  4. Stir in chaya leaves, 1/4 cup vegetable broth or 1/4 of vegetable bouillon plus 1/4 cup water. Cover saucepan and cook for about 5 minutes or until chaya is tender. Season with salt to taste. 
  5. Delicious served with Scrambled Tofu and Baked Plantain

Other Leafy Green Recipes To Try

  1. Aloo Palak (Potato And Spinach Curry)
  2. Vegan Southern Style Mixed Greens
  3. Vegan Spinach Soup
  4. Jamaican Callaloo Patty
  5. Green Smoothie Detox Recipe

Steamed Chaya-Tree spinach in a bowl with tofu scramble, baked plantains with a fork with a black handle on a white background

Categories

Categories: ,
Course:
Cuisine:

Nutrition

Energy:
109 kcal / 456 kJ
Fat:
7 g
Protein:
6 g
Carbs:
9 g
Per serving

Cooking Time

Preparation:
10 min
Cooking:
25 min
Ready in:
35 min
For:
2 Servings

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Remove chaya leaves from stems of the plant, rinse under cold water. 
  2. Cover chaya leaves with cold water in a medium saucepan. Bring the leaves to a boil on medium-high, reduce to simmer for 20 minutes. Discard water and roughly chop the boiled leaves.
  3. Heat oil in a saucepan on medium high, add onion, and cook until soft, about 2 minutes. Stir in garlic and tomatoes and cook until fragrant, about one minute.
  4. Stir in chaya leaves, 1/4 cup vegetable broth or 1/4 of vegetable bouillon plus 1/4 cup water. Cover saucepan and cook for about 5 minutes or until chaya is tender. Season with salt to taste. 

Michelle Blackwood

Hi, I’m Michelle, I’m the voice, content creator and photographer behind Healthier Steps. I share vegan and gluten-free recipes because of past health issues. My goal is to help you make healthier choices and show you how healthy eating is easy and delicious.

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2 Comments
  1. Sally
    July 21, 2019

    I find this vegetable intriguing and now I want to make it.