How to Cook Spinach (Our Best Options)

Today I will show you three different ways to cook spinach: sauteing, steaming, and blanching. Any method you choose will produce delicious, leafy greens that are nutrient-dense and make for a quick dish or added ingredient.

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Spinach is a staple veggie that’s super-easy to cook frozen or fresh. These excellent greens are great ingredients for side dishes and salads. They have a mild flavor that blends in well with other ingredients while contributing numerous health benefits, like vitamins a, to any dish. Spinach is fantastic in meals such as lasagnas, scrambles, omelets, and quiches. You can add them to foods like casseroles, stir-fry, and hamburgers!

You can find a few different kinds of spinach at your local grocer. The most common form is baby spinach leaves, which are usually eaten raw but come out very well if cooked gently. The more extensive and durable flat or curly-leaf variety tastes better when cooked. And there are three primary ways you can prepare fresh spinach, each delivering a unique texture, flavor, and use.

how to cook spinach

Three Ways to Cook Spinach

Steamed: Steaming will quickly tenderize and wilt your spinach down, and you won’t need much seasoning after it’s finished cooking.

Blanched: Blanching immediately makes your cooked spinach wilt within seconds and is usually used as a mid-step in preparing a larger meal.

Sauteed: Sauteing spinach relies on dry heat to create flavor on your spinach’s surface while using other ingredients to add flavor.

Steaming Spinach

Steaming spinach creates a high-temperature moist-heated environment that allows you to cook large batches in less than 2 minutes. This method requires less water to produce steam than blanching. The process also helps your steamed spinach retain its vibrant green color as the heat tenderizes your veggies.

You can season cooked spinach with simple seasonings such as salt and pepper. You can also use balsamic vinegar or a bit of lemon juice to help reduce the bitter taste caused by oxalic acid. Depending on the type of cookware you are using, you may want to avoid adding vinegar or fresh lemon juice directly into the pan.

You can also steam spinach in an instant pot by setting the appliance to 0, and your raw spinach leaf will cook as the instapot comes to pressure.

Blanching Spinach

You’ll want to use a big pot with salted hot water when blanching fresh spinach leaves. The spinach will quickly wilt under a minute. This rapid cooking method is helpful if you cook several batches of spinach. Be sure to quickly remove the greens from the hot pot to cold running water to stop the cooking process.

Finally, squeeze out any leftover water to prevent your spinach from becoming too soggy. I like to use the blanching method for making creamed spinach.

cooking spinach

Sautéing Spinach

To sauté spinach, add olive oil into a big skillet and heat it on medium high heat. The fat from the oil will assist in searing the leaves while adding a bit of light growing to kick off the seasoning. Around this time, you can add other spices and aromatics such as onion, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, butter, soy sauce, or bell pepper to the oil.

Now, add about a handful of spinach at a time, stir the leaves until they wilt, and add more leaves. The entire process takes only a couple of minutes. And if you’re adding sauteed spinach to another cooked dish, such as a dip or stuffed pasta shells, you want to cook the sautéed spinach to reduce the water content as much as possible, making sauteing the most efficient method.

How to Remove the Stem

When it comes to common spinach varieties, like curled or flat-leaf, they can have a more prevalent stem that’s a bit tougher to remove, mainly when sold in bunches. However, you can easily remove the stem using two methods. The first one is using a knife to slice the stems off. Or, you can hold the leaf in one hand and pull the stems down and off using the other.

How to Wash

Washing your spinach is extremely important, especially if the flat leaf was freshly picked and still has lots of debris and dirt. To wash, first, submerge the leaves into a big bowl of cold water. Next, swish the leaves around and change the water as needed. It may take a few changes if you find lots of dirt or sand at the bottom of the bowl.

With pre-washed spinach, you should rinse your spinach in a colander for a couple of minutes to reduce the presence of harmful bacteria in the crevices of the leaves. Dry your leaves using a salad spinner. This is a crucial step when sauteing.

Picking the Best Spinach and Uses

It would be best if you kept a few things in mind when selecting the best spinach. To ensure you’re getting the best quality, here are a few tips to help you shop for the freshest, tastiest spinach.

First, you want to look for spinach with a dark green color and a firmer texture. Stay away from spinach that has leaves that are yellow, slimy, or wilted. Also, you want to check for discoloration and blemishes. These could be signs of disease or bug activity. You always want to buy spinach that looks as fresh and vibrant as you would grow in your back garden.

The next thing to look at is the leaf size. If you’re planning to use the spinach in a salad, then you want to grab some baby spinach since they have smaller leaves that are more tender. However, if you’re using spinach in a cooked dish, the bigger curled or flat-leafed mature spinach is ideal since the spinach wilts less quickly.

Finally, smell the spinach. Fresh spinach should have a pleasant, earthy aroma and not a strong smell of dirt or chemicals. If the spinach smells off or sour, it’s probably past its prime, and you shouldn’t buy it.

When shopping for spinach, you can choose between conventional and organic varieties. Organic spinach is grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, so it’s an ideal choice for those looking for a healthier option. Although this variety usually costs a few dollars more.

However, your best bet for the freshest spinach at the lowest cost is finding a local farmers market or considering growing some in your home garden.

Choosing the best spinach doesn’t have to be a chore. If you keep these tips in mind, you’ll find the perfect spinach for your favorite healthy recipes. Enjoy!

fresh spinach

Storage

Storing spinach the right way can help you make the most of the leafy green to enjoy it for longer. Here are some tips for keeping your spinach fresh and delicious.

First, when you buy spinach, check that the leaves are dark green and crisp. Avoid any that are wet, slimy, or discolored. Once you get it home, it’s best to use it as soon as possible.

If you need to store your spinach, the best method is to wrap it in a damp paper towel or cloth and put it in a plastic bag. This will help keep it moist and prevent it from wilting. If you plan to use it within a few days, store it in the fridge.

For more extended storage, blanch the spinach first. This means you boil spinach in water for 1-2 minutes, then quickly submerge it in ice water. This process stops the enzyme activity that causes the spinach to spoil. Once blanched, wrap the spinach in a paper towel or cloth, and store it in the freezer. When ready to use in a spinach recipe, defrost in the fridge for 24 hours before cooking.

Storing spinach the right way is essential for making the most of this nutritious leafy green. With these tips, you can keep your spinach fresh and delicious for weeks.

Using Frozen Instead of Fresh

Frozen spinach is a quick and easy way to add nutritious, leafy greens to your meals. A 9-ounce bag of frozen spinach leaves produces round 3/4-1 cup of spinach after the leaves are reheated on a stovetop, air fryer, or microwave. You can also defrost the leaves in a colander with cool running water.

You can substitute frozen spinach for 8 ounces or about 6 cups of fresh leaves. Just be sure to drain any additional water before cooking. The leaves are usually well-chopped, so frozen chopped spinach works better in egg dishes, dips, soups, stews, and pasta recipes.

Recipes Using Spinach

  • Creamy Spinach Dip with cream cheese
  • Creamed Spinach
  • Breakfast Scramble
  • Breakfast Burritos
  • Breakfast Tacos
  • Spinach cookies
  • Spinach, Mozzarella, Parmesan Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breast
  • Cheddar Mashed Potatoes Casserole
  • Meatloaf
  • Spinach salad
  • Hamburgers
  • Your favorite soups
  • Stews
  • And just about any pasta recipe

How Much Spinach Can Yield

Spinach leaves are around 90 percent water, so when they are cooked, they shrink considerably. Depending on the variety, leaf size, chopped or unchopped, and how they are packed into a measuring cup, the exact yield will vary.

About 1 pound or 16 ounces, or 12 cups of fresh spinach produces 1½-2 cups of cooked spinach. About 1 ounce or 28 grams of packed baby spinach equals ¾ cup before cooking.

how to cook fresh spinach

how to cook spinach

How to Cook Spinach (Our Best Options)

Here's how to cook spinach using these three methods: sautéing, steaming, and blanching. Any method you pick will produce quickly cooked, deliciously healthy leafy greens.
5 from 7 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 5 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 52 kcal

Equipment

  • Steamer Basket
  • Large Pot
  • Salad Spinner
  • Large Skillet or Sauté Pan
  • 2-3 quart Saucepan
  • Large Measuring Cup
  • Colander
  • Tongs or large spoon

Ingredients
  

Steamed Spinach

  • 1 lb. flat baby, or curly-leaf spinach
  • Water as much as needed to cover the bottom of the pot
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Kosher salt to taste

Blanched Spinach

  • 1 lb. flat baby, or curly-leaf spinach
  • 2 qts. of water
  • 1 tsp kosher salt to season water

Sautéed Spinach

  • 1 lb. flat baby, or curly-leaf spinach
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Kosher salt to taste

Instructions
 

Steamed

  • Separate the stems from your spinach or leave them attached if you cook baby spinach. Wash your spinach and shake off any additional water.
  • Pour about 2 inches of water into the bottom of your pot with a steamer basket attached to the top.
  • Put the spinach in the basket and cover the pot. Boil the water until steam begins to form. It's best to separate the spinach into batches.
  • Steam the leaves until they are slightly wilted and tender. This should take between 1-2 minutes, depending on the kind of spinach.
  • Season your spinach with pepper and salt to taste.

Blanched

  • To prepare the spinach, remove the stems or keep them on if using baby spinach. Rinse the leaves, then shake off any excess water.
  • Boil two quarts of water with one teaspoon salt in a large pot.
  • Blanch spinach in batches, adding a third of the leaves at a time and cooking for 30 seconds. Drain the cooked spinach in a colander.
  • To halt cooking, douse the spinach in cool water until they are no longer warm.
  • Gently wring spinach with your hands to remove excess liquid.
  • Add flavor to your cooking by seasoning or saving ingredients for later.

Sautéed

  • Clean spinach by taking the stems off and washing thoroughly; dry with a salad spinner if desired.
  • Cooking on medium heat, heat a large pan and add oil.
  • After the oil heats up, add your spinach. Just add a handful at a time, stir slightly and allow leaves to wilt a bit before adding another handful.
  • Sauté spinach until all the leaves are wilted. This should take between 2-4 minutes.
  • Season your sauteed spinach with pepper and salt.

Nutrition

Calories: 52kcalProtein: 6gFat: 1g
Keyword blanched spinach, how to cook spinach, satueed spinach, steamed spinach
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
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