Creamed spinach is a classic holiday side dish. Fresh spinach leaves are blanched and stirred into a luxurious cheesy cream sauce. It’s the ultimate dinner comfort food that’s easy to whip up!
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One easy way to make vegetables disappear fast from the dinner table is to make a pot of creamed spinach. The tender leafy greens are very neutral in flavor, so it effortlessly takes on the taste of savory sauces. To create a luscious, velvety texture, the preparation is broken into two simple parts.
It begins with blanching to cook down the bulky leaves without completely dissolving into mush. Then the tender spinach is suspended in a rich bechamel sauce. By making a roux, a combination of flour and butter helps to thicken the milk and cream instantly. A little bit of aged Pecorino Romano cheese adds just the right tanginess to the dish.
Use regular spinach leaves, trim the long stems and wash them well. Baby spinach leaves can also be used. It will just cook down a little quicker. Frozen spinach is an affordable and convenient option. You’ll need 2 cups defrosted.
Blanch the spinach in batches
Spinach leaves are bulky, making it hard to cook a large volume in a saute plan. Instead, bring a pot of hot, salted boiling water over high heat, then blanch the leaves. All you need is 30-seconds to wilt it down. I do this process in three batches. In under 2 minutes, 16 ounces (or about 10 cups) of fresh spinach compresses down to about 2 cups cooked. Just imagine trying to cook all of those leaves in one pan.
It would take a long time and overflow! To stop the cooking process, transfer the spinach to a colander and rinse with cold water. Use your hands to squeeze out the excess water. This prevents the liquid from diluting the flavor of the white sauce.
Make a creamy sauce
The hallmark of a delicious creamed spinach recipe is the sauce. I use a classic bechamel base consisting of a roux for thickening and milk or heavy cream. It’s the beginning part of white sauces like alfredo or macaroni and cheese. I add a combination of half milk and half cream for richness, but it’s not overly heavy.
How to make creamed spinach
Once the spinach is blanched, make the cream sauce. Start with building a flavorful base. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large skillet, then saute shallots or onions, and garlic. Sauteed shallots develop delicate, sweet, caramelized notes to the sauce—Cook the flour for a few minutes to remove the raw wheat taste.
The milk and cream are whisked in. The starches in the flour swell and thicken when heated, turning a runny liquid into a sauce that clings beautifully to the spinach leaves. Pecorino Romano, an Italian aged sheep’s milk cheese, adds a hint of tanginess to the sauce. A sprinkle of nutmeg adds a sweetness that infuses throughout. A little bit of salt and pepper for seasoning, and it’s ready to serve!
What I serve with this
Frequently asked questions
Spinach is packed with nutrients like fiber, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin A. Creamed spinach has concentrated amounts of healthy leafy green. The sauce contains cream, cheese, and butter. Use all milk to reduce the dish’s fat content or a cornstarch slurry instead of the roux. If you are avoiding gluten, you can use arrowroot powder or cassava flour to thicken the sauce.
Yes, cheese is mixed into the bechamel sauce. This can be pecorino romano, parmesan cheese, cream cheese for a super creamy consistency, or mozzarella cheese for a more mild taste.
Why should you blanch the spinach?
Blanching quickly cooks down a large volume of spinach leaves, which are made up of over 90% water. This technique makes it much easier to add to the sauce. The fast 30-second blanch seasons the greens with salt while preserving texture and color. Make sure to rinse the spinach with cool water to halt the cooking process so they don’t become mushy.
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- 16 ounces spinach, washed and stems removed
- 2 quarts water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, for seasoning water
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- ½ cup diced shallots, ¼" dice
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- ½ cup whole milk
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup pecorino romano, or parmesan, finely shredded
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Prepare the Spinach – Remove the stems from the spinach or leave them on if using baby spinach, then wash and shake off the excess water.
- Cook the Spinach – Bring 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon of salt to a boil in a large pot. Add a third of the spinach and blanch for 30 seconds. Transfer cooked spinach to a colander. Repeat with the remaining spinach.Run water over the spinach to stop the cooking process until they are cool. Gently squeeze out excess moisture from spinach using your hands.
- Make the Sauce – Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the butter. Once melted, add the garlic, and saute until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add shallots and cook until tender, 2 minutes. Add the flour, stir to combine, and cook for 2 minutes.Slowly add the milk and heavy cream, whisking to combine until a thickened sauce is formed, about 3 to 4 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, and whisk in the cheese, nutmeg, and black pepper.
- To Finish – Add in the cooked spinach, stir and cook until warm, about 2 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve immediately.
- Recipe Yield: 2 cups
- Serving Size: ½ cup
- Storage: Creamed spinach can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
- Reheat: Microwave for 90 to 120 seconds, in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until warmed through.
- Using Frozen Spinach: Defrost about 2 cups of frozen spinach, squeezing out some excess moisture. Add to the cream sauce to warm.
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.
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