Sure, vitamin-rich spinach tastes great raw, but we love to cook fresh spinach, too. It's delicious sautéed, boiled, steamed, or drenched in cream. Here you'll learn how to cook spinach in a variety of ways. We’ll also share some great spinach recipes, including an easy sautéed spinach recipe.

By Katlyn Moncada
Updated September 25, 2020
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Spinach is a healthy, leafy green full of nutrients and vitamins. It's delicious raw in your favorite smoothies and salads. And while cooked spinach might make you think of shriveled mush, it doesn't have to be that way. In fact, when you cook spinach well, it's a delicious accompaniment to your favorite meals. Generally, the best way to cook spinach is on the stovetop. Sautéing spinach is an especially quick and easy way to cook spinach, which also evaporates excess moisture in the leaves. However, you can also boil or steam spinach in just a few minutes.

Credit: Kritsada Panichgul
Try Our Sautéed Spinach Recipe with Raisins and Pine Nuts

How to Cook Fresh Spinach

Before you start cooking spinach, you'll want to work with about 1 pound of spinach at a time (it should equal about 12 cups torn). It may seem like a lot, but it cooks down to a much smaller volume. Thoroughly wash and drain spinach. Remove stems and tear leaves into pieces, as desired. If you’re using baby spinach, the stems generally do not need to be removed, as they’re more tender. You also likely won’t need to tear the leaves into pieces, because they’re already smaller. If you're using prewashed baby spinach, sold in bags in the produce aisle, you can skip washing. Each of the following three methods for cooking spinach makes 4 side-dish servings.

How to Sauté Spinach

Here’s how to cook spinach on the stovetop, starting with our easy sautéed spinach recipe.

  • Heat about 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a large skillet ($40, Bed Bath & Beyond) over medium heat. Add 8 to 12 cups packed spinach, large stems removed.
  • Cook 1 to 2 minutes or until just wilted.
  • Stir in salt, pepper, and (if desired) balsamic vinegar or other seasonings to taste. If you want to dress up the side dish, garnish with crisp, cooked bacon pieces.

How to Boil Spinach

To cook fresh spinach in boiling water, place 1 pound washed spinach, covered, in a small amount of boiling salted water. If you're wondering how long to boil spinach, it should only take a few minutes. Once the steam starts to foam, begin your timer. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Try using boiled spinach in our velvet spinach recipe.

How to Steam Spinach

To steam fresh spinach on the stovetop, add water to a pot fitted with a steamer basket ($20, Target). Place 1 pound spinach on the steamer. When water boils, cook spinach for 3 to 5 minutes or until tender.

How to Cook Canned Spinach

Store-bought canned spinach is fully cooked. To cook, simply place the spinach, along with the liquid from the can, into a saucepan and cook until heated through. Drain and serve. You can optionally add a little butter and season with salt and pepper (though taste the spinach first, as many canned products already contain plenty of sodium).

How to Cream Spinach

For a creamy side dish, you can easily add richness by adding some butter and cream to boiled spinach. Find the full instructions in our easy creamed spinach recipe.

Credit: Kritsada Panichgul
Get Our Farfalle with Mushrooms and Spinach Recipe

Adding Fresh Spinach to Your Recipes

For an extra boost of nutrients, try adding spinach to your favorite recipes. Throw in a few handfuls to a classic pasta dish (we like it in this chicken macaroni cheese) the last few minutes of cooking time until it just starts to wilt. Scramble up some egg whites with spinach for a healthy breakfast. Enjoy a wilted spinach salad for lunch or use it as a base for your pan-fried chicken dinner.

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