Don’t blink, because this sautéed spinach recipe is so fast, you may just miss it! Making a batch of cooked spinach with fragrant garlic and a few pinches of spice takes seconds. Finish it with a pop of cheerful lemon juice for a fresh side dish to complement any meal!

sauteed spinach in a white bowl with garlic cloves and fresh spinach leaves on the cutting board

This sautéed spinach recipe is the best way to cook spinach and is one of the go-to side dishes I make for weeknight dinners. There is very little prep: Just chop a few cloves of garlic and wash and spin the baby spinach. Stand by, cooking spinach takes so little time you can barely step away from the stove before it is done!

Ingredients

the ingredients on a white table top with text overlay
  • Spinach: You need two 5-ounce packages of fresh baby spinach or a total of 10 ounces of spinach. You can also use mature spinach, but you need to make sure that the stems are snapped off. Even for prewashed baby spinach it’s important to wash the spinach in cool water and spin dry.
  • Garlic: 3 cloves fresh garlic or shallot is another good choice- mince it fine.
  • Extra-Virgin Olive Oil: I usually use EVOO to cook spinach but any other high heat cooking oil works.
  • Red Pepper Flakes, Salt and Pepper: To season. Like my sauteed green beans, a little kick of heat from red pepper flakes or crushed red pepper is a really nice addition, but skip if you don’t like spice.
  • Lemon: A squeeze of fresh lemon juice at the end helps to balance any bitterness (because sour counteracts bitter.) This is optional too! Balsamic vinegar is another nice way to finish it off and is a little sweeter than lemon juice.

Should you wash spinach?

Wash baby spinach even if the packaging says “triple washed.” Washing gets rid of any sand or grit and allows you to discard any wilted or rotting leaves. Freshly picked spinach from the garden should be washed three times (or more) in a salad spinner with cool fresh water. Spin the spinach dry before proceeding with the recipe.

How To Sauté Spinach

Check Your Mise En Place: It is important that everything is in its place before you begin cooking this speedy spinach recipe. Chop the garlic, wash the spinach and have the rest of the ingredients ready to go. This recipe take about 3 minutes once your skillet is hot, so you will not have time to leave the stove!

the cast iron skillet from the side with garlic sizzling in the oil
Sauté the garlic and red pepper flakes in the hot olive oil briefly

Step 1: Cook Garlic in Oil

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a very large skillet, straight-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven. Add the chopped garlic and crushed red pepper flakes and cook while stirring until the garlic is fragrant but not browned. Depending on how hot your skillet was this should only take about 20 to 30 seconds.

the cast iron skillet from the side with a huge pile of fresh spinach leaves in it
Pile all of the spinach into the skillet (if it fits)

Step 2: Add Spinach Leaves

Immediately add the spinach to the skillet. If your skillet is not quite large enough to fit all 10 ounces of fresh spinach leaves, add as much as possible now, then you can add the rest in the next step.

the cast iron skillet from the side, filled with spinach and a set of tongs reaching in to turn the spinach over
Use tongs to turn the spinach to help it wilt down evenly. If you couldn’t fit all of the spinach into the skillet initially, add more now as the volume shrinks

Step 3: Immediately stir with tongs

Working quickly, turn the spinach with tongs so that it starts to wilt. If you didn’t add all the spinach in the previous step, add the rest now that it’ll fit. This stirring process takes about a minute and get easier and easier as it wilts.

Pro Tip: The word sauté means “to jump.” This means keeping the food moving in the hot pan is important. Don’t let sauteed spinach sit too long without stirring because the spinach on the bottom will overcook quickly and get watery.

the cast iron skillet from the side with wilted spinach and fingers sprinkling coarse salt over it
Once the spinach is mostly wilted, season it with coarse salt and pepper. Then continue cooking until it is completely wilted.

Step 4: Season with Salt and Pepper

When cooking fresh spinach, the key to seasoning is to wait until it is a little wilted. That way the seasoning disperses evenly. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper, then continue stirring with tongs until the spinach is cooked down, about one more minute.

Note: Once it is cooked down, remove from the heat because overcooked spinach will get watery.

a white bowl filled with cooked baby spinach and lemon wedges
Remove the spinach from the heat and squeeze fresh lemon juice over it before serving if desired

Step 5: Add Lemon Juice Before Serving

Transfer the cooked spinach to a plate or bowl with tongs or a slotted spoon, leaving any liquid behind. If desired, squeeze on fresh lemon juice to taste before serving.

Serving Suggestions

Pair this easy sautéed spinach recipe with:

The cooked spinach in a white bowl with lemon wedges

Variations To Try

  • Drizzle on a good quality aged balsamic vinegar instead of the lemon to add a sweet and tart finish.
  • We’ll also add on a little grated Parmesan cheese to top off each serving.
  • This simple sauteed spinach recipe is amazing with toasted pinenuts and a little goat milk feta crumbled over it.
  • Add on dried fruit like Zante currants or dried cranberries. Try Sauteed Kale with Dried Cranberries next!
  • Add in chickpeas or cannellini beans and serve with pasta for a vegetarian main meal. Drizzle on more olive oil or add basil pesto to “sauce” it. We did this with cheese tortellini this week and it was a clean plate club night!
  • Add a pat or two of unsalted butter for serving

Reheating and Storing Leftovers

  • Storage: Transfer leftovers to a resealable container or air-tight storage container. Refrigerate up to three days.
  • Reheating: Reheat the cooked spinach in the microwave for 2 minutes on high for a full batch (stir after 90 seconds.) You can also reheat in a small non-stick skillet with a little olive oil until it is steaming hot.
  • Freezing: You can freeze cooked spinach by spreading it on a parchment-lined sheet pan. {For best results try not to let any of the liquid pool on the parchment} Freeze until the clumps of spinach are frozen solid, then transfer it to a resealable Ziplock freezer bag. Press out as much air as possible to prevent freezer burn. Freeze spinach up to three months. Use in veggie soup, add to veggie quiche or add to a casserole like veggie pasta bake.

FAQs

Can I add onion?

We love onion with our sauteed greens. Try our Sauteed kale with onion and cider vinegar! You can do the same here in this recipe, just cook the onion until it is nice and golden brown first over medium heat. Once the onion is soft, follow the instructions for the rest of the recipe by increasing to medium high and adding the garlic and crushed red pepper (step 1.)

Should I chop the spinach?

No need! The baby spinach will wilt considerably. Hiwever, if you are using home-grown mature spinach from your garden or a farmers market and the leaves are very large, you can roughly chop them, and remove the stems. Then wash and spin dry.

Why is my spinach watery?

The spinach can get watery for three reasons:
1. Make sure the spinach is spun dry before cooking. There will be a trace of water on the leaves but they should not be dripping wet.
2. The skillet should be hot! Use medium-high heat to sear the spinach in the hot skillet. This way it wilts immediately and does not weep and get watery.
3. Don’t overcook it. Once the spinach is wilted, and cooked down, take it out of the skillet to stop it from getting watery.

How do I avoid bitter spinach?

Spinach is high in vitamins, minerals and a compound known as oxalic acid which can taste bitter. Look for spinach with small fresh looking leaves without flowers (more mature spinach will have a stronger bitter taste.) For cooked spinach, you can counteract bitter taste by balancing it with a little sour taste. In this recipe we add a squeeze of lemon juice for this effect. If you are particularly sensitive to bitter, add caramelized onions to the spinach for a little natural sweetness. (See above FAQ about onion.)

Can I use sauteed fresh spinach when a recipe calls for frozen spinach?

Yes you can. 10 ounces of raw spinach makes 2 cups of cooked spinach. Just omit the garlic and red pepper flakes in step one and do not drizzle with lemon at the end. Make sure that any excess moisture is drained away so that your recipe does not become watery.

the cooked spinach in a black cast iron skillet from a side angle

At Healthy Seasonal Recipes, we specialize in cooking with fresh veggies and creating weeknight meals. Sign up HERE to get more produce-forward dinner ideas for FREE! If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought! Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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the cooked spinach in a bowl with a silver serving spoon

Easy Sautéed Spinach with Garlic


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Description

Learn how to cook spinach in only 10 minutes! This easy sautéed spinach side dish recipe is seasoned simply with olive oil and garlic.


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pinch crushed red pepper, or to taste
  • 10 ounces fresh spinach, washed and spun dry
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • For serving: lemon wedges, optional

Instructions

  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a very large skillet, saute pan or Dutch oven. Add garlic and red pepper and cook stirring until fragrant, about 20 to 30 seconds.
  2. Add spinach if it will fit into the skillet at once. It is okay if it is piled up!
  3. Working quickly use tongs to turn the mass of spinach over with tongs until the spinach has almost wilted down, 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and continue cooking until the spinach is completely wilted but not starting to weep, another 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Serve hot with lemon wedges if desired.

Notes

Storage: Transfer leftovers to a resealable container or air tight storage container. Refrigerate up to three days.

Reheating: Reheat the cooked spinach in the microwave for 2 minutes on high for a full batch (stir after 90 seconds.) You can also reheat in a small non-stick skillet with a little olive oil until it is steaming hot.

Freezing: You can freeze cooked spinach by spreading it on a parchment lined sheet pan. {For best results try not to let any of the liquid pool on the parchment} Freeze until the clumps of spinach are frozen solid, then transfer it to a resealable freezer bag.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 5 minutes
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1/2 cup
  • Calories: 86
  • Sugar: 0 g
  • Fat: 7 g
  • Carbohydrates: 4 g
  • Fiber: 2 g
  • Protein: 2 g