How to Sauté Spinach

5 from 3 votes

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Sautéed spinach is a colorful, versatile, nutritious, and delicious side dish for any night of the week.

How to Saute Spinach

Sautéing spinach is dead easy. You are simply wilting the spinach in a hot pan until it’s cooked the way that you like it. You can stick with just salt and pepper for seasonings or add other spices and fresh herbs as you like. It’s a perfect simple side dish and SO versatile. And the garlic is key — nothing goes better with cooked spinach than garlic. Also, see Creamed Spinach if you’re looking to step it up a notch!

This simple sautéed garlic spinach recipe only takes a few minutes to make, and it goes well with almost anything. It can be a great counterpart to a creamy Fettucine Alfredo or a rich Chicken Cacciatore, or served on the side of a simple piece of baked salmon for a very healthy dinner.

Sauteed spinach in a serving dish.

Sautéed Spinach Ingredients

  • Unsalted butter or olive oil – I like to use a combination of the two so you get the creaminess of the butter as well as the fragrance of the olive oil.
  • Garlic – You can use shallots or onions instead of or in addition to the garlic. The more members of the onion family, the better!
  • Salt and pepper – To taste.
  • Spinach – I like to use baby spinach in this dish, but you can definitely use mature spinach leaves. Just chop them coarsely before sautéing, and know that the leaves are less delicate, so they may take an extra minute or two to cook down.

How Much Cooked Spinach Does Raw Spinach Make?

The most important thing to know is that a voluminous amount of uncooked spinach results in a somewhat startlingly small amount of sautéed or cooked spinach. Much of this depends on whether you chop the spinach, how finely or roughly, and how long you cook the spinach, but the following is a general guide.

  • 5 ounces of raw, whole-leaf baby spinach (the size of a typical container or “clamshell” of baby spinach) yields about ½ cup of cooked spinach
  • 8 ounces (½ pound) uncooked spinach equals about ⅔ cup cooked
  • 1 pound of uncooked spinach will get you about 1 ⅓ cups cooked spinach. 
Chicken breast with roasted vegetables and sauteed spinach on a white plate.

How to Sauté Spinach

  1. Heat the fat: Start by heating up some fat in the pan over medium heat. This can be oil of any sort (I default to olive oil for pretty much anything other than Asian cooking, and even then, a mild olive oil is fine) or butter. I love a combination of the two, olive oil and butter — say, a couple of teaspoons of each.
Oil being added to a pan with butter melting in it.
  1. Cook the aromatics: Add some chopped member of the onion family, such as onions, shallots, leeks, or garlic. I like to use minced fresh garlic and then sometimes layer in another member of the onion family.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Sauteing garlic and onions in pan of oil and butter and seasoning with salt.
  1. Add the spinach: You’ll be adding the greens in batches, probably unless you have a humongous pan or you are cooking a smaller amount of spinach. The spinach will wilt down quickly as you sauté it. You can add a tablespoon of water if the spinach seems to be sticking at all to the pan or if you just want to make the cooking go faster.
Sauteing spinach in frying pan, stirring with wood spoon.
  1. Cook: Once it’s wilted to the degree you wish (there is no wrong answer on that, by the way — some people like their spinach barely wilted, while others are going for a dense, super soft result). Taste and see if it needs more seasonings.
  2. Serve: Transfer it to a serving bowl. If you want to elevate this spinach side, give it a drizzle of Easy Lemon Butter Sauce.
Sauteing spinach in pan and transferring to serving dish.

Sautéed Spinach Cooking Tips

  • For 8 ounces of raw spinach, use about 1 teaspoon minced garlic.
  • My favorite is sautéed spinach with garlic, but I also love adding in some leeks, shallots, or onions for additional depth of flavor and sweetness.
  • I like using a combo of olive oil and butter for maximum flavor.
  • You can add a tablespoon of water if the spinach seems to be sticking at all to the pan or if you just want to make the cooking go faster.

FAQs

Why does spinach shrink so much when you cook it?

Because it’s a lettuce and contains a lot of water. If you cooked down any lettuce, the same thing would happen; it’s just that most of us eat lettuces uncooked, so we don’t really think about the water content of lettuces.

Is sautéed spinach healthy?

Yes! Extremely healthy, in fact, a nutritional bombshell of a side dish: It has nice amounts of iron, calcium, vitamin C, and a whopping amount of vitamin A. 1 cup of cooked spinach only has about 40 calories, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center.

What to Serve With Sautéed Spinach

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5 from 3 votes

How to Saute Spinach

Sautéed spinach is a colorful, versatile, nutritious, and delicious side dish for any night of the week.
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 7 minutes
Servings: 4 People
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Ingredients 

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil (or a combination)
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons minced shallots or onions (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • ½ pound baby spinach (or roughly chopped regular spinach)

Instructions 

  • Place the butter or olive oil in a large skillet and heat over medium heat, until the butter is melted (if using).
  • Add the garlic and the shallots of onions, if using, and sauté for one minute until golden. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Add the spinach in batches if necessary, and stir until it is wilted. Check and adjust seasonings as needed. Turn into a serving dish.

Notes

How Much Spinach Cooks Down
  • 5 ounces of raw spinach (the size of a typical container or “clamshell” of baby spinach) yields about ½ cup of cooked spinach
  • 8 ounces (½ pound) spinach equals about cup
  • 1 pound of uncooked spinach will get you about 1 cups cooked spinach
More Tips
  • For 8 ounces of raw spinach, use about 1 teaspoon minced garlic
    My favorite is sautéed spinach with garlic, but I also love adding in some leeks, shallots, or onions for additional depth of flavor and sweetness.
  • You can add a tablespoon of water if the spinach seems to be sticking at all to the pan or if you just want to make the cooking go faster.
  • I like using a combo of olive oil and butter for maximum flavor.

Nutrition

Calories: 49kcal, Carbohydrates: 3g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 4g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 46mg, Potassium: 341mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 5317IU, Vitamin C: 17mg, Calcium: 59mg, Iron: 2mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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2 Comments

  1. Annie says:

    What a great, quick and tasty side!

  2. Denise C says:

    I love this recipe! It is super simple and very yummy – love that it gives conversions to whatever you want to sautee in like garlic or onions.