Spinach with Sesame and Garlic

Updated, from the recipe archive. First posted November, 2005

I never get tired of eating spinach. Good thing it’s so good for you! This is a fun take on spinach, a Korean version, with the spinach wilted in sesame oil with garlic, and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. I found the recipe years ago in Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World. In typical Bittman style, the spinach is quick, easy, and good.

Spinach with Sesame and Garlic Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 2-4.

If you are using bagged baby spinach, the presoaking is not necessary, as that spinach is pretty clean. Also baby spinach does not need to be chopped. The spinach you get in bunches from the farmers market can have a lot of dirt at the root ball that needs to be washed out before you use the spinach.



  • 3 Tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 lb fresh spinach, soaked in water to clean, drained, excess water squeezed out, large stems removed and discarded, leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce (use gluten-free soy sauce for gluten-free version)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds


1 If you haven't already toasted the sesame seeds, do that first. Heat a stick-free skillet on medium high. Add raw sesame seeds and use a spatula or wooden spoon to stir. The seeds may make a popping noise and jump up, almost like popcorn. They will toast very quickly, so stir constantly until they begin to brown and smell like they are toasted. Remove from pan into a separate bowl as soon as they are done.


2 Heat 2 tablespoons of the sesame oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic. As soon as the garlic begins to sizzle, add the spinach and cook, stirring occassionally, until the spinach is completely wilted. Turn the heat to low.

3 Stir in the sugar and soy sauce. Remove from the heat. Add salt to taste. Serve hot, warm, room temperature, or cold, drizzled with the remaining sesame oil and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

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Adapted from The Best Recipes in the World.

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Showing 4 of 23 Comments

  • Jennifer

    My grandmother’s version of this recipe uses the same ingredients but instead of sauteing everything together, she blanches the spinach until just wilted, squeezes out the excess water, then mixes in the seasonings (along with a little hot red pepper powder) and always serves it cold. It’s one of my favorites and probably the first Korean dish I ever made myself.

  • momship

    This was one of the dishes I was raised on (yes, my mother is Korean)! Try substituting half the garlic with chopped green onion (or add more to taste). This is how my mom makes it!

  • milgwimper

    I grew up on this dish too, and I have never seen it sauteed (not saying it is wrong) but blanched and then the excess water squeezed out. My mother sometimes doesn’t use garlic, but adds a lot more green onions in its place. I am glad you enjoyed this dish. It is one of my favourites and I have a spinach fiend that lives in the house with me. When my mother makes this dish she usually makes about 2 lbs (of the finished dish) because my Dh tends to eat a pound of it himself. ;)

  • Betsy

    I made this over the weekend. The flavor is good, but after my one bunch of spinach wilted down, I barely had 2 servings. Which also meant I had way too many sesame seeds. I did not have the pile of spinach that is in the picture. Maybe if I blanch (as suggested in other comments) then it won’t dissapear as much? Anyway, I think that for the amounts of all the other ingredients that this recipe should be made with 2 bunches of spinach. Very nice flavor, though. A keeper!

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