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.

Ingredients

  • 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

Method

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.

sesame-spinach-1.jpgsesame-spinach-2.jpg

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.

23 Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

  3. 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. ;)

  4. 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!

  5. George

    Just made the spinach. It’s delicious! I think next time I’ll probably make a whole bunch and just put it in the fridge and serve cold as a side dish.

  6. Emily

    I made this dish over the weekend, but I added mixed mushrooms (portabello, porcini, etc.) just before adding the spinach and it was phenomenal. Thanks so much for the suggestion

  7. moonablaze

    This recipe also works brilliantly with baby bok choy instead of spinach.

  8. Julie

    Cool thing about this dish is that you can eat so much greens without feeling a little nauseous as you do when you have too much salad at once. Besides, Spinach is supposed to be most healthy when it’s lightly cooked! I use the same recipe every now and then but I only boil it for about 20seconds in boiling, salted water(salt keeps the spinach from going black) and marinate it after draining.

  9. Amy

    This was delicious! I loved how it was ready in minutes. Will definitely make again.

  10. Jim

    I made this tonight and really enjoyed it. I mixed 1 tablespoon agave nectar and tamari instead of sugar and soy sauce. I always keep a head of roasted garlic on hand, so I used 4 cloves of roasted garlic instead of 3 raw cloves.

  11. Jeanine

    I made this last night–it was very good! I initially thought it was a lot of spinach for just a tbsp of shoyu, but it actually came out a little soupy as the water cooked out. Very nice flavor and very quick to make.

  12. sara

    We made a similar korean dish of sesame pork with spinach and garlic that had very similar flavors, it was just as easy as the above but makes a full meal when served over rice!

  13. Uma

    I often make the Indian version of this which uses mustard seeds instead of sesame and a little lime juice squeezed on it at the end and sometimes a little chilli powder added to the oil with the garlic to make it a little spicy. I use the same method for chard too.

  14. JoD

    Great recipe. Does the average bunch of spinach weight 1 lb?

    Great question. I would guess the average bunch weighs 1/2 a pound, but it sort of depends on how big the bunch. The bunches we get at the farmers market always seem bigger than the ones we get at the supermarket. Basically you need a LOT of spinach, because it wilts down to so little. ~Elise

  15. T. Hannibal Gay

    I made the recipe and added two tablespoons of sweated green onion. To sweat the onions, cut into small pieces and put in a frying pan on low heat with a pinch of salt. Heat until soft, but not brown.

    I added two cups of the spinach to two pounds of course mashed potatoes along with a teaspoon of finely crushed black pepper. This side dish was magnificent.

  16. Jeno

    Using garlic, sesame oil and soy sauce is the holy trinity for Korean veggie dishes. Try this with bean sprouts, eggplants and even julienne potatoes.

    Mix it all up with some rice and a fried egg on top with a gooey yolk and you got yourself a meal!

  17. Tempy

    I do love spinach, but I always eat it fresh. I have a natural resistance toward mushy greens. To be quite honest, they have always made me gag a little. How does the spinach feel when you eat it after this method? Is it chewy, slimy, mushy to the extreme?

    Well, it’s definitely not crisp! The spinach is wilted, and wet. ~Elise

  18. Joanna

    Wow! This was awesome. I always get a similiar looking dish at a chinese buffet and have wondered how to make it. Thanks Elise! I will try it with bokchoy, too. It’s so simple! I’m doing a week-end away with the sister staying in a Lockhouse along the C&O Canal this week-end. This will become part of the trip!

  19. Kc

    I would recommend to leave the sugar out and cut the salt by just adding 1tsp of anchovy sauce or oyster sauce. you will get plenty of flavor. This was taught to me by the person who actually learned from the master chief who served the last king of Korea.

    Great suggestion, thank you! ~Elise

  20. a kim

    Yes, in our family we are also blanchers. Never seen a fried version. We do not use sugar. We do use both finely chopped green onions and ground sesame seeds (there is a little gadget for grinding sesame seeds)

    You can do similar a treatment with other vegetables.

  21. AZ

    Hi,

    Is dark sesame oil the same thing as toasted sesame oil?

    Thanks!

    Yes. ~Elise

  22. Brooke

    This recipe was great! I had spinach, cabbage and rainbow carrots that I needed to use from last week’s CSA, and this recipe sounded perfect. I added sliced green onions and crushed red pepper to the garlic, and cooked the shredded cabbage and julienned carrots until softened before adding the spinach. The combination of slightly sweet, salty and spicy is wonderful, and the texture of the veggies was perfect. I love your site Elise! I come here frequently for inspiration.

  23. Kelly

    This looks delicious and your presentation is gorgeous! Love your blog! xoxo

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