Creamed Spinach

Side DishQuick and EasySkillet RecipeCream SauceSpinach

Creamed spinach is easy to make and comes together in minutes. A rich sauce gets a flavor boost from Dijon mustard. Serve this simple vegetable side dish alongside roast chicken, steak, or pork loin.

Photography Credit: Sally Vargas

Fresh spinach leaves, a little sautéed onion, mustard, and cream come together to make an old-fashioned classic new again.

I confess this simple vegetarian side dish dropped below my radar in recent years until my cousin called me for my grandmother’s recipe. My grandmother’s holiday spinach was embraced by generous amounts of butter and cream with the occasional pinch of nutmeg, which let the vegetable shine.

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Modernizing Grandma’s Creamed Spinach

Things have changed since Grandmother’s day. I suspect she used frozen spinach, but with pre-washed baby spinach leaves now ubiquitous in every supermarket, why not use those tender and sweet leaves?

Soften them in a little butter along with finely chopped onion in a large skillet until they are wilted, transfer them to a bowl, and then make the sauce in the skillet.

The spinach liquid and cream are thickened with beurre manie (butter and flour) and flavored with mustard. My grandmother only used nutmeg, but adding mustard to the sauce is a nice upgrade.

Back into the pan goes the spinach and it’s done in mere minutes!

A skillet with Homemade Creamed Spinach and a serving spoon set on a wood table.

HOW TO PREPARE SPINACH

  • To Use Fresh Spinach: No squeezing, no chopping? That’s right! Simply rinse the baby spinach leaves (or not, if you use organic triple-washed spinach) and let them soften in the pan. Add a few tablespoons of water if the spinach seems dry.
  • To Use Frozen Spinach: Defrost the spinach. You will use about three 10-ounce packages for this recipe. When the spinach is defrosted, squeeze out most of the water into a bowl. Proceed with the recipe as you would for fresh spinach. If the spinach seems dry, add a few tablespoons of the spinach water to the pan.

HOW TO MAKE CREAMED SPINACH

After the spinach cooks and is removed from the pan, pour the liquid that accumulates in the bowl back into the pan.

Add the cream and a small amount of butter and flour mixed together and whisk over the heat until the sauce thickens. It will seem thick, but will loosen up when you add the spinach, since it still retains some water.

Stir it all together, and if it seems too thick, you can add more cream or cooking water, and if it seems too thin, you can make a little more buerre manie and add it to the pan. It will melt into the sauce and thicken it.

Homemade Creamed Spinach and a serving spoon.

WHAT TO SERVE WITH CREAMED SPINACH

Don’t wait until Thanksgiving or the winter holidays to make creamed spinach. It’s a sure way to give a boost to a meal of roast chicken, or to serve with pan-roasted steak on a cold winter’s night. You could use it as an omelet filling, or fill some store-bought crepes with it, stirring in a little grated cheese if you like.

At the end of the day, creamed spinach is a classic you will want to revive!

MORE SPINACH RECIPES

Creamed Spinach Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped onion
  • 25 to 30 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, or to taste

Method

1 Make the beurre manie: In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of the butter with the flour until blended. Set aside.

2 Cook the onions: In a large (12-inch) skillet over medium heat, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Add the onions, stir occasionally, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until they soften.

Finely shopped onions sauteed in butter to show how to make creamed spinach.

3 Cook the spinach: Add about 1/3 of the spinach leaves, or as many as you can pile into the skillet without overflowing. Add the salt, pepper, and 2 tablespoons water to the pan.

Cook, turning the spinach with tongs, until the leaves have wilted. Transfer them to a bowl, leaving some of their liquid in the pan and repeat with the remaining spinach in batches. Remove the pan from the heat.

A non-stick skillet filled with fresh spinach to make Spinach in Creamed Mustard Sauce. Sauteed spinach in the bottom of a non-stick skillet to make the Best Creamed Spinach. Sauteed spinach in a metal bowl for Easy Creamed Spinach.

4 Make the cream sauce: Using a large spoon, hold back the spinach in the bowl, tilt the bowl, and drain the juices into the pan. Set the bowl aside.

Whisk into the pan the cream, buerre manie, and mustard. Return the pan to medium heat and bring the sauce to a boil. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if you wish.

Sauce ingredients in the bottom of the skillet for a Homemade Creamed Spinach recipe. A non-stick skillet with a cream sauce at the bottom to show how to make creamed spinach.

5 Add the spinach to the sauce and serve: Fold in the spinach to coat in the sauce and reheat. Serve.

Spinach in Creamed Mustard Sauce in a skillet. A saucepan with the Best Creamed Spinach in a skillet.

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Sally Vargas

Sally Pasley Vargas is a freelance writer and the author of three cookbooks (Food for Friends, The Tao of Cooking, Ten Speed Press, and The Cranberry Cookbook). She currently writes the column The Confident Cook for The Boston Globe along with seasonal recipes for the Wednesday Food Section.

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6 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Sharon

    Nutmeg is a must. Like Steve, I find cream cheese to be a creamy and easy alternative to beurre manie. You can thin to your liking with milk. A bit of minced garlic sweated briefly with the onions goes a long way, too! Skipped the Dijon.

    xxxxxyyyyy

  2. Ccos

    Can I use milk instead of cream? Lactose issue. Cream cheese is another option.

    Show Replies (1)
  3. George

    Good recipe, and I have added it to the ones I use and share. But really, that comment about what Grandma did, “I suspect she used frozen spinach,” is ridiculous. Grandma and I used whole spinach plants, and we washed them and cut off the roots and tough stems. Now I love using bags of already washed baby spinach leaves, but really, the whole plants taste more and better.

    xxxxxyyyyy

    Show Replies (1)
  4. Steve in Minnesota

    I make Creamed Spinach very similar to this. It’s one of my favorite holiday sides and always takes me back to my childhood. The only difference is that I add 2 or 3 ounces of cream cheese to the sauce to thicken it instead of the beurre manié, although you can never go wrong with butter. I may give that a try. I also feel like grandma’s old school pinch of nutmeg addition works especially well with the spinach and adds a nice nostalgic touch to this dish.

    xxxxxyyyyy

A skillet with Homemade Creamed Spinach and a serving spoon set on a wood table.Creamed Spinach