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.
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!
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.
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 with Bacon
- Easy Sautéed Spinach
- Spinach with Sesame and Garlic
- Spinach Risotto
- Spinach Gratin with Hard Boiled Eggs
- 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
Make the beurre manie:
In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of the butter with the flour until blended. Set aside.
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.
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.
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.
Add the spinach to the sauce and serve:
Fold in the spinach to coat in the sauce and reheat. Serve.