Spinach with Sesame and Garlic

Side DishVegetarianGreensSpinach

Asian spinach recipe with sesame and garlic. A simple Korean method for cooking spinach.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

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.

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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.

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

Spinach with Sesame and Garlic Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 minutes
  • 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 tablespoons toasted (dark) sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 pound fresh spinach (if using mature spinach, soak in water to clean, drain, squeeze out excess water, remove and discard large stems, roughly chop leaves)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (use gluten-free soy sauce for gluten-free version)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds


1 Toast the sesame seeds: 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 Cook garlic and spinach in sesame oil: 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 occasionally, until the spinach is completely wilted. Turn the heat to low.

3 Add sugar and soy sauce: 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.

Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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27 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Karen

    I assume it’s Bittmann’s mistake, but one never does the frying in toasted sesame oil. Too bad to see this error repeated. Here’s one of a zillion examples of a standard recipe and process: https://asiasociety.org/blog/asia/stir-fried-purslane-chinese-style.


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  2. Mauro

    Very good! I added a touch of lemon juice and gave it a touch of acidity


  3. PaulB in GB

    A really tasty departure from our usual wilted spinach (baby spinach, EVOO, garlic, S&P, maybe lemon juice); though sugar should be reduced by half. We’ll be using it again, and look forward to introducing it to dinner guests. Next time I’ll try Juan’s suggestion to put sesame seed in with garlic — I’ve incinerated so much sesame seed over the years that I’m gun shy, and mine this time weren’t as nutty brown as they should be.


  4. Juan El Ingles

    I combined step 1 with step 2, adding sesame seeds and garlic at same time, turned out great! Especially with spicy sesame oil.

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  5. Aaron

    Used 2 six oz. bags of fresh spinach, which shrunk a surprising amount (even for spinach haha) and was about enough for 4 small portions. Also omitted the sugar, and the recipe turned out great!


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