Spinach with Sesame and Garlic

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.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 2-4


  • 3 Tbsp dark sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 lb 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 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce (use gluten-free soy sauce for gluten-free version)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 Tbsp 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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  • 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!


  • Megan

    Hi, could this be made with frozen spinach? I don’t have fresh on hand. I have a 500g bag, will that be enough?

  • Holly

    My husband and I loved this recipe! I substituted the sugar for a couple drops of organic stevia and it was fantastic!


  • Amy

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


  • 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.


  • 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.

  • AZ


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


    Yes. ~Elise

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • moonablaze

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

  • 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

  • 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!


  • 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!