Confession: I’m not a huge creamed spinach fan. Delicious? Absolutely! But when done the traditional way (with heaps of heavy cream and butter) it’s too rich for my taste. So when tasked with developing a vegan spin on standard creamed spinach, I was eager to explore.
The result is a plate of creamy greens that I will add to my side dish repertoire any day of the week. It has that luscious quality you look for in creamed spinach, just without the dairy.
What Makes It Creamy?
The spinach starts with a “cream” sauce built on a base of cashews soaked in oat milk. Cashews are naturally a bit sweet, not unlike heavy cream. When blended in liquid, the result is a lovely sauce that does a bang-up job swapping in for dairy.
A Lighter Take On Creamed Spinach
This unconventional creamed spinach has a couple of notable upsides:
- Because the recipe doesn’t have any butter, milk, or cream, it’s suitable for folks following a vegan, dairy-free, or paleo diet.
- Using cashews instead of cream significantly cuts the amount of saturated fat and increases the unsaturated fat. Plus, the nuts deliver protein, magnesium, zinc, and iron. When combined with fresh spinach, the dish becomes a nutritional powerhouse.
Can I Make This with Frozen Spinach?
You’ll get the best results if you use fresh spinach sold in bunches, which means washing and stemming the greens. If you need a good shortcut, use frozen spinach instead. Here are a few tips to make it work:
- Use bagged frozen spinach, not spinach sold in a solid frozen block.
- Defrost the spinach completely and drain (you can do this in a microwave using the defrost setting to expedite the process).
- Instead of wilting the spinach in the pan, just cook the spinach for about 2 minutes to release any additional liquid.
- After wilting, squeeze out the liquid thoroughly (the same as with fresh spinach).
- Skip chopping the spinach if your frozen spinach is already chopped.
Here are a few make-ahead tips—especially handy if you’re serving vegan creamed spinach for a dinner party or a holiday meal:
- Wash, stem, and dry the spinach up to 3 days ahead. Wrap in paper towels and store in plastic bags in the produce drawer. When it’s time to cook, put the spinach in a colander and run it under the tap so it’s lightly wet when it hits the skillet.
- Make the cashew cream sauce up to 1 day ahead and store it in the fridge. You may want to add a little more water to the pan when you add the sauce since it will have thickened overnight.
- Dice the shallot and mince the garlic up to 1 day ahead and store in a covered container in the fridge.
- You can cook this spinach up to 2 hours before serving, cover it loosely, and leave it on the back of the stove. Reheat gently just before serving.
You can easily double or even triple the recipe. You will have to cook the spinach in several batches and may find you don’t need all the cream sauce. Save any extra to enjoy the next day tossed with pasta and a shower of vegan Parmesan cheese. Consider it vegan alfredo!
More Fun With Spinach
Vegan Creamed Spinach
1 cup oat milk (or unsweetened nut milk)
1/4 cup water
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews
2 to 3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pinch ground nutmeg, optional
2 1/2 pounds (4 to 5 bunches) fresh spinach, large stems trimmed off and discarded
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup diced shallot
1 large clove garlic, minced
Soak the cashews:
In a small bowl, pour the oat milk and water over the cashews, ensuring they are submerged. Soak for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours (refrigerate if soaking for longer than an hour or so).
Make the sauce:
Transfer the soaked cashews and soaking liquid to a blender along with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and the salt, black pepper, and nutmeg (if using). Purée until smooth.
Wash and wilt the spinach:
Wash the spinach and drain in a colander. Don’t spin dry (you want some water clinging to the spinach).
Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half the spinach and use tongs to turn it in the pan until wilted. This will take just a minute or two. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat with remaining spinach.
Squeeze and chop the spinach:
When cool enough to handle, take up handfuls of spinach and squeeze out as much of the liquid as possible. Be aggressive here.
Set the squeezed-out spinach on a cutting board and roughly chop.
Sauté the shallots, garlic, and spinach:
Heat the olive oil in the same large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sauté until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, making sure it doesn’t brown. Add the spinach and stir just until warm.
Add the sauce:
Pour the cashew cream sauce over the spinach and stir well to blend. Taste and add more lemon juice and/or salt as desired. Serve warm.
Store leftover creamed spinach in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 4 to 6|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 14g||18%|
|Saturated Fat 3g||13%|
|Total Carbohydrate 22g||8%|
|Dietary Fiber 6g||20%|
|Total Sugars 6g|
|Vitamin C 55mg||277%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|