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What Is Creamed Spinach?
Creamed spinach is a dish composed of cooked spinach in a cream and/or cheese-based sauce. Contrary to popular belief, the popular side dish is rarely composed of solely spinach and heavy cream, but has a more elegant base like béchamel, or a blend of half and half with umami-filled Parmesan cheese and a bit of all purpose flour—like a jazzed up roux.
Is Fresh or Frozen Spinach Better for Creamed Spinach?
Both fresh and frozen spinach are good candidates for easy creamed spinach.
- If using fresh, look for baby spinach—the smaller leaves are perfect for a fluffier, looser texture in the final dish. If you’re using full-grown mature spinach with really large leaves, simply tear or chop them into more bite-sized pieces first. It’s absolutely necessary to cook fresh spinach off first: once it’s released all its water, you’re left with the most concentrated leafy green flavor.
- If using frozen spinach, thaw and drain the leaves as well as you can before combining them with the cream sauce.
Chef Wolfgang Puck’s Creamed Spinach RecipeEMAIL RECIPE
This simplified recipe is the purist’s creamed spinach: once you’ve got it down, experiment with aromatics like onion and garlic, a pop of heat with cayenne pepper, or even sub out béchamel sauce for cream cheese.
- 2 lb spinach, stems removed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups béchamel sauce
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
- Whole milk, if necessary
- To begin, drizzle olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add the spinach in increments until all is incorporated, and cook until wilted but not soggy, 2–3 minutes. Shock the spinach in an ice bath, then ring out all the moisture and chop finely.
- Next, warm the béchamel sauce in a saucepot. Place the chopped spinach in a separate saucepot. Gradually add the béchamel sauce into the saucepot containing the spinach. If the sauce gets too thick, add a small amount of milk. Season with salt and pepper.
What to Serve With Creamed Spinach
The best creamed spinach has the power to appear both indulgent and luxurious (alongside a perfect prime rib at Christmas dinner, for example) or savory and fresh (with something lighter, like grilled fish). It’s all about the occasion with creamed spinach—it’s a holiday table staple that works nicely in your average Wednesday night dinner, too. It’s even the star of Chef Wolfgang Puck’s favorite childhood meals: creamed spinach topped with a fried egg.