How to substitute fresh spinach for frozen spinach! Or, a simple way to saute spinach for an easy side dish.
Several recipes I’ve attempted lately have called for frozen spinach.
I love spinach, but I have some trouble getting flavorful dishes when I use the frozen spinach.
For example, I’m going to blame frozen spinach for the “healthy spinach artichoke dip” debacle that looked and tasted nothing like dip is supposed to taste.
(Nevermind that I used twice as much spinach as I meant to and it had zero fat/deliciousness added. #learning)
It was before I started the failed recipes series so I unfortunately don’t have photographic evidence.
I was starting to think I should avoid recipes that call for frozen spinach altogether when I realized it shouldn’t be that hard to substitute fresh spinach leaves instead!
Obviously it’s a bit easier to use frozen spinach rather than cooking down fresh. But if you’re willing to take the extra step, your tastebuds might thank you. Frozen spinach is usually boiled or blanched, but the method I use is to saute it.
If you’ve ever sauteed spinach before, you probably learned that it cooks down a lot. Here’s what I started with (for perspective, this is 11 ounces of baby spinach in a 5-quart pan).
After heating 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sauteeing your spinach for 5 minutes, this is what you’re left with. Where’d it all go?!
If you’re using this sauteed spinach as a side dish you will want to add salt and pepper, garlic, butter, lemon juice and/or other flavor.
If you’re using in place of frozen though, just a pinch of salt will do before you squeeze out as much remaining water as you can through a colander.
I’ve seen different conversions, but it is my understanding that a 10-ounce package of frozen spinach is equivalent to 1 and 1/2 cups after draining, which is roughly what you can get from cooking down 1 pound of fresh spinach.
1 lb. fresh spinach (cooks down to 1.5 cups drained) = 10 ounce frozen package
In the above pictures I used just 2/3 of a pound (11 ounces), which already filled my pot pretty well. If you have trouble fitting all the spinach into your pot, cook a little bit of the spinach down for a minute and then add the rest.
Recommended and useful tools used for using fresh spinach in place of frozen:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (or water as needed if avoiding oil)
- 1 pound fresh baby spinach leaves (16 ounces)
In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat for 1 minute. Add fresh spinach leaves and cook for 3-4 minutes. (If using water instead of oil, no need to heat the water first.)
- Drain extra water/oil from the spinach using a colander.
- You'll be left with about 1 and 1/2 cups of cooked down spinach, which you can substitute for a 10-ounce package of frozen spinach in a recipe. Enjoy!
*For perspective, the pictures I used in this post are using 1 package (11 ounces) of fresh baby spinach leaves, not the 1 pound equivalent in this recipe. If you're having trouble fitting all the spinach in one 5-quart pot, cook down some of the spinach for a minute before adding the rest.
You might like to use this recipe for these spinach phyllo roll-ups!
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