This easy sautéed spinach recipe with sweet slivers of garlic takes just 10 minutes to cook for a healthy side dish that goes with any meal.
Getting more greens in our diets should be the focus of every eater, and the darker and leafier, the better. While pretty much everyone likes a wedge of Iceberg, it’s the dark, leafy greens where you’ll find the real health benefits of getting in your veggie greens. Sorry iceberg, but all greens are not created equal. Sometimes I love to get a healthy does of dark, antioxidant-rich greens in the form of a kale salad, like my kale salad with cranberries, apple and cheddar cheese, or in a creamy, tangled mess of Swiss chard, like my recipe for creamed Swiss chard with garlic breadcrumbs. Other times, I’m craving this garlicky sautéed spinach and it always does me good.
This spinach side dish is fresh and light, with slivers of sweetened, caramelized garlic that infuses the oil the spinach is cooked in. It makes a perfect pairing for just about any main meal.
Is Sautéed Spinach Healthy?
Anytime you eat more vegetables you’re going to add important nutrients to your diet, but according to studies, the health benefits of sautéed spinach actually outnumber raw, so yes, it’s super healthy.
Spinach is a nutritional powerhouse, and like mom always says, “it’s really good for you.” According to science, Mom wasn’t kidding. With over 41 vitamins and nutrients, zero fat, and high levels of fiber and even protein, the benefits of spinach include high levels of phytochemicals that help improve health in so many ways, including:
- promotes healthy eye-sight
- reduces cancer risk
- lowers blood glucose levels
- lowers blood pressure
- promotes healthy skin and hair
- boosts bone health
Sautéed spinach shows an increase in the absorption of vitamins A and E, protein, fiber, zinc, thiamin, calcium, and iron, along with important beta carotenes for better immune systems and healthier skin.
How to Make This Sautéed Spinach and Garlic
Sliver the garlic. Use a hand-held mandoline to get even slices every time. Or, use a very sharp knife and be as precise as you can. You can mince the garlic if you like, but the chance of it burning rises with the smaller pieces.
Choose a large non-stick skillet or dutch oven, and warm your oil along with the garlic slivers. Be sure to watch the garlic closely as it cooks as it go from bronzed to brown and bitter in a heartbeat. The garlic flavors the oil as it cooks. Quickly fish out the garlic with a mesh skimmer like this one and reserve the oil for your spinach.
Toss and season. Heaping piles of spinach cook down quickly as the spinach hits the heat. I use my trusty tongs to toss the spinach as it cooks. Season the spinach now with the kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. The salt helps draw out the moisture and makes the cooking process quicker.
Once the leaves just begin to wilt overall, it’s time to remove the pot from the heat. The leaves will continue to cook from the residual heat.
Toss the garlic slices back into the pan and add a squeeze of lemon or a drizzle of balsamic, champagne vinegar, or rice wine vinegar to add a spark of freshness if desired. If you can’t eat your spinach without a pat of butter, feel free to add it to the hot spinach too.
What Spices Go Well With Spinach
The simplicity of this fresh spinach side dish can easily be enhanced with loads of spices and other ingredients for a variety of tasty bites:
Season with any of the following spices to amp up the flavor:
- Red pepper flakes
- Fresh basil
- Fresh thyme
- Ginger (fresh or ground)
- Turmeric (fresh or ground)
- Fresh squeezed lemon, lime, or orange juice and/or zest
Sauté other diced vegetables before adding the spinach to the pan, like:
- red onion
- red bell pepper
- water chestnuts
- Add a few dollops of goat cheese, feta, or Parmesan
- Cooked bacon bits or pancetta
How do You Get the Bitterness Out of Sautéed Spinach?
Spinach contains oxalic acid, which can often impose a bitter aftertaste. Heat can help break this acid down and eliminate some of the bitterness, but if any lingers, the best antidote, according to this article, is citrus. Squeeze a little lemon, lime, or orange juice and grate some zest in there if your spinach is tasting bitter.
Can I Use Frozen Spinach?
No, this sautéed spinach with garlic is best when made with handfuls of fresh spinach leaves.
Can I Meal Prep Sautéed Spinach?
Absolutely! This garlic spinach reheats well and can be enjoyed as is, atop grain bowls, alongside seafood and chicken, added to scrambles and frittatas, and more.
Tips for Cooking Spinach
- No matter how many you’re cooking for, plan on having A LOT of spinach on hand. Unlike spinach salads where the raw leaf goes far, cooked spinach wilts down to much smaller portion sizes.
- This recipe doesn’t require strict measurements and you can pretty much eyeball it once you’ve tried it once. For each serving I plan on at least ½ pound or 4 cups of raw spinach per person. I generally don’t measure by cups, but by huge handfuls instead.
- For a more indulgent take on this garlic sautéed spinach, I recommend making my Stovetop Creamed Spinach recipe instead.
What to Serve With Sautéed Spinach
- Easy Chicken Piccata
- 30-Minute Caprese Chicken Recipe
- A Healthier Meatloaf With Tomato Glaze
- Baked Turkey Meatballs with Creamy Polenta and Marinara
- How to Make Homemade Chicken Parmesan
- Sautéed Chicken with Olives, Capers and Lemons
- Stuffed Chicken Thighs with Spinach and Goat Cheese
Equipment Needed to Make This Recipe
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a star rating on this recipe below and leave a comment, take a photo and tag me on Instagram with #foodiecrusheats.
Sautéed Spinach with Garlic
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic , sliced into thin slivers
- 1 pound baby spinach leaves
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or vinegar , (optional)
- Add the olive oil and slivered garlic slices to a cold, large skillet and bring to medium heat. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and begins to caramelize, but watch it closely so it doesn't brown or it will become bitter. Quickly remove the garlic from the oil with a mesh skimmer and reserve the oil in the skillet.
- Add the spinach in heaping batches, tossing in the oil as it reduces. Season with the kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and cook just until it wilts.
- Add the garlic back to the spinach, toss, and drizzle with the lemon juice or vinegar and taste for seasoning. Serve hot.
- Tip: Start the garlic and oil in a cold skillet to infuse the oil with flavor and create tender sweet caramelized garlic slices with each bite of the cooked spinach.
More Simple Vegetable Side Dishes to Try
- Easy Broccoli with Feta Cheese
- Easy 5-Minute Parmesan Zucchini
- Pancetta and Hazelnut Green Beans
- Roasted Asparagus with Browned Butter
- Garlicky Swiss Chard and Chickpeas
- Miso Roasted Butternut Squash
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta
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