Creamed Spinach

published Nov 16, 2023
Creamed Spinach Recipe

Tender baby spinach, mixed in a flavorful cream sauce, makes one of the best and easiest side dishes for holiday dinners.


Makes2 cups

Prep8 minutes

Cook6 minutes to 8 minutes

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Overhead shot of creamed spinach in a light pink colored pan, with a wood spoon scooping it out.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: James Park

My first time trying creamed spinach was at a classic steakhouse. Tender, cooked spinach mixed into a creamy, flavorful sauce was an absolute delight when paired with grilled steak. But what made creamed spinach so memorable for me was its savory, creamy sauce, which had a hint of spice to balance the dish and make it not too rich.

Creamed spinach is an easy, yet satisfying side dish that’s ideal at any feast — especially during the holidays. It might not be the prettiest, but it’s one of those side dishes that goes well with anything. After all, the best way to eat more greens is to serve them in an ultra-creamy sauce. 

The Best Spinach for Creamed Spinach

Fresh baby spinach is preferred when making creamed spinach. I like to go for baby spinach rather than a bunch of full-grown spinach because it’s tender and less bitter, takes less time to cook, and doesn’t need to be chopped into bite-size pieces. Also, fresh baby spinach typically comes in a box of 10 ounces, and two of those make an ideal serving size for the party. While 20 ounces of fresh spinach may sound like a lot, remember that spinach shrinks down a lot when cooked.

Can You Use Frozen Spinach Instead of Fresh?

Yes! Just thaw 2 (10-ounce) packages of frozen spinach, but be sure to drain well. Because it might hold extra moisture from being frozen, there might be more excess liquid when using thawed frozen spinach versus fresh spinach. But, using thawed frozen spinach can be easier and faster, as it skips the cooking process. 

How to Cook the Spinach for Creamed Spinach

It’s crucial to cook spinach before adding it to the cream sauce. Fresh spinach releases a lot of moisture when cooked, so we have to blanch spinach first, then follow it with a quick ice bath to halt the cooking.

Blanching spinach does two things: It cooks the spinach evenly and helps release excess liquid. (Be sure to season the water before adding the spinach to blanch.) Cooking spinach in advance allows the spinach to be incorporated into the cream sauce well without watering down the flavor. 

How Do You Make the Cream Sauce? 

The combination of whole milk and heavy cream delivers the most balanced cream sauce without it being too rich. To start, make a roux by cooking flour and butter together. Then, season it with spices like ground ginger, ground nutmeg, and powdered mustard. Ground ginger and powdered mustard bring acidity to the dish, while ground nutmeg adds a pleasant warmth to the sauce. 

Creamed Spinach Recipe

Tender baby spinach, mixed in a flavorful cream sauce, makes one of the best and easiest side dishes for holiday dinners.

Prep time 8 minutes

Cook time 6 minutes to 8 minutes

Makes 2 cups

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


  • 1 1/4 pounds

    fresh baby spinach, or 2 (10- to 12-ounce) boxes cut frozen spinach

  • 1

    medium shallot

  • 3 cloves


  • 2 ounces

    Gruyère cheese

  • 1 ounce

    Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup firmly packed freshly grated or 1/3 cup store-bought grated)

  • 2 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    red pepper flakes

  • 1 tablespoon

    all-purpose flour

  • 1 1/2 cups

    whole milk

  • 1/2 cup

    heavy cream

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground powdered mustard

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground ginger

  • 1/8 teaspoon

    ground nutmeg


  1. If using fresh spinach, bring a large pot three-quarters full with water to a boil over high heat. Season the water with a generous amount of salt. Add 1 1/4 pounds baby spinach and cook, stirring constantly, until just wilted, 20 to 30 seconds. Drain well. When cool enough to handle, transfer in batches to a clean kitchen towel. Roll up the spinach in the towel and squeeze out as much excess water as possible.

  2. If using frozen spinach, thaw 2 (10-ounce) boxes according to package directions. Drain, then squeeze out the excess liquid from the spinach a handful at a time.

  3. Finely chop 1 medium shallot (about 1/3 cup). Mince 3 garlic cloves. Grate 2 ounces Gruyère cheese on the large holes on a box grater (about 1/2 cup). Finely grate 1 ounce Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup firmly packed) on a Microplane or the small holes of the box grater, or measure out 1/3 cup store-bought grated.

  4. Melt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant and the shallot looks translucent, about 1 minute. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour over the shallot and cook, stirring constantly, until the flour turns light golden-brown and smells toasty, about 1 minute.

  5. Add 1 1/2 cups whole milk, 1/2 cup heavy cream, 1 teaspoon ground powdered mustard, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened, 1 to 2 minutes.

  6. Add the spinach and stir to combine. Add the Gruyère and Parmesan and cook until the cheeses are melted and everything is combined but still saucy, 1 to 2 minutes.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The cream sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead. Let cool and refrigerate in an airtight container. Rewarm on the stovetop over low heat until simmering, then add in the spinach and cheeses.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days.