How Long Does It Take to Cook Fresh Spinach?

updated May 1, 2019
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Q: How long does it take to cook fresh spinach and what extras should I add to the spinach while it is cooking?

Sent by April

Editor: Fresh spinach cooks in mere minutes — seconds, really. This green immediately begins to wilt once it hits the heat, so a fast hand and some smart prep make things easier.

Despite how quickly it begins to soften, spinach’s flavor is pretty bold. It can hold its own next to big flavors like garlic, soy sauce, sesame oil, balsamic vinegar, and any sort of chile. Just be sure you have whatever ingredients you want to use ready to go. Once spinach hits the pan, it begins to deepen into a dark green; it’s pretty much cooked at that point, so you use your eyes. The shift in color is pretty dramatic, so once it begins to change, you can remove the pan from the heat and continue to toss the spinach until it’s the texture and consistency you prefer.

Additionally, spinach has a high water content, so the longer you let it cook, the soupier it will become. With that in mind, practice some restraint with the amount of liquid and fat you use to cook spinach. A little goes a long way. And because spinach is so water-dense, an enormous pile will cook down into a tiny little heap. To avoid this, I pull spinach from the pan the moment I see some of the leaves begin to turn dark green. A hit of lemon juice and salt is enough to make it a delicious side. If you’d like it tender from the tip of the leaf to the bottom of the stem, go with steaming or stir-frying.

Stir-frying is a weeknight-friendly way to prepare spinach and lends itself to this green’s quick-to-wilt character. Don’t feel relegated to flavors from the Asian canon while stir-frying. Remember it’s a technique, which means you can work in other ingredients to the process. Try a dash of curry powder, or just a bit of butter and salt.

Thanks for your question, April. Ofte times we answer Good Questions that seek to solve a specific, sometimes less common problem, but the simpler ones, like this one, are a part of the building blocks for smarter, more satisfying home cooking. Once you learn how to cook fresh spinach with confidence and finesse, maybe you’ll write in with a tip and teach us something!

Kitchn readers, how do you do fresh spinach?