The supermarket is filled with bags of this and that, but when it comes to convenience, ease of use and versatility, it’s hard to beat a bag of baby spinach. These dark green leaves are delicate enough for salads but hardy enough to be cooked, and can be sautéed or stir-fried, layered into lasagna or simmered in sauces, soups and stews. There’s no trimming or prep required and tender baby spinach cooks quickly, wilting into almost any dish you add it to. This green powerhouse is also low in calories, and delivers vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, which means using it in salads, pastas, stir-fries and even smoothies, makes a whole lot of sense.
So take a cue from Popeye and start eating your spinach. For help in the kitchen, we turned to a few of our favorite food pros, including Serena Wolf, Martha Stewart, Brittany Williams, Alexandra Stafford, Kelly Senyei, Abra Berens and Katie Workman. Here, they share their best recipes and tips for turning this go-to green into your next great meal.
“I am a huge fan of baby spinach for its convenience factor,” says Katie Workman, author of "Dinner Solved: 100 Ingenious Recipes that Make the Whole Family Happy, Including You" and the blogger behind The Mom 100. “Prewashed and ready to go, it's also very tender and doesn't need chopping, so you can just throw it into stir-fries right from the package.” If you dump all the spinach in the pan at once, it will overflow, but adding it in batches allows it to quickly wilt, explains Workman. If you have leftover leaves, save them for your next salad.
Serena Wolf, the blogger behind Domesticate Me and author of "The Dude Diet Dinnertime: 125 Clean(ish) Recipes for Weeknight Winners and Fancypants Dinners" calls “this laughably simple” dish one of her “all-time favorites due to the comforting combination of eggs poached in a savory tomato sauce with cauliflower and greens.” Baby spinach “wilts so beautifully” and “almost dissolves into the tomato sauce, adding plenty of nutrients,” says Wolf. “It’s an easy way to sneak in some extra greens!”
“If you've ever added spinach to a smoothie, you likely know its flavor is nearly indiscernible,” says "Bread Toast Crumbs" author and Alexandra’s Kitchen blogger Alexandra Stafford.
Her green smoothie is “quenching and restorative, perfectly sweet thanks to a date and a banana, and slightly creamy thanks to almond butter and hemp seeds.” If you’re wary of veggie smoothies, Stafford says this is a great “gateway” green smoothie. “I have a hard time not chugging it, because I find it to refreshing,” she says. The smoothie formula is also flexible, notes Stafford. You can swap half the banana for a half cup of frozen cauliflower, replace the hemp seeds with chia seeds or experiment with different non-dairy milks.
“Including fresh leaves in a creamy sauce always feels like a bit of piousness to foil the decadence of the butter and pasta,” says Abra Berens, author of "Ruffage: A Practical Guide to Vegetables." Unlike heartier greens that can be tough unless cooked over direct heat, baby spinach leaves are “tender and wilt nicely from the heat of the pasta,” Berens explains. Her recipe is heavy on the garlic, so feel free to use less if that’s your preference. But don’t skip the anchovy butter. It “anchors the flavor” and adds a “briny lightness,” says Berens.
“I love spinach salads and this one has deep flavor from the warm olive oil that the walnuts get toasted in,” says cooking and entertaining expert Martha Stewart. “This salad’s simplicity is what makes it so delicious.” The recipe requires just six basic ingredients and can be whipped up in under 20 minutes, so it’s great for weeknight meals, or even as a quick yet impressive salad to serve when entertaining.
“As a parent, I am always looking for inventive ways to sneak more vegetables into my kiddos!” says Brittany Williams, author of ‘Instant Loss: Eat Real, Lose Weight" and founder of InstantLoss.com. After adding spinach to a batch of gluten-free muffins, Williams told her kids these brilliant green beauties were Incredible Hulk Muffins and would make them as strong as the Hulk. They’ve been a family favorite ever since and one of the most popular recipes on Williams’ web site. You can’t taste the spinach, says Williams. “Not even a little bit!” But you still get all the benefits. Bake a double or triple batch and freeze for breakfasts and snacks — they defrost in about 15 minutes at room temperature or after a quick zap in the microwave.
Spinach can shrink, shrivel and turn bland when sautéed, warns Just a Taste blogger Kelly Senyei. “Sautéing it with sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic and scallions helps intensify the flavor” and adding shiitake mushrooms “gives this dish some bite.” Senyei’s sweet and garlicky sauce brings the two veggies together, while a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes lends a touch of heat. “The result is a simple side dish that pairs equally well with poultry, beef, pork and seafood,” notes Senyei. Alternatively, you can serve this sauté over rice for a meat-free main.