The Best Creamed Spinach
Creamed spinach is a classic holiday side dish! This delicious version of creamed spinach is easy to prepare, doesn’t require a lot of ingredients, and is filled with flavor. A quick side dish to serve along with steak, roast chicken, or a holiday meal!
Every year, when the big meal is all served and done, I think to myself, why did I even bother with the turkey?
I mean, the real reason most of us wait around for Thanksgiving is the sides, right?
This creamed spinach is up there with my favorite things to serve on Thanksgiving. Tender wilted spinach mixture with a smooth, creamy white sauce flavored with a knob of butter, onions, garlic, and of course, all the cheeses.
Creamed spinach is probably one of the easiest side dishes you can make and it also happens to be perfect to make ahead if you want to get a leg up on the holiday preparations. The two main ingredients are undoubtedly spinach and heavy cream, but it’s the ratio of these ingredients that can make or break your creamed spinach. I like to use a few additional ingredients like freshly grated nutmeg and cream cheese. The end results are magic. Don’t be surprised when you find family members at the stove just eating this stuff right from the pot. It’s totally worth it.
In fact; make extra so that some of it still makes it to the table!
Ingredients for homemade creamed spinach:
- Spinach: You can use either frozen chopped spinach or fresh baby spinach leaves for this recipe. Keep in mind that if you decide to use fresh spinach, you’ll need about twice the amount that’s listed for frozen spinach.
- Butter: We’ll use a knob of butter to help saute the onions.
- Onions: Finely chopped onions are the base of this recipe. They cook in the butter and get nice and tender. Keep in mind that you don’t want the onions to brown, here. We want them to be soft and translucent.
- Garlic: I add a whole lot of garlic to me creamed spinach recipe! But I do give a range of garlic, incase you are cooking this for someone who isn’t a huge fan. The harsh garlic bite does cook out as we saute it in butter with the onions so you won’t be left tasting it on your breath later.
- Cream Cheese: Softened cream cheese helps provide flavor and it also helps thicken the creamed spinach without the need to add in flour. I’m not a huge fan of flour-based white sauces as they always leave a grainy texture in your mouth.
- Half and Half: Instead of using heavy cream, I prefer to use half and half for this recipe. I find that the richness in heavy cream kind of mutes all the other beautiful, delicate flavors in creamed spinach. Since we’re using three types of cheeses, I went ahead and swapped heavy cream for half and half. If you don’t live in the states, half and half is just a 50:50 combo of milk and cream.
- Shredded Mozzarella: I like to buy a chunk of low moisture mozzarella cheese from my deli attendant and shred it on a box grated myself. Pre-shredded cheeses are often coated in starches to help keep them from clumping in the package. By buying a wedge, the cheese just melts a 1000 times better in the sauce.
- Grated Parmesan cheese: I buy parmesan cheese in bulk from Costco and often grate it and keep it in the fridge for these types of recipes. Did you know, if you have a high power blender, you can toss in a chunk of parmesan, run the blender, and have grated parmesan in seconds! You can also use shredded parmesan cheese, if you’d like.
- Ground Spices: I use a freshly grated nutmeg, cayenne pepper, dried dill, and white pepper to flavor the spinach. Nutmeg and white sauces are meant to be together forever, and ever. I also like to add a small dash of dried dill to this recipe. I’m a big fan of both spanakopita and palak paneer, and both of these recipes use dill with spinach. The results are delicious if you like dill. If not, feel free to omit it from the recipe, it’s an optional ingredient.
How to make easy creamed spinach recipe:
- Start by prepping the spinach. You want to steam the spinach in the microwave according to package directions. I usually allow the spinach to defrost in the refrigerator overnight. Then, I cut open the bags onto a pie plate and zap for 45-60 seconds. Once the spinach is at room temperature, I place it on a tea towel and squeeze out all the excess moisture. Make sure to drain the spinach recipe well. You can also place it in a colander to drain further once you’ve squeeze out the moisture.
- Make the white sauce. Start by adding a knob of butter to a large skillet over medium heat. Once the butter melts, we’re going to stir in the onions and allow them to sweat and cook until they’re translucent. Then, add the garlic and give it a good 30 seconds to cook out the raw flavor and to release that fragrant smell. Then stir in the cream cheese and allow it to melt into the sauce. Add the half and half and let the sauce heat through and thicken slightly. The richness of the cream cheese will help thicken the half and half. You’ll add the mozzarella and the parmesan next and stir to combine. Season with ground nutmeg, dried dill, white pepper, and cayenne. The cayenne is optional and you can leave it out if you don’t want any heat. Taste and adjust the white sauce to your preference.
- Stir in the spinach and serve. Add the spinach into the sauce and stir to combine. If the sauce thickens too much, you can add the last ¼ cup of half and half to thin it out. Then taste and make final adjustments. You shouldn’t need too much salt with all the cheese we’ve used in this recipe. And that’s it; you’ve got a copycat steakhouse style creamed spinach ready to serve.
FAQs about creamed spinach
- Can I make this recipe in advance? Yes, you can make this recipe a day or two in advance, cool completely and refrigerate. You may need a bit more of the half and half when reheating to bring it back to that just-made consistency.
- Can you freeze creamed spinach? Yes, you can prepare the recipe, add it to a airtight container, and freeze until you’re ready to serve. I suggest removing it from the freezer at least 12 hours before you’re wanting to serve.
- Are there any ways to use leftovers? I’m so glad you asked! You can make my stuffed salmon or turn this into a spinach and artichoke dip by stirring in some artichoke hearts and maybe a little red wine vinegar.
Other holiday recipes and sides to try:
- Herb Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey
- Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
- Cheesy Cauliflower Casserole
- Green Bean Casserole with Crispy Show String Onions
- Sweet Potato Casserole with Crunchy Brown Sugar Topping
- Slow Cooker Creamed Corn
- Garlic Butter Roasted Brussels Sprouts
- 20-Minute Garlic Herb Mashed Potatoes
- 2 (16 ounce) bags frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 1 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
- 8-10 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 4 ounces (½ block) cream cheese, softened
- 1½ -1¾ cup half and half
- ½ cup EACH: shredded mozzarella AND parmesan cheese
- ⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- pinch of dried dill weed (optional)
- kosher salt, white pepper, AND cayenne pepper, to taste
- PREP: Steam the spinach in the microwave according to package directions. Remove the spinach to a colander, lined with a tea towel, and allow it to cool. When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze out all the excess liquid; set aside for now.
- SAUTE: In a large saute pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté them for 5-7 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 30-45 seconds until fragrant. Stir in the cream cheese until it melts.
- CREAMED SPINACH: Pour in 1 ½ cups half and half and stir to combine. If the cream cheese doesn’t melt in, you can switch to a whisk to help breakup any lumps. When it starts to just barely simmers, add in the mozzarella, parmesan, nutmeg, and stir to combine. Season with a small pinch of dried dill, (optional) cayenne paper, and white pepper. When it thickens and the cheese melts, stir in the spinach. Allow the creamed spinach to simmer and heat through. You can add the remaining ¼ cup of half and half if the it needs more liquid. Taste and adjust with salt, more cayenne and white pepper as desired. Serve immediately or you can transfer it to a dish (with a lid) allow it to cool slightly before refrigerating for later.