Learn how to make the best sautéed spinach with garlic and lemon. This versatile side dish is healthy and flavorful!
I’ll be honest. I’ve never loved sautéed spinach. I know it’s good for me, but it’s not a vegetable that I crave. It’s always been a bit soggy for my tastes. But this sautéed spinach with garlic and lemon? This is a leafy green I can get behind.
Secrets to Making the Best Sautéed Spinach
While testing this recipe, here’s what I learned about making sautéed spinach that even spinach skeptics will enjoy:
- Don’t overcook it. Overcooking the spinach will cause it to turn out limp and mushy, which is not what we want. Cook the spinach until it has softened just a bit but still has its bright green color. It’s best to err on the side of undercooking the spinach.
- Add bright, fresh flavors. Fresh lemon zest and garlic add a pop of flavor to every bite. Sometimes I’ll also sprinkle on some grated Parmesan cheese or toasted pine nuts after cooking. If you want to add spice, sprinkle on a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
- Drain off extra liquid. If your spinach releases liquid while it cooks, drain it off to prevent soggy spinach. Just tilt the pan to the side and spoon or blot off the excess liquid.
Sautéed Spinach Recipe Ingredients
Here’s what you’ll need to make this easy sautéed spinach recipe.
- Olive Oil: Adds richness and flavor and prevents the spinach and garlic from sticking to the pan.
- Fresh Garlic: Peel and then smash the whole garlic cloves. Using smashed whole garlic cloves rather than minced garlic prevents the garlic from burning in the pan and infuses the dish with garlic flavor.
- Fresh Spinach: Fresh spinach cooks down a lot, so you’ll want to cook a full pound to serve 4 people. I do not recommend using frozen spinach in this recipe.
- Salt and Pepper: I like to use kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper when making sautéed spinach. If you are using table salt, you’ll want to reduce the amount of salt.
- Lemon Zest: To brighten up the flavors.
Find the full recipe with ingredient amounts and instructions in the recipe card below.
How to Make Sautéed Spinach
- First, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Then add the smashed garlic cloves and cook until they just start to brown, about 1 minute.
- Add the spinach to the pan, pressing it down as needed to make it all fit. Cover the pan and let it cook for 1 minute.
- Then remove the lid and stir, moving the spinach from the bottom of the pan to the top so that it all cooks evenly.
- Cover the pan again and cook for 1 more minute. Then remove the pan from the heat. The spinach should be just starting to wilt, and there will be some leaves that have not wilted. These will continue to soften up off of the heat.
- Sprinkle the salt, pepper and lemon zest evenly over the spinach. Serve and enjoy!
Sautéed spinach is best served immediately after cooking, since it can get soggy over time.
This easy spinach recipe pairs well with so many main dishes. Here are a few suggestions for what to serve it with:
More Spinach Recipes
Looking for more ways to use up extra spinach? Try one of these recipes next:
This sautéed spinach recipe is fast, healthy and delicious! Enjoy it as an easy side dish with your favorite meals.
The Best Sautéed Spinach
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 pound fresh spinach
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- black pepper, to taste
- zest of ½ a lemon
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Add the smashed garlic cloves to the pan and cook, stirring, until they just start to brown, about 1 minute.
- Add the spinach to the pan, pressing it down as needed to make it all fit. Cover the pan with a lid and let the spinach cook for 1 minute. Then remove the lid and stir, moving the spinach from the bottom of the pan to the top so that it all cooks evenly. Cover the pan again and cook for 1 minute more, or just until most of the spinach starts to wilt. There will still be some leaves that have not wilted, and these will continue to soften up off the heat. Try to err on the side of undercooking to avoid mushy spinach. Remove pan from the heat.
- Drain off any excess liquid by tilting the pan to the side and spooning or blotting any liquid that pools in the side of the pan.
- Sprinkle the salt, pepper and lemon zest evenly over the spinach. Taste and adjust the seasonings as needed. Serve immediately.
- Recipe variations: Sprinkle on grated Parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, and/or a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes after cooking.