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How to Cook Fresh Spinach

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Best cooked spinach, with garlic, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and topped with lemon zest (peel)! Tasty, quick, healthy, and beautiful side dish! Goes great with pasta, grilled meats, steak, and chicken. It’s very easy to make, inexpensive, paleo, vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free!

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If you have too much spinach, or want a steakhouse quality side dish for your grilled meats, this is the right recipe for you! The secret to how to cook fresh spinach properly is to not overcook it. Spinach really requires only a couple of minutes of cooking, and then you just let it wilt, off heat, in a covered pan. That’s pretty much all there is to it, plus you also saute some garlic, making sure it doesn’t burn, add just a touch of fresh lemon juice (not a lot, only about a quarter of a small lemon). Do not use bottled lemon juice as it is too acidic! Finally, top the spinach with lemon zest!

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This is what the spinach looks like after being cooked only for 1 minute and having been sitting for 2-3 more minutes, off heat, in a covered pan (the photo right below). See how pretty it is, and it has that steakhouse beautiful texture to it?
Spinach doesn’t need more than 1 minute of cooking in a preheated skillet.  If you cook it longer, the texture will suffer (it will be crumbly), and spinach can acquire some sort of bitterness to it.

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Topping the spinach with finely grated lemon zest adds just the right amount of kick!

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How to Cook Fresh Spinach

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

How to Cook Fresh Spinach


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 or 20 oz fresh spinach
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice (using 1/4th of a lemon)
  • lemon zest or peel
  • salt and cracked pepper


  1. Sautee spinach uncovered - to really get best spinach results, you cook it just enough to wilt - don't overcook.
  2. Heat olive oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add 2 cloves of minced fresh garlic when the oil is hot, and saute the garlic for about 1 minute to release the flavor, constantly stirring to keep garlic from burning.
  3. Add spinach, a handful at a time, and adding another handful as spinach wilts, and cook, uncovered, on medium-high heat for only 1 minutes, constantly stirring, uncovered.
  4. Remove from heat and cover. Let it sit for 2-3 minutes. Uncover, and mix. Squeeze just a touch of fresh lemon juice right out of the lemon (using about a quarter of small lemon), and stir to combine. Do not use bottled lemon juice (it's too acidic).
  5. Taste the spinach, and add a pinch of salt, if needed (about 1/8 teaspoon), and fresh cracked pepper. It should be enough, add more salt and pepper if needed. Top with lemon zest.



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{ 4 comments… add one }
  • Monica April 22, 2015, 4:34 pm

    I agree…and I really love fresh spinach. It’s so quick and the touch of lemon is wonderful. I never have luck cooking with frozen spinach so I’ve just stopped. Fresh is best for me with this. : )

  • sarah k @ the pajama chef April 23, 2015, 10:12 am

    i never eat cooked greens….but these look awesome! may have to try them 🙂

  • Anna March 25, 2016, 7:08 pm

    Can u substitute a bit of butter for some of the olive oil?

  • lindokuhle nxono October 15, 2016, 8:04 pm

    if the lemon juice that is in the bottle ts too acidic, whch1 shld i use

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