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This Creamed Spinach with Croutons is way better than any steakhouse side you’ve ever had! It’s perfect for your next holiday or special occasion menu, or any weeknight for that matter. This recipe is a simple yet elegant vegetable side dish that can be made mostly in advance, with little effort. And, if I do say so myself, the Croutons make this dish! Not only to they make it a bit rustic, they add leaps-and-bounds in both flavor and texture. You are going to have to trust me on this one!
The first time that I had Creamed Spinach (this recipe, specifically) it was made by my French-born Aunt Clare who was married to my dad’s cousin, Uncle Willie, and they lived on a huge farm out in Oregon. When I was ten years old, my grandmom and I got on a plane and went to visit them for two weeks. We had never met before, and apparently the family out there was a bit worried about having to deal with and entertain a ten-year-old for so long.
Much to their surprise, I almost never left the kitchen or my Aunt Clare’s side! She was a master at cooking…plus, she was French, so she cooked foods that I had never eaten before. I was amazed by all of it and wanted to learn (and eat) everything. And, given that they lived on and amongst major farmland that was abundant with fruits and vegetables, there was serious cooking going on every single day.
One of the dishes that she cooked was this Creamed Spinach with Croutons, which was so different than anything I had ever eaten in my Italian-American household. It was rich and creamy, and it was so delicious!
We have Aunt Clare to thank for this wonderful recipe. She shared it with me on a handwritten, old school recipe card before I left Oregon that summer, and I rediscovered it decades later. I hope you love it as much as I do. It’s retro enough to be super-cool.
And, while it’s great anytime, this Creamed Spinach with Croutons is especially perfect during the busy holiday season, when time is of the essence, as most of this recipe can be made in advance and reheated quickly.
To make Creamed Spinach with Croutons, we will be using the following ingredients:
- Spinach: I used 2 ½ pounds baby spinach for this recipe, which looks like a ton when it is raw and also sounds like a lot. But, it cooks down significantly. This amount yields about 4 cups of finished Creamed Spinach, which is an appropriate amount for about 8 people as a side dish. Adjust your batch size accordingly!
- Italian Bread: This is really the best type of bread for the croutons. If you don’t have access to Italian bread, you can substitute another type, but do not choose a bread that is very chewy.
- All-Purpose Flour: This acts as a thickener in the Creamed Spinach, essentially creating a modified roux once it combines with the butter in the pan.
- Heavy Cream: Enough said. The cream is the essence of this dish and makes it so delicious, decadent and special!
The Aromatics . . .
- Garlic: Garlic is an important flavor builder. Use more or less as you desire!
- Butter: Used to sauté the garlic and spinach.
- Olive Oil: Used to fry the croutons. No need to use the really good extra-virgin stuff here.
- Garlic Powder and Onion Powder: Used to season the croutons.
- Salt and Black Pepper: Used to season both the croutons and the spinach. Always to your taste and freshly ground black pepper is always preferred, if possible! Keep in mind that the croutons have already been salted, so you may not need much salt in the spinach itself.
A complete and detailed list of ingredients with amounts and instructions is included in the recipe below.
Step-By-Step, Pro-Tips included!
Here are the main steps for how to make savory Creamed Spinach with Croutons:
- Gather and prep all ingredients. Then, make the croutons by browning large cubes of Italian bread in olive oil. After browning the bread on multiples sides, transfer them to a large bowl and immediately toss them with some salt, black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Set them aside on a paper towel in a single layer until use.
- PRO-TIP: These croutons are really best on the day that they are made, so I do not suggest making them a day in advance. However, there is no doubt in my mind that you are going to LOVE these croutons, so make more than the recipe calls for and plan to toss them in your salad or just into your mouth as a snack while cooking.
- Boil the spinach in salted water briefly, then transfer it to a bowl and squeeze out as much water as possible.
- PRO-TIP: If you use baby spinach, as is called for in this recipe, it only needs to be blanched for 1 to 2 minutes to wilt. Regular spinach is thicker and will take a couple minutes longer.
- Melt butter in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-low heat and sauté garlic in it until fragrant and lightly browned. Then, add the drained, blanched spinach to it and stir to coat. Cook briefly to let any residual liquid in the spinach evaporate.
- PRO-TIP: The spinach can be blanched and held in the refrigerator for a couple of days before sautéing it. If you plan on doing this, immediately immerse the blanched spinach in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and retain its beautiful green color. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible, then place it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- Sprinkle some flour over the spinach, stir, then add the cream and stir again. Reduce heat and simmer spinach for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cream has reduced a bit and thickened. Season lightly to taste with salt and pepper, keeping in mind that the croutons have already been salted..
- Top the Creamed Spinach with croutons and serve! That’s it!
Recipe Variations for Creamed Spinach with Croutons
Here are a few ideas for variations on this Creamed Spinach with Croutons recipe:
- Add Cheese: Add some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano cheese to either the crouton spice mix or the spinach itself for increased savoriness. If you do, cut back on the salt a bit.
- Lighten It: Substitute the butter with olive oil and substitute half of the heavy cream with whole milk.
- Add Onions or Shallots: Both of these would make great additions to the dish and add nice flavor and texture. Add them to the pan with the garlic and sauté until translucent.
- Use Frozen Spinach: While I really encourage you to use fresh spinach for this recipe, you can use thawed frozen whole or cut leaf spinach in a pinch if necessary. (Do not use frozen chopped spinach as the texture will not be appealing.) Fully defrost the frozen spinach, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. You will need about 3 ½ cups thawed, drained spinach for this recipe.
What to Serve With Creamed Spinach with Croutons
Creamed Spinach with Croutons is an elegant, yet rustic, vegetable side dish. It’s a perfect addition to any holiday or special occasion menu. Definitely consider making it for Thanksgiving and Christmas! It will complement the turkey, ham and sides well.
Enjoy this recipe year-round as well! It’s a traditional accompaniment to a nice steak and also complements a whole roasted chicken or salmon perfectly.
Great Leftover Idea!
Here’s a great insider tip–use the leftover Creamed Spinach as a stuffing! Stuff it into mushroom caps, inside a chicken or turkey breast, or inside a whole salmon filet.
Kitchen Tools & Cookware for Creamed Spinach
To make this Creamed Spinach with Croutons recipe, you will need the following:
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Multiple bowls to hold prep
- Cutting board with non-slip mat underneath (I use shelf liner)
- Sharp chef’s knife
- Serrated knife
- Garlic press
- Pepper mill
- Large (6-8 qt) pot for cooking vegetables
- Colander, large mesh strainer or spider for scooping out vegetables
- Wooden or silicon spoons, tongs
- 10″+ sauté pan or skillet
- Dutch oven
- Large Serving bowl and serving utensils
More Great Recipes to Try
If you’ve tried this recipe or any other recipe on the blog, please let me know how it went in the comments below — I love hearing from you!
Creamed Spinach with Croutons
For the Croutons:
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp granulated garlic or garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/3-1/2 cup olive oil
- 3-4 cups day-old Italian bread, cut into ¾ to 1-inch cubes (about 3 to 4 slices)
For the Creamed Spinach:
- 2 Tbsp salt for water
- 2 1/2 pounds baby spinach (See NOTE about regular spinach.)
- 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 1/2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- To taste salt and black pepper
- Gather and prep all ingredients according to specifications above.
- Bring a large pot (5 to 6 quarts) of water to a boil.
- Meanwhile, make the croutons: Mix spices together in large bowl and set it aside. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add bread cubes to pan, toss them with oil to coat, then spread them out into a single layer in skillet. Brown bread cubes, rotating and browning on multiple sides. Do this in batches, if necessary. Transfer crispy fried bread to bowl with the spice mixture. Toss quickly so that croutons are well coated in mixture. Then, place croutons on a paper towel in a single layer to drain. You can make these croutons 3 to 4 hours in advance and hold them, uncovered, at room temperature.
- Once the water comes to a boil, add salt, then the baby spinach and stir. Do this in batches if necessary. The baby spinach will only take 1 to 2 minutes to wilt. Once wilted, immediately remove all spinach from the pot using a colander or spider and transfer it to a separate bowl, squeezing out as much liquid as possible. (See NOTE below about shocking the spinach in ice water.)
- While waiting for the water to boil, melt the butter in a large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-low heat, the add the garlic and sauté until it becomes fragrant and lightly browned.
- Add the blanched and drained spinach to the butter and garlic and stir it to coat. Increase the heat to medium/medium-high and let any residual water evaporate, stirring regularly.
- Then, sprinkle the flour evenly over the spinach and stir well. Add the cream and stir again. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer the spinach for about 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cream has reduced a bit and thickened. Season lightly to taste with salt and pepper, keeping in mind that the croutons have already been salted.
- Remove the Creamed Spinach from heat and transfer it to a serving bowl. Top with croutons and place the extra croutons on the side for all that want more! Buon Appetito!
- If you prefer to use regular (not baby) spinach in this recipe, you may need to purchase slightly more than 2 ½ pounds to account for some of the stems that will need to be trimmed.
- The spinach can be blanched and held in the refrigerator for a couple of days before sautéing it. If you plan on doing this, immediately immerse the blanched spinach in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and retain its beautiful green color. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible, then place it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- While I really encourage you to use fresh spinach for this recipe, you can use thawed frozen whole or cut leaf spinach in a pinch if necessary. (Do not use frozen chopped spinach as the texture will not be appealing.) Fully defrost the frozen spinach, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. You will need about 3 ½ cups thawed, drained spinach for this recipe.
- The Creamed Spinach can be made up to two days in advance and held in an airtight container in the refrigerator. However, the Croutons should be made on the day that it will be served. To reheat the Creamed Spinach, place it in a pan with a bit of water and heat it slowly, covered, over low heat, stirring occasionally until heated. Alternatively, placed the Creamed Spinach in a baking dish with a little water and cover it with foil. Heat it in a 350°F oven for about 15 to 20 minutes or until heated through.
- Leftover Creamed Spinach can be held in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.