Where Does All the Spinach Go?

by Elizabeth Skipper | April 30th, 2014 | Ask the Chef

file6561309937714I always am surprised when I cook with fresh spinach, instead of frozen.  I have a hard time estimating how much I need.  It seems to reduce by an incredible amount.  Is there a ratio for fresh spinach to cooked spinach (and how much you’ll need per person)? 

Other than lots? As in, lots and lots? With a water content of 80% to 90%, spinach cooks down by an incredible amount. It depends some on whether you’re cooking baby spinach or more mature spinach as to how much it reduces, but I generally figure on a pound of spinach serving no more than two people.

One of my vegetable cookbooks states that two to three pounds of fresh spinach will equal two cups cooked, depending on the age, water content, and variety. With baby spinach, there’s no need to remove the stems because they’re small and tender. The older it is, the larger the stems are, so there’s a fair amount of weight loss once it’s cleaned and trimmed.

Another cookbook claims that one pound of spinach equals three cups trimmed and steamed leaves. They’re both reputable books, and presumably the authors did the weighing and measuring; but without doing the same myself, I’m inclined to go with the first one’s estimates because it agrees with my experience.

Figuring on half a cup as one serving of spinach, that means you’re looking at preparing a minimum of two pounds worth. Given the amount of time it takes to wash and trim and cook down that much, it’s no wonder frozen spinach is so popular. However, you should try different brands to see which you prefer. I’ve found some that had so many big, tough stems in it I asked for a refund, and some which had a lot of brown leaves in it (what the heck?). Others are perfectly fine for making creamed spinach or adding to casseroles and “made dishes.” For simple sautéed spinach, do the work, though. It’s worth the effort.

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