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My hope is to inspire you to be fearless in the kitchen, to try new things, to take the time to make things the homemade way and most importantly, to have fun doing it!

Making the Basics: Frozen Chopped Spinach

Frozen chopped spinach may or may not be a staple item in your kitchen, but it certainly is in mine.  We really like spinach in our house, both raw and cooked, so we tend to go through quite a lot of it and many recipes that I make call for frozen chopped spinach.  Unlike some of my other posts in the Making the Basics series, I make my own frozen chopped spinach not to save on packaging materials (because I think it’s about equal in the end), to know exactly what’s in it (spinach), or because it tastes that much better (again, it’s just spinach).  In this case, I do it primarily to avoid wasting spinach that is about to tossed.  I buy spinach in large quantities and we usually plow through it with salads, smoothies, pizza, and more.  But occasionally we have one of those weeks where dinners don’t get made, things don’t go according to plan, and suddenly I have mass quantities of spinach on the verge of spoiling.  That’s when I decide to take about 10-15 minutes to avoid wasting it.  If it helps avoid buying a couple more items from the grocery store, I consider that a plus.  It’s really simple.  Watch and learn!

I start out by placing the spinach in a colander (preferably one that is not half the volume of spinach you are using…I guess I need a bigger colander.)  I rinse the leaves lightly.

Then I transfer the spinach to a salad spinner to remove the excess water until just a few drops cling to the leaves.

At this point, place the spinach in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Cover and let cook down until the leaves are beginning to wilt, about 3-5 minutes.  Once the wilting begins, stir the leaves to ensure they are all cooked down.

As soon as all the leaves have wilted sufficiently, remove from the heat and return the spinach to the colander.  Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.  Wait until the spinach is cool enough to handle before proceeding.  Then take the spinach one handful at a time and squeeze out as much excess water as possible.*

Transfer the drained spinach to a cutting board and give it a coarse chop.

Place the chopped spinach in an airtight container and pop it into the freezer.  Voila!  You’re done!

I measured the amounts of my homemade method versus a typical package from the store by volume and by weight.  To end up with a quantity similar to that in a store-bought 9 ounce package you should start with about 11-12 ounces of fresh baby spinach leaves.**

*I realize that store-bought frozen spinach is typically frozen prior to draining the excess water.  That said, I’ve never noticed any difference in quality or taste, so I prefer to just do it in advance to minimize work later when I actually use the spinach.
**I tend to store my homemade frozen spinach in a big bag or container and just grab a chunk when needed.  The amount called for in most recipes is equivalent to about 5 ounces of drained frozen spinach, or about 2/3 cup by volume.

  • http://tideandthyme.com/ Laura

    You little DIY diva! Love this.

  • Tomimager

    Wow, what perfect timing. I’m exactly in that place where I bought a lot of spinach to use this week and, sure enough, come Wednesday, realized I probably wouldn’t. Thanks!

  • http://lifeandkitchen.com/ Lindsay {Life and kitchen}

    What a great idea! I’ve never thought to make my own frozen spinach, but this makes it look so easy!

  • http://fourandtwentyblackberries.blogspot.com/ Elizabeth

    This is such an informative and useful post!

  • Aj_reini

    Smart!

  • http://penniesonaplatter.com/ Nikki

    This is fabulous! I’m always left with a bunch of spinach every week and wondered if there was a good way to freeze it. This is going to become part of my daily routine!

  • http://thesaltykitchen.blogspot.com/ Laura @ The Salty Kitchen

    This is amazing! I was just looking at a recipe for frozen spinach, and I HAD fresh. Perfect timing!

  • Chatelaine

    i love all your recipes, and you’re my ‘go-to’ blog for when i need something i trust will work right away. this, this post was such a lightbulb moment for me as we do the same with massive bags of spinach! thank you :)

  • http://twitter.com/ilovemealplans Victoria

    This is very helpful as I often leave vegetables in the fridge and sometimes they go off before they are used. I’ve been thinking about freezing more so that I throw away less.

  • Sarah Bulmer

    This is such a great idea! At first I was like, why make frozen spinach when it’s no different to buy it? But then I read on, and it totally makes sense! How many times do I throw away veggies of any kind? I’m going to think twice from now on, and try steaming/freezing any produce. Love it!

  • http://apronappeal.com/ Apron Appeal

    I’m so happy you do this for us. I’ve been meaning to figure this out for too long. Thank you!

  • kim

    I just did this last week with our one pound of spinach from our farm share. When you put it in the stock pot, do you add water or anything? Or you are just steaming it with the water still on the spinach a little?

  • http://atthepatisserie.wordpress.com/ Ann P.

    I just completed this process when making spinach lasagna! Such a great how-to to save money and resources. I absolutely hate tossing out groceries, so I love this post!

  • annieseats

    Nope, just the drops of water already on the leaves. The spinach leaves hold tons of water on their own so you don’t need to add it.

  • Sjenkins64

    Love this! I’m going to put mine in ice cube trays so I can throw spinach anything! Thanks.

  • Kathy

    Good to know! I’m always interested in doing things myself. I wanted to thank you too for showing how to store the spinach in a reusable container. I see so many of these types of freezer tips and meals where they use zip lock bags. It makes me cringe to see so much waste. These plastic bags don’t break down and never go away.

  • http://mominthemuddle.com/ muddledmom

    This is something so easy and basic, but nonetheless, something I’ve never done. As always, thanks for sharing your great ideas, Annie! Also, I really love that you don’t have to squeeze out the excess water after thawing. I really hate that part.

  • Valerie

    Hmmm, I freeze chopped spinach all the time – the only way it is available to purchase in the country where we live is in humongous bunches – but I never thought to cook or wilt it first. Is that step necessary for some reason that I clearly don’t know?

  • Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes

    Thanks for the idea!! :)

  • Bbcling

    Genius! I am a 50 year old homemaker and I NEVER thought of this! THANK YOU!

  • annieseats

    If you don’t cook it down, spinach holds a TON of water (just look at the difference in volume from the beginning and end products here). If you add uncooked frozen spinach to a recipe, you’re also adding a lot of water. And, lots of recipes call for frozen chopped spinach that has been drained of excess water.

  • Deb C

    This is exactly what Koreans do to make a spinach side dish! After squeezing out the water, cut up the spinach and then add in some soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, black pepper, and minced garlic, that’s it. I didn’t know the same process could be used to freeze the spinach for other things…thanks for the idea!

  • http://twitter.com/ErinsFoodFiles ErinsFoodFiles

    I never would have thought to do this! Awesome!

  • Noelle Graham

    I am about to try this today! I, too, hate throwing out old produce! I think you should do a series of posts on conserving food you already have in the house! ;)

  • Leah

    Instead of cooking it to reduce the water, I throw leftover spinach in a bag in the freezer and take out leaves to throw in the smoothies I make for my toddlers. Extra crunch – easier to blend – already cold – healthy :)

  • Sue

    But while you drain the liquid, it will essentially drain all the nutrients from spinach. Freezing directly after chopping will rather keep the nutrients.

  • annieseats

    That’s not actually true, but regardless, all recipes that call for frozen chopped spinach call for it to be drained. Whether you drain it before or after it has been frozen is irrelevant, and if you don’t drain it at all, your dish will be a watery mess.

  • stacy Tarkowski

    I’m so happy I found this post. I also end up with leftover spinach often after our week of salads and whatever meals I use it in. I hate to waste it and now I don’t have to. Thanks!