14 Ingredients That'll Take Creamed Spinach To The Next Level

Creamed spinach in a pot with a spoon and chilis
Creamed spinach in a pot with a spoon and chilis - VICUSCHKA/Shutterstock

So many times on so many dinner tables across the world, a standout side gets relegated to the sidelines in favor of the main course. But let's face it, sometimes those accompanying dishes are the favorite part of a meal, and if there's one classic that comes to mind, it has to be creamed spinach. Served during holidays in particular — although it's great at any time of the day and year — there's something so gloriously good about the creamy texture and the dark green, slightly bitter taste of the spinach. To celebrate this traditional side, you might like a way to make it taste even better.

Are you ready for an upgrade? We did our research, and we came up with the best ingredients that'll take creamed spinach to the next level. You can also combine more than one in the same recipe for a full flavor boost, enhancing the basic qualities of this dish that you know and love.

Read more: Ingredients To Take Your Scrambled Eggs To The Next Level


Parmesan cheese on creamed spinach pan
Parmesan cheese on creamed spinach pan - Ksenia Prints/Mashed

There are plenty of recipes elevated by Parmesan cheese. The strong, salty, tangy taste gives the flavor of dishes an instant boost. And since spinach and cheese are a culinary match tastewise, it's no big surprise that this Italian hard variety enhances creamed spinach enormously. A word of advice before you start grating a block into a pan of the green goodness — be sure to choose an authentic Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy and not a copycat cheese. If you're making this dish for a special dinner, then you might want to invest in a good quality one that's going to give you the unmistakable grainy texture and cheek-tingling sharpness.

Once you've cooked your spinach and squeezed all the water out, make your cheesy, creamy sauce. Heat double cream in a pan and as it starts to simmer, turn off the heat. Add the cooked spinach and Parmesan. Make sure the cheese is finely grated so that you can get some melt on it. Finish off with lemon juice and grated fresh nutmeg. Season to taste. You can also make creamed spinach by sautéing onions and garlic, heating heavy cream, and adding a few chili flakes along with the Parmesan. Add more cheese if you want to highlight it in this dish.

Curry Paste

Red curry paste in a jar with label
Red curry paste in a jar with label - Oksana Shyriaieva/Getty Images

If you like a little heat when you eat, then you'll know how a creamy spiced Southeast Asian dish is. The creaminess balances out the spiciness perfectly when it's just right. If you're looking for one of the best ingredients that'll take creamed spinach to the next level, then look no further than curry paste. You could give this all-American favorite a Filipino taste transformation by making your own paste. In a food processor, blend together onion, red finger chilis, shiitake mushrooms, peeled ginger, and garlic. Fry the curry in oil as a base. You can also add a smashed fresh lemongrass stalk that you've tied into a knot and some bagoong which is a fermented shrimp paste from the Philippines.

If this sounds like too much hard work for a side dish, then there's nothing wrong with grabbing a jar of curry paste. A Thai green curry is delicious, and the color is going to match with the spinach as well. You could add a red spicy mix instead if you prefer, and if you love Thai flavors, then a Massaman curry paste is also delicious. Why not serve your hot creamed spinach with some rice and protein for a full meal? After all, you can't beat curry and rice.

Coconut Milk

Dairy poured into creamed spinach pan
Dairy poured into creamed spinach pan - Libin Jose/Getty Images

So, you've decided to go spicy with your creamed spinach. And this definitely goes beyond adding a little cayenne pepper or a few chili flakes. You might add garlic when you usually make this dish, but while this will lift the flavor, a little it's likely to be subtle rather than powerful. If you want to embrace some heat and let the creamy sauce and soft texture of the spinach cool down, then you're going to add curry paste to heavy or double cream. Here's where you can add a wonderful ingredient that's going to pair with the spicy mix and the spinach perfectly. And that is using coconut milk instead.

Once you've fried off your spicy ingredients, add a couple of cans of coconut milk to elevate the Asian flavors of the spices. It will not only make the dish creamy but also give it a fragrant taste. If you're serving your creamed spinach with rice as well, then the sauce will soak into those grains creating a yummy taste and texture. You can also add coconut cream into the mix if you want to make the sauce a little richer and thicker.

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter, nuts, and fresh spinach
Peanut butter, nuts, and fresh spinach

Do you love nothing more than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Did you know that making your own peanut butter is super easy? All you need to do is blitz roasted unsalted peanuts with honey and sea salt. You can also use it as a savory ingredient, and it's especially used in Asian-style dishes such as stir-fried peanut butter chicken. However, you'll be forgiven if you haven't thought about adding a spoonful or two to creamed spinach. Yet, it works so well in this side dish that it takes it to the next level.

Before you add a dollop of peanut butter to a creamy sauce, know that you don't need to add any cream. Add onions to boiling water and then mix in spinach and chopped tomatoes. Instead of draining the vegetables and getting rid of all the excess liquid, add peanut butter to the pan. For a pan-full, you'll need around 4 tablespoons. Keep mixing and simmering for around 10 minutes. And that's it. The heat will turn the condiment into a rich, nutty, and creamy sauce that coats the spinach spectacularly.

Water Chestnuts

Water chestnuts in bowl
Water chestnuts in bowl - Michelle Lee Photography/Shutterstock

There is no doubt a few ingredients that'll take creamed spinach to the next level are ones that you can easily think of. In other words, they aren't that leftfield to add to a vegetable side dish in a cream sauce. One addition that probably hasn't come up on your culinary radar is adding water chestnuts. You may only know these crunchy, watery bites from Chinese noodle recipes. They are added to a lot of dishes that originate in China and they give dishes a crisp, refreshing taste that's nutty with some apple notes. It's these particular flavors that give the taste of creamed spinach such a wonderfully light lift, as well as adding an ingredient you can chomp down on, which creates a fantastic contrast.

Make your own white sauce with a homemade roux and milk, after sautéing a shallot. Once it's bubbled up, you'll want to add your cheese and nutmeg. The final addition is some water chestnuts. You'll want to add these after mincing them otherwise they'll be too big. If using canned ones, drain them first before adding them to the creamy, cheesy sauce along with thawed-out frozen spinach that doesn't have any excess water in it.

Melting Cheese

Cheesy creamed spinach with tortilla chip
Cheesy creamed spinach with tortilla chip - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Do you know what makes creamed spinach so darned delicious? A not-so-secret ingredient is cheese, for sure. The secret to success with adding this though is to make sure you're using a good melting cheese. Whatever recipe you follow to make creamed spinach, when you've made the sauce and added the cooked green leaves grate in Asiago cheese. If you're not familiar with this Italian cheese, then make sure you choose one that's not too mature otherwise it won't melt quite as well. Tastewise, Asiago has a nutty, buttery taste that's reminiscent of Parmesan but not quite as pungent. But don't stop there — throw in grated mozzarella for extra gooeyness. Broil the top so that the melted cheese bubbles and browns.

Love Morton's The Steakhouse creamed spinach? That's probably because it's extremely cheesy. Parmesan gives the dish that robust cheesy flavor that's salty and somehow sweet at the same time. But because it's not the best at melting, it's never going to create that stringy cheese consistency. The answer? Add in mozzarella. What it lacks in taste it more than makes up for in texture, and the two together are incredible. You can also melt slices of provolone on a panful of creamed spinach. When they start to soften, mix in the cheesy strings. Or what about elevating this dish with a spicy pepper jack?


Wilted spinach and cooked bacon bits
Wilted spinach and cooked bacon bits - Jreika/Getty Images

Warm spinach salad is such a tasty recipe to make, and one of the reasons is that crispy bits of fried bacon are divine with spinach. And a simple way to elevate creamed spinach is by adding bacon, too. High-end prime rib eatery chain, Lawry's, serves creamed spinach with bacon. If it's good enough for a gourmet restaurant, then it's certainly worth giving it a whirl for a special dinner, be that Thanksgiving or a festive feast, or at any time of the year.

Whiz bacon, onion, and garlic in a food processor. You don't just want to chop the ingredients but really mash them up. You should end up with a paste. Remember, you're using raw meat here, so always practice safe food hygiene. Steam fresh spinach for less than a minute before submerging the leaves in an ice bath. That way they won't cook any longer and they'll also look wonderfully bright. Fry off the bacon mix so that it's dry, then add flour and the spinach after you've got rid of the water in it. Stir this in, and add milk and nutmeg, plus seasonings. For a modern touch, and since it goes so well, why not grate a little Parmesan in?


Creamed spinach sauce with spinach, garlic, and lemon
Creamed spinach sauce with spinach, garlic, and lemon - Margarita0192/Shutterstock

Creamed spinach is undoubtedly a comfort food side. It might make you think of happy memories around the dinner table and is a must when enjoying a roast turkey or a sizzling steak. One ingredient that provides a lift to the cream taste is lemon. The citrus tang cuts through the creaminess and brightens up the spinach, turning a favorite dish into a side that's even more delicious. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon once your creamed spinach is cooked to get an immediately refreshing finish. This isn't the only lemony boost you can give the recipe either. Fry a few pieces of lemon zest with onions, garlic, and flour before adding milk and spinach. All you need beyond this is grated cheese is that all-important lemon spritz. You can also throw in a few strands of fresh dill if you want an herby taste, too.

Another method is to heat olive oil in a pan with freshly squeezed lemon juice and garlic. Next, you want to add cheese, and a perfect variety that pairs well with lemon is feta. Both these ingredients hit the spot with spinach. If you're making creamed spinach for a lunch side, you might find the taste a little lighter and fresher than a stodgier recipe.


Creamed spinach with breadcrumb topping
Creamed spinach with breadcrumb topping - YouTube / 31 Daily

Breadcrumbs make so many foods taste so good and there are plenty of yummy dishes you can make with panko. Panko is the Japanese version of breadcrumbs made with crustless bread so that it's super-light and extra-crunchy. You can make a delicious chicken cordon bleu with a crispy coating or baked Parmesan spinach balls held together with breadcrumbs and eggs. If you want to give a dish a crispy topping, then cover it with breadcrumbs and give it a blast under the broiler. One dish you might want to start with is creamed spinach.

Try frying breadcrumbs in a pan with butter until they are lovely and toasted. Add paprika to give a little heat to them. That way, when you add them to the creamed spinach, you won't have to broil them as they are already nice and crispy. Since lemon is a wonderful ingredient to take creamed spinach to the next level, why not combine it with breadcrumbs? If you make homemade breadcrumbs, rather than adding lemon juice, cover them with grated lemon zest before frying. Need a third option? This one might be the best — fry panko in butter, and once they have turned a golden brown, scatter grated Parmesan cheese on top. Add the cheesy, crunchy topping to the creamed spinach at the end. Truly scrumptious.


Creamed spinach bowls with hard-boiled eggs
Creamed spinach bowls with hard-boiled eggs - Cislander/Getty Images

There's nothing wrong with serving creamed spinach in individual pots and topping with quarters of hard-boiled eggs. The taste of eggs and a creamy, possibly cheesy, spinach dish is a culinary match. There are other ways you can incorporate eggs into this side and take it up a level or more, too. Once you've made creamed spinach, crack eggs on top without breaking the yolks. Cover with the lid and let the eggs cook in the heat for long enough that they are still nice and dippy when you serve them. The runny yolk gives the creamy spinach a rich taste. Serve this for breakfast or supper with a slice of skillet-toasted bread, and throw chopped green onions on top for a crunchy garnish.

Grate Parmesan cheese onto the eggs, add a sprinkling of black pepper, and cook on the stove. Once the whites have set, put the creamed spinach under the broiler. You want the cheese to melt and brown before serving. Another great idea is to make indentations in the creamed spinach for the eggs so that they don't spread everywhere. Instead of a sprinkling of Parmesan, try feta cheese. You can then bake the eggy, cheesy creamed spinach in the oven.

Cream Cheese

Creamed spinach in serving dish
Creamed spinach in serving dish - Elena Veselova/Shutterstock

Love a cheesy and truly creamy creamed spinach? One of the ingredients that'll take creamed spinach to the next level for you has to be cream cheese. Think about how luxuriously velvety the taste is going to be. That doesn't mean that you can't add Parmesan cheese and a melting cheese into the mix. Once you've sautéed your spinach, you're ready to make the sauce. Add some half-and-half, then try a scoop of chive cream cheese, and also a dollop of ricotta. If you're wondering what the difference is, the latter isn't made with cream, just milk. You can make from-scratch ricotta cheese pretty easily. Try experimenting with different types of cream cheese and vary the amounts to get the right taste, texture, and creaminess.

It's absolutely fine to just use cream cheese and no other dairy produce in your creamed spinach. It's thick enough when it melts to create a sauce-like consistency. You can add the cheese and let it melt in the pan before adding the spinach. If you find the taste a little too rich or the sauce a little too thick, then you can also combine the cream cheese with heavy cream. It's up to you how much of each to use. You might find one part cream cheese to four parts heavy cream is a nice balance.


Black truffles and truffle oil
Black truffles and truffle oil - Ingrid Balabanova/Shutterstock

Truffles are so irresistible and when used in the right way, they can elevate the taste of creamed spinach into a gourmet side that gives umami creaminess in every spoonful. A great way to add this flavor is by stirring white truffle oil into creamed spinach once it's off the heat and ready to serve. You can also stir the oil into the spinach at the same time as the cream, and then add grated cheese, letting the ingredients come together beautifully. Elevate even more with a dollop of truffle butter. And if truffle oil and truffle butter aren't quite, well, truffly enough for you, then what about finishing creamed spinach with a few shavings of black truffle? Now, if this isn't elevating a homely side, then what is?

For another gourmet take on this simple dish, heat chopped-up black truffle in cream for half an hour to infuse it with all those gorgeous flavors. Pour this hot sauce over fresh spinach leaves so that they start to cook in the heat. Sprinkle with truffle salt if you really want to really impress someone you're serving this to.

Pine Nuts

Creamed spinach with pine nuts
Creamed spinach with pine nuts - Gerenme/Getty Images

Creating texture in a dish that's creamy is a wonderful way to bring it to the next level. Little crunchy bits in a creamed spinach can be a total delight, especially if they are toasted pine nuts. Add the pine nuts to an ovenproof tray and bake in the oven for a few minutes. Give them a few stirs as they brown so that you get the color all over them, and so that they don't burn. Rather than mix them into the dish, which will likely make them soften, top each serving with a few for a textured, nutty garnish.

You can also toast pine nuts on the stove in a little oil. You can also dry-fry them. This way you can keep your eye on them way better as they suddenly go from golden brown to black. Take them off the heat and give the nuttiness a sweet edge by mixing in a spoonful of honey. Once this sets, you can scatter the sweetened pine nuts on top of your homemade creamed spinach.

Roasted Garlic

Garlic bulbs and creamed spinach
Garlic bulbs and creamed spinach - New Africa/Shutterstock

Roasted garlic is one of the best ingredients that will really take creamed spinach to the next level. It gives any dish a sweet, smoky garlicky taste that is moreish. To stop the garlic from burning or drying out, bake it in foil. Cut a bulb of garlic across to reveal the cloves, and add salt and extra virgin olive oil before wrapping up. Once they're ready, blend the soft cloves with half-and-half to make the sauce. You can then add freshly grated nutmeg. Close your eyes and imagine a spoonful of this with a slice of rare fillet mignon.

You can also break up roasted garlic cloves with a fork. Mix these pieces in with the other ingredients in your creamed spinach rather than only the cream. Don't overdo the mixing. Pour the mixture into an ovenproof dish, cover it with breadcrumbs, and then bake in the oven.

Read the original article on Mashed.