Sauteed Garlic-Lemon Spinach

Overcooked spinach, bitter burnt garlic, and pallid lemon flavor are all too often the hallmarks of this simple side dish. Instead, we sought tender sautéed spinach, seasoned with a perfect balance of garlic and lemon. We preferred the hearty flavor and texture of curly-leaf spinach in this classic dish. We cooked the spinach in extra-virgin olive oil with slivered garlic (lightly browned in the pan before the spinach was added), which gave the spinach a sweet nuttiness. Once the spinach was cooked, we used tongs to squeeze the spinach in a colander over the sink to get rid of all the excess moisture. As for seasoning, a squeeze of lemon juice and some grated lemon zest, as well as a pinch of red pepper flakes gave the spinach some gentle heat. And finally, a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil boosted the fruitiness of the dish. Serves 4 as a side dish The amount of spinach may seem excessive, but the spinach wilts considerably with cooking. We like to use a salad spinner to wash and dry the spinach. If you have kosher or coarsely ground sea salt on hand, use one for the final sprinkling just before serving. This spinach dish makes an excellent accompaniment to almost any main course from chicken and fish to steak and pork.

Sauteed Garlic-Lemon Spinach

Photo by

  • Prep Time


  • Total Time


  • Servings



  • 2

    tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1

    teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

  • 4

    medium cloves garlic, cut crosswise into very thin (1/16-inch) slices (about 2 tablespoons)

  • 3

    (10-ounce) bags flat-leaf spinach, stems removed, leaves washed and dried

  • Table salt

  • pinch red pepper flakes

  • ½

    teaspoon grated lemon zest

  • 2

    teaspoons lemon juice


1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil and garlic in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; cook until the garlic is light golden brown, shaking the pan back and forth when the garlic begins to sizzle, about 3 minutes (stirring with a spoon will cause the garlic to clump). Add the spinach by the handful; using tongs to stir and coat the spinach with the oil. 2. Once all the spinach is added, sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper flakes, and lemon zest over the top and continue stirring with tongs until the spinach is uniformly wilted and glossy green, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the spinach to a colander set in a sink and gently squeeze spinach with tongs to release excess juices. Return the spinach to the Dutch oven; sprinkle with lemon juice and stir to coat. Drizzle with the remaining 1 teaspoon olive oil and sprinkle with additional salt to taste. Serve immediately.


Facebook Conversations