Cream-less Creamed Spinach – A Healthy Makeover of Creamed Spinach

Creamed spinach gets a healthy makeover. Less fat. Fewer calories. More flavor.

When we think of creamed spinach, our minds wander back to the 1950s and 60s. We’re not sure why, but creamed spinach has a certain, shall we say, retro feel about it. It’s also loaded—and we mean loaded—with more saturated fat and calories than a nutrient-rich vegetable like spinach deserves!

A few weeks ago, Facebook fan, Cindi, sent us her family’s favorite creamed spinach recipe and asked us to give it a makeover, so we did what we usually do and got cooking.

Cindi’s recipe, made with half & half, full-fat cream cheese, and lots of butter, needed a slim down (and a bit of a flavor boost). To that end, we created a cream-less base for the spinach using 1% low-fat milk, a roux made with olive oil versus butter, and a bit of light cream cheese. For added flavor, we turned to sauteed onion, nutmeg, and grated Parmesan cheese.

We share the recipe on episode #172 of Cooking with the Moms podcast and chat about our favorite holiday recipes and food adventures from the 2011 season.

Cream-less Creamed Spinach
Liz's 13-year old son, Simon, has declared this recipe his hands-down new favorite. His exact words ... "it's mad good." That's pretty high praise from a young teenager, don't you think? We sure hope your kids love it as much as Simon does!
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 6 to 8
  • Two 10-ounce boxes frozen chopped spinach
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups 1% low-fat milk
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • A few generous pinches ground nutmeg (use fresh if you have it)
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup light cream cheese
  1. Cook the spinach according to package directions. Once cooked, drain in a colander, and press with the back of a large spoon to remove excess moisture. Set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture is smooth and golden, about 2 minutes.
  3. Whisk the milk, salt, pepper, and nutmeg slowly into the flour mixture. Raise the heat and bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer and stir gently until the mixture thickens, about 3 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and whisk in the Parmesan cheese and cream cheese until the cream cheese melts. Stir in the cooked spinach, and season with additional salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Place over low heat and reheat if necessary.
Per serving: 190% vitamin A, 10% vitamin C, 25% calcium, 10% iron
Nutrition Information
Serving size: (1/3 cup), Calories: 150, Fat: 9g, Saturated fat: 2.5g, Carbohydrates: 11g, Sodium: 300mg, Fiber: 3g, Protein: 7g

For comparison sake, Cindi’s creamed spinach is a lot higher in the numbers: 210 calories, 17 grams fat, and 10 grams saturated fat (that’s about half a day’s worth).

Our healthy “creamed” spinach recipe is a keeper for sure. Perfect for the holidays … or any time of the year as far as we’re concerned. As for the holidays, we ate a lot! What follows are just a few of the culinary highlights:

Before: Janice’s daughters, Carolyn and Leah, decorate gingerbread houses with their neighborhood gal pals.

After: Call the dentist, because one very silly 12-year old (the girl in the Santa hat) is about to devour A LOT of candy!

Christmas Eve appetizers at Janice and Don’s house: Smoked salmon with capers and light cream cheese, grape tomatoes stuffed with smoked oysters, olives, cheeses, and skinny string beans with dip.

Right before the holidays, Liz attended a dinner at Forum restaurant in Boston sponsored by Bard Valley Medjool Dates. To read more about the evening and to savor every delicious bite of the meal, head on over to fellow food blogger Janel’s blog post at Eat Well with Janel. In the New year, we hope to create a few new recipes featuring dates.

Liz’s mom makes the best matzo ball soup on the planet. The matzo balls float versus sink, which is just how the whole family likes them.

Tell us about your most delicious food adventure this holiday season. And if you try our Crazy-Good Cream-less Creamed Spinach, let us know what you and your family think of it.


6 responses to “Cream-less Creamed Spinach – A Healthy Makeover of Creamed Spinach”

  1. Jana says:

    I agree that this is “mad good” as far as spinach goes! I added some garlic powder (will use some fresh garlic next time… didn’t think of it until my sauce was already made) and a little cayenne for a kick! Yum!

  2. tracey says:

    can the spinach dish be made the day before the meal?

    • Liz says:

      Yes Tracey. You can make it a day ahead and reheat the day of. I’d suggest reheating in the microwave. Just stop and start a few times and give a good stir! Hope you love it!

  3. Grace says:

    How much spinach would you use, do you think, if you were going to use fresh spinach and chop it rather than frozen? Would it still be 10 oz? Or more since it will cook down so much? Thanks!

    • Janice says:

      Hi Grace:
      The recipe calls for two 10-ounce boxes of frozen spinach, so if you are using fresh it makes sense to use about the same amount (20 ounces) of fresh spinach. We have not tried cooking fresh spinach to see what the weight and volume would be after cooking so you will have to experiment. If you end up with extra cooked spinach just toss the extra in a ziptop freezer bag and freeze for later!

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