Sometimes, you come across the most perfect-sounding recipe, only to find that you do not have spinach on hand to make it without trudging out to the store or paying for costly home delivery. Or, unlike Popeye, you simply do not appreciate the taste and texture of spinach.
Well, rest assured, there are plenty of ways to cook recipes by simply substituting spinach for another vegetable!
Best Spinach Substitutes
When substituting spinach in a hot dish such as pasta or soup, it is best to go with another leafy and fibrous vegetable to not alter the intended taste, texture, and color of the dish. An excellent substitution for spinach in these types of dishes would be kale.
Kale is a member of the brassica family alongside cauliflower, cabbage, and brussel sprouts. Interestingly, kale is one of the few vegetables that doesn’t shrink dramatically once cooked so it does very well in soups, pasta, and sauces.
There are a few different varieties of kale but the best for these types of dishes would include: traditional curly kale and also the lacinato, or as it is sometimes known as ‘dinosaur’ kale due to its ridged texture.
2. Leafy Salad Greens
For salads that call for spinach, it is an easy substitution to swap out spinach for a spring mix which is sometimes called mesclun and can include many varieties of baby leaves such as lolla rossa, radicchio, green leaf, and baby kale.
These mixes can sometimes be a touch bitter, depending on what type of combination you have on hand.
However, like spinach, they are an excellent vehicle for most flavors so they can be used in a wide variety of ways within salads.
Arugula is another member of the brassica vegetable family and it has a strong taste including elements of mustard and pepper. You can use arugula in a wide variety of substitutions, like spinach, it is an excellent base for any type of salad.
Similar, to kale, arugula also somewhat maintains its form and bite when folded into hot dishes such as pasta or plopped right on top of pizza and garnished with grated parmesan cheese.
Again, like spinach, arugula’s flavor profile is exemplified and elevated by the addition of citrus and vinegar so a good salad vinegarette is a lovely addition.
4. Swiss Chard
Swiss chard belongs to the Flavescens family and can sometimes be referred to as silver beet or beet spinach. It has deep green leaves and typically a vivid red or yellow stalk.
Swiss chard is a great substitute for spinach as it can be finely diced and consumed raw in a salad – or cooked and eaten. Swiss chard would be a great replacement for spinach in a ‘creamed spinach’ type dish as it would hold up very well when heated and would very much complement the cream and parmesan flavors.
5. Collard Greens
Collard greens are highly nutritious and are a deep and vivid shade of green. You typically will find collard greens on Southern-inspired menus as they are a staple dish.
The great thing about collard greens is their clean flavor profile; typically, collard greens are simmered in chicken broth with ham and served with an acidic garnish such as peppered vinegar.
Collards would be a great substitute for spinach when you simply require a sauteed vegetable side to accompany a richer main entrée.
For a delicate and flavorful substitution for spinach, consider using watercress which features notes of mustard, wasabi, and pepper. Watercress can be used within a salad, as a sandwich topper, or even cooked.
The vegetable loses some of its pungency when exposed to heat; it would be great stirred into a soup. When both cooked and raw, watercress has a very similar texture and appearance to spinach thus making it an excellent substitution.
7. Romaine or Iceberg Lettuce
Both of these types of lettuce feature quite a different type of texture and bite to spinach, but they both work very well as a salad leaf substitution for spinach.
Each of these lettuces features a mild taste and is adaptable to fit the profile of most salads. The leaves hold up well to both oil and cream-based dressings and make a great sub for spinach.
These lettuces can also be mixed into stir-fry type dishes, as don’t share the same texture as spinach but they provide a great crunch to those dishes.
8. Bok Choy
Bok Choy is a cruciferous vegetable that is native to China and used heavily within Asian recipes. The vegetable does not share a similar texture to spinach, but as a green and leafy vegetable, it can be used in many of the recipes as a substitute.
Bok Choy can be added to stir-fries, simmered in soups, or even sliced and eaten raw in a salad.
9. Other Green Vegetables: Zucchini, Broccoli, or Garden Peas
If you are looking to remove spinach from a dish and the goal is to replace them with something green and similarly a nutritious powerhouse: then these staple green vegetables completely fit the bill!
Zucchini, broccoli, and garden peas call all be added as substitutes for spinach and be added to many dishes easily. These vegetables can be eaten raw, steamed, simmered, or sauteed – the options are endless!