Baby vs. Regular Spinach

by Elizabeth Skipper | June 30th, 2015 | Ask the Chef

Warm Sweet Potato with Spinach & CranberriesWhen making salads, I always use baby spinach; regular spinach would be too tough. However, if I am sautéing, braising, or cooking in any other manner, does it matter whether I use baby or regular spinach?

You know how much regular spinach shrinks when cooked? The loss of volume is even more dramatic when baby spinach is cooked. There’s not much of it to begin with, and it seems to almost disappear. And given that it’s usually more costly than “adult” spinach, it seems wasteful to cook it. For cooking spinach for purées, sautéing, or stir frying, stick with regular spinach.

There are some instances, though, where baby spinach is appropriate for cooking. What are those? Added to the last minute to a pot of soup, baby spinach cooks almost instantly, so it’s a natural. Add it once the soup comes off the heat; that’s how fast it cooks. Ignore the directions in recipes which say to add it five minutes before the soup is done. This Warm Sweet Potato with Spinach & Cranberries is a perfect place to use baby spinach.

In scrambled eggs, omelets, and quiches, baby spinach works well and requires no previous cooking. You might want to chop it lightly before adding, so it’s evenly distributed throughout the dish. This also applies to casseroles, especially those which include pasta. I’m thinking of one in particular that I like which contains bowtie pasta, chicken, baby mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, and pesto.

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