Friday, November 20, 2015

Ellie Kreiger's Healthier Creamed Spinach (A Dairy-Free Version)

I adore creamed spinach. I love it as a side dish. I can eat it as an entree. Shortly after I stopped eating meat and poultry a few years back a friend of mine celebrated his birthday at a steak house. There was a fish entree and some seafood on the menu too, but I wasn't really in the mood for that and instead I ordered a side of creamed spinach and a side of mushrooms for my entree. At first, my friend kept apologizing for the restaurant pick but I think it became apparent that I was completely content with my dinner choices. ;-)

The only thing I don't love about creamed spinach is the amount of fat and calories it contains--making it most suitable as a occasional indulgence. This week's theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs is side dishes and I knew wanted to try Ellie Krieger's healthier Creamed Spinach from her So Easy cookbook since I've had it tagged to make for ages. To make it a true side dish, I served the spinach with some wild King salmon--simply seasoned with salt, pepper, and a little Old Bay Seasoning, seared or blackened on all sides over high heat (and a bit of coconut oil) and then cooked until just past translucent inside.  

I made some changes to the recipe based both on what I had on hand and to pump up the flavor a bit as I noticed it had mixed reviews on Food Network. I don't keep milk on hand since dairy makes me stuffy (I try to save my dairy-eating for good cheese indulgences), and so I used non-dairy unsweetened coconut milk instead of low-fat milk and unflavored coconut creamer in place of the evaporated milk. For flavor, I added 1/4 cup more of shallots--taking some extra time to caramelize them, and added four cloves of garlic. I am not a big nutmeg fan so I subbed in sweet paprika, added a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes and used a good amount of cracked black pepper. My changes are in red below, as are a few cooking tips that helped with flavor and texture.

Creamed Spinach
Adapted from So Easy by Ellie Krieger  or at
(Makes 8 Servings)

2 10-oz packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 small shallots, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup) (I used about 3/4 cup)

(I added 4 cloves of garlic, minced)
4 tsp all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups low-fat (1%) milk (I used So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk)
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth (I used homemade no-salt veggie stock)
2 Tbsp evaporated milk
(I used coconut milk creamer)
pinch of ground nutmeg (I used a large pinch of sweet paprika) 
(I added a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Squeeze all of the water from the spinach. In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the flour to the pan and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the low-fat milk and broth and cook, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook 2 minutes.

Add the spinach and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in the evaporated milk and nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper.

Deb's Cooking Tips for this recipe: I think the key to making this dish its best is to give it some extra time and love. Ellie notes to squeeze all the water from the spinach and it needs to be as dry as possible--whatever your method for draining spinach. (I use my TofuXpress, defrosting the spinach completely in a colander first, then putting it in the press using the heavier spring. I pour the pressed liquid out every 15 minutes or so for the first hour, then loosen the press, stir the spinach, and press again, leaving it overnight in the fridge. When I am ready to use it, I dump any remaining liquid and remove the spinach from the dress onto a clean kitchen towel. I take a few minutes to "fluff" out the spinach, separating it so that it is easier to stir into the cream.) I cooked the shallots longer than the 2 minutes in the recipe--about 8-10 minutes, until they begin to color and caramelize a bit, then add the garlic and continued to saute another 2-3 minutes. It takes a bit longer but is well worth it in terms of taste. Texture-wise, I made sure to cook the flour well and gradually stirred in the broth first, whisking until completely smooth before adding the (coconut) milk. I then simmered the cream sauce for 5 minutes, until it was nice and thick, before stirring in the spinach and cooking until tender. Taking this extra time and effort yielded ultra creamy spinach.

Notes/Results: Nothing completely takes the place of a butter, cream, and cheese-filled creamed spinach, but this was a great substitute. It's still rich, creamy and flavorful and so much healthier and less guilt-inducing. In case you were worried, it doesn't taste like coconut and using it in place of dairy milk adds a bit more fat, but less calories. I would be happy eating it as my entree but it was delicious with the salmon. I have plenty leftover and it may end up as breakfast tomorrow, warmed and with a fried egg on top. I would definitely make it again when I get a craving--with the changes I mentioned above. 
You can see what Ellie Krieger recipes everyone cooked for our Scentsational Sides theme at I Heart Cooking Clubs by checking out the picture links on the post. 



  1. Reading this posts makes me smile, Deb! I can tell by the writing that you are serious about some creamed spinach! I completely understand because I love it too:)I like it by itself, I like it inside an omelet, and I really love it with a gorgeous fried egg on top as you do! Recently a friend and I shared a spinach quesadilla that was basically filled with creamed spinach - it was heavenly! So many options:) Your version looks every bit as good as the full fat version and that piece of salmon doesn't look too bad either;)

  2. If you get an anonymous comment it's from me. Not sure what is going on with my comments.

  3. Creamed spinach is one of my FAVORITE sides. I have really intense cravings for it. Love that this is a bit lighter!

  4. I love salmon and this looks like a great side to go with it. I have not had creamed spinach in ages so another one for the list.

  5. Creamed spinach. I'm gonna try this. Thanks!

  6. Any kind of guilt-free substitutions work for me. I like how you went an extra mile to make the spinach extra creamy and tasty. Great tips in making this healthy dish.

  7. Love it how you substitute the ingredients and spent some extra effort in making the dish. I can see it is well worth your effort, it looks creamy and wonderful, and serving it with the salmon looks perfectly delicious!


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