Spinach Madeline

Spinach Madeline is a comforting side that is a spicy twist on traditional creamed spinach. Instead of just cream, the spinach is mixed with pepperjack cheese and spices, then baked to make this outstanding vegetarian side dish that pairs well with most meals! Makes 4 servings.

fork taking a bite of spinach madeline

When we lived in Louisiana, I worked as the staff photographer for an arts and entertainment magazine.

One day, I was given the assignment to photograph a woman named Madeline Wright, who lived about 45 minutes away from Baton Rouge in St. Francisville.

Her claim to fame was her Spinach Madeline dish, and since we were focusing on the well-loved Louisiana recipe that has been oft copied and repeated, my editors wanted a portrait of the woman who invented it.

I spent a lovely morning with Mrs. Wright at her home, and I left with a new appreciation for her famous spinach dish, which I’d been introduced to the winter before.

Turns out, her recipe was created by accident.

Other awesome and versatile side dishes: Bourbon Butter Sweet PotatoesToasted Pine Nut Green BeansParmesan and Pine Nut BroccoliGarlic Parmesan Mashed Potato CasseroleQuick Rosemary Drop Biscuits

Ingredients for spicy creamed spinach are shown on a background

What are the tools I need to make Spinach Madeline?

Disclaimer: The links below are affiliate links. If you click through and take action, I will receive a small commission. Please refer to my disclosure page for more information about the affiliate programs The Speckled Palate participates in.

Finely chopped onion is shown in a saute pan, cooking

How do I make Spinach Madeline?

Preheat the oven, and spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Place large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil.

When the oil is simmering, add the onion and continually stir until it has softened.

Close up of the onion coated in flour in the saute pan

Add the flour and stir until the onions are coated.

Cook for a few minutes until the flour begins to turn a golden brown.

This is a roux with onion in it, and it’s going to be the thing that will thicken your sauce.

Milk and other liquids are poured into the sauce

Slowly pour in the milk and the spinach liquid.

Stir constantly until the sauce thickens.

Once the sauce has thickened, add Worcestershire, celery salt, garlic salt and black pepper.

Taste and add kosher salt if necessary.

The thickened sauce in the pan is shown with the drained spinach and pepperjack cheese, before assembling


Remove the skillet from the heat.

Once off the heat, add most of the pepperjack cheese and the drained spinach.

Stir until the ingredients have melted together, then transfer to the prepared baking dish.

Steamed spinach and pepperjack cheese are added to the sauce to make the creamed spinach dish

Sprinkle the additional pepperjack on top of the casserole.

Transfer to the oven, and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the cheese is browned.

Serve warm, and enjoy!

A man sprinkles cheese on top of the side dish

What is Spinach Madeline?

Spinach Madeline is a spinach-centric side dish. It’s similar to creamed spinach, but instead of just using cream, it calls for a kick: spicy pepperjack cheese.

It’s been renamed on menus all over South Louisiana for the person who made it for that particular restaurant, but the heart of this dish is the same.

Spinach. Pepperjack cheese. Milk.

Unlike others, we haven’t renamed this classic dish because while I have taken Mrs. Wright’s original recipe and tinkered with it throughout the years, we haven’t changed it so much that we feel compelled to call it Spinach Erin. 

It’s simple. It’s easy to put together. And it’s utterly delicious and the perfect side dish for so many meals.

Close up of the casserole before it goes into the oven

What are some occasions I can make this creamed spinach side dish for?

We eat Spinach Madeline for most holiday meals that we celebrate by ourselves.

Valentine’s Day? Heck yes.

Birthdays? Oh yeah.

This dish is basically perfect anytime the weather is cool enough to turn on your oven, and it has never disappointed.

Steamed spinach is shown in a fine mesh strainer, draining

Tips and Tricks to making the BEST Spinach Madeline

How do I drain the spinach after I’ve cooked it on the stovetop or in the microwave?

Honestly, the part of Spinach Madeline that takes the longest is cooking the frozen spinach and draining it.

Pro tip: Cook the frozen spinach well in advance if you have the time to spare. Why? It gives the spinach some time to cool off so you don’t burn the heck out of your hands.

I like to drain the spinach by using a fine mesh strainer (affiliate link) over a large bowl. Let it cool like this for a bit before pressing down on it using a large spoon or even your hand. 

The key is squeezing enough liquid out of the spinach. (And this liquid will be needed in the recipe itself, so don’t toss it once it’s been strained!)

Another thing I’ve done in the past is microwaving the frozen spinach according to the packaging, then dumping it into a fine mesh strainer over a large bowl. Then I place some paper towels or a kitchen towel over it and set a 28 oz. can of tomatoes on top of it and pop it in the fridge and let the water seep out as it chills.

Spinach cooking liquid drains into a large bowl

What is the spinach cooking liquid mentioned in the recipe?

It’s the liquid you strain out of the spinach after it cooks. 

Why is this important? Because some of it goes back into the dish.

I’ve made the mistake of throwing it away in the past without thinking.

Unsurprisingly, the dish is a lot less flavorful without the spinach cooking liquid.

A red casserole dish holding Spinach Madeline, after coming out of the oven

How can I make Spinach Madeline more quickly?

Measure out and line up all the ingredients needed before you start cooking because this dish comes together fast on the stovetop.

Why? I’ve burned a whole mess of the onion before because I didn’t have my ducks in a row, and it was super sad.

How can I make Spinach Madeline in advance?

Follow the instructions of the recipe up to the point where you bake it.

Instead of baking it, pour the cooked Spinach Madeline in your prepared baking dish, cover and refrigerate for up to 1-2 days in advance.

When the time comes to bake the dish, simply preheat the oven and bake until gooey and delicious.

Close up of the casserole in the saute pan before transferring to the baking dish

Do I have to bake Spinach Madeline for it to be ready to eat?

Nope! Not at all.

You don’t necessarily have to bake the Spinach Madeline after it comes together on the stovetop, but that bubbly cheese on top is TOTALLY worth the extra time!

A large spoon holds a scoop of baked Spinach Madeline

Substitution ideas

  • No onion? Use shallot! This will have a milder flavor, but it’s still delicious. I normally opt for onion because I always have those on hand, but if you’re into shallots, those work nicely… and I believe they’re actually what the original recipe calls for.
  • Don’t keep garlic salt in the house? Use granulated garlic instead. Be prepared to add a pinch or two of salt to the final dish before it bakes, but taste before you do this. It might be salty enough for your tastebuds! (And the salt content will change, depending on the cheese brand you use.)
  • Pepperjack cheese too spicy? Use half pepperjack and half monterrey jack. If you don’t like heat at all, you can use all monterrey jack. We love the kick pepperjack adds, but I know it can be too much for some folks and that some brands are spicier than others. 

A person scoops a large scoop out of a red baking dish of Spinach Madeline, with Pinterest text

What are some dishes that this creamy spinach casserole recipe pairs well with?

Ready to learn how to make this creamed spinach goodness?

Scroll on down…

fork taking a bite of spinach madeline
Yield: 4 servings

Spinach Madeline

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Spinach Madeline is a comforting side that is a spicy twist on traditional creamed spinach. Instead of just cream, the spinach is mixed with pepperjack cheese and spices, then baked to make this outstanding vegetarian side dish that pairs well with most meals!


  • 12 oz. frozen chopped spinach, cooked and drained (with drained liquid reserved)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely (about ½ cup)
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup spinach cooking liquid
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ¾ teaspoon celery salt
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • ¾ cup pepperjack cheese
  • ¼ cup pepperjack cheese, for topping


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray a 1.5 qt. baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside.
  2. If you haven't yet, cook the frozen spinach. Heat for 6-8 minutes in a microwave-safe container in the microwave with no extra liquid. When the spinach is cooked through, strain over a bowl or a liquid measuring cup to reserve the cooking liquid for later. Set aside.
  3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil.
  4. When the olive oil is simmering, add the onion, stirring in the pan until it has softened.
  5. Measure in the flour, and stir until the onions are coated. Cook for a few minutes until the flour begins to turn golden brown.
  6. Slowly pour in the milk and spinach liquid, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Add the Worcestershire, celery salt, garlic salt and black pepper. Taste and add kosher salt if necessary.
  7. Remove from the heat, and add the ¾ cup of pepperjack cheese and the cooked, drained spinach. Stir until the ingredients have melted together, then transfer to the prepared baking dish.
  8. Once the mixture is in the baking dish, sprinkle the additional pepperjack on top of the casserole, and transfer to the oven, baking for 30-40 minutes, or until the cheese is browned.
  9. Serve warm, and enjoy!


Adapted from River Road Recipes from the Junior League of Baton Rouge.

This recipe is easily doubled or tripled if you're feeding a crowd, so just double/triple/quadruple the ingredients as necessary!

Easy Entertaining Tip: Make the Spinach Madeline ahead of time, but instead of baking, simply transfer the dish to the prepared baking dish. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 days beforehand, then preheat the oven and bake as instructed when you're ready to make it.

What is this spinach cooking liquid listed above? It's the liquid you strain out of the spinach after it cooks. It's important because some of it goes back into the dish. Don't make the same mistake of me and throw it away without thinking because the dish won't be as flavorful.


  • Don't gave onion? You can use shallot!
  • Don't have garlic salt? Use granulated garlic instead. (And add a pinch of salt to the dish after you taste it if it needs a little more salt.)
  • Pepperjack cheese too spicy? Use half pepperjack and half monterrey jack.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 236Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 30mgSodium: 955mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 3gSugar: 1gProtein: 12g

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The photos and recipe for this Spinach Madeline recipe were originally published on February 19, 2016. The photographs, along with the text of this blog post, were updated on May 24, 2019. A video was added on December 28, 2019.

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  1. What a cool assignment! And it led to this awesome looking dish! I adore spinach and know I would love this!

  2. That looks delicious! I can’t say I’ve ever tried it, I must be too far north for such things. I can’t wait to give it a go!

  3. Ok, so you met THE Madeline of Spinach Madeline fame?! Seriously, that is so cool! I’ve been looking for more low-carb-friendly ideas for greens, and I think I’ll be making this soon.

  4. This looks incredible! I love spinach and I love cheese, and that melted, golden crust is totally calling my name. How cool that you even got to meet the woman who created this dish! Pinning for later. Yum!

  5. Made this for the vegetarians in our family for Thanksgiving. I doubled the recipe. Not only did the vegetarians love it, the whole family loved it! Next year I will need to triple it! Delish! ❤️❤️

    1. Peggy, this makes me SO happy to hear! Our whole family–none of whom are vegetarians–adore this recipe, too! Thrilled that this was a hit at your family table, and I hope this recipe comes in handy for year to come! ❤️❤️

    1. YES! You can absolutely make this ahead of time and store it in the fridge. When you’re ready to bake it, preheat the oven, remove the casserole dish from the fridge and bake! I’m going to add this to the post, too, so others who might have this question can know you can make this in advance.

      Thanks for the question, Lib!

    1. Thanks so much, Michelle. This is one of our favorites for a reason.

      I think you could use fresh baby spinach, though I’m unsure how much you’d have to use since it shrinks down so much. You’ll have to saute or boil the heck out of it, then squeeze all the liquid out (like you would with the frozen stuff) before adding to the mix… but it can be done. 🙂

      If you give it a shot, let me know how it goes and how much spinach you had to use! I’d be interested in hearing it!

    2. I used a big 11 ounce box of fresh baby spinach, sauteed it in some olive oil and when it was all wilted down, briefly put it in my Ninja chopper with a few pulses.
      I did not drain the liquid out and used it as is and the whole thing turned out great!! I love, love this recipe and make it all the time!

      1. This is AWESOME to know, Carolanne! I’m so happy that fresh spinach works for you here, too, and that you shared how much you use. I need to give it a try, too, because it sounds absolutely delicious. Thanks for your comment AND for encouraging us all to give this a shot with fresh spinach!

  6. Have tried both frozen and fresh spinach and would highly recommend fresh over frozen. My method utilized fresh sauted FRESH spinach (with the onions noted in the recipe) instead of frozen which retained the “spinach water” within the leaves and gave it tons of flavor. Highly recommend using fresh. Thx.

    1. Hi Queene Greene! I’m excited to hear that you’ve tried both fresh and frozen and that you like the fresh spinach better in this recipe since it retains the water a bit better. I’m going to have to try it when I get my hands on some fresh spinach. Enjoy, and thanks for your feedback!

  7. I have been making this for years! It is my husbands mothers recipe and he absolutely loves it! I use it when I entertain and everyone always loves it! I use Mexican or jalepenpo velvets 6oz instead of pepper jack and it makes it so creamy! I highly recommend that you try that!,,,

  8. I am a bit confused. The ingredients section indicates using the liquid saved from the thawed frozen spinach with no mention of cooking it. Yet the directions indicate using the liquid from cooking the spinach. If you do cook the spinach, how much water do you cook it in? And won’t raw frozen spinach cook in the baking process? This all seems very unclear.

    1. Hey Greg. You’re right. That IS confusing and I never thought about it like that.

      You need to cook the frozen spinach before you make the cheese sauce and toss the spinach into it. When I microwave mine, I don’t add extra liquid and I never do it on the stovetop. I legit throw it into a microwave-safe bowl (unless the packaging is microwave-safe, then I do it in there), heat for the amount of time the packaging says, and then drain it into a liquid measuring cup to save that liquid. (I talk about it in the body of the post, but I’ve found doing this early and letting the spinach in the fine mesh strainer sit in the fridge with a heavier can or jar on it helps the draining and also helps to where you don’t burn your hands trying to strain the liquid out.) I’ve also done the straining by putting the spinach in a clean cheesecloth or hand towel and straining it over a bowl to save the liquid.

      I’m so sorry this wasn’t clearer. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I’ve just updated the recipe card to include the cooking of the frozen spinach to make it clearer.

      And I hope if you do make the Spinach Madeline that you love it!

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