Spinach Madeline is a comforting side that is a spicy twist on traditional creamed spinach. This creamy spinach recipe gets a kick from pepperjack cheese and spices. Serve it as a side with dinner or make it for a special occasion or holiday! Makes 4 servings.
When we lived in Louisiana, I worked as the staff photographer for an arts and entertainment magazine.
One month, I photographed Madeline Wright, the lady who invented Spinach Madeline.
I left our portrait session with a new appreciation for her famous creamed spinach recipe, which I’d been introduced to the winter before.
Turns out, her recipe was created by accident. (And no, it’s not a madeline cookie made with spinach.)
What is Spinach Madeline?
Spinach Madeline is a creamy side dish. It’s similar to creamed spinach, but instead of just using cream, it gets a kick from pepperjack cheese.
You’ll see it on menus throughout South Louisiana with different names. The heart of the dish is this: spinach in a creamy sauce with some heat.
The original recipe calls for a jalapeno log. This one calls for shredded pepperjack cheese.
My recipe here has been adapted from River Road Recipes from the Junior League of Baton Rouge and tweaked to our likings over the years.
Why I love this recipe:
Spinach Madeline is one of the most comforting side dishes. It’s simple. It’s easy to put together. And it’s utterly delicious and the perfect side dish for so many meals.
It can be made well in advance then baked off before serving, too.
Spinach Madeline is also versatile. You can serve it for a holiday, like Thanksgiving or Christmas.
Other awesome and versatile side dishes: Baked Sweet Potato Cubes with Butter and Bourbon / Toasted Pine Nut Green Beans / Roasted Broccoli with Lemon and Garlic / Garlic Parmesan Mashed Potato Casserole / Quick Rosemary Drop Biscuits
Looking for more inspiration? Head on over to my Side Dish recipe index for more ideas.
What are the tools I need to make this recipe?
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Let’s talk ingredients!
In addition to the tools above, you’re going to need some ingredients to make this recipe, too! Chances are, you might already have some of them in your fridge or pantry. Scroll down to the recipe card for the full measurements and instructions.
Here’s what you need:
- Spinach—I like to use frozen chopped spinach and cook that before draining it and saving the liquid. However, I’ve been told by several people that this recipe is also excellent with fresh spinach cooked down!
- Extra virgin olive oil—or another neutral oil. You could also use the same amount of unsalted butter, too.
- Onion—yellow or white is perfect here. You do not want to use a sweet onion or a purple onion.
- All-purpose flour—I like to use unbleached AP flour, but the regular kind works, too. I have never successfully swapped this with a gluten free flour, so I do not suggest that.
- Milk—whatever you’ve got on hand works. We like to use 2% or whole milk for the most flavor.
- Spinach cooking liquid—this is the liquid that comes out of the spinach after it cooks. You want to save it because it imparts such amazing flavor to the dish!
- Worcestershire sauce—this gives the cheese sauce some umami flavor. If serving this to vegetarians, be sure to purchase vegan Worcestershire sauce.
- Seasonings—we’re using a combination of celery salt, garlic salt, freshly ground black pepper and a little bit of kosher salt to season up this spinach recipe. I suggest going light on the salt, as the cheese can add a salty punch.
- Pepperjack cheese—this is what adds our spicy kick. It goes into the sauce itself and is sprinkled on top of the spinach mixture before baking. Give it a taste before stirring it in to gauge the heat, as different brands are spicier than others.
- No onion? Use shallot! It will have a milder flavor, but it’s still delicious. I always have onions on hand, but if you’re into shallots, those work… and I believe they’re what the original recipe calls for.
- Don’t have garlic salt? Use granulated garlic instead. You might need to add a pinch of salt to the final dish, but taste it beforehand.
- 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.
How to make Spinach Madeline
Preheat the oven, and spray a baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Heat oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat.
When the oil is hot, add the onion. Cook until soft but not brown.
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, which will thicken the cheese 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. Give it a taste and add salt, if necessary.
Remove the skillet from the heat and add most of the pepperjack cheese and the drained spinach.
Stir until the ingredients are combined.
Transfer into a casserole. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese.
Bake for 30-40 minutes in the preheated oven. The cheese will brown.
Serve immediately, and enjoy!
Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips
One thing I love about this spicy creamy spinach recipe is that it’s versatile, meaning you can make it for a variety of different occasions.
Here’s what I like to do when I make it for a gathering:
- Make it in advance. Put together the creamy sauce and stir the steamed spinach into it, too. Sprinkle the pepperjack on top, wrap in plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator overnight. Bake when ready.
- Double or triple the recipe. My family of four can take down this casserole by ourselves, so we always make extra when hosting.
Frequently Asked Questions
We eat Spinach Madeline for most holiday meals that we celebrate by ourselves, including Valentine’s Day and birthdays, as well as Thanksgiving and Christmas.
This dish is perfect anytime the weather is cool enough to turn on your oven, and it has never disappointed.
I like to drain the spinach over a large bowl in a fine mesh strainer. Let it cool for a bit before pressing the liquid out with a large spoon or your hand.
It’s the liquid you strain out of the spinach after it cooks. It’s important because some, if not all of it, goes back into the dish to give extra spinach flavor.
Measure out and line up all the ingredients needed before you start cooking because this dish comes together fast on the stovetop.
You do not need to. While you don’t have to bake it after it comes together on the stovetop, I recommend it because of the cheesy topping. However, you can serve it straight from the stovetop.
Tips and Tricks to making the BEST Spinach Madeline
- Cook the spinach early, and let it drain slowly over a bowl. This will give the spinach time to cool off so you don’t burn your hands.
- Prep everything before starting cooking. This will make the assembly and cooking easy as pie!
- Taste the pepperjack cheese before stirring it in. Some cheeses are more or less spicy. If you’re concerned about this, mix in some mozzarella or monterrey jack cheese.
- How to store: Transfer leftovers to an airtight food storage container after they have cooled completely. Refrigerate for up to a week. Reheat in the microwave until warm.
What are to serve this with:
- Mediterranean Herb Crusted Beef Tenderloin
- Whole Roasted Chicken or Sage Browned Butter Turkey
- Honey Ham
Ready to learn how to make this creamed spinach goodness?
Scroll on down…
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
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Spray a 1.5 qt. baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside.
- 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.
- In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil.
- When the olive oil is simmering, add the onion, stirring in the pan until it has softened.
- Measure in the flour, and stir until the onions are coated. Cook for a few minutes until the flour begins to turn golden brown.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Serve warm, and enjoy!
Adapted from River Road Recipes from the Junior League of Baton Rouge.
If you want this to be vegetarian, please ensure you're using vegan worcestershire sauce.
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.
As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 236Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 30mgSodium: 955mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 3gSugar: 1gProtein: 12g
Have you ever eaten Spinach Madeline?
This Spinach Madeline recipe was originally published on February 19, 2016. The photographs, video and text were updated in 2019.