Spinach Madeline

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.

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 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.

You could also serve it with a broiled steak (or another protein) for a Date Night at Home.

Other awesome and versatile side dishes: Baked Sweet Potato Cubes with Butter and Bourbon Toasted Pine Nut Green Beans / Roasted Broccoli with Lemon and GarlicGarlic Parmesan Mashed Potato CasseroleQuick Rosemary Drop Biscuits

Looking for more inspiration? Head on over to my Side Dish recipe index for more ideas.

Ingredients for spicy creamed spinach are shown on a background

What are the tools I need to make this recipe?

The Speckled Palate participates in affiliate programs. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a commission from qualifying purchases. Please refer to my disclosure page for more information about these affiliate programs.

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.

Substitution ideas:

  • 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.
Collage showing how to drain spinach and how to make a creamy sauce for spinach

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!

Collage showing how to make and finalize spinach Madeline

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.
Close up of the casserole before it goes into the oven

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some occasions I can make this for?

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.

How do you drain spinach?

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.

What is the spinach cooking liquid mentioned in the recipe?

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.

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.

Do I have to bake Spinach Madeline?

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.

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

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.
A large spoon holds a scoop of baked Spinach Madeline

What are to serve this 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!

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  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!

Notes

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.

Substitutions

  • 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:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

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

How much did you love this recipe?

Follow me on Instagram for more content, and share a photo of your creation with the hashtag #speckledpalate!

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.

Similar Posts

18 Comments

  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!

  9. This was a great side for Keto. I added 8 ounces of mushrooms (didn’t want them to go bad) and that gave it nice texture. I didn’t have milk, so I used jarred alfredo sauce instead and skipped the flour. Mine did not need to bake for 30 minutes. 25 tops.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.