9 Top Swaps for Spinach (and How to Sub Fresh and Frozen) – Healthline

Spinach is one of the most popular leafy green vegetables. It’s nutritious, has a mild taste that pairs well with most any savory dish, and is easy to find in most grocery stores and markets.
If you run out of spinach or can’t find it in your local store, you may wonder what greens you can use in place of spinach in your favorite recipes.
Fortunately, a number of other greens make excellent stand-ins for spinach in both hot and cold dishes.
This article lists 9 of the best substitutes for spinach.
Arugula, also known as rocket, can be spicy or mild, depending on the variety you use.
Although arugula has a different flavor profile than spinach, it makes an excellent spinach substitute in dishes such as salads, soups, and pastas.
Most arugula sold in grocery stores is quite mild, with a slight peppery taste. The texture of arugula is similar to that of spinach, so you can use it as a spinach replacement in recipes that call for cooked or fresh spinach.
Arugula contains a number of vitamins and minerals, as well as sulfur compounds called glucosinolates (GSLs).
When the arugula is damaged, like when you cut or chew it, myrosinase enzymes in the arugula break down GSLs into compounds called isothiocyanates (ITCs), which are released and activated (1).
These ITCs from arugula have powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and have been shown to have anticancer effects.
GSLs are found almost exclusively in cruciferous vegetables such as arugula and broccoli, and diets high in these vegetables have been linked to a reduced risk of disease, including a lower risk of certain cancers and heart disease (2).
Try subbing arugula for spinach in dishes such as salads, stir-fries, and egg dishes.
If you were planning to use spinach in a fresh salad, you might want to try certain types of lettuce instead.
Crunchier lettuces like iceberg and romaine won’t have the same texture as spinach, but softer lettuce varieties such as butterhead lettuce, also known as bibb lettuce, make excellent substitutes for spinach.
Butterhead is a tender lettuce that has a delicate texture like that of spinach. Plus, it looks similar to larger leaf spinach varieties.
Butterhead lettuce is a good source of folate and vitamin K, providing 10% and 46% of the Daily Value (DV) for these nutrients per 1 cup (55 grams), respectively (3).
Your body needs folate for critical functions such as cell division and DNA synthesis. Meanwhile, vitamin K is necessary for blood clotting and bone health (4, 5).
You can use butterhead lettuce the same way you would use spinach in dishes such as salads and grain bowls.
Watercress is a cruciferous vegetable you can use as a spinach substitute in a pinch.
Raw watercress has a slightly peppery flavor, but cooked watercress is a bit milder. For this reason, watercress may be a good choice for recipes that call for cooked spinach, like egg dishes, pastas, and soups.
Watercress is a concentrated source of healthy plant compounds called polyphenols, including phenolic acids, flavonoids, carotenoids, and proanthocyanidins. These have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities in your body (6).
Studies have shown that eating watercress could help reduce inflammation and oxidative damage and boost your body’s antioxidant defenses, which may help reduce the risk of disease (7, 8, 9).
You can use kale as a substitute for spinach, but you’ll want to choose the right type depending on the recipe.
If you’re making a salad and plan on using kale as a substitute for raw spinach, it’s best to use baby kale because it’s more tender than mature kale. You can also massage mature kale with some olive oil to make it more tender if you’re using it in a raw dish.
When using kale as a spinach substitute in cooked dishes, you can use any type you like, including lacinato or dinosaur kale, a variety commonly sold at grocery stores. Because kale is usually larger than spinach, you could try chopping kale before adding it to your dish.
Kale is a highly nutritious green, providing folate, provitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, potassium, and a number of other vitamins and minerals, plus fiber (10).
Studies show that regularly consuming leafy green vegetables such as kale may help protect against a number of health conditions, including heart disease (11).
Swiss chard is a leafy green vegetable that belongs to the same plant family as spinach. People often refer to it as spinach beet.
Although Swiss chard has a slightly bitter taste when eaten raw, it takes on a milder flavor when cooked, so it’s an excellent stand-in for spinach in recipes that call for cooked spinach.
It’s also quite nutritious, packing high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, folate, magnesium, iron, and more. What’s more, Swiss chard is rich in protective plant compounds such as carotenoids and flavonoids.
For example, a flavonoid called vitexin, which is found in Swiss chard, may help protect against heart disease (12, 13).
Try using Swiss chard in place of spinach in casseroles, stews, and frittatas.
Beet greens have an earthy flavor and a delicate texture. You can use them in place of spinach in most any cooked dish, including sautes, soups, and pastas.
Beet greens are nutrient-dense, providing more than 30% of the DV for vitamin C, copper, vitamin A, and vitamin K per cooked cup, as well as 28% of the DV for potassium (14).
Additionally, beet greens are rich in antioxidant compounds such as betalains and flavonoids, which may help protect against cellular damage (15).
Bok choy, also known as pak choy, buk choy, and Chinese white cabbage, is an Asian green that has a mild flavor and tender texture.
It’s delicious both when raw and when cooked and can be used in the same way as spinach in many recipes, such as soups and stir-fries.
You can leave bok choy whole or cut the leaves off the stem before cooking it. Cutting the leaves off the stem will make it look more like spinach.
This cruciferous vegetable is a good source of a number of vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, iron, folate, and potassium, as well as beneficial compounds like glucosinolates and flavonoids (16, 17).
Mustard greens can add a flavorful kick to recipes when you’re running low on spinach.
When eaten raw, they have a spicy, peppery taste. However, when cooked, mustard greens take on a milder flavor.
Keep in mind that, even when cooked, mustard greens are much more flavorful than spinach, so they might change the taste of your dish.
Like other cruciferous vegetables, mustard greens are a good source of nutrients such as vitamins C and K, as well as beneficial plant compounds, including the carotenoids beta carotene and lutein (18, 19).
Consuming a diet rich in carotenoids has been linked to a number of health benefits, including a reduced risk of certain cancers and a reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration (20, 21).
Although it’s not as well known as the other greens on this list, purslane is just as nutritious.
It grows wild as a weed in many areas of the world and is a popular vegetable among foragers — people who make wild, edible plants a part of their diet. It’s a staple of the Mediterranean diet, and people often enjoy it raw in salads.
It has a mild, slightly salty taste, which some say is similar to that of spinach.
Purslane is high in minerals such as calcium, potassium, and phosphorus, as well as vitamins C and A.
It also contains a number of plant compounds that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, such as the flavonoids quercetin and kaempferol (22, 23, 24).
If a recipe calls for fresh spinach but you have only frozen, or vice versa, it’s perfectly OK to sub one for the other — at least in most recipes.
You might not want to use frozen spinach in dishes that rely on the texture of fresh spinach, such as spinach salads, but you can use it in place of fresh spinach in dishes like soups and baked goods.
Frozen spinach shrinks a lot less than fresh spinach when cooked, so you can typically use a smaller volume of frozen spinach than you would fresh spinach.
Keep in mind that frozen spinach contains a lot of water and must be thawed and drained before you use it in most recipes. Fresh spinach also retains quite a bit of liquid when cooked down, so you may need to drain it before you add it to dishes.
Fresh and frozen spinach are delicious in recipes such as egg dishes, soups, pastas, stir-fries, smoothies, and baked goods.
Spinach is a mild-tasting green that’s a staple in many kitchens around the world.
If a recipe calls for spinach but you realize you’ve run out, you can use many other greens in its place.
Arugula, kale, butterhead lettuce, and Swiss chard are just some examples of nutritious and delicious greens you can use as spinach substitutes.
Last medically reviewed on March 11, 2022
This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.
Our team of licensed nutritionists and dietitians strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.
This article contains scientific references. The numbers in the parentheses (1, 2, 3) are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.









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