A simple and delicious side dish, learn how to cook sautéed spinach with onion and tomato. Serve with white beans, toasted sourdough bread or over rice for a complete meal. Ready in under 20 minutes, this vegan, plant-based, oil-free recipe is great for a weeknight meal.
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This is one of my easy weeknight dinner meals, especially if I have a lot of spinach leaves in the refrigerator that needs to be used. It has great flavors for a delicious side dish or can be made into a full meal easily.
To make this dish lower in calories without sacrificing flavor, we've omitted the use of olive oil or cooking oil, but if you prefer use oil in your cooking, feel free to use it.
🧄 Ingredient notes
- Baby spinach - use tender, pre-washed baby spinach to make sautéed spinach quick, convenient and easy. You need more spinach than you think, since it reduces so much when it's cooked.
- Stewed tomatoes - Canned stewed tomatoes, like the Happy Harvest brand here from Aldi, are delicious cooked with spinach, onion and garlic. Stewed tomatoes are peeled, sliced roma tomatoes that have been stewed with a little green bell pepper, onion, spices and a touch of sugar. They are not spicy. If you want to use a different type of fresh or canned tomato, check my substitution suggestions below in the next section.
- Onion - Choose diced yellow onion for this dish. If you're short on time or energy, you can use fresh or frozen pre-cut onions from the grocery store for this.
- Garlic - For a mild garlic flavor, we're using fresh peeled garlic cloves that have been sliced for this dish. For a more intense garlic flavor, mince or crush the garlic.
📋 Substitutions and variations
Here are some suitable substitutions for the ingredients in this sauteed spinach recipe:
- Baby spinach - You can use standard spinach for this recipe. Be sure to clean it well, if it's not pre-washed and chop it up into large pieces. You can also use frozen spinach! For a quicker cooking time, you'll want to thaw the spinach first by placing it in the refrigerator overnight. You can make this dish with other green leafy vegetables instead of the spinach. Try curly kale, dinosaur, tuscan or lacinato kale, swiss chard, collard greens or a combination of all of them! Hardier greens will take longer to cook than baby spinach, so increase the simmer time to 10-15 minutes.
- Stewed tomatoes - instead of canned stewed tomatoes, you can use fresh chopped roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes or even heirloom tomatoes for this recipe. You can also use canned diced tomatoes or canned whole peeled tomatoes (you'll want to break these up with your hands or the tongs). You could even use tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes, but I prefer the chunkier version with diced tomatoes.
- Yellow onion - instead of diced yellow onion, you can use diced purple/red onion or sweet onions.
- Fresh garlic - instead of sliced fresh cloves of garlic, you can use minced garlic from a jar, but use less since it has a much stronger flavor. In a pinch, you could also use garlic powder or granulated garlic, but the fresh garlic is better here.
- WFPBNO - make this whole food plant based no oil by using tomatoes that contain no sugar and serving with whole grain bread or brown rice
- SOS-free - make this SOS-free by omitting the salt and using tomatoes that contain no sugar
Switch things up with these variation ideas!
- Spicy - add red pepper flakes to the finished dish to infuse a little heat to this sautéed spinach.
- White Beans - add drained, canned white beans (butter beans are my favorite with this) when you add the tomatoes to make this a heartier meal. Serve over rice or toasted sourdough (see photos below)
Step-by-step tutorial of how to cook spinach with onion and tomato.
Step 1: Sauté onions over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
Step 2: Add garlic and sauté 1 minute. Add some of the liquid only from the tomatoes to the pan, to prevent sticking. (If using fresh tomatoes, you could squeeze the juice and seeds from the fresh tomatoes into the pan or use a little water or olive oil to prevent the garlic from sticking.)
Step 3: Increase flame to medium-high heat and add spinach to pan by the handful, stirring after each handful, until all the spinach has been added. Cook for 2 minutes or until all spinach is wilted.
Step 4: Add rest of tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes on low heat.
Step 5: Season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Optional garnish: pinch of dill and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
Serve as a side dish or over brown rice, white rice or toasted sourdough bread.
Hint: Be sure to increase the heat when you start adding the spinach. This allows the excess moisture to evaporate. Use the tongs to flip and toss the spinach so it cooks evenly.
🧯 Food safety
- Wash hands with soap and water before cooking
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
- Large skillet - cooking greens like spinach works best in a large, wide skillet so the excess moisture can evaporate more easily while it cooks. This skillet does not have to be non-stick for this recipe. It could be stainless steel, enameled cast iron, ceramic, cast iron or non-stick.
- Tongs - for tossing the spinach, so it will cook evenly in the pan.
🥡 Make ahead and storage tips
This recipe can be made ahead 1-2 days before serving.
Any leftovers should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It should be good for up to 5 days from when it was cooked.
These ingredients don't stand up well to freezing.
👨👩👦👦 Serving suggestions
Since this dish of stewed tomatoes, spinach, garlic and onion is inspired by Greek spanakorizo, brown rice or white rice (pictured below) is the perfect starch to go with it.
But, since it's so versatile, you'll certainly enjoy it with other starches, too. It would be delicious with:
For added protein, try combining this spinach dish with:
🚦 Calorie density score
🟢 This recipe gets a green light on the calorie density chart. All of the ingredients are lower than 600 calories per pound, so eating meals like this regularly may help you lose body fat. Learn more about calorie density from Jeff Novick, MS, RDN.
Get your own printable calorie density chart for your refrigerator and free ebook explaining calorie density in simple terms.
Stewed tomatoes are peeled, sliced tomatoes that have been cooked with seasonings like onion, bell pepper, garlic, salt and/or sugar.
Sometimes herbs like oregano, basil or thyme have been added. They are in large pieces and often have a slightly sweet taste.
The canned stewed tomatoes from Aldi have the following ingredients: cut tomatoes, tomato juice, sugar, sea salt, dehydrated onions, dehydrated celery, dehydrated peppers, spices, calcium chloride, citric acid.
This easy side dish of spinach, stewed tomatoes, onion and garlic is a delicious way to used canned stewed tomatoes! Scroll down for the full recipe.
You can also used stewed tomatoes to make tomato vegetable soup, spanish rice and chili!
First, sauté onion and garlic. Then, add a can of tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes).
Then, add fresh spinach and cook until wilted.
Season with salt and pepper. Scroll down for full recipe.
Thaw frozen spinach by placing it in the refrigerator overnight. Be sure to put the bag or block of frozen spinach in a bowl or on top of a plate, to collect the water that leaks while thawing. You can also thaw frozen spinach in your microwave, using your "defrost" button and entering the weight of the spinach you're thawing. Place the spinach on a plate or in a bowl inside the microwave while it is thawing. Flip the spinach halfway through to help it defrost evenly.
🗺 Cultural influences
This dish was created one day when I was making Greek spanakorizo, which is a Greek rice dish with lots of spinach, tomato, onion, garlic, dill and lemon.
I was hungry while I was cooking it and starting "sampling" the sauteéd vegetables before adding the rice. It was amazing. Hence, this dish.
So, if you like this vegetable side, you might want to experiment with cooking Greek spanakorizo!
That being said, the ingredients are common in many food cultures. So, you could adjust the flavor by adding different spices and serving it with different starches. For example:
- Mexican: Add ground cumin, cilantro and jalapeño.
- Italian: Add oregano and basil. Serve with pasta.
- Indian: Add curry powder and garam masala. Serve with roti.
- Middle Eastern: Add chickpeas. Serve with pita or couscous.
See About for more information on my cultural influences and how I attribute recipes.
💜 More recipes you'll love
If you loved this easy recipe tutorial on how to cook spinach with onion and tomato, then check out these other plant-based recipes that use Mediterranean flavors, like spinach, onion and tomatoes:
Sautéed Spinach with Onion and Tomato
- 1 sweet yellow onion diced
- 8 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 15 ounces stewed tomatoes canned
- 1 pound fresh baby spinach
- salt and black pepper to taste
- pinch dill fresh or dried (optional)
- fresh lemon juice (optional)
- Sauté onions over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.1 sweet yellow onion
- Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add some of the liquid only from the tomatoes to the pan, to prevent sticking. (If using fresh tomatoes, you could squeeze the juice and seeds from the fresh tomatoes into the pan or use a little water or olive oil to prevent the garlic from sticking.)8 cloves garlic
- Increase flame to medium-high heat and add spinach to pan by the handful, stirring after each handful, until all the spinach has been added. Cook for 2 minutes or until all spinach is wilted.1 pound fresh baby spinach
- Add rest of tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes on low heat.15 ounces stewed tomatoes
- Season with salt and black pepper, to taste. Optional garnish: pinch of dill and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.salt and black pepper, pinch dill, fresh lemon juice
- Serve as a side or over brown or white rice or toasted sourdough bread.