Secret to Richer and Silkier Creamed Spinach with Cream Cheese

How do you turn a green, leafy vegetable into a crave-worthy side dish? Add a creamy ingredient. Typically, classic creamed spinach is made by adding — you guessed it — heavy cream to a mixture of the spinach and seasonings, although milk or half-and-half is sometimes used instead for a lighter version. But if you really want to create a tasty side dish that feels more like the main event of your meal, use cream cheese as your dairy element instead.

Adding cream cheese makes for a richer, silkier, and (unsurprisingly) thicker spinach dish than what you’d get by using heavy cream or milk. Instead of a more moist, soupy bowl of veggie matter, you’ll get a heartier consistency that leans toward being dip-like — and instead of just a blandly creamy taste, cream cheese can offer a subtle tanginess that will provide a much-needed boost of flavor. Bonus points if you use a complementing, mildly flavored cream cheese, like garlic and herb or chive and onion. And for a plant-based variation, you can still reap similar benefits of this ingredient by incorporating vegan cream cheese.  

How to incorporate cream cheese into creamed spinach

Small bowl of cream cheese

If you’re going to go with cream cheese as your dairy element in creamed spinach, it’s important to make sure it’s at room temperature before you start cooking. As anyone knows after wrestling with cold cream-cheese blocks, they’re more brick-like than smooth, and can take longer to heat up and become silky. You can add your cream cheese into your sauce before mixing it into the spinach, like you would with heavy cream or milk, and let the whole pan simmer together until your dairy ingredient melts. To speed up the melting process while making sure your mixture doesn’t burn, stir or whisk your sauce frequently. Or, you can wilt your spinach with the butter, onion, and seasonings first, then add in your cream cheese at the end and wait for it to melt.

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If a purely cream cheese-based spinach dish is too dip-like for your taste, but you still want the added richness, you can opt for a combination of cream cheese and heavy cream. Simply add a splash of heavy cream to thin out the cream cheese at the end of cooking — or, use a quarter cup of cream cheese for every cup of heavy cream for a thinner version. As long as you add cream cheese at some point, you’ll get a silkier side dish with just a little tang. 

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