This sautéed spinach with bread crumbs exquisitely flaunts the finer points of that classic Italian trick of frugally making crumbs from day-old bread, buttering them up in a skillet until crisp, and then using them as enticement to get everyone to eat their vegetables.–David Leite

A white serving bowl filled with sauteed spinach and bread crumbs.

Sautéed Spinach with Bread Crumbs

4.67 / 3 votes
This sautéed spinach with bread crumbs is an easy, healthy side dish made with fresh spinach cooked with garlic and spritzed with lemon juice and toasted bread crumbs.
David Leite
Servings4 servings
Calories180 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Total Time20 minutes


For the bread crumbs

  • 3 slices day-old bread, torn into pieces
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

For the spinach

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound bunched spinach, rinsed, drained, stemmed, and roughly chopped or pre-washed baby spinach
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste (from about 1/2 lemon)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Make the bread crumbs

  • In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse the bread with the minced garlic until it forms small crumbs.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the oil. Add the bread crumb mixture and cook, stirring, until golden, 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Immediately turn the bread crumbs onto a plate and scatter them so they can cool.

Make the spinach

  • Return the skillet to medium heat and add enough oil to cover the bottom of the skillet, about 3 tablespoons.
  • Toss in the sliced garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
  • Add half the spinach to the skillet. (It may seem to fill the skillet but don’t worry, it’ll cook down quickly.) Frequently toss the spinach, being certain to also toss the garlic so it doesn’t burn. Cook until the spinach begins to wilt.
  • Working quickly, immediately add the remaining spinach to the skillet and toss and stir until all the spinach has wilted. This will take around 5 minutes total if using baby spinach or up to 10 minutes total if using mature spinach.
  • Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.
  • Remove the skillet from the heat. Taste and, if desired, add more lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
  • Pile the spinach in a serving bowl, sprinkle over all or some of the bread crumbs, and serve immediately. (If not using all the bread crumbs, you can stash the rest in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer. Rewarm in a warm oven or a skillet over low heat before using to magically return their crunch.)

Adapted From

The Corleone Family Cookbook

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 180 kcalCarbohydrates: 16 gProtein: 6 gFat: 12 gSaturated Fat: 2 gMonounsaturated Fat: 8 gTrans Fat: 1 gSodium: 199 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 2 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2019 Liliana Battle. Photo © 2019 Stacey Tyzzer. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This is a good way to eat your spinach. The bread crumbs add texture, crunch, and a bit of richness from cooking in the olive oil. Plus lemon and garlic pair well with spinach.

While it’s a simple recipe without many ingredients, it does take a deceptive amount of time to prepare. Much of that is related to the cleaning of the spinach. I used mature spinach, which requires more labor than the baby variety. Baby spinach would require less cooking time as well. This requires a very large skillet.

My husband found it a little bitter, but I didn’t pick up on this up so much. I think whatever bitterness there was came from the mature spinach I bought at the farmers market. We’ve been eating baby spinach a lot, which has a much milder taste than the mature greens.

The only other possible cause of bitterness is the garlic, some of which got overcooked from being on the bottom of the mound of spinach in the skillet. I tossed as much from the bottom on to the top of the pile as I could, but some garlic remained on the bottom of the skillet the whole time.

You can’t go wrong with a simple Italian recipe like this one. With just a handful of quality ingredients, the recipe for sauteed spinach with a delicate and toasty bread crumb topping comes together in no time and is a wonderful accompaniment to just about any entree.

I served the spinach on the side of a hearty Italian-inspired meatloaf and some herb roasted potatoes with sweet peppers from the garden.

It’s also a wonderful lesson in how to use leftover stale bread. I had about a third of an Italian 5-grain baguette on hand, so into the food processor it went! Toasted in fruity olive oil, the bread crumbs achieve a lovely brown color and the perfect amount of crispness. That’s the wonderful thing about this recipe: the differing textures in each and every bite. The tender wilted spinach melts effortlessly in your mouth and the crunchy topping adds a pop of flavor and contrasting texture, which is lovely. With a simple squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, you are good to go.

I would love to try this with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes next time, and maybe with some baby kale instead of spinach? Or I bet even dandelion greens or chard might work well, too?

It’s kind of amazing what adding some toasty bread crumbs can do to a dish. I’ve added them to all kinds of vegetables, but I never thought about adding them to spinach so I just had to try this. Not surprisingly, it’s quite good!

I think I’d change it a bit though and add less (or maybe even omit) the lemon juice and instead add lemon zest to the bread crumbs. This way you aren’t adding any more liquid yet still get that lemony deliciousness. It probably goes without saying, but you want to add the bread crumbs at the very last minute before you eat so they stay crisp.

Also, I would imagine that panko bread crumbs would work just as well in this.

Part of me wants to say that this is 2 servings because I may have devoured half of this recipe myself, but I am pretty sure 4 servings is more accurate.

My total time was 30 minutes because I used the same pan to save on a number of dishes. But if you cook the spinach and bread crumbs at the same time in different skillets, your time would be shorter.

Super easy weeknight vegetable dish that can even be a main course for a light meal. You can save time on prep if you’re using baby spinach, which is tender with smaller leaves and allows you to skip the chopping.

I know 16 ounces looks like a huge amount of spinach, but of course once wilted it is quite a bit less. I used a couple of slices of pain de campagne and prepared the pangrattato in a large French skillet, then removed the bread mixture to another dish while I cooked the spinach. You could also wilt the spinach in a wok or stockpot if you’re worried about tossing leaves all over the stove, but I use large tongs to turn the spinach over as it wilts and it was manageable even though it started piled a bit high.

For a brief moment we considered reserving some for leftovers, but in honesty, this served 2 as a main dish. We reserved the extra prepared pangrattato (bread crumbs) for use later.

Nice method to learn once, and then it is part of your toolkit to keep greens part of your busy weeknight meals.

This served 2 greedy people as a main but would serve 4 or more if presented on large platter as part of a family meal.

Although very simple, it was satisfying, though I have to admit himself said “You know what would make this perfect? A bit of Parmesan.”

We often cook spinach this way but without the bread crumb topping. The topping adds very nice texture and flavor to the spinach and really elevates the dish. Once I toasted the bread crumbs, I wiped out the pan and used it to sauté the spinach, making clean-up simple and quick.

Spinach is not one of my favorite greens, either raw or cooked, but I try to be dutiful and don’t shy away from it. This recipe may have changed all that based on the fact that I couldn’t stop eating it and one pound of spinach almost vanished in a single sitting. Granted, it shrinks when sautéed, but there was still more than enough for 2 with possibly 1 additional serving in leftovers.

I used gluten free white bread for the pangrattato. The amount of garlic was perfect for both the pangrattato and the spinach, and the lemon juice added a hint of acidity that worked really well to enhance the flavors without overpowering them.

As a side note, I served it with chicken piccata, and the combination was terrific. I will definitely be making this again.

Spinach has long been one of my favorite vegetables, but among many of my friends it gets a bad rap. It might be okay raw but once cooked it’s too…slimy is the word I believe they use. It never occurred to me to cover it with crunchy bread crumbs, but use enough of them and it seems to make a difference!

A quick side dish with a lot of flavor and texture complexities. I’d love to make it again.

Right off from the start, the texture from the bread crumbs and the garlic were the stars of the show for me. Spinach isn’t really a favorite vegetable, at least from a child’s perspective and also a few adults I know. I enjoy it and I enjoy finding different ways to prepare it.

I used 2 tablespoon lemon juice, which I found to be a great amount and not too overpowering.

This was a fast yet creative method to eat cooked spinach. I’m in the habit of buying spinach every week and on occasion am guilty of not finishing the container before it gets slimy. This was an easy way to quickly cook down a lot of spinach with something delicious and crunchy on top. It wasn’t the fanciest, but it was an easy way to make spinach more interesting.

My half lemon was roughly 2 tablespoons of juice. I really liked the flavor of the lemon to lighten the richness of the crumbs and oil.

Barely a recipe. Sauté way more greens than you think you’ll ever eat. Put toasted bread crumbs on top. Bonus points for adding garlic to both greens and crumbs. Watch veggies vanish like magic.

I halved all ingredients and it served 2.

Served alongside roasted tomato bruschetta, this was positively gobbled up, Popeye-style.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    Took this lesson and learned it! My green beans were crunchy and crumbly, with nary a one left in the dish when we were done. Mmm.

    1. Love that, Maureen! Nothing makes me happier (well, not much makes me happier) than seeing someone take a recipe and make it their own. Thank you for sharing the inspiration! Looking forward to hearing which recipe on the site you try next…!