Spinach is an incredibly nutritious leafy green and one of the healthiest additions to your diet. It is low in calories but rich in fiber, which makes it a great option if you’re trying to lose weight, or simply eat healthier. But what happens if you simply can’t stand the taste, or you’re out of spinach at the moment?
Luckily, there are numerous spinach-like greens that are just as packed with benefits. Let’s talk about the best spinach substitutes that you can easily incorporate into your green smoothie or favorite summer salad!
The best substitutes for spinach
Spinach is a leafy green vegetable and it belongs to the amaranth family, just like beets and quinoa. It is native to central and western Asia, and according to some records, it originates from ancient Persia. This leafy green is an annual plant, growing as tall as 1 ft.
Spinach was first known as the Persian vegetable due to its origin. It appeared in India and ancient China before finally reaching Europe in the 12th century. Spinach even had an honorable mention in the first-ever English cookbook in the 14th century.
Interestingly enough, E. C. Segar, the creator of Popeye, was a vegetarian. His portrayal of spinach as a strength-boosting food was his way of promoting plant-based nutrition and the importance of vegetables such as spinach.
Spinach is an extremely versatile vegetable that you can eat both raw and cooked. While it can be stored frozen, it may lose some of its precious minerals and vitamins. If you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of this leafy green, incorporate raw spinach as a side dish, salad, or smoothie.
You may be surprised to learn that, besides numerous spinach alternatives, there are also different spinach varieties. Popular spinach varieties include Bloomingdale, regiment, Indian summer, and tyee.
Whether you’re too lazy to go grocery shopping and you need a replacement for spinach, or you’re simply not a fan of this vegetable, here is a list of spinach-like vegetables.
Since it has an almost identical nutrient profile and a very similar taste, you can easily substitute spinach for kale. This spinach alternative is a great addition to any salad, as well as soups and pasta. Also, if you’re a fan of veggies on your pizza, try throwing some kale on top!
Kale belongs to the cabbage family, just like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collard greens, and cauliflower. The most commonly used type of kale is curly kale, which has a hard stem and curly, green leaves. Kale is also great weight-loss food since it has only 33 calories per cup.
2. Collard Greens
Collard greens are very similar to kale and cabbage in texture. There are numerous ways to incorporate this substitute for spinach in your dishes. You can steam them, use them raw in your salad, or make a stew with ham hocks.
Collards are considered a staple in Southern cooking. If you’ve never tried them and you’re curious about the taste, it is best described as a blend of kale and cabbage.
If you’re trying to cut out carbs or you’re on a keto diet, you’ll love collard green wraps. Simply switch your wheat wraps for collard green leaves, and voilà!
Cabbage comes in a variety of colors, including green, white, and purple. It is possibly the most versatile vegetable similar to spinach, as the options when it comes to cabbage dishes are endless. The most popular cabbage varieties include green cabbage, red cabbage, Napa cabbage, and bok choy.
We’re quite sure you’ve had cabbage in your salads, but what about cooked cabbage? You can easily prepare a cabbage stir fry or a roast with root vegetables. Stuffed cabbage is perhaps one of the most delicious cabbage dishes that you can have on your table in no time.
To prepare stuffed cabbage, remove the cabbage core and boil the entire head in salted water for about 10 minutes. Once the leaves are tender, they’re ready for stuffing. You can stuff cabbage leaves with minced meat, rice, or any other vegetable of your choice.
Watercress is so similar to baby spinach that it can sometimes be hard to distinguish between the two. This spinach replacement belongs to the family of cruciferous vegetables, just like arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and kale. In ancient times, it was an irreplaceable food in the diet of Roman soldiers.
Just like the mentioned greens similar to spinach, watercress is a great choice for your salads and sides with a little bit of dressing. Besides eating it raw, you can blend cooked watercress to make a sauce, mash it into a delicious pesto for your pasta, or mix it into your risotto for a fresh taste.
5. Beet Greens
When cooked, beet greens look almost identical to spinach, which makes them a perfect spinach substitute. Their leaves are tender, and the stems cook faster than kale if you’re looking to save some time.
There are many ways to incorporate beet greens into your everyday cooking. If you want a refreshing, yet fulfilling salad, roast the beets in the oven, slice them thinly, add chopped beet greens, a dressing of your choice, and a sprinkle of feta cheese on top.
Many people make the mistake of using beets without leaves. The truth is that the majority of valuable nutrients are hidden precisely in the leaves. You can use beet greens in salads and soups, or even serve them as a side dish.
6. Swiss Chard
Some people avoid using Swiss chard in their cooking due to its unique earthy taste. For others, this specific aroma is precisely what makes this vegetable stand out. Swiss chard is a staple in Mediterranean cooking, and one of the most common greens in their salads.
When using Swiss chard as a spinach replacement, make sure not to throw away the stems, as they’re irresistibly crunchy and tasty. Cooked Swiss chard is a great addition to dips and sauces such as tahini, as it gives it more texture and a richer taste.
If you’re not a fan of greens similar to spinach on their own, you can always add them into other dishes, such as soups and baked pasta.
You may have heard different terms for arugula, such as rucola, rucoli, rocket, roquette, and colewort. While it is usually not cooked, arugula is a great alternative for spinach in your salads. However, arugula is great on pizza and pasta – as long as you don’t overcook it!
Arugula has a very interesting shape, which is why it is often used as a garnish. It belongs to the mustard green family and has a unique peppery taste, while the texture reminds of raw spinach. You can find it all year round, but its peak seasons are early spring and fall.
8. Romaine Lettuce
This spinach replacement is one of the most common salad ingredients. If you’re looking for a spinach substitute in your salad, look no further, as romaine lettuce adds an irresistible crunchy texture.
If you’re on a weight loss journey, romaine lettuce is hard to beat, since it has only 8 calories per cup! When shopping for romaine lettuce, make sure to choose the entire head, since the outermost leaves are the most nutritious part.
Aside from salads, you can also use your lettuce to make low-calorie wraps or stir fry dishes. However, if you plan on cooking the lettuce, make sure you add it last to avoid overcooking.
Microgreens are immature greens that typically measure 1-3 inches. If you prefer baby spinach over regular spinach, you’ll definitely gravitate more towards microgreens. They’re a great option for salads, garnish, plate decoration, as well as side dishes.
If you happen to buy a large pack of microgreens, there are a couple of tricks to keep them fresh longer. When storing them, you want to place them in a plastic container between two damp pieces of paper towel. Also, make sure to wash them before using and not before storing, as you want to avoid excess moisture.
How to choose a spinach substitute
As you can see, there are various spinach substitutes, which makes it rather easy to replace spinach in your meals. Whether you don’t enjoy spinach, or you don’t have it at the moment, any of the mentioned alternatives will do the trick. The majority of vegetables like spinach offer great versatility in cooking.
For your wraps and rolls, you can use collard greens, cabbage, and romaine lettuce. On the other hand, kale, watercress, and swiss chard will give your soups, sauces, and dips the creamiest texture. Salads are always a safe bet when it comes to greens, and you can’t go wrong with beet greens, arugula, and microgreens.
We encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and try new ways of preparing your veggies. And if you’re not too fond of cooking, a quick smoothie in the morning is the easiest way to get your daily greens.