Why is my sauteed spinach bitter?

  • By: Emma
  • Date: May 19, 2022
  • Time to read: 7 min.

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Why is my sauteed spinach bitter?

We all have different tastes. One person may not like spinach because it’s too bitter, while another may love it for the same reason. So what makes sauteed spinach taste bitter?

The answer is in the garden! Certain plants contain chemicals that make them taste more bitter than others. Spinach, for example, contains a chemical called oxalic acid which can give it its distinctive flavor and stronger bite when cooked to death (i.e., sautéed).

If you’re looking to tone down the bitterness of your greens, try cooking them with other vegetables or herbs such as garlic or ginger; these ingredients will help mask some of the flavors but still provide great nutrients and vitamins!

Today’s blog post is about the causes and solutions of sauteed spinach bitterness. But first, let’s learn what sauteed spinach actually is and how it is cooked.

Let’s get started!

What is sauteed spinach?

Sauteed spinach is one of the popular side dishes served with rice or bread, especially in Eastern Europe. It’s easy to make, very healthy too!

To prepare sauteed spinach, you will need fresh, clean leaves. If they are to be cooked as a side dish, cut them into smaller pieces. Then heat the pan and add the vegetables with some oil or butter. If you want to make it a filling for your sandwich, roll the spinach leaves and slice them horizontally into strips before cooking it.

Sauteed spinach is very popular in Eastern Europe. Mostly, people like eating it with bread.

5 reasons why sauteed spinach tastes bitter

Before anything else, we need to know the causes of bitterness in our food. It’s not enough that we eat whatever we like without knowing its benefits or downsides!

Oxalic acid

One of the main reasons why sauteed spinach tastes bitter is the presence of a chemical compound.

This chemical compound exists in many vegetables, such as spinach, chard, and quinoa. It is called oxalic acid.

As we all know, food is composed of many chemicals and elements like proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates. Among them, some components taste bitter too. These kinds of substances are known as “bitter.” And oxalic acid belongs to this group of chemicals. So if the spinach contains a high level of this chemical compound, then the resulting cooked spinach will taste bitter.

Sauteing time

The longer you cook sauteed spinach, the more bitter it will taste. If you want to fry your spinach for a few minutes only, make sure not to cook it until its leaves turn pale green.

Cookware you use

Another reason why sauteed spinach tastes bitter is the cookware you use. If your pan is made of iron, then there’s a higher chance that it will make your greens taste more acidic than usual.

The acid, in turn, causes changes in the food’s chemical composition and may affect its flavor too. So if you want to reduce its bitterness, make sure to use a non-stick pan.

Frozen spinach

If you want to cook sauteed spinach that tastes less bitter, it will be better to choose young and fresh leaves rather than old ones. If the vegetables have been stored in a refrigerator for a long time, they will contain more of the harmful acids that make them taste bitter.

Oxygen exposure

Another reason why sauteed spinach tastes bitter is oxygen exposure. Spinach leaves are green because of a pigment called “chlorophyll.” This chemical compound can be found in young plant leaves, stems, and veins. The color changes as the spinach matures because the chlorophyll breaks down into pheophytin, which has a yellowish appearance.

How do you take the bitterness out of spinach?

With the problem comes the solution! If you are one of the people who don’t like the bitter taste of spinach, there are some ways how you can do this:

Add some salt and sugar

To make sauteed spinach less bitter, add some salt and sugar when cooking it. You can also add croutons or sprinkle Parmesan cheese before serving it. This way, the natural flavor will be masked, but you will still get all the nutrition included in your leafy green vegetable.


You can also make the taste of your sauteed spinach similar to boiled spinach. Just add some chopped celery leaves, basil, salt, and pepper to your sautéed spinach.

Use lemon or tomato

Use lemon or tomato when cooking your sauteed spinach. This will help lessen the strong flavor and bitter taste of your greens. If you prefer the latter, add some chopped and cooked tomatoes and let it simmer for a few minutes before serving.

Wash raw spinach

Always start by washing spinach with cold water. The unwashed fresh leaves contain chemical compounds called polyphenols that give them their distinctive flavor and stronger bite when sauteed.

So, thorough rinsing in cold water can remove up to 50% of these compounds but won’t get rid of all of them because they’re also deep down inside the leaves.

Use garlic or ginger

You can also use other ingredients such as garlic, ginger, or lemon to cover up the bitterness of the spinach leaves. For example, you could slice a few garlic cloves and let them cook with spinach before adding some herbs. The spicy flavor from the garlic will blend very well with your leafy green vegetables!

Add some cream cheese

If you don’t have any croutons or Parmesan cheese at home but still want to reduce that bitter taste in your sauteed spinach, just add some cream cheese!

You could either pour it directly on top of your vegetable dish or mix it first with a bit of butter and spread this mixture onto your bread before topping it with spinach.

Avoid large and dark leaves

Large and dark spinach leaves are the ones that are most likely to annoy your taste buds. So if you don’t like bitter-tasting food, avoid buying such leaves.

The problem with large leaves is that sometimes they’re the ones that harbor the most dirt and bacteria. Spinach leaves that look dark and big might actually be older and harder to clean than those small and thin ones. These types of leaves should be avoided.

Besides, it is said that large spinach leaves have a stronger taste which can definitely change how you feel about sauteed spinach.

Avoid overcooking

Overcooking is another reason why you might find your sauteed spinach bitter.

When you cook the leaves too long, their liquid evaporates, and this also causes bitterness.

Of course, overcooking means that vitamins and minerals will be lost as well, so it’s not advisable to do so.

Add fats

Although adding fats doesn’t mean that our sauteed spinach will taste sweet like honey, it does help a bit in making the flavorless bitter.

So adding fats such as butter, oil, or cream can help lessen the bitterness of the leafy vegetable.

Cut off the stems

Another tip is to cut off any large stems before cooking them. These stems can be overly bitter and don’t really serve any purpose. However, they also contain some important nutrients, so try to leave as much as you can.

So it is recommended that you cut off the stems before cooking them with any dish.

Boil and dip in cold water

This tip is said to work like magic. The process starts with washing the leaves and leaving them in hot water for 2 minutes. Then remove them from the water and quickly plunge them into cold water before draining all the liquid out.

After that, set your spinach aside to dry for a little while, or you can enjoy sautéing them.

Now you know why your sauteed spinach tastes so bitter! This blog post has discussed the reasons behind the bitterness of sautéed spinach. It’s time to look at the nutritional value of sauteed spinach.

Is sauteed spinach still good for you?

The answer is an absolute Yes! In fact, it is a great source of iron and calcium. Sauteed spinach contains high amounts of vitamin K, which helps prevent bone loss. It is also loaded with vitamins A and C and folate, which is an essential nutrient. In addition, sauteed spinach is easily digestible and absorbable.

By the way, did you know that according to a report published by World’s Healthiest Foods, spinach contains 9 out of 10 essential nutrients required by the human body every day?

The only thing you need to be careful of is the frequency of eating sauteed spinach. Although, for most people, sauteed spinach is still safe, you might want to limit the intake, especially for those who have had kidney stones before.

So the answer is sauteed spinach tastes bitter, and it’s also loaded with vitamins and minerals. Although most people don’t face any health issues when they eat sauteed spinach every other day, limiting this vegetable in your daily diet is still advisable.

Final Thoughts

In summary, sauteed spinach tastes bitter due to certain chemical compounds. But there are numerous ways we can get rid of the bitterness. However, if you find it too difficult to bear the bitter taste of sauteed spinach, then this vegetable is not for you.

Those who can stand the little bitterness should follow the above-mentioned tips.

So Happy Sauteing!

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