Make Ahead

Spinach Gratin

March 10, 2010
14 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
Author Notes

This gratin is almost always on the buffet for Christmas at our house. A nice substitute for potatoes, it goes well with the beef tenderloin I usually serve. Adjust the salt and pepper to your liking, but the nutmeg is the classic spice to add. Made with less cheese than is traditional, and also without cream, this lighter version demands as great tasting frozen spinach as you can find. It took one truckload of the fresh stuff to convince me that frozen, organic spinach is the only way to go here. —Lizthechef

Test Kitchen Notes

Creamed spinach with a crunch, Lizthechef's gratin applies a layer of finesse to an age-old comfort food. A fragrant onion bechamel, made savory with a generous addition of Gruyere, envelops chopped spinach in its lush embrace without overwhelming it. We especially love the layer of buttery-crisp, salty panko crowning the top. Pair with some steak, a baked potato and a nice Cabernet, and you've got one heck of a meal. - A&M —The Editors

  • Prep time 10 minutes
  • Cook time 47 minutes
  • Serves 8-10
Ingredients
  • Gratin
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium-sized yellow onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup unbleached flour
  • 3 cups organic whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 pinch of cayenne
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese
  • 3 16 oz. bags of organic, chopped spinach - thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (up to 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper (up to 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Panko topping
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 pinch sea salt, to taste
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Squeeze the liquid from the thawed spinach, handful by handful. Set aside.
  3. Heat milk to simmer in saucepan.
  4. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add onions and cook until wilted but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the hot milk and whisk the sauce until it thickens. Add the nutmeg and cayenne. Turn off the heat.
  5. Stir in the cheese and season with salt and pepper. Taste and correct seasoning. Add the spinach and mix in well.
  6. Pour into a 9X11 glass or ceramic baking dish. Prepare crumb topping.
  7. Melt butter in medium skillet. Add panko, sprinkle with sea salt and stir until lightly toasted. This occurs quite suddenly.
  8. Gently smooth the toasted panko on top of the gratin. Cook for 30-35 minutes until bubbling.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Tricia Giese-Church
    Tricia Giese-Church
  • ZaBoo F.
    ZaBoo F.
  • sevenfaces
    sevenfaces
  • Lizthechef
    Lizthechef
  • bugbitten
    bugbitten

137 Reviews

Lynn November 16, 2019
Can this be made ahead and frozen?
 
Bella95 March 4, 2019
Sounds great. Only change l would make is, to reduce the washing up, do the breadcrumbs first and put aside. Use the pan you plan to use for the bechamel, give it a quick wipe with a paper towel if youre worried about any crumbs that remain.
 
bugbitten March 4, 2019
Yes, let common sense rule. As a home chef I have to clean as well as create. A major deterrent to making the meal I crave is often dreading the mess left behind. Your idea fits to my plan exactly. One can only do what one can do.

I've learned to cook at places like the CIA in Hyde Park, where they have pro dishwasher persons, and where you're not supposed to care the mess you make. Somewhere I have a Thomas Keller recipe for chicken soup that requires seven pots. I try to keep in mind where and when my resources will be exceeded.
You make a great point--modern cheffery should not mean modern slavery.
 
Tinab99 January 2, 2019
This was excellent as a side for the garlic rubbed filet. Made ahead of time. Enjoyable leftovers as well.
 
Glada December 24, 2018
I made this tonight for a Christmas Eve side dish and there was only a speck left. Everybody complimented me over and over on this dish. I will definitely make it again. Thank you for sharing.Merry Christmas.
 
Kelsey S. November 23, 2018
I just made this dish for Thanksgiving and it was amazing! It has such a natural taste to it and so many people went back for seconds. Thank you!
 
Tricia G. January 9, 2018
Thank you Nancy. I made the dish for Thanksgiving and it was delicious! I went with 2 cups of chopped onion.
 
Sandy November 23, 2017
I made this last night and it was very good. I'd like to make it for a guest who is gluten free. I can find GF panko but can I use one of the GF flours to thicken the roux? If so, which one?
 
Lori M. February 10, 2018
1/4 cup is a pretty small amount. GF flours have improved so much that the brand really shouldn't matter for this dish.
 
Tricia G. November 22, 2017
Can someone please kindly guide me on how many cups is 2 medium sized yellow onions? That's so broad depending on what I think is medium. 2 cups? 3 cups
 
Nancy January 9, 2018
I dont think it matters, Tricia. The onion amount doesn't need to be precise, as does the flour, milk, etc. Just chop up what you have, and looks like a good amount to you. I bet you could even use shallots if you have them. I don't even buy small or medium onions anymore - just the huge jumbo onions, and then wrap the leftover onion if foil and put in a plastic bag. Good luck! I haven't made this, but definitely want to, now that I see this recipe!
 
Tricia G. January 9, 2018
Thank you Nancy. I made the dish for Thanksgiving and it was fantastic. I used 2 cups.
 
Bella95 March 4, 2019
I go one step further. I chop the whole onion, eyeball the quantity l need and put the rest in the freezer. Love having some waiting for me when l only need a smaller amount.
 
Sandy November 15, 2017
Would it be okay to prepare the dish and have it in the refrigerator ready to pop in the oven 35-40 minutes before serving?
 
Sabine G. November 15, 2017
I have done that many times! This is such a great dish!
 
bugbitten November 15, 2017
II would think you could do steps 1-6, and then refrigerate. I'd save the steps 7 and 8, involving the breadcrumb topping for just before serving. You could toast the panko in the butter to co-ordinate with folks and/or relations arrival. It should make your home smell great!
 
Robyn November 25, 2015
Awesome, thank you Sabine!
 
Robyn November 25, 2015
Hi, Forgive me if this has been asked previously. We are making this dish for Thanksgiving. Can't wait to eat it! We want to make tonight, everything but the panko, fridge it over night. Then cook panko tomorrow, add to top then cook like instructions. Is there any reason this wouldn't be a good idea?
 
Sabine G. November 25, 2015
I don't think so! I even cook the panko but I just don't put it on. I just got done making mine! I always forget how simply fabulous this is.
 
Jane H. November 24, 2015
I followed your recipe exactly the first time. I've made this wonderful dish many times. Sometimes with half and half or white cheddar depending what I had on hand. Not enough of either, I've mixed cheeses, added almond milk or canned milk to make up the difference. I've made it ahead and at times frozen it, but never baking or topping it until the same day. Anther tip is to make fork holes in bottom of thawed spinach bag and squeeze. Thank you for such a delicious recipe.
 
Heather January 8, 2015
Thank you for the perfect-ness of this. It celebrates love of spinach with things that make it sing.
 
Leslie December 7, 2014
If I wanted to use fresh spinach or kale, how might I do this successfully? Would I steam it then squeeze out the moisture? Would I start with 3 large bunches?
 
Author Comment
Lizthechef December 7, 2014
As I said, I have never used fresh spinach - you would need a truckload. Frozen spinach works beautifully here.
 
tamater S. March 30, 2015
For me, a truckload of spinach is ok, since I grow it, (easiest thing to grow, and grows fast). When I add to recipes, I might chop it pretty fine, if the pan's not so big. To cook before adding to recipes, I wash the spinach while my pot's heating up, and I'll shake the spinach just a bit, and add it to the pot with just that little bit of water clinging to the leaves. Put the lid on immediately, heat for 30 seconds, stir the leaves, give it 30 more seconds. If you need to repeat that process two more times, no worries, it probably means your pot wasn't hot enough when you put the leaves in. At my MIL's place we're always doing this in a non-stick pot, and use pre-washed leaves; in which case, don't need any extra water, put the leaves in dry. Don't leave the stove, as this goes very quickly, and you don't need dried spinach leaves stuck all over your pot. The leaves should be nicely wilted, and could be gently squeezed, but not squeezed hard, like you have to do with frozen spinach.
 
ann H. November 6, 2014
This is a very nice gratin. I especially appreciated how clearly the directions were written - anyone who follows the instructions will have a great dish. Be sure to use freshly grated nutmeg, it's a perfect complement to the spinach and cheese.
 
ZaBoo F. November 5, 2014
This was DELISH. I used almond milk (what I had on hand), so added a little bit more flour to thicken it up. The almond milk added a slightly nutty flavor that complemented the gruyere without overwhelming the other flavors. Otherwise kept as is!
 
Author Comment
Lizthechef November 5, 2014
Very accomplished - five years have seen so many changes in diets for so many. Glad you could make this work for yours.
 
sevenfaces March 30, 2014
Great recipe. I used Jarslberg as I had it on hand, and it tasted fantastic. If frozen spinach weren't such a pain to squeeze out, I would be eating this every night!
 
Author Comment
Lizthechef January 14, 2014
Garlic and pine nuts for the topping - watch out, I think the garlic would burn...
 
Kathleen D. January 14, 2014
This dish sounds lovely. I cannot wait to try it. For more years than I want to admit to, I made a spinach dish in a loaf pan titled Spinach Loaf Bearnaise. A bit time consuming, and definitely would not fit into anyone's idea of a healthy dish. I too tried to make 2 loaves using a wooden crate of fresh spinach. UGH! Washing each leaf was endless. Of course I soon began to use frozen. Your recipe sounds delicious, healthier; and, I cannot wait to try it.
 
CailinH January 14, 2014
I've made this twice now- sooo tasty!