Spinach can be a tough sell, but in a creamy, cheesy casserole? It’s suddenly a crowd-pleaser! This Spinach Casserole has a rich cream cheese sauce, lots of grated Parmesan, and a golden brown panko topping for a toasty finishing touch.
Why You’ll Love This Easy Spinach Casserole Recipe
- A Low-Effort Casserole. This recipe uses frozen spinach, which pares down the prep time to a paltry 5 minutes. This is the perfect kind of side dish to add to your holiday menu when you want to leave yourself ample time to focus on the Roast Turkey!
- Supremely Creamy. The milk-based sauce gets a boost in creaminess and a silky smooth texture thanks to the addition of cream cheese. It’s not enough to make the spinach casserole thick, gloppy, and heavy, though—it’s perfect! (My Cauliflower Casserole is also made with cream cheese for a velvety sauce.)
- Plenty Cheesy. The creamy sauce for this spinach casserole is made with Parmesan cheese, which has a nutty, umami flavor that adds a lot of depth to the dish. I really can’t imagine this casserole with any other cheese—my Spinach Artichoke Mac and Cheese has Parmesan added as a topping, and I also love sprinkling it onto Sautéed Spinach.
- Goes From Weekday to Holiday. As written, this creamy spinach casserole serves 4 to 6 as a side dish, but it can easily be doubled and made in a 9×13 casserole dish for a holiday. For more holiday casseroles that serve a crowd, see my Asparagus Casserole, Corn Casserole, and Crockpot Green Bean Casserole.
How to Make Spinach Casserole
- Unsalted Butter. Using unsalted butter gives us more control over the saltiness of the finished dish. If you only have salted butter on hand (or accidentally grab it at the grocery store!), you can dial back the added kosher salt.
- Panko Breadcrumbs. Panko breadcrumbs add more crispy-crunchy texture than standard store-bought breadcrumbs.
- Garlic Powder. For a garlicky panko topping, without the risk of burning fresh garlic cloves in the oven.
- Kosher Salt. My go-to for cooking!
- All-Purpose Flour. This helps thicken the sauce.
- Low-Fat Milk. I used 2%, but you can use what you have on hand.
- Garlic Cloves. If your garlic cloves seem unusually small or large, just measure out 2 teaspoons after you’ve minced them.
- Freshly Grated Nutmeg. Nutmeg adds something special to Chicken Fricassée, this Butternut Squash Soup Recipe, and also this spinach casserole. It’s totally worth it to grate your own, but if it’s not possible, store-bought ground nutmeg will do.
- Freshly Ground Pepper. Spinach is really livened up with coarse ground black pepper. When it’s freshly ground, the flavor is much more pungent.
- Frozen Chopped Spinach. Thaw it out and squeeze it dry.
- Finely Grated Parmesan. Buy a block and shred it yourself!
- Cream Cheese. Let the cream cheese soften so it’s easy to melt into the sauce. Oh, and make sure you buy the kind that comes in blocks, not the tub.
- Fresh Chives. For garnish.
- Prepare. Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat it to 350 degrees F.
- Toast the Panko. Melt a tablespoon butter in an oven-safe skillet; toast the panko in the butter, then stir in the garlic powder and salt. Transfer to a bowl.
- Start the Roux. Melt the remaining butter in the same skillet, then whisk in the flour.
- Pour in the Milk. Once the flour mixture is thickened, slowly whisk in the milk.
- Season. Stir in the the garlic, nutmeg, remaining salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat and cook until thickened.
- Add the Spinach. Stir it in, breaking it up with a spoon, and cook until warmed through.
- Stir in the Cheeses. Add the Parmesan and cream cheese, stirring until they melt smoothly.
- Bake. Top the spinach casserole with the panko and bake until golden brown. Garnish with chives, let rest, then ENJOY!
- Fresh Spinach Casserole. You can substitute fresh spinach for the frozen in this recipe; you’ll need to use 20 ounces and cook it until the liquid evaporates completely. Note that the casserole will be more watery if you use fresh spinach instead of frozen.
- Spinach Casserole With Chicken. Stir shredded chicken into the spinach casserole just before adding the panko topping and baking it to transform it into a more substantive main dish casserole.
- Spinach Casserole With Bacon. Crumble Air Fryer Bacon or Baked Bacon, then fold this into the spinach mixture or add it to the top of the casserole just before serving.
- Spinach Artichoke Casserole. Drain a can of chopped artichoke hearts and stir this into the spinach casserole before adding the panko topping and baking.
- Spinach Rice Casserole. Use half the amount of frozen chopped spinach; add about a cup and a half of cooked brown rice to the spinach mixture before baking.
- To Store. Refrigerate spinach casserole in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Warm up leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. I don’t recommend freezing this casserole.
Meal Prep Tip
To prep spinach casserole in advance, make it all the way up to the point of baking—transfer the spinach mixture to an 8×8 baking dish and sprinkle the panko on top. Cover and refrigerate for up to a day.
Spoon the leftover spinach casserole over Crock Pot Baked Potatoes. Or make twice-baked spinach-filled potatoes by scooping out the insides of the potatoes, mashing them with the leftovers, filling the potato shells with the mixture, and baking in a 425 degree F oven until warmed through, with some additional Parm, gouda, or fontina on top.
What to Serve with Spinach Casserole
- Poultry. This spinach casserole is perfect with weeknight favorites like Grilled Chicken Breast or Air Fryer Chicken Thighs, and also special occasion main dishes like Spatchcock Turkey.
- Pork. Serve Air Fryer Pork Chops or Air Fryer Pork Tenderloin with a side of this creamy spinach casserole.
- Other Holiday Sides. If you’re making this for a holiday, serve it alongside other favorites like Broccoli Rice Casserole, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts Casserole, and Cranberry Orange Relish.
- Grains. For a vegetarian dinner, serve spinach casserole over Instant Pot Brown Rice or farro.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Baking Dish. Invest in a quality baking dish and it will last for decades!
- Cheese Grater. You can use a box grater or a microplane grater to grate the Parmesan.
- Large Skillet. My favorite oven-proof skillet.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Shred the Cheese Yourself. It absolutely makes a difference! The grated Parmesan in the green bottle—you know the one—does not melt smoothly in a cheesy sauce, which will give you an unpleasantly grainy texture. Grate your own Parmesan from the block and it melts seamlessly into the spinach casserole.
- Drain All the Liquid from the Spinach. After the spinach thaws, wrap it up in a cheesecloth, flour sack towel, or thick paper towels. Then squeeze, squeeze, and squeeze some more until no more water drains off. The drier the spinach is, the less watery your spinach casserole will be!
- Make Sure Your Skillet Is Oven-Safe. Not all of them are! If yours isn’t, no worries—you’ll just need to scoop the spinach casserole mixture into a greased 8×8-inch baking dish and bake it in there.
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt divided
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 cups low-fat milk I used 2%
- 2 garlic cloves minced (about 2 teaspoons)
- 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 10-ounce bags frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
- 1 cup finely grated parmesan
- 2 ounces cream cheese at room temperature, cubed
- Finely chopped fresh chives for garnish
- Place a rack in the center of your oven and preheat to 350°F.
- Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a 10- or 12-inch oven-safe skillet* over medium heat. Add the panko and cook, stirring, until the panko is crisp and golden, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic powder and ¼ teaspoon salt. Transfer to a small bowl.
- Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the flour and stir for 2 minutes, until thick and pasty. While whisking, slowly add the milk, breaking up any lumps. Add the garlic, nutmeg, remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and the pepper. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to low, and continue to whisk until the mixture is thick, about 6 minutes.
- Add the spinach and cook, breaking it up with a spoon and stirring to incorporate, until warmed through, about 4 minutes.
- Add the parmesan and cream cheese and cook, stirring well, until fully melted and incorporated.
- If using an oven-safe skillet, top with the panko. Bake until the spinach casserole is golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with chives and let cool for 10 minutes in the pan before serving.
- *If you do not have an oven-safe skillet, use a regular skillet and transfer to a greased 8×8-inch baking dish to bake in Step 6.
- You can double and bake in a 9×13-inch baking dish (it will look like A TON of spinach but will cook down a lot).
- To USE FRESH SPINACH: Use 20-ounces of spinach, and saute until the liquid is evaporated—honestly, I really recommend frozen here because it is less expensive and will give you better results than fresh (fresh turns out more watery).
- TO STORE: Refrigerate spinach casserole in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Warm up leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: I don’t recommend freezing this casserole.
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