When Is It Okay To Substitute Frozen Spinach For Fresh?

As you wander the frozen food aisles, you may gaze upon the multitudes of frozen vegetables and immediately decide to move on to the produce department. After all, the produce department is the land of fresh greens, where nothing has been subjected to sub-zero temperatures. Like everyone else, you've been taught that fresh is always best. 

Chef Donatella Arpaia told Food & Wine that "Frozen vegetables totally lack taste... they all kind of become one bland, distant cousin of what they should be." Fellow chef, Adrianne Calvo, echoed this by adding that freezing destroys the texture of produce and its "overall nature." Admittedly, there are some things that you should absolutely never buy frozen. In an interview with Eat This, Not That, The Bikini Chef, Susan Irby, shared that a bag of frozen broccoli contains too many "rubbery" stems and too few florets, and that freezing turns strawberries into "liquid and mush." Herbs are also better picked right off the plant, as many don't respond well to freezing and develop a muted flavor. 

While these complaints may be true, you don't have to give the entire frozen veggie section the cold shoulder. Frozen spinach, for one, is not always the enemy. The trick is knowing when to use it. 

Best uses for frozen spinach

No matter how much you prefer fresh produce, frozen spinach has its appeal. Not only does it last significantly longer, but if you've ever tried cramming a bag of fresh stuff into a frying pan, you will definitely appreciate how neat and compact the frozen cubes and blocks are in comparison. Plus, spinach tends to be frozen right away, meaning that it likely boasts more nutrients than the supposed "fresh" stuff that has been trucked across the country. 

Now that it's been established that frozen spinach has its benefits, it is important to determine when you should and shouldn't use it. Cooking turns spinach into a very damp veggie. Freezing spinach makes it even wetter. This is why the frozen variety is perfectly suited to sauces, soups, or purees. If your dish relies more heavily on the texture or leafy appearance of spinach, you should stick to fresh. Celebrity chef Devin Alexander told Insider that he always has frozen spinach on hand for whipping up a lasagna (like this easy spinach lasagna recipe). But if you're putting together a sandwich that needs the crunch of fresh veggies, frozen would constitute a massive mistake.  

It turns out that frozen spinach, when used properly, isn't the home chef's arch-enemy after all. In fact, it can be a trusty friend.