Whipping up a side of sautéed spinach and mushrooms is easy, incredibly quick, and delicious, making it an ideal side dish for any weeknight meal! It takes just a few minutes to make and pairs perfectly with a piece of steak, fish, or chicken.
I think everyone needs a go-to weeknight meal that:
- takes less than 30 minutes to make,
- is at least moderately healthy,
- you never get tired of,
- you’ve memorized the recipe for, or better yet, don’t even have to measure anything, and
- is so second-nature you could practically cook it in your sleep.
For us, that meal is salmon, lemon broccoli salad, and another side dish. We have it probably once a week. The specifics have shifted slightly over time from soy lemon foil packet salmon to blackened salmon and from rice cooker saffron rice to garlic rice, but it’s been a fairly consistent mainstay of our menu.
Now, after the sweets and feasts of the holidays, we’re trying to include a few lower-carb meals in our weekly meal plan. And an easy way to do that is to swap out the rice with another side dish.
Now, I’ve never been a huge fan of vegetables pretending to be a carb of some sort. You know what I’m talking about: cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles, and the like. I’d rather just have roasted cauliflower or sautéed zucchini slices and forget that it’s “supposed” to be something starchy.
So recently we’ve been making our salmon and broccoli salad with a side of sautéed spinach and mushrooms, and honestly, I’m loving it. I’ve always loved spinach and mushrooms so it seems like a real treat to me.
And it checks all kinds of boxes:
- no cutting board required (I get pre-sliced mushrooms),
- takes less than 10 minutes to make,
- minimal ingredients,
- no measuring required (although I will of course put measurements in the recipe for you).
- And of course, super flavorful.
Making the Very Best Sautéed Spinach and Mushrooms
There are a couple tricks to making your sautéed spinach and mushrooms extra delicious. Yes, this is a really, really simple side dish to make, but there are some cooking tips I don’t want to take for granted. If you just throw everything in a pan at once you won’t be happy with this side dish.
Making your mushrooms deliciously browned
No one likes a soggy, flavorless mushroom. So you have to make sure they get nice and browned, which gives them a drier, caramelized exterior, adding flavor and a much more pleasant texture.
To brown your mushrooms, my favorite cooking show host Alton Brown taught me that you have to treat them like they’re a steak.
You preheat your pan on medium high so the mushrooms get a nice sear to them instead of steaming in their own moisture. If you put them in a cold pan, they will not develop a nicely-browned crust.
Cooking them in a single layer also helps prevent steaming — make them in two batches if you have to (although a 12-inch pan did the trick for me in a single batch with 8 oz. of sliced mushrooms).
I cook the mushrooms in a mixture of butter (for the flavor) and oil (for the higher smoke point, since you’re searing them).
And you leave them alone for a couple minutes before stirring or flipping. There’s no better way to prevent a nicely-browned exterior (on meat or mushrooms) than to constantly fuss with them and move them around the pan. I know it makes you feel like you’re doing something, but trust me. Less is more here. About 2-3 minutes per side should do it on medium high.
Keeping your spinach bright and fresh
The key to keeping your spinach bright and fresh is minimal cooking time and a lower temperature. So after the mushrooms are nice and browned, I turn down the heat, add my garlic, and throw in the spinach.
It can be difficult to stir a large amount of fresh spinach all at once without knocking half of it out of the pan, so what you can do is add half your spinach at a time. Cover it with a tight-fitting lid for about 30 seconds to let the greens steam a bit, and then they’ll be easy to stir. Then you can add the rest of the spinach, cover again briefly, and stir to finish.
That’s about one to two minutes total from start to finish for the spinach leaves. You’ll want to take it off the heat as soon as the spinach is wilted throughout! That keeps them nice and bright green, cooked just enough to be tender without them shriveling into complete nothingness.
One final thing you can do to add a bit of brightness to the flavor is squeeze in a touch of fresh lemon juice at the end; just about a teaspoon, or half a small lemon’s worth.
You should be proud of me for showing great restraint here with the lemon, since I don’t mind if my entire meal is overwhelmingly lemon-flavored. In this instance, you won’t even notice the lemon flavor, just a little added brightness.
If you want it more lemony, though, be my guest. Most of the time I put more lemon in everything ever.
And that’s it!
Okay, I know it looks like a lot of instructions, but that’s only because I’m explaining the “why” behind everything.
When you summarize it, it’s really just preheating the pan, adding the fat and mushrooms, cooking for 2-3 minutes per side, and then adding the garlic and spinach just until the greens are wilted. Easy peasy lemon squeezy (literally, lemon squeezy at the end).
What to serve with your sautéed spinach and mushrooms
This easy side dish goes with just about any protein entree. Here are a few of my favorites to serve it with!
Other simple veggie side dishes
If you’re looking for more ideas of simple vegetable side dishes, here are a few!
Sautéed Spinach and Mushrooms
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 8 oz mushrooms
- 6 oz spinach
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt divided
- 1 tsp fresh lemon juice or a squeeze from half a small lemon
- Preheat large skillet to medium high. Add butter and olive oil to pan (butter for flavor, oil for higher smoke point). When the butter is melted, add the mushrooms in a single layer. If your skillet is not large enough to hold all the mushrooms in a single layer, cook the mushrooms in two batches so they will brown, rather than steaming.
- Sprinkle the tops of the mushrooms with 1/4 tsp kosher salt and cook without disturbing for 3 minutes to form a nice sear on the first side.
- Flip mushrooms and cook with minimal stirring for an additional 2-3 minutes until browned on the other side.
- Reduce heat to medium low. Add garlic and another splash of olive oil if it's looking dry, along with half the spinach. Cover for 30 seconds to wilt the greens. Stir, add the other half of the spinach, and cover for another 30 seconds.
- Add remaining 1/4 tsp salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Stir to combine and serve immediately.