This paleo and Whole30 version of sigeumchi namul, a simple Korean spinach side dish, is light, refreshing, and packed with flavor and nutrients. Plus, it’s perfect for meal prep because it only takes a few minutes to make and tastes great straight out of the fridge!

An overhead shot of a white and blue serving bowl filled with Korean spinach side dish.

What is Sigeumchi Namul?

Sigeumchi namul is a traditional Korean side dish of blanched and chilled spinach seasoned with garlic, sesame oil, sugar, and soy sauce. It’s a simple and refreshing vegetable side dish (or banchan) that goes well with rice or other Korean dishes, like bibimbap or galbi.

My paleo and gluten free version of sigeumchi namul differs from the classic version because the spinach is seasoned with coconut aminos instead of soy sauce—and it also omits the sugar. But don’t you worry your pretty little heads: this Whole30-compatible and soy-free take on sigeumchi namul is just as easy and delicious as the OG seasoned vegetable dish. Most folks won’t notice any difference!

Two options to cook the spinach

There are two ways to cook the spinach for the recipe: blanching it in a pot of boiling water for about a minute or steaming the spinach in the microwave for about 2 minutes. Choose your own adventure!

Blanch the spinach in a pot of boiling water!

The traditional cooking method is to blanch the spinach in a pot of boiling water, but that means you have to wait for the water to boil (which, for those of you who have never boiled water, can take a few minutes).

An Asian woman in a red apron is adding raw spinach to a large pot of boiling water.

Microwave the spinach!

When I’m pressed for time, I simply cram a bunch of spinach into a covered and vented Anyday Large Deep Dish and microwave it for about 2 minutes or until the leaves and stems are bright green and just tender. My Anyday bowl perfectly steams spinach without the need for any extra liquid to be added to the bowl!

Adding raw spinach to an extra large glass Anyday microwave container.

Once the spinach is cooked, all you have to do is chill it, drain it, and add some seasoning. Easy peasy!

Ingredients

An overhead shot of the raw ingredients to make Korean spinach side dish, sigeumchi namul.
  • Spinach: I use regular spinach for this dish because baby spinach leaves are too delicate for this recipe and can get mushy.
  • Green onion: I normally slice a thin stalk of green onions to add flavor and texture to this dish. I’ve also used some minced chives or a dash of onion powder if I don’t have any scallions.
  • Small garlic clove: For this recipe, a little minced raw garlic goes a long way, so don’t measure the amount with your heart like you normally would with dishes that use cooked garlic. No fresh garlic? Use a sprinkle of garlic powder!
  • Coconut aminos: I love using coconut aminos in place of soy sauce because it adds umami and a smidge of sweetness. It’s not quite as salty as soy sauce so I always add some extra salt to taste.
  • Toasted sesame oil: The reason this simple spinach side dish tastes so good is the combination of nutty toasted sesame oil and mildly sweet and savory coconut aminos!
  • Diamond Crystal kosher salt
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Gochugaru or red pepper flakes (optional): If you want to spice up this spinach side dish, add some Korean red pepper flakes to taste.

How to make Korean spinach side dish

Cook the spinach!

If you’re cooking the spinach on the stovetop, bring a large covered pot of water to a boil over high heat.

An Asian woman in a red apron is putting a lid on a big stockpot on a stovetop.

Add the spinach to the large pot and cook, uncovered, for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the leaves are bright green and just cooked.

A pair of tongs is adding raw spinach to a large pot of boiling water to make a Korean spinach side dish.

Alternatively, you can microwave the spinach in an Anyday Large Deep Dish microwave glass bowl for about 2 minutes or until just cooked through.

A hand is placing an extra large glass Anyday microwave container filled with raw spinach into an open microwave.

Chill the spinach!

Transfer the cooked spinach to a sieve or colander in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. (When I’m pressed for time, I skip the ice water part and just rinse the cooked spinach with cold water before squeezing out the excess liquid.)

An Asian woman is transferring cooked spinach from a pot of boiling water to a glass bowl filled with ice water and a strainer.

Squeeze the liquid out of the spinach!

Fish the spinach out and squeeze out all the excess water.

An Asian woman is squeezing the water out of cooked spinach that has been chilled in an ice bath.

Chop the spinach!

Cut the cooked spinach into thirds to make it easier to eat.

Cutting cooked and squeezed dry spinach into three sections with a chef's knife.

Season the spinach!

In a large mixing bowl, combine the spinach with the green onion, garlic, coconut aminos, sesame oil, and salt. Mix well and taste a bite. Adjust for seasoning, if needed. Then, toss in the sesame seeds (and optional red pepper flakes) and stir everything together.

Nine sequential process shots that show someone adding the ingredients to make Korean spinach side dish into a glass bowl and mixing them together.

Chill and serve!

Cover and chill the spinach dish in the refrigerator for at least 5 to 10 minutes to let the flavors meld.

A closeup of mixing Korean spinach side dish in a glass bowl with a silicone spatula.

Transfer the chilled spinach salad to a serving bowl and dig in!

An side shot of a white and blue serving bowl filled with Korean spinach side dish.

How do you save leftovers?

Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. This spinach side dish tastes great cold and holds up for about 4 days in the fridge.


Looking for more recipe ideas? Head on over to my Recipe Index. You’ll also find exclusive recipes in my cookbooks, Nom Nom Paleo: Food for Humans (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2013), Ready or Not! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2017), and Nom Nom Paleo: Let’s Go! (Andrews McMeel Publishing 2022)


Korean Spinach Side Dish (Sigeumchi Namul)

5 from 7 votes
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time10 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Servings 2
This paleo and Whole30 version of sigeumchi namul, a simple Korean spinach side dish is light, refreshing, and packed with flavor and nutrients. Plus, it’s perfect for meal prep because it only takes a few minutes to make and tastes great straight out of the fridge!

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 bunch spinach, (about 10 ounces) washed, drained, and ends trimmed
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 teaspoons coconut aminos
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt 
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon gochugaru or red pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions 

  • If you’re cooking the spinach on the stovetop, bring a large covered pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the spinach and cook, uncovered, for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the leaves are bright green and just cooked.
    Alternatively, you can microwave the spinach in an Anyday Large Deep Dish microwave glass bowl for about 2 minutes or until just cooked through.
  • Transfer the cooked spinach to a sieve or colander in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. (When I’m pressed for time, I skip the ice water part and just rinse the cooked spinach with cold water before squeezing out the excess liquid.)
  • Take the spinach out of the ice water and squeeze out all the excess water.
  • Cut the pile of cooked spinach into thirds to make it easier to eat.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the spinach with the green onion, garlic, coconut aminos, sesame oil, and salt. Mix well and taste a bite. Adjust for seasoning, if needed. Toss in the sesame seeds (and optional red pepper flakes) and stir everything together.
  • Cover and chill the spinach dish in the refrigerator for at least 5 to 10 minutes to let the flavors meld. Dig in!

Video

Notes

Store the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Nutrition

Calories: 65kcal | Carbohydrates: 7g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 3g | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 1g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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About Michelle Tam

Hello! My name is Michelle Tam, and I love to eat. I think about food all the time. It borders on obsession. I’ve always loved the sights and smells of the kitchen. My mother was (and is) an excellent cook, and as a kid, I was her little shadow as she prepared supper each night. From her, I gained a deep, abiding love for magically transforming pantry items into mouth-watering family meals.

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