I have some frozen spinach that I fry in a pan along with some other vegetables and meat. While it’s heating up, the spinach doesn’t smell like anything, but after several minutes, it starts to give off a fairly strong smell. I don’t know how to describe it, but it isn’t especially pleasant.

Each time, the rest of my food was cooked at that point, so I stopped cooking. The spinach looked and tasted fine. Does the smell from the spinach mean anything in particular? Does it mean that the spinach is probably done cooking? Did I overcook it?

  • Usually over cooking, or just a warning that your shouldn't eat it :-)
    – TFD
    May 22, 2015 at 7:55
  • I've gotten a couple containers of smelly spinach myself. During cooking, whether boiling or frying, it would give off a kind of funky fish stink. We ate it and nothing bad happened, but I don't know what caused it.
    – goblinbox
    May 26, 2015 at 14:49
  • 1
    Normally if it starts off funky or smelly (fresh) and has black or dark spots or pieces, get rid of it or return it. If your containers were frozen and you defrosted then in the fridge or on your counter, they should not have that smell. They may have been defrosted and refrozen again, maybe. If fresh and in plastic box containers, they could have been old and started to dry out and a few pieces had turned bad (slimy) same thing with the plastic bags. It is good nothing bad happened.
    – user33210
    May 27, 2015 at 6:23

3 Answers 3


True, you may have cooked it too much and spinach is cooked when it reaches 160 degrees F. If the spinach overcooks, it does not necessarily mean it is bad, it is just overcooked. In my opinion, eat it, I have because mine did not taste bad as I understand yours did not taste bad.

Now, another idea is that when you have smelly spinach, you might have cooked in on very high heat and you burned it or overcooked it, you could still eat it. Again, if it does not taste bad, it is ok to eat it.

Another idea is that you used rancid oil, which using the rancid oil on the spinach would taste bad and you would then get rid of it. That would taste bad.

Also there is the problem of listeria, which is some kind of a bacteria, I think, and the spinach is bad to begin with and will or might make you sick. Please look that up, lettuce also has that problem. I think the spinach would have a blackish hue to it and taste bad. Get rid of it.

Lastly, what I read about spinach is that you do not re-heat cooked spinach, eat it cold. I make big batches of creamed spinach, my family loves it, takes it to their homes, nukes it, and nobody has gotten sick. I am no doctor, so take that info for what it is worth.

Lastly secondly, I use frozen spinach to make dips. I make too much of that also and I make my own creations of that. My family likes to take that home also. What I do with any dip is put out smaller portions at a time and fill up as necessary. It is time consuming but as a safety issue it makes me feel good and when you feel you are doing your best to keep people eating safer, it is worth it.

At very Last, use your judgement, don't take chances. When in doubt, throw it out. I do what I do because I have a lot of experience, but that does not mean I don't get into trouble once in awhile. Good Luck

  • Can you please explain why you think reheating cooked spinach causes illness and link to a source that supports that statement?
    – Catija
    May 27, 2015 at 6:23
  • Thank goodness I saw what you asked now because I am bad at finding what I find. Here goes.....shelflifeadvice.com/content/it-safe-reheat-leftover=cooked-spinach
    – user33210
    May 27, 2015 at 6:36
  • That says it's fine for adults but should be avoided for infants...
    – Catija
    May 27, 2015 at 6:39
  • Sorry, I have more to say. I looked up on google cooked smelly spinach and many things came up and I clicked many and this Shelf Life Advice came up and what I did what click all the info they had and it was very time consuming for me and I also looked up other things. I also used my own experience as I said in my answer. Good Luck
    – user33210
    May 27, 2015 at 6:40
  • I have 2 & 3 year olds that eat spinach dip and creamed spinach & my own kids when they were little ate it. I did not give them leftover spinach & I make spinach smoothies, BUT I do make sure the spinach is FRESH & no spots for my smoothies for the little ones & for the creamed spinach I defrost in the fridge for 1 or 2 days. I also saute onions & garlic in butter first & then add the spinach to the mix & the little ones love it. They call it grass with worms & rocks (they love garlic cut in half, sauteed), just like raw or cooked broccoli are trees. I will read further about kids and spinach
    – user33210
    May 27, 2015 at 6:56

From Fresh-cut baby spinach: off-odour development inside the package still an unresolved problem

In the case of spinach, the ammonia is produced as a consequence of protein catabolism: the accumulation of ammonia is responsible of leaf dark deterioration. The effects of MAP conditions on the quality maintenance of fresh-cut spinach have been widely evaluated.


I was curious about this too. I am cooking fresh spinach and to me it smells like oysters. Not in a bad way though! I like oysters!

Here is my theory:

Spinach is high in iron Oysters are high in iron

Spinach contains chlorophyll (in cells) Oysters eat chlorophyll (from plankton)

So I think it could be a combination of iron and chlorophyll being boiled that gives off a smell we think is fishy.

It's just my guess. I'm not a scientist or anything haha!

  • 1
    Oh my, the myth of iron-rich spinach is still alive? I thought that had been busted decades ago!
    – Stephie
    Jan 10, 2016 at 23:01

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