Marinated Spinach Recipe

Marinated spinach with leeks makes a wonderful addition to a Japanese bentō, a traditional lunch.

Summer 2014

  • Photo courtesy iStock/4kodiak

Total Hands-On Time: 10 min

Yield: Family-sized serving

Marinated Spinach (or Hōrensō Sunomono)

Our second sunomono differs in that it is cooked and is based on a leafy green. Spinach is one of the earliest greens to be harvested from the spring garden in most places, and makes a wonderful addition to our bentō. 

This dish also uses Allium fistulosum, known variously as Japanese Leeks, Japanese Bunching Onions, Spring Onions, or Welsh Onions. The last name is a misnomer, as this type of onion has no connection with the Celtic countries, it having rather been domesticated in Siberia and northeastern Asia, where it grows wild. In this case “welsh” is derived from the Old English “welisc” meaning “foreign,” which these Asian onions would have been to the Europeans. Although it is possible to use thinnings from the common onion (Allium cepa), their flavor is not the same.



• 1 pound fresh spinach
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 2 Japanese Leeks, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne or other hot pepper
• 1/4 cup rice vinegar
• 1 tablespoon soy sauce
• 1 teaspoon sesame oil
• 1/3 teaspoon salt
• 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds


1. Cook the spinach in boiling water for one minute or so until it has wilted and turned bright green. Drain in a colander. Rinse with cool water and squeeze dry.

2. Form into a roll and cut into 1/2-inch strips. 

3. Mix together the garlic, leeks, cayenne, vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and salt in a small bowl. Toss into the cooked spinach.

4. Place in bowl and top with sesame seeds. Cover and chill until served.

Jeff Nekola has a PhD in Ecology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has a passion for biodiversity in its many forms, whether it be plants, butterflies, and land snails in the wild or crops grown in gardens, orchards and fields, or the use of those foods as expressed by the entire range of humanity's cuisines. You can learn more here.

Linda Fey's first and finest childhood memories are of helping her mother and grandmother in the garden and then bringing in freshly picked produce to the dinner table. As an adult, she has over 20 years of experience in market gardening and teaches middle-school English at the Albuquerque Institute for Math and Science. Visit to view her writing about food and life.

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