Auntie Martha’s Spicy Spinach

Recently, I sent each of my sons a text asking them to name three foods they HAD to have on Thanksgiving Day. All three responded with Auntie Martha’s Spicy Spinach. I don’t think a recipe can get a better recommendation than that. Meanwhile, my children, adults that they now are, have spoken; it’s time for me to get this time-honored family recipe up on the blog.


My sister-in-law, Martha, and her siblings have been enjoying this side dish since they were children. My mother-in-law gave me the recipe when my husband and I married in 1983. I recently learned from Martha and her twin sister, Terry, that the original version was known as Spinach Madeleine, and first appeared in the popular Junior League of Baton Rouge cookbook, River Road Recipes: The Textbook of Louisiana Cooking in 1959. The recipe was created by a woman named Madeline Wright from South Louisiana when she got the idea to squeeze a tube of Kraft’s Jalapeno Cheese into a creamed spinach dish for a luncheon with her bridge friends. It was a hit. She submitted the recipe for the newly conceived River Road Recipes cookbook, and it was an even bigger hit. It has been showing up as an elegant side dish on Southern dining tables ever since.

The main ingredients are spinach and Velveeta cheese. What exactly is Velveeta?  Velveeta is a processed cheese product that when melted is velvety smooth. It was invented in 1923 while a cheese processing plant employees experimented with ways to use up pieces of cheese that broke off of cheese wheels while being trimmed. They mixed the cheese trimmings with whey, a byproduct from cheese-making, and Velveeta was born.

You will not find Velveeta in the refrigerated section of the grocery store. It took me many searches to figure this out. It is in the Dry Cheese section of the grocery store next to the tall, skinny green boxes of grated parmesan cheese.


Yield: 3½ cups (very easily doubled or tripled)


20 ounces frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained, save liquor
4 tablespoons butter
1 cup (4 ounces) onion, chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup milk
½ cup spinach liquor saved from drained spinach
1 teaspoon celery salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
6 ounces Kraft Velveeta Jalapeno Cheese

Mise en Place:


Preheat oven to 350º

Defrost spinach in a sieve over a bowl so you can save the liquid that drains out. It should amount to a half a cup. You could use three pounds of fresh spinach, sautéed in butter for the frozen spinach and substitute chicken broth for the spinach liquor.


Melt butter in a saucepan. Add onions and sauté for 10 minutes over low heat. Stir in flour and cook for 2 more minutes.
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Add milk, the spinach liquor, celery salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Worcestershire Sauce. Stir until blended. Add Velveeta chunks, and mix until melted.
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Add spinach to pot and mix thoroughly. At this point, you could finish cooking by simmering on the stove for 15 minutes, or put it in a casserole and bake it later at 350º for about 30 minutes.
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This recipe is easily made ahead of time and can be doubled or tripled. My mother-in-law always baked it with buttered bread crumbs or crumbled Cheez-Its on top.


Today, I served the spicy spinach as a hot dip for a meeting and everyone loved it. Most of my guests were surprised to hear it was made with Velveeta!

P.S. Tomorrow is my two-year blogiversary!!  Please sign up to follow my posts! So grateful to Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner for inspiring me to blog, through their shining example over at Mason Dixon Knitting!

Other Thanksgiving Day Side Dishes We Love
Melissa’s Sweet Potato Casserole
Grandma’s Italian Fried Cauliflower
Roasted Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprouts and Cranberries
Amazingly Delicious Sautéed Carrots
Grandma’s Cranberry Chutney
Cauliflower Three Ways: Roasted, Blanched and Mashed

Favorite Thanksgiving Desserts
Mom’s Pumpkin Pie
Mom’s Apple Pie with a Cheddar Streusel Topping
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie
Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie
Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce and Whipped Cream
Marion’s Crazy Good Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chips


Follow my photos of vegetables growing, backyard chickens hanging out, and dinner preparations on Instagram at JudysChickens.

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos and text may only be used with written consent.

17 thoughts on “Auntie Martha’s Spicy Spinach

  1. Happy Blogiversary, Judy! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog, learned a lot and made a lot of your recipes. Plus, I have the added benefit of knowing you so I can actually hear you speaking as I’m reading! And I think I just passed the “test” – I read this recipe all the way to the end! How’s that for being a devoted fan? Keep on blogging…

    1. Thank you, Mary! Your words make me smile. I’m so appreciative of you for all of your nice complements over the last two years. Looking forward to posting more recipes that you will enjoy. xo

  2. This will be on our Thanksgiving table! Seeing your blog post on my email feed brought a much-needed smile after these past heartbreaking days. You’re feeding souls and spirits, Judy. Thank you.
    Debra Taylor aka President of the Andrew fan club!

  3. Judy, Mrs. Wright served this to me and Kirk when we stayed with them in 1986 as we drove through Nashville on our move to Memphis! We both loved it and she wrote it down for me before we left in the morning….GREAT addition to the blog!!!!!

  4. Sorry I missed your blogiversary, Judy! Many happy returns of the day 🙂 I enjoy your posts very much, and am glad Ann and Kay pointed me in your direction.
    This looks interesting, and thank you for explaining about where to find the Velveeta – I would have looked by the cream cheese, I think. Then in the cheese section. Then in dairy. Then I would have given up and looked for an employee!

  5. Judy, I want to make this for Thanksgiving, but could not find the Jalapeno Velveeta. I found ‘Mexican’ Velveeta which is orange, and ‘Queso Blanco with Jalapenos’ Velveeta which is white. which should I use? thanks!

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