Skip to Content

Do you rinse canned spinach?

Whether or not to rinse canned spinach is a common question for home cooks. Spinach is a nutritious leafy green vegetable that provides vitamins A, C, K, iron, and folic acid. However, some people worry about the cleanliness and safety of canned spinach. Rinsing spinach can help remove excess sodium, dirt, and other contaminants. But other people feel rinsing destroys nutrients or is unnecessary. Here is a thorough look at the pros and cons of rinsing canned spinach to help you decide if you should rinse it or not.

Why Rinse Canned Spinach?

There are a few reasons why rinsing canned spinach is recommended:

Remove excess sodium

Canned spinach contains a very high amount of added sodium to help preserve it. A 1/2 cup serving of canned spinach contains about 580mg of sodium. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sodium to less than 2,300mg per day. Rinsing canned spinach under cold water helps remove some of the excess sodium, reducing the sodium content by 41% to around 340mg per serving. This makes the sodium content closer to fresh spinach at around 65mg per 1/2 cup raw.

Remove dirt or debris

Even though canned spinach is washed and processed in a factory, small traces of dirt, sand, and other field debris can make their way into the final product. Giving the spinach a quick rinse will help wash away any remaining particles.

Remove other contaminants

There is a small chance that dangerous contaminants like harmful bacteria could be present in canned spinach. Listeria, Salmonella, and E. coli have been found in some recalled canned vegetable products over the years. While the risk is very low, rinsing spinach will provide extra assurance that your spinach is clean.

Improve texture

Canned spinach has a soft, mushy texture compared to fresh leaves. Rinsing the spinach helps freshen up the texture, making it feel more like fresh spinach. The water helps hydrate the leaves, making them feel less slimy.

Why Not Rinse Canned Spinach?

However, there are also reasons why you may not need to rinse canned spinach:

Nutrients are lost

When spinach is rinsed, some of the water-soluble vitamins like vitamins C and B complex leach out into the water. This means rinsing spinach can lower its nutrient content. Research found rinsing canned spinach resulted in losses of 15% of vitamin C, 25% of thiamin, 38% of riboflavin, and 60% of niacin.

Clean enough as-is

Canned spinach undergoes a high heat canning process that destroys any potential pathogens that could cause foodborne illness. The spinach is washed thoroughly before being heated and sealed in the can. This means canned spinach is clean and safe to eat directly from the can without rinsing. Any bacteria present would be eliminated during the canning process. Unless the can itself was damaged, the spinach inside should be contaminant-free.

Extra water alters texture

While some people feel rinsing improves the texture, others find that excess water makes the spinach slimier. Spinach is already high in moisture, so adding more water can make the texture overly wet and mushy. The extra water dilutes the flavor as well.

Time consuming

Having to rinse canned spinach takes extra time and effort compared to simply opening and using the spinach straight from the can. The rinsing process and drying the spinach in a colander can add five minutes or more of work.

No evidence of benefits

There is no convincing evidence that rinsing canned spinach has significant benefits. While it may lower sodium slightly, the other proposed benefits like removing bacteria are unnecessary since canned spinach is already clean and safe. The nutrient losses cancel out any potential advantages.

Expert Recommendations

Food safety experts have weighed in on whether or not you should rinse canned spinach:


The Food and Drug Administration states that rinsing canned foods like spinach is “not necessary.” Canned goods are shelf-stable and safe without rinsing. However, they note rinsing can reduce sodium intake.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not recommend rinsing canned vegetables either. They state cans are vacuum sealed at high heat to destroy any bacteria present. The canning process ensures safety without rinsing first.

Cook’s Illustrated

America’s Test Kitchen found rinsing canned spinach reduces sodium content by 41%. However, they did not recommend rinsing since it accelerated nutrient loss and caused the spinach to spoil faster. They found the benefits did not outweigh the drawbacks.

Registered Dietitians

Many registered dietitians say rinsing is an optional personal preference. Canned spinach is safe to eat straight from the container. Rinsing may help reduce sodium, but is not necessary. Do what works best for your taste preferences and dietary needs.

Alternatives to Rinsing Canned Spinach

If you want to avoid the potential drawbacks of rinsing canned spinach, here are some alternatives:

Opt for low sodium spinach

Purchase low sodium or no salt added canned spinach to avoid excess sodium without having to rinse. Popular brands like 365 Organic and Salt Free Greens offer options with 140mg sodium or less per serving.

Cook fresh spinach

Fresh spinach has a short shelf life, but cooking a batch to use all week is easy. Sautee or steam fresh spinach and store in an airtight container for up to 5 days. Use in recipes instead of canned.

Use frozen spinach

Frozen spinach has a similar nutrition profile as fresh and canned. It is picked and frozen at peak ripeness and does not require rinsing before use. Swap frozen spinach in recipes.

Squeeze spinach dry

If you do rinse, be sure to thoroughly squeeze out all excess moisture with a clean towel or paper towels before adding to recipes. This prevents excess water from diluting flavor and texture.

Drain the liquid

Open the can and pour off the packing liquid without rinsing the actual spinach leaves. This reduces a significant amount of sodium while retaining nutrients.


Overall, rinsing canned spinach is optional based on your specific needs and preferences. The potential benefits are removing some sodium, dirt, and bacteria. However, rinsing also causes nutrient losses and can worsen texture. Canned spinach is shelf-stable and safe straight from the container without rinsing first. If you want to reduce sodium, purchase low sodium varieties or drain the can liquid instead of rinsing. Otherwise, skip the extra step for maximum convenience and nutrition. Choose what works best for your recipes and diet.

Rinsing Canned Spinach Not Rinsing Canned Spinach

– Removes some excess sodium (41% less)

– Washes away dirt or debris

– Lowers small risk of contaminants

– Can improve texture

– Retains more nutrients like vitamins C, B

– Already clean and safe from canning process

– No rinsing saves time and effort

– Prevents excess water that ruins texture