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Espinaca: A Clone of Abuelo’s Spinach Casserole

This recipe for Espinaca combines spinach, corn, and mushrooms with cream cheese and green chilies to make this spicy and savory dip or side dish.

Espinaca--Side Dish or a Dip

Do you need a side dish to round out your menu or a dip to take to your next party?

Try this Espinaca, inspired by one of my favorite items on the menu at Abuelo’s. Sounds like a waitress, doesn’t it?

Recipe Inspiration

This recipe is a wonderful Mexican (probably Tex-Mex but I don’t know for sure) version of spinach. It has so many of my favorite things–mushrooms, red bell peppers, spinach, and corn, mixed together and spiced with a chipotle cheese sauce.

Ingredients and Substitutions:

  • SPINACH: Frozen spinach is the easiest way to go.
  • MUSHROOMS: Fresh sliced button mushrooms are my first choice. Fresh Baby Bellas would be just as good. Substitute canned mushroom pieces if you don’t have fresh. They will be cheaper and easier.
  • BACON: 2 slices of bacon is no big deal if you keep cooked bacon in your freezer. Microwaving two pieces of bacon doesn’t take long, either.

    Costco sells bags of cooked bacon pieces that are shelf-stable until you open them. They would be the perfect solution for this recipe as well as your next pizza.
  • CHIPOTLE PEPPERS IN ADOBO SAUCE: Buy these in a small can. They add a lot of heat and interest to this recipe. Freeze the remaining peppers for future use. (See directions below.)
  • ONION: White or yellow onions are best.
  • RED BELL PEPPERS: If you don’t have red bell peppers, use yellow or orange peppers. Green peppers will give your recipe a different flavor vibe since they are not as sweet.
  • CORN: Fresh would be fabulous, but I generally use frozen corn for convenience.
  • PROCESSED CHEESE: Velveeta is my processed cheese of choice.
  • CREAM CHEESE: This recipe is spicy enough that you can use low-fat cream cheese if you prefer.
  • JACK OR CHEDDAR CHEESE: You could leave this out if you don’t have it. Personally, I like to double the cheese.

espinaca as a sidedish

***Kitchen Secret for Chipotle Chilies

Chipotle chiles are smoked, dried jalapeños. They can be purchased in a can packed in adobo sauce.

Since this stuff is potent and powerful, I drop each individual whole pepper with a portion of sauce onto a cookie sheet covered with waxed paper.

Freeze, then remove frozen pepper portions to a zippered plastic bag and return to the freezer. Take out only the portion you need and chop finely for this recipe.

What do I serve with Espinaca?

Pita chips or tortilla chips are ideal if you are using this as a dip. Abuelos serves it as a side dish or casserole with Cheesy Jalapeño Mashed Potatoes.

Need more snack ideas for a get-together?

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If you have a question or tip to share, please leave it in the regular comments after the recipe so I can answer back. Or, email me privately: paula at

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Espinaca like Abuelos

Espinaca like Abuelos

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes

Spinach, corn and mushrooms combine with cream cheese and green chilies to make a spicy and savory dip or side dish.


  • 10 oz. bag chopped, frozen spinach
  • 8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced or coarsely chopped
  • 2 slices bacon, 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1-2 teaspoons chipotle in adobo sauce, finely chopped (See note)
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped (approximately 1/2 cup)
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons seasoning salt
  • 1 cup frozen whole kernel corn, thawed
  • 5 ounces processed cheese like Velveeta, cubed
  • 3 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Monterey Jack or Cheddar Cheese


  1. Snip a small corner of the bag of frozen spinach. Place on plate and microwave (still in the bag) 3 minutes to thaw. Spinach should still be bright green. Pour into a strainer and mash with a spoon to get as much liquid out as you can. Set aside.
  2. Saute bacon pieces in a medium skillet until crispy. Remove and pour off all but the smallest amount of grease.
  3. Saute mushrooms in the same skillet. When brown, add chipotle, onion, bell pepper, and garlic, cooking until vegetables are softened. Season with salt.
  4. Over low heat, add cream cheese and processed cheese, stirring to melt and combine.
  5. Stir in corn, spinach, and bacon. Pour into a 1-1/2 quart baking dish.
  6. Sprinkle grated cheese on top and heat in microwave or oven at 350 until heated through and cheese melts.


Leftover idea: Fill a flour tortilla with 2-3 tablespoons of espinaca and sprinkle with cheese. A quick trip to the microwave makes a very tasty lunch or snack.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 260Total Fat: 18gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 50mgSodium: 955mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 4gSugar: 5gProtein: 14g

Did you make this recipe?

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Friday 6th of October 2017

Actually, I mince the entire can of chipotles and also wrap them "individually" in waxed paper, then freeze them. Most recipes call for minced chipotles and that's one less thing.

Just as another tip (for Asian food lovers), I do the same (almost the same) thing for ginger. I peel and slice them into pieces, then wrap each with waxed paper and freeze. When a recipe calls for grated or minced, it's much easier to work with a frozen piece. The texture is a bit different but who eats ginger alone? In the recipe no one knows at all and the flavor is still the same. I got very annoyed with Cook Illustrated for having the nerve to knock freezing ginger because "we don't like the texture." SERIOUSLY? What a waste.

As for the recipe, it sounds delicious! I think you're probably right about the Tex-Mex, which is what I grew up eating. People say Tex-Mex isn't authentic but if Mexicans make and eat it, then uh, it's authentic. It's just a fusion of European and Mexican food. Fusion is the in thing. It cracks me up that you can eat fusion food without complaining that it's not authentic but if you call it Mexican and it has spinach, then it's not authentic and they forget the "fusion" part. New Mexico likes to claim it's authenticity but um, it has European tones as well! The only "authentic" you'll get is in a tiny village in Mexico... serious digression here.

I'm glad I found your version of it. I like this one and will try it out this weekend. :)


Friday 6th of October 2017

Magnolia, Thanks for sharing more tips. I totally agree with you regarding the ginger. Good idea on the chipotle. Then you only have to mess with it once. Hope the Espinaca turns out for you.


Friday 5th of March 2010

Thank you so much for this recipe. I LOVE Abuelo's Espinaca and was wondering how I could recreate it. Now I can!!


Friday 22nd of January 2010

What a great hint about the canned chipotle chilies! I love to use them, but never need the whole can. Thanks.


Thursday 21st of January 2010

That looks so good! I love spinach. Just had some creamy spinach soup tonight that was really good. (I always only buy 2% cheeses and the less fat cream cheese. I can't tell a difference.)


Thursday 21st of January 2010

yum...i would choose to eat the whole thing as a dish! would make a great food while watching the cowboys play. since the season is over now, let's remember this recipe for next year!