Ohitashi (Japanese Blanched Greens With Savory Broth) Recipe

This light and deeply flavorful side dish couldn't be easier to make.

Side view of a dish of ohitashi topped with shaved bonito.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Why This Recipe Works

  • Shocking the blanched greens in ice water instantly stops their cooking and sets their fresh green color and flavor.
  • Very briefly boiling the mirin helps drive off just a bit of its alcohol.

Here's a mystery I'd love someone to help me solve: Why do people like those awful baby spinach leaves so much? You know the ones—they come pre-picked and prewashed, often in plastic clamshells, nearly flavorless and limp. They've also almost entirely supplanted bunches of full-grown spinach in most produce markets. People actually eat that baby stuff in salads and think it's good. How can that be?

What's most unfortunate is that the now-frequently-MIA adult spinach, especially the curly kind, is truly delicious. Granted, it usually comes with a beach's worth of sand still clinging to it, which makes it a pain to wash properly (maybe this is why the pre-washed baby stuff took over?). Point is, we need real spinach back in our lives. Especially for something like ohitashi, the Japanese side dish of blanched greens in a light dashi marinade. Those baby spinach leaves end up squishy and slimy if you so much as blow some hot air in their direction, let alone blanch and marinate them.

When made with spinach, which should be full-grown, ohitashi is called horenso no ohitashi, horenso being the word for spinach and ohitashi referring to the marinating technique that underlies the dish. Spinach is the version I've seen most often in Japanese restaurants in the United States, and it's very common in Japan, too, but it's not the only option for ohitashi. A lot of different leafy greens can work: beet or turnip greens, Swiss chard, dandelion, bok choy, or even the wild watercress I'm using in the photos here. You can even stretch beyond leafy greens to stalk-y vegetables, like asparagus and green beans. Having so many options is a good thing, considering the unfortunate state of spinach in the US today.

No matter what you use, the method is the same—blanch the vegetables until tender, make the marinade, then let them sit together for a while before serving. It's a great vegetable side to have in your arsenal because it's easy and light and can be made ahead, and it's strikingly delicious, with a savory, gently smoky flavor.

So, the first step: Blanch those vegetables. Just get a pot of salted water boiling, drop them in, and cook them for a minute or two until they're tender. Then transfer them to an ice bath right away—in my testing on blanching, the single step that had the biggest effect on preserving a vegetable's bright green color and fresh flavor was stopping the cooking instantly in a bowl of ice water.

Meanwhile, for the marinade, I bring some mirin to a simmer, which helps cook off just a bit of its alcohol, then add usukuchi (light) soy sauce, which is lighter in color but saltier in flavor than dark soy sauce. I combine that with a larger quantity of dashi to form a flavorful broth.

For the dashi, homemade is best, but you can substitute instant if you're in a rush.

Then I squeeze out the excess water from the greens and combine them with the fully cooled marinade, leaving them together in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to several hours.

Overhead shot of a dish of ohitashi topped with shaved bonito and a pair of chopsticks on the side.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

When it's time to serve them, just put the vegetables on a plate, pour some of the marinade on top, and garnish with bonito flakes or sesame seeds. Traditionally, the greens are either arranged neatly lined up in a strip or formed into compressed cylinders, but I kind of like a loosely packed, freeform pile. Whatever the presentation, just...don't use baby spinach.

Chopsticks picking up some marinated spinach with shaved bonito.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

October 2017

Recipe Details

Ohitashi (Japanese Blanched Greens With Savory Broth) Recipe

Active 20 mins
Total 50 mins
Serves 2 to 4 servings

This light and deeply flavorful side dish couldn't be easier to make.


  • Kosher salt

  • 1 pound (450g) leafy green vegetables, such as curly spinach, watercress, Swiss chard, turnip or beet greens, or bok choy, washed well (see note)

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) mirin

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) soy sauce, preferably usukuchi (light) soy sauce

  • 3/4 to 1 cup (175 to 235ml) homemade or instant dashi

  • Bonito flakes or sesame seeds, for garnish


  1. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl. In a medium or large pot of salted boiling water, cook greens until tender, 1 to 2 minutes depending on type. Immediately transfer to prepared ice bath to cool.

    Spinach blanching in a pot of boiling water.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring mirin and soy sauce to a simmer over medium-high heat, then remove from heat. Combine soy mixture with 3/4 cup (175ml) dashi. Taste, then add more of remaining dashi if a more dilute flavor is desired. Let cool completely.

  3. Drain greens. Using your hands, wring out as much water from greens as possible, then transfer to a container, pour dashi marinade on top, and toss to coat. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 30 minutes and up to 8 hours.

    Hands wringing out excess water from blanched spinach.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

  4. Arrange greens on a single serving plate or several individual ones; they are often arranged in a neat line, or compressed into a cylinder shape, though loosely mounding them also works. Drizzle some of the dashi marinade on top, then garnish with bonito flakes or sesame seeds. Serve.

     A dish of ohitashi topped shaved bonito.

    Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik


Many kinds of leafy greens can work here, but make sure to avoid baby spinach, which becomes far too soft and squishy when cooked.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
42 Calories
1g Fat
5g Carbs
4g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2 to 4
Amount per serving
Calories 42
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 1274mg 55%
Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 29mg 146%
Calcium 118mg 9%
Iron 2mg 8%
Potassium 553mg 12%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)