Goma-ae is my latest culinary love. It’s a sweet Japanese preparation of spinach with a sesame dressing sauce. I first encountered goma-ae at Shizen, San Francisco’s new vegan sushi restaurant (which I highly recommend), and it was an instant favorite.

Spinach is incredibly nutrient-dense, especially after cooking down. Almost anyone’s diet can be improved by adding cooked spinach, so this is a great addition to any home cook’s repertoire. I haven’t tried this dish with children, but my hope is that it would be kid friendly.

Goma-ae is fairly straightforward to prepare. The only real trick is not overcooking the spinach. Spinach cooks rapidly in boiling water, so you have to be quick, and then cool the spinach down in cool water to stop it from cooking further once you remove it.

The use of tahini here is a bit non-traditional. Traditional recipes use a larger amount of toasted sesame seeds, and a mortar-and-pestle to grind them. This is a bit easier, and tastes delicious.


Goma-ae, prepared from just over a pound (500g) of raw spinach.


I based this on a recipe from Japan Centre. I substituted tahini for some of the sesame seeds based partly on my observation of the Shizen dish. (Also because don’t have a mortar and pestle.) I also reduced the soy sauce a bit to highlight the other flavors.

I have a difficult time getting 1 tbsp of sugar to dissolve in 3 tbsp of liquid. The original recipe calls for 2 tbsp sugar in 3.5 tbsp of liquid, and doesn’t discuss heating to dissolve it. It actually makes me wonder if that’s not a typo. :) Maybe use agave or something if you don’t want to bother with dissolving sugar.


  • 500 g (1 lb) fresh spinach — I used baby spinach
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp mirin
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp tahini
  • 2 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
    (or toast raw sesame seeds; see below)

Yields about 2 cups. Let’s call it 4 servings.



Boil water in a large pot. While it’s heating up, rinse and wash the spinach.

Prepare a bowl with ice water to cool the spinach after it cooks.

To cook the spinach consistently, you’ll have to get it in and out quickly. I’ve been boiling the spinach in a steamer basket, which makes it easy to remove quickly.

Boil the spinach just until the spinach turns a deep green. For baby spinach, this takes about 30 seconds. Fully grown spinach (which I haven’t tried) is said to take about a minute.

Once the spinach is out, run it under the faucet for a few seconds to cool it down, then put it in the ice water.

I had to cook the spinach in two batches to fit it all. Once the spinach has been cooked and chilled, drain it and squeeze the water out.

If you’re using fully grown spinach, cut it into two-inch lengths.


Dissolve the sugar into the soy sauce and mirin. I find that I have to heat the mixture up by microwaving it for 15 seconds to fully dissolve it.

Once the sugar is dissolved, add the tahini and sesame seeds.

Toasting sesame seeds (if needed)

If you need to toast sesame seeds, it’s easy to do and just takes a few minutes. I toast sesame seeds a few cups at a time.

Put them in a sauce pan over medium heat, stirring frequently, until they become fragrant. Remove from heat, and let them cool on a tray. They can overcook if you keep them in a pan, and moisture is trapped if you put them in a jar right away.


Pour the dressing over the spinach. Goma-ae is best served cold, so consider putting it in the fridge for a bit before serving.


Just for kicks, here’s some basic nutrition info for a 1/2 cup portion:

  • Calories: 144
  • 17g carbohydrates, 7g fat, 6g protein
    (4g fiber, 9g sugar)
  • Potassium 21%, vitamin A 234%, vitamin C 59%, calcium 12%, iron 21%

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s