The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has dramatically expedited global vaccine development efforts1-3, most targeting the viral 'spike' glycoprotein (S). S localizes on the virion surface and mediates recognition of cellular receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2)4-6. Eliciting neutralizing antibodies that block S-ACE2 interaction7-9, or indirectly prevent membrane fusion10, constitute an attractive modality for vaccine-elicited protection11. However, although prototypic S-based vaccines show promise in animal models12-14, the immunogenic properties of S in humans are poorly resolved. In this study, we characterized humoral and circulating follicular helper T cell (cTFH) immunity against spike in recovered patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We found that S-specific antibodies, memory B cells and cTFH are consistently elicited after SARS-CoV-2 infection, demarking robust humoral immunity and positively associated with plasma neutralizing activity. Comparatively low frequencies of B cells or cTFH specific for the receptor binding domain of S were elicited. Notably, the phenotype of S-specific cTFH differentiated subjects with potent neutralizing responses, providing a potential biomarker of potency for S-based vaccines entering the clinic. Overall, although patients who recovered from COVID-19 displayed multiple hallmarks of effective immune recognition of S, the wide spectrum of neutralizing activity observed suggests that vaccines might require strategies to selectively target the most potent neutralizing epitopes.