Our favorite Spinach Salad with spinach, crunchy apples, tart red onion, sweetened dried cranberries, savory feta cheese, crumbled crisp bacon, candied honey pecans is tossed with an incredible apple-Dijon vinaigrette that takes minutes to assemble.
My husband’s favorite dessert is an apple pie or apple crisp. So after buying a few bags of apples to test different pies and crisps for his upcoming birthday, I needed to put the leftover apples to use in something a bit healthier. The first thing I thought of? Spinach Salad! This salad is the perfect combination of sweet and savory, with delicious and satisfying textures. It has crisp sweet apples and dried sweetened cranberries that are balanced with savory crisp bacon and tart red onion.
Spinach Salad is filling enough to be a meal, yet light enough to still be a side dish, depending on how much you put on your plate. It’s also a great candidate to add some grilled chicken or grilled steak to if you’d like to enjoy this salad as a filling main course meal.
The vibrant colors and incredible flavors would make this dish the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving or Christmas table. I know it’s going to make an appearance on my holiday table!
Spinach Salad FAQs
Is Spinach a vegetable or salad?
Technically spinach is a vegetable, but it’s also great as a salad base. It’s an especially versatile vegetable since it can be used raw in a salad or cooked in any number of savory applications, such as casseroles, soups, quiches or on its own as a side dish.
This leafy green vegetable is known for being high vitamins and iron.
What can you do with raw spinach?
Besides this amazing Spinach Salad, here are some of the other ways we like to use raw spinach:
- Chicken Spinach Saladwith balsamic dressing
- Chicken and Spinach Pasta Salad with a citrus vinaigrette
- Italian Sausage Orzo Soupwith veggies and cooked sausage
- Chicken and Spinach Gnocchimade in one pan
What goes well with spinach?
One of the reasons I love this salad so much is how well all the ingredients go together. Raw spinach can be paired with just about any veggie or fruit and tossed with a vinaigrette and taste great, but this recipe definitely contains my favorite ingredients to pair with spinach.
- Apples. For this salad, I like to slice them as thin as possible. Alternatively, you can chop the apples into small bite-sized pieces. While any variety of apples will work great, I like to mix and match varieties for diversification of flavors. Our favorites in this spinach salad are Honeycrisp, Fuji and Granny Smith.
- Candied pecans. To save time, you can get candied or glazed pecans at the store (typically I buy pre-made honey roasted pecan pieces that are “ready for salads” made by Fresh Gourmet®). You can also roast your own nuts or add them in plain. Alternatively, you can make a homemade batch of candied pecans for this salad (and eat the leftovers as dessert!). Don’t want the extra sugar? Grab raw pecans and toast them instead.
- Red onion. If you don’t like the “bite” of raw red onions, soak the sliced onions in some cold water with a pinch of salt. Drain thoroughly and then add to the salad.
- Bacon. Pork or Turkey bacon works great in this salad (see “quick tip” box below). If you’re looking to save time and/or mess and get this salad on the table quickly, use fully cooked (microwave) bacon.
- Dried cranberries. Either sweetened or unsweetened cranberries work great here. For a fun flavor twist, try dried tart cherries or dried blueberries instead.
- Feta cheese. The cheese adds a great savoriness and saltiness to the salad and complements the spinach especially well. We sometimes use crumbled goat cheese on this salad.
I adore pork bacon but don’t necessarily love all the fat, calories, and sodium that comes with it when I’m looking for a healthier salad option. So, turkey bacon is the perfect healthy alternative — it is full of flavor with approximately half the calories, 60% less fat, and 43% less sodium than regular pork bacon.
What can I serve alongside Spinach Salad?
- This Crockpot Turkey would be great served alongside, or some leftover turkey added into the salad.
- These Short Ribs or Crock Pot Roast would be great as a main with Spinach Salad as a side dish.
- These Roasted Brussel Sprouts would make for a delicious side dish.
Apple cider vinaigrette
The dressing couldn’t be much easier to prepare – just add everything into a Mason jar and shake to combine. It’s hard to believe how something so simple can be thisdelicious!
A few ingredient tips (none of the below-mentioned brands are sponsoring this post):
- Apple cider vinegar. We’re obsessed with Bragg’s® Organic Apple cider vinegar in this dressing.
- Extra virgin olive oil. The better your olive oil, the better the flavor of the dressing, so be sure to use good quality, extra-virgin olive oil.
- Puremaplesyrup. Not to be confused with pancake syrup! Pure maple syrup adds a very subtle flavor and a burst of sweetness that balances out the vinegar.
- Dijonmustard. Make sure to use Dijon, not yellow mustard. There’s a big flavor difference! We love Grey Poupon® Dijon best.
- Salt and pepper. And, of course, don’t forget to season the dressing. If it’s not bursting with flavor, an extra pinch of seasoning will make all the difference.
Can this Spinach Salad be prepared ahead of time?
Unfortunately not. The apples will start to brown if they are prepared too far in advance, the bacon doesn’t remain as crispy, and the dressing will make the spinach and other ingredients wilt.
If you want to prepare this salad in advance, I’d recommend measuring out and then storing ingredients separately in plastic bags or small containers and tossing them together right before serving. The one ingredient I don’t recommend preparing more than an hour ahead of time is the apples.
The dressing can be made (and stored) in a Mason jar 2-3 days in advance. Shake up to re-combine before topping the salad. If the dressing hardens or clumps, this is totally normal — it’s just the olive oil solidifying at cold temperatures. Let the dressing stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes and then shake it up and it’s ready to go!
When enjoying this Spinach Salad, drizzle the dressing only on the portion of salad that will be enjoyed the same day. Once dressed, this salad doesn’t sit well.
More Delicious Salad Recipes
- Wild Rice Saladwith sweet potatoes and pomegranate
- Autumn Crunch Pasta Saladwith a sweet vinaigrette
- Sweet Potato Quinoa Saladwith a lemon vinaigrette
- Italian Saladwith an herb vinaigrette
- Quinoa Saladwith avocados and an herb-lemon vinaigrette
- 6cups (5.5 oz)baby spinach
- 2large apples(See Note 1)
- 1/2of 1 small red onion(See Note 2)
- 1cupcandied or honey-roasted pecans(See Note 3)
- 2/3cupdried sweetened cranberries
- 1/4cupcrumbled feta cheese
- 2tablespoonsapple cider vinegar
- 1/4cupextra virgin olive oil
- 1tablespoonpure maple syrup
- 2teaspoonsDijon mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt and 1/8 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
PREP: Cook the bacon and chop into small pieces. Thinly slice or chop the apples and red onion.
PREPARE THE DRESSING: Add all ingredients to a Mason jar, cover with the lid, and vigorously shake to combine. Taste and adjust for personal preference on seasonings (salt and pepper). Refrigerate until ready to eat and shake once more before dressing the salad.
SALAD ASSEMBLY: Add spinach, apples, red onion, pecans, and dried cranberries to a large salad bowl.
DRESS THE SALAD: Drizzle the dressing only on what will be enjoyed the same day. (Once dressed, this salad doesn’t sit well.) Toss salad to coat in dressing. Add the feta cheese (add more to personal preference) and chopped bacon. Toss once more and serve salad immediately.
MAKE AHEAD/STORAGE: If you want to prepare this salad in advance or store leftovers, I recommend measuring out and then storing ingredients separately in plastic bags or small containers and tossing them together right before serving. The one ingredient I don’t recommend preparing more than an hour ahead of time is the apples. The dressing can be made (and stored) in a Mason jar 2-3 days in advance. Shake up to re-combine before topping the salad. (If the dressing hardens or clumps, this is totally normal — it’s just the olive oil solidifying at cold temperatures. Let the dressing stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes and then shake it up and it’s ready to go!)
Note 2: You can dice the onion or thinly slice. To take away the «bite» of the red onion (make it milder): submerge the sliced or chopped onions in a bowl of cold or ice water. Let them sit for at least ten minutes, stirring 2-3 times, and then drain and use in this salad.
Note 3: Typically I buy pre-made honey roasted pecan pieces that are «ready for salads» (made by Fresh Gourmet). You can also roast your own nuts or add them in plain!
We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.