This strawberry spinach salad is an excellent method to encourage kids to eat spinach! I discovered this salad at a potluck dinner and immediately requested the recipe ever since, I have prepared it multiple times and have received recipe requests every time I bring it to an event.
Recipe for Spinach Salad with Strawberries
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Additional Time: 1 hr 10 mins
- Total Time: 1 hr 20 mins
- Servings: 4
- ½ cup white sugar
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
- 1 tablespoon minced onion
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 quart strawberries – cleaned, hulled, and sliced
- 10 ounces fresh spinach – rinsed, dried, and torn into bite-size pieces
- ¼ cup blanched and slivered almonds
- Make the dressing: Mix sugar, oil, vinegar, sesame, poppy seeds, onion, paprika, and Worcestershire in a medium bowl. Cover and chill for 1 hour.
- Make the salad: Combine strawberries, spinach, and almonds in a large bowl.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Refrigerate for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.
Spinach Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Poppy Seed Dressing
Say hello to the vibrant Spinach Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Poppy Seed Dressing! This recipe is perfect whether you need a nutritious lunch or a salad that will be enjoyed at parties.
Introducing the best-ever Spinach Strawberry Salad with balsamic poppy seed dressing, pecans, and feta or goat cheese. This salad marks the unofficial start of spring for me, especially in the upper Midwest, where the arrival of March or early April doesn’t always feel like an actual spring.
Gradually, my little yard transforms into a lush green space, and my cravings shift towards lighter and more vibrant ingredients like strawberries, poppy seeds, and feta cheese.
Another sign of my personal “spring” (and I make no apologies for this): the return of Panera’s strawberry poppy seed salad. Pure joy!
Today’s healthy spinach strawberry salad serves as a gateway food. It welcomes the arrival of spring (or extends it if you’re fortunate enough to reside where spring arrives promptly).
It also serves as an introduction to skeptics of salads. Its combination of sweet berries, toasted pecans, creamy feta, and a delightful honey balsamic poppy seed dressing eases you into embracing leafy greens, even if you aren’t typically a fan of salads.
Furthermore, it is an excellent starter or side dish for any spring or summer gathering. Need a side dish for Easter, a potluck, or a dinner party where you’re unsure of everyone’s preferences? Look no further than this versatile Spinach Strawberry Salad. It’s effortless to prepare, pleases the crowd, and offers flexibility in its ingredients.
How to Make the Best Ever Strawberry Spinach Salad
Consider this recipe for Spinach Strawberry Salad as a flexible and adjustable starter rather than a rigid script, similar to my Fruit Salad and Arugula Salad recipes.
I’ve provided the ingredients and measurements to create an outstanding spinach-strawberry salad for a crowd. Feel free to make substitutions and variations to suit your preferences or keep things exciting each time you prepare them.
Key Salad Ingredients:
- Spinach: The classic choice that pairs perfectly with strawberries. Try blending half arugula and half spinach for a peppery twist.
- Strawberries: Opt for the juiciest and ripest strawberries you can find. To add variety, consider mixing in blueberries, raspberries, dried cranberries, or mandarin oranges.
- Toasted Pecans: A crunchy element that no good salad should be without. If you do not like pecans, try using slivered almonds or chopped walnuts instead. Preast them beforehand for enhanced crispness and flavor, regardless of your nuts. Toasted sunflower seeds can be a great alternative if you have a nut allergy.
- Feta: Cheese is a must to achieve a genuinely satisfying and creamy salad. Alongside mild feta, goat cheese or a soft blue cheese like gorgonzola works wonderfully in this spinach strawberry salad. They add extra decadence and tanginess. Whichever cheese you choose, buy it in block form (or cute little logs for goat cheese) and crumble it yourself. Avoid pre-crumbled cheese, as they often have a starchy powder coating that affects its creaminess.
- Red Onion: Adds a friendly bite to balance the sweetness of the salad.
- Red onion tip: When using raw red onions like in this spinach strawberry salad, soak them in water first. This preserves the onion’s flavor while reducing its harsh aftertaste that tends to linger.
Let’s Talk Poppy Seed Dressing
Whenever I have a craving for spinach-strawberry salad, it’s always the combination of spinach and strawberry with poppy seed dressing that I desire. Perhaps it’s the influence of Panera (okay, it’s definitely the Panera factor), but to me, the two components go hand in hand and should be embraced together.
The poppy seeds add a cheerful touch and provide delightful bursts of texture.
Instead of a creamy dressing, this spinach strawberry salad calls for a poppy seed vinaigrette made with balsamic vinegar and honey. There are a few reasons for this choice:
- Balsamic vinegar and strawberry create a heavenly flavor combination.
- The acidity of the dressing contributes a nice balance to the salad.
- Balsamic vinegar is a pantry staple that I always have on hand.
- Best of all, this dressing comes together quickly.
When making your vinaigrette from scratch, the most significant obstacles are usually time and the availability of ingredients. However, this recipe takes just seconds to prepare, and chances are you already have everything you need in your pantry.
- Toast the pecans in the oven, then chop them into smaller pieces.
- Place the sliced red onions in a bowl of water to soak. While they drink, whisk together the dressing ingredients.
- Combine the spinach, strawberries, and soaked red onions in a serving bowl.
- Drizzle some of the dressing over the salad and toss gently. Start with a conservative amount and add more later if desired. Remember, you can add more sauce but can’t remove excess once added.
- Sprinkle the chopped pecans and crumbled feta cheese over the salad. Toss again to distribute the ingredients evenly. If desired, add more dressing to enhance the flavors.
- Enjoy your delicious strawberry spinach salad!
What to Serve with Strawberry Salad
Here are some revised suggestions on what to serve with your strawberry salad:
- Chicken: To turn this spinach salad into a main dish, add grilled or shredded chicken. You can easily prepare shredded chicken on the stovetop, in a slow cooker, in the oven (such as baked chicken breast), or using an Instant Pot.
- Grains: For additional protein and substance, mix in cooked quinoa, pasta, or farro. Adding these grains can enhance the nutritional value and make the salad more filling. You can also try a variation like my Strawberry Farro Salad.
- Bread: Pairing your salad with delicious, crusty bread is always great. It complements the flavors and textures of the salad and adds an extra element to the meal.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips
- To prepare ahead, dressing the salad shortly before serving is best. If you don’t plan on consuming it all at once, wrap only the portion you intend to eat immediately.
- For storage: Any leftover, undressed salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Keep the remaining dressing refrigerated in an airtight container, such as a jar, for up to 5 days. Remember to give it a good shake before using it again.
Tools Used to Make This Spinach Salad with Strawberries
- Cutting Board with Non-Slip Surface: Use a non-slip cutting board to ensure safety while slicing, chopping, and prepping your ingredients.
- Mixing Bowls: Opt for mixing bowls when combining your dressing ingredients. They provide ample space and ease for mixing and blending.
- Rimmed Baking Sheets: Utilize rimmed baking sheets for toasting pecans. These sheets ensure even toasting and prevent nuts from rolling off the edges.
Spinach Strawberry Salad Recipe
- Prep: 15 minutes
- Cook: 10 minutes
- Total: 20 minutes
- Servings: 6 servings
For the Strawberry Spinach Salad:
- 3/4 cup raw pecans
- 1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
- 10 ounces fresh baby spinach (you can also use a 50/50 blend of arugula and spinach)
- 1 quart strawberries, hulled and quartered (about 1 pound)
- 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (buy block-style feta for better texture)
For the Poppy Seed Dressing:
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
Toast the pecans:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Spread the pecans in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes until fragrant and the center of the pecan is tan when broken in half.
- Keep an eye on them to prevent burning.
- Remove from the oven and roughly chop the pecans.
Place the sliced onions in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let them sit while you prepare the rest of the salad; this will keep their flavor while reducing the harsh onion bite.
Prepare the dressing: In a small mixing bowl or large liquid measuring cup, whisk together all dressing ingredients – balsamic vinegar, olive oil, poppy seeds, honey, mustard, salt, and pepper – until well combined. Alternatively, shake the ingredients in a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid.
Assemble the salad:
- In a large serving bowl, place the spinach.
- Add the strawberries.
- Drain the red onions and add them as well.
- Drizzle half the dressing over the salad and toss to coat the leaves.
- Adjust the amount of sauce as needed; you want the spinach leaves to be nicely moistened but not overdressed.
- Add the crumbled feta cheese and toasted pecans.
- Toss lightly to combine.
Serve immediately, with extra dressing on the side if desired.