Apple Spinach Farro Salad
I have become absolutely obsessed with this Farro Salad! It’s super hearty, healthy and delicious and I know you’re going to LOVE it too! This fall-inspired Farro Salad is made with cooked farro, juicy apples, fresh spinach, crunchy pecans and sweet cranberries, all tossed in a bright lemon vinaigrette. Farro is a nutty whole grain that’s absolutely perfect in salads like this one.
Farro salad makes a great side dish, vegetarian main course, or potluck offering. It has all the right blends of contrasting textures and flavors — crunchy and chewy, sweet and tart. Crisp and tart apples are combined with chewy farro, sweet cranberries, and crunchy chopped pecans for an incredible salad. Every time I bring this salad to a gathering, I get a ton of requests for the recipe! And you better believe, this farro salad will be on my holiday table!
What is Farro?
Recently, farro has become one of my favorite grains to keep stocked in our pantry. I’ve been using it more than quinoa and while it’s not gluten-free like quinoa, I am such a fan of it. It’s chewy, nutty, and SO tasty when cooked in broth, and it goes perfectly in this salad!
Farro is an ancient whole grain derived from wheat. Farro is not gluten-free, however, it is a tasty whole grain that’s rich in protein and fiber.
From my experience, you’ll find farro sold in the following ways:
- Whole Farro — The grain is left completely in tact, which means when cooked, whole farro has a bit more flavor and the texture is a bit chewier. Whole farro also requires the longest cook time, about 40 minutes.
- Cracked, Semi-Pearled or Pearled Farro — Some of or all of the bran has been removed, which means the cook time will be a bit less and the texture less chewy.
Whole, cracked, and pearled farro can be used interchangeably in this farro salad recipe, as well as most other farro recipes. Be sure to take note of the cooking instructions on the package of the farro you purchased in order to gauge cook time and liquid requirements.
Is Farro Healthy?
Farro is super nutritious! It’s packed full of fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It’s also a great alternative to refined grains, such as white rice, and is the perfect healthy carb to incorporate into your diet. It will give you a healthy dose of zinc, magnesium and vitamin B3 (niacin), all of which play important roles in your body. And this particular Farro Salad is loaded with good-for-you ingredients!
Ingredients in Farro Salad
For this fall-inspired farro salad, I used seasonal ingredients that I crave this time of year!
- Farro. I chose to use farro for this salad because it has such a wonderful nutty flavor and chewy texture that works so well with all of the other ingredients. You can definitely sub another favorite grain, such as rice, quinoa, or barley.
- Spinach. There’s something about apples and spinach together in this salad that just makes sense. Feel free to do half arugula and half spinach for a little more zing if you’d like!
- Apple. Grab your favorite super juicy apple to add natural sweetness to this salad. I like pink lady or Honeycrisp apples best. Feel free to chop the apple into small bite-sized pieces instead of slices, if preferred.
- Pecans. For the perfect, nutty crunch. Or use another favorite nut – almonds, walnuts or pistachios would be great options.
- Cranberries. Feel free to use dried craisins or dried cherries in this recipe. The chewy sweetness is SO delicious in every bite.
- Green onions. A nice savory balance to the sweetness of the apples and cranberries.
- Parsley. Fresh herbs always add that something special to any dish.
- Feta. The creamy, salty flavor feta gives to the salad is absolutely fabulous. You can also use goat cheese for a little more tang, or even gorgonzola or blue cheese crumbles.
- Homemade lemon vinaigrette. An easy dressing made with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, dijon mustard, salt & pepper.
How to Cook Farro for Salad
Making farro for farro salad is really easy. You’ll just need to make sure you allow time for it to fully cook, since it can take up to about 40 minutes, depending on the variety of farro. It’s similar to cooking quoina, but takes a bit longer.
- Rinse the farro.
- Add broth (or water) in a 1:2 ratio of farro:liquid. I like to also cook the farro in a bit of butter for extra flavor, but this is optional.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 30-45 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Alternatively, if you have a rice cooker you can cook the farro in that on the brown rice setting.
- Remove from heat and allow farro to cool slightly or completely before adding it to the salad.
How to Make Farro Salad
Once the farro is cooked and the vinaigrette is made, this salad comes together in under 5 minutes!
- Cook the farro.
- Prep other salad ingredients while the farro is cooking.
- Make the lemon vinaigrette while the farro is cooking.
- Once farro has cooled, mix all salad ingredients.
- Toss everything together with the delicious lemon vinaigrette. Serve and enjoy!
Tips For Farro Salad
- Depending on whether you have pearled, semi-pearled or whole farro, the cook time will vary. If you’re not sure which variety you have, check the cook time on the label or just test the farro frequently for doneness after about 15 minutes of cook time passing.
- While the farro cooks, you can be prepping all of the other components (whisk together the dressing, toast the pecans, slice the apple, chop the parsley, and measure out cheese and cranberries).
- If you’re looking to save time, cook your farro in advance, up to 3 days before you plan to make this salad.
- Keep a watchful eye on the pecans as they toast in the skillet, and stir often. They can go from golden brown to burnt quickly. Freshly toasted nuts add tons of savory flavor and extra-crisp texture—don’t skip this step! See below for specific instructions.
- You can use as much or as little of the lemon vinaigrette as you prefer. Much of the time, I use just a small portion to cut down on calories.
- You can serve the salad immediately while it is still a bit warm, or you can let it come to room temperature. Or you can make it all the way though, and refrigerate it for 8 hours before serving. We love this salad slightly warm or room temperature, but we also enjoy it straight out of the fridge… all three ways are delicious.
Toast Your Own Pecans
I know it can be tricky to find toasted nuts, but it’s super easy (and worth it) to toast your own!
- Add your chopped pecans to a pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat.
- Carefully toss them around until they begin to smell fragrant, which should be about 5 minutes.
- Make sure you are stirring them around and watching constantly so they don’t have a chance to burn!
That’s it! Toasting them really brings out their flavor and a wonderful crunch.
Farro Salad Variations
There are so many different ways to customize your farro salad! Here are some of my favorite easy swaps.
- Instead of cranberries you could also use dried cherries or even golden raisins.
- Feel free to use pistachios, walnuts or almonds instead of pecans for a different flavor.
- If you’re not vegan or vegetarian and you want to add a bit more protein to this salad, you could add diced or shredded cooked chicken.
- Feel free to add in other ingredients you may have in your kitchen. Roasted chickpeas, diced avocado, marinated artichokes would all be amazing added to this dish!
Leftovers & Meal Prep
Once dressed, this apple spinach farro salad doesn’t stay fresh much more than about a day. The dressing makes the spinach soggy and the apple slices may begin to brown and lose texture. I’d recommend only dressing what you will enjoy the same day.
Meal prep tip. To make this salad in advance for the week. Store ingredients separately and then add them together just before enjoying. Alternatively, mix all ingredients except for the dressing and use a heartier salad green, like kale or collard greens instead of the spinach. Spinach is delicious in this, but it does wilt quickly. Another option is to keep the greens to the side of the salad and mix them in just before serving.
More Favorite Fall Salad Recipes
If you try this farro salad recipe, let me know! Leave a comment and if your family loves it as much as mine does, be sure to give it a five star ⭐️ rating! Also, tag @kimscravings on Instagram with a picture of your creation. It’s so fun to see what you’re cooking! Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to receive more healthy delicious recipes straight to your inbox.
This fall-inspired Farro Salad is hearty, healthy and delicious and I know you're going to LOVE it! It's made with cooked farro, juicy apples, fresh spinach, crunchy pecans and sweet cranberries, all tossed in a bright lemon vinaigrette.
- 1 1/2 cups farro (not quick cooking, sometimes called Pearled Italian)
- 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (juice from about 1 lemon)
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 cup olive oil
- cooked farro (about 3-4 cups)
- 2 handfuls baby spinach
- 1 pink lady, gala, or honey crisp apple, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries or cherries
- 1/2 cup sliced green onions, including mostly green stem
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup feta, shaved parmesan, or blue cheese, optional
Rinse farro in cold water with a fine mesh sieve. Cook all farro ingredients in a rice cooker on brown rice setting, or bring all ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan, then reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer 30-45 minutes until liquid is absorbed and farro is light, soft and fluffy. Drain any remaining liquid, but don't rinse. Allow farro to cool slightly.
While farro is cooking, whisk the dressing ingredients together until well blended.
To make the salad, add cooled (room temp or slightly warm is best) farro to a large bowl. Mix in salad ingredients, except cheese. Drizzle dressing over the salad a little at a time while stirring salad. You may have a little dressing leftover. Top with cheese and mix.
*Salad ingredient measurements are a guide. Feel free to use up to about 1 cup of pecans, cranberries and green onion. You also may not need or want to use all of the vinaigrette.
Farro: Farro can be sold with the hull as whole farro or pearled (or semi-pearled), so you’ll want to make sure to check your packaging or the labels on the bulk bins for cooking instructions. Pearled farro will take around 15 minutes; unprocessed farro will take 25 to 40 minutes.
Make Ahead: The farro can be made up to 3 days in advance and all of the other ingredients can be prepped the day before. See specific tips in the blog post under "leftovers & meal prep".
Gluten Free Option: Substitute wild rice (cooked according to package directions) for the farro. Long-grain brown rice or quinoa would also work.
Dairy Free/Vegan Option: Omit the cheese and cook farro in vegetable broth.
Nut Free Option: Replace the pecans with pepitas (green pumpkin seeds) or sunflower seeds. Or completely omit the pecans.
Photos by Sasha at Eat Love Eats.