My Favorite Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
This spinach salad is one of my all-time favorites! It’s always a hit and so easy to make with a tasty combination of sweet and savory ingredients, and tossed with a delicious homemade balsamic vinaigrette. As an added plus, this spinach salad recipe is super versatile – feel free to sub in whatever greens, nuts, or cheese that you have on hand.
Out of all the millions of spinach salad recipes out there, this variation always seems to be a hit for the perfect lunch or light dinner. It has dynamic ingredients that all compliment each other so well!
This spinach salad recipe is based off a similar salad that I tried a few weeks ago and absolutely loved. When I noticed that there were blueberries in the salad, I was definitely intrigued. I thought it might be weird, but I love apple and strawberries in my salad, so I thought, why not. And now, after having that spinach salad and creating this similar one, I’m pretty sure I will put blueberries in all my salads from here on out. 😉
ingredients for my favorite spinach salad
This spinach salad recipe is a combination of fruits, nuts, cheese, and a very delicious balsamic dressing. All over a bed of nutritious spinach. It’s a salad that you can feel good about eating, but definitely doesn’t sacrifice flavor. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Lettuce. I love a good spinach salad, but you can really use any lettuce that you’d like – butter, spring mix, arugula, romaine, or a combination of more than one type.
- Protein. This spinach salad includes the recipe for my favorite easy baked chicken to add to salads, wraps and other dishes. Feel free to pair this salad with a different protein or toss in some chickpeas and enjoy it as a light plant-based meal.
- Fruit. I’m a huge fan of adding a little something sweet to my green salads. In this spinach salad, we have sliced apple and fresh blueberries. But, of course, anything works! You could even leave the fruit off, if you prefer.
- Red onion. For a little zing to go with the creamy cheese and sweet blueberries. If you’re sensitive to the onion flavor, simply soak the slices in water beforehand or omit from your salad.
- Nuts. For the perfect nutty crunch! Try any favorite – toasted pine nuts, glazed pecans, chopped walnuts or slivered almonds.
- Cheese. Grated Parmesan, tangy feta, fresh mozzarella, crumbled Gorgonzola, goat or blue cheese all work great in this salad.
spinach salad dressing
My current favorite dressing for this spinach salad is my go-to homemade balsamic vinaigrette. It’s light and full of flavor with just a hint of sweetness! It’s also super easy to make with just 6 common ingredients. Feel free to use any favorite salad dressing, though. My poppy seed dressing would be very tasty on this salad too!
how to make an easy spinach salad
This easy spinach salad recipe has a few different components, but overall it’s a breeze to throw together. First, make the balsamic vinaigrette, so the flavors have a chance to meld and it’s ready when the salad is completely assembled. Next, work on any additional ingredients that you need to cook, like the chicken and bacon (if using). Then, it’s time to put everything together and finish off the spinach salad!
spinach salad with chicken
Spinach salad with chicken is a complete meal with plenty of protein from the chicken, complex carbs from the fruits and veggies and healthy fats from the nuts. If you happen to have leftover chicken or rotisserie chicken, that works great tossed in the salad. However, this simple chicken recipe is really tasty and it’s my go-to baked chicken to meal prep, use in casseroles and also pair with other dishes.
Simply season the chicken with a generous sprinkling of garlic powder, paprika, and salt & pepper. Once your oven has preheated to 450ºF. Bake the chicken for about 17-20 minutes, (or until 165 degrees internally). Once cooked, cover with foil for 10 minutes to seal in the juices. Easy, peasy!
assembling the spinach salad
Now that we have our dressing made and the chicken baking, we can prep our fresh salad ingredients and get everything assembled.
- After washing and preparing all of the fresh ingredients, toss them in a large bowl. I recommend slicing and adding in the apple, cheese and avocado (if using) just before serving.
- If you’re adding in bacon and/or chicken, let it cool some before tossing it in with the other ingredients.
- Just before serving, add desired amount of dressing and toss until everything is evenly coated. Alternatively, dressing can be served on the side.
- For presentation, reserve a bit of each ingredient to place on top of the salad before serving.
what to pair with spinach salad
There are so many options when it comes to pairing this spinach salad! Make the spinach salad with chicken and it’s the perfect choice for weeknight meals, but it’s also great for serving to family and friends at summer dinner parties and potlucks because it is SO good. If you’re not adding the chicken, here are some other pairing ideas:
Grilled salmon – the perfect summer pairing! I’ve been using this salmon seasoning blend and cooking method for years and it’s just a foolproof, all around delicious recipe for grilled salmon.
Grilled chicken – with this marinade and cooking method, you’ll have the most juicy, tender, and full of flavor grilled chicken breasts.
Burgers – the perfect lighter side to serve alongside grilled burgers.
Pan fried cod – omit the corn salsa in the cod recipe and serve it atop this spinach salad instead!
a few salad-making tips
- Only add dressing, apple slices and cheese to the salad if it will be consumed immediately. This salad doesn’t sit well with the dressing – the spinach leaves will eventually wilt in the dressing.
- When serving this salad for a party, event or holiday meal; I recommend making the chicken and dressing a day or so in advance. This makes the final assembly super easy!
- Keep ingredients chilled until just before assembly. The colder the fruit, dressing, and lettuce, the fresher the salad tastes!
- I like to buy a block of feta cheese and crumble it myself, I think it tastes much better than pre-crumbled feta cheese which often contains anti-caking agents and other preservatives.
- I buy toasted pecans for this recipe. You can toast your own nuts by placing them on foil in the toaster oven for 2-3 minutes on the toast setting, or by toasting them in a dry pan on the stove. Watch carefully so that they don’t burn.
spinach salad storage & make ahead tips
- This salad doesn’t keep well for a long period of time because the apple slices will brown and the nuts will become soft. However, it can be made in advance and stored as long as ingredients are stored separately. (Spinach, onion and blueberries together and everything else stored in separate containers — slice up the apple and avocado right before serving).
- Dressing stays good for 3 to 5 days in an airtight container in the fridge. It can be made ahead of time — just shake it up before adding it to the salad.
This spinach salad is sure to be a staple on your dinner table all spring and summer long. That combination of fresh ingredients just can’t be beat!
more healthy salad recipes
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My Favorite Spinach Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
For chicken (optional)
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or tenders
- a generous sprinkling of each - garlic powder, paprika, and salt & pepper
- 10-16 ounces baby spinach or spring mix
- 1 large apple cored and thinly sliced*
- 1 cup blueberries or another favorite fruit - sliced strawberries, halved raspberries, pomegranate seeds, diced pears
- half a small red onion peeled and thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup nuts - toasted pine nuts, glazed pecans, chopped walnuts or slivered almonds use any favorite**
- 4-6 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola, Feta, Goat, or Blue Cheese
- 1 batch balsamic vinaigrette (may not use all of it)
- Optional add-ins: cooked & crumbled bacon, diced avocado, dried cranberries
- To make chicken (if using): Preheat oven to 450ºF. Season chicken and bake for 17-20 minutes, (or until 165 degrees internally). Once cooked, cover with foil for 10 minutes to seal in the juices.
- While chicken is cooking, you can prepare the salad ingredients.
- To make the salad: Add spinach, fruit, red onion, nuts, dried cranberries, and half of the cheese to a large serving bowl. Cooked chicken can be chopped and tossed in the salad or sliced and served over the top or served alongside the salad. Drizzle the salad with the vinaigrette, and toss to combine.
- Serve immediately, garnished with the remaining cheese.
**My favorite nut in this salad is my glazed pecans. ***In my opinion, salad recipes are just a guide. Feel free to use as much or as little of the ingredients as you like. ****Nutritional information includes chicken, but it does not include dressing. Photos by Sasha at Eat Love Eats.