This spinach salad is simply the best! Made with fresh spinach, crisp apple, crumbled goat cheese or feta, thinly sliced red onion, glazed pecans, and dried cranberries, tossed in an easy, lightly sweetened balsamic vinaigrette. It’s easy to make and full of flavor, perfect for entertaining or anytime you’re craving a delicious salad!
What Makes This The Best Spinach Salad
- The flavors in this spinach salad are absolutely amazing! The ingredients are so simple, but everything goes together SO well. Earthy spinach, crisp apples, crunchy glazed pralines or toasted pecans, creamy blue cheese, sweet dried cranberries… and the maple vinaigrette just ties it all together with a bow!
- It’s incredibly easy to make, and there’s no cooking involved at all, unless you decide to toast pecans yourself. Even the vinaigrette is easy! Just throw all the ingredients in a mason jar, seal it tight, and shake until it’s all combined.
- This spinach salad is PERFECT for the holidays! Not only is it delicious, it’s also gorgeous, and full of rich, deep colors. Have leftover Thanksgiving turkey you don’t know how to use up? Chop it into small pieces and sprinkle it into your salad for a little extra protein. It’ll go really well with the apples and cranberries!
Key Ingredients for The Best Spinach Salad
Spinach – Both regular spinach and baby spinach will work here. You could also use kale or arugula instead, though you won’t have a spinach salad in that case. Just make sure to use fresh greens so you get a nice texture and flavor!
Apples – Make sure to use a really crisp variety of apple so you get that nice texture in each bite.
Pralines – If you don’t or can’t eat nuts, you can totally skip them. I love the extra crunch they give the spinach salad, not to mention the nutty, earthy flavor and slight sweetness. Not a praline fan? Use toasted pecans, almonds, or walnuts instead.
Cheese – You don’t need much! A few cheese crumbles give this spinach salad little pops of creaminess and tanginess that are simply irresistible. If you don’t have or don’t like blue cheese, crumbled feta works nicely!
Dried Cranberries – Sweet and chewy dried cranberries are the perfect finishing touch. Golden raisins would also work well.
- Planning to make this spinach salad ahead of time? Quickly toss the apple slices in a little lemon juice so they won’t brown as fast. You’ll also want to wait until the last possible second to add the nuts and the vinaigrette. The nuts can soften in the fridge and the vinaigrette may make the spinach too soggy, depending on how far in advance you’re prepping. I wouldn’t assemble the salad more than a day, maybe two, in advance.
- You can make the maple vinaigrette up to 5 days in advance. Just refrigerate it in an airtight container until you’re ready to use it! Give it a good shake before serving, too.
- Feel free to play around with the ingredients and quantities to really make this spinach salad your own. Pieces of crispy applewood smoked bacon can be a really nice addition, and you can always use more or less onion or cheese if you want. The apples can be sweet or tart, or a combination of the two. Use honey in the vinaigrette, or opt for a more savory dressing. Add chicken or turkey. Anything goes!
Other Side Dishes You’ll Definitely Love
- Spinach Salad with Hot Bacon Dressing
- Gluten Free Cornbread with Honey
- Cranberry Brie Dip
- Fondant Potatoes
- Sauteed Kale with Garlic
- Maple Glazed Grilled Carrots
- Hasselback Sweet Potatoes
- Paleo Chinese Chicken Salad (Whole30)
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The Best Spinach Salad
- Jar with lid (or bowl and whisk)
- Large bowl
For the Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette
For the Spinach Salad
- 5 ounces fresh spinach
- 1 crisp apple thinly sliced, see Notes
- ⅓ cup crumbled goat cheese or feta
- ¼ cup red onion thinly sliced
- ¼ cup glazed pralines roughly chopped, or toasted pecans, roughly chopped
- ¼ cup dried cranberries
- Add all vinaigrette ingredients to jar. Tightly secure lid and shake well, until combined. Alternately, add all vinaigrette ingredients to bowl and whisk until well combined.
- Add spinach to large bowl. Pour vinaigrette over spinach and toss to coat. Add remaining salad ingredients and serve.
- Apples: Use a crisp apple, like Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, etc.
- Maple Syrup: Honey would work well, too, though the flavor will be slightly different.
- Make it Dairy Free: Use a dairy free cheese or skip the cheese completely.
- Make it Vegan: Use a vegan cheese or skip the cheese completely.
- Make it Lower Sugar: Use a sugar-free liquid sweetener, like Lakanto Maple Flavored Syrup.
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Cheryl Malik is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind the healthy, flavorful, family friendly recipes at 40 Aprons. She’s been a blogger for 10+ years and is known for her delicious recipes and detailed recipe instructions. Cheryl is a mom of three who lives in Memphis, TN.