My Simple Spinach Salad with Apples and Pecans, plus feta and dried cranberries, will satisfy your cravings for a delicious, quick, and nutritious meal.
This easy and flavorful salad is the perfect blend of crisp, juicy, tart apples, crunchy pecans, tender spinach, tangy dried cranberries, and creamy feta cheese. A zesty homemade poppy seed dressing seals the deal and enhances the flavor and texture of this dish.
Like my Spinach Salad with Strawberries and Pecans, this spinach salad is packed with flavor. Because spinach is a superfood, it’s also a great source of vitamins and minerals, making it a healthy option for any meal.
This delicious and hearty salad is perfect for serving at brunch, as a light lunch, or as a side dish for dinner. It can also be served as a main dish dinner salad with the addition of a protein such as grilled chicken or roasted shrimp.
With its unique combination of flavors and textures, this colorful dish will satisfy even your pickiest eaters. In addition, it is the perfect way to incorporate more fruit and vegetables into your family’s diet.
(Specific measurements can be found in the recipe below.)
- Baby spinach – with its dark, leafy green leaves, provides a tender yet crisp texture and forms the base of this dish. It has a slightly earthy flavor that complements other ingredients.
- Dried cranberries – not only do the cranberries provide a beautiful garnet color, their sweet and tart taste is a great addition.
- Granny Smith apples – provide texture, flavor, and crunch. You can substitute other apples if you like but stick with firm ones such as Honeycrisp.
- Feta cheese – adds a creaminess and a tangy, salty flavor. Crumbled blue cheese or goat cheese would be suitable substitutes, but they will change the taste.
- Roasted pecans – with their buttery richness, add crunch and great flavor. You can substitute walnuts or almonds.
- Honey – adds a bit of sweetness to the dressing.
- Lemon juice – adds a beautiful fresh citrusy taste.
- Onion powder, garlic powder, kosher salt, and ground black pepper enhance all flavors and make the dressing extra tasty.
- Olive oil – extra virgin olive oil provides a delicate fresh taste and, along with the lemon juice, forms the base of the dressing.
- Poppy seeds – add a nutty taste and a slightly crunchy texture. Without the poppy seeds, you would have a vinaigrette.
How to make Spinach Salad and Poppy Seed Dressing:
- Place the rinsed and dried spinach leaves in a large bowl. Thinly slice the apples and add them to the spinach. Next, add the cranberries, crumbled feta, and roasted pecans.
- Add all of the dressing ingredients to a large jar and shake well.
- Before serving, top the salad with a bit of dressing and gently toss.
- Serve immediately.
Recipe variations and substitutions:
As you might imagine, a bowl of spinach leaves is a blank slate and can be changed up in various ways by adding different ingredients. Here are some other topping ideas:
- Mandarin oranges, strawberries, blueberries, pears, pomegranate arils, or dried blueberries
- Mushrooms, avocado, tomato, cucumber, roasted cubed sweet potato, hearts of palm, or sliced red onions
- Bacon, hard-boiled eggs, croutons, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, candied pecans, fried onion rings, crumbled blue cheese, or goat cheese
- For the dressing, you can change things up with a warm bacon dressing, greek yogurt dressing, blue cheese dressing, honey mustard, or balsamic vinaigrette.
- To transform it into a main-dish salad, consider adding grilled chicken, salmon, or cooked shrimp.
Serve this salad with:
When serving this salad at brunch or for lunch, it would pair well with my Crustless Ham and Cheese Quiche, Spinach and Bacon Quiche with Tomatoes, or Roasted Tomato Quiche with Goat Cheese. A slice of my Sausage Cheese Bread or a piece of Cheesy Texas Toast Garlic Bread would be an excellent addition.
For dinner, it pairs well with just about any main dish, and it is especially nice when served with pasta dishes such as Chicken Marsala Pasta with Mushrooms, Buffalo Chicken Pasta Bake, Baked Spaghetti Pie, Roasted Shrimp Pasta Salad, or Cheesy Hamburger Noodle Casserole.
They are the same vegetable; baby spinach leaves are immature, it has a milder flavor, and is more tender. Regular spinach has a more robust flavor and fully matured leaves.
If your bagged spinach is labeled “washed” or “ready to eat,” it does not need to be washed.
If not, place the leaves in a colander or salad spinner and rinse thoroughly with cold running water. Allow to drain and spread the leaves out on a paper towel or dish towel to dry before using it.
For the best results, this salad is best when made right before serving it. However, you can make the dressing ahead and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
Only add the dressing to the salad right before you plan to serve it. Once it had dressing added to it usually doesn’t stay fresh for more than an hour or so.
If you have a leftover salad without dressing, it will still be okay to eat if stored covered in the refrigerator for about 24 hours, although the apples may start to discolor.
Top tips and tricks:
- You will have extra dressing. Simply cover, refrigerate, and use it on another salad.
- If your pecans aren’t already roasted, place them in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate and microwave in one-minute increments until they are fragrant and lightly roasted. Start tasting them at the three-minute mark.
- Whether you cut the stems off of the spinach leaves is purely a matter of personal preference. I usually do, but most folks don’t.
- Feel free to use purchased dressing if you are in a time crunch.
More easy salad recipes:
Looking for other delicious salad recipes your family will love? Check out my Easy Broccoli Slaw with Ramen Noodles, Corn, Tomato, and Avocado Salad, Southern Cucumber and Tomato Salad, Tomato Avocado Feta Salad with Corn, Southern Corn Salad, Wild Rice Chicken Salad with Cranberries, and Watermelon Feta Salad.
For even more menu ideas, check out all of my salad recipes.
⭐ ⭐ ⭐⭐⭐ If you make this dish, please leave a comment and give this recipe a star rating. I would love to know how you liked it!
Thank you so much for visiting Grits and Pinecones; I hope you come back soon!
Simple Spinach Salad with Apples and Pecans Recipe
- 6 ounces fresh baby spinach, if not already washed, rinse the leaves thoroughly and dry
- ⅔ cup dried cranberries
- 2 Granny Smith apples, medium, unpeeled and sliced
- ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
- ½ cup roasted pecans
Poppy Seed Dressing Ingredients
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice, fresh squeezed
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
- Place the rinsed and dried spinach leaves in a large bowl.
- Thinly slice the apples and add them to the spinach. Next, add the cranberries, crumbled feta, and roasted pecans.
- Add all of the dressing ingredients to a large jar and shake well.
- Before serving, top the salad with a bit of dressing and gently toss. Serve immediately.