A simple, satisfying salad, with baby spinach, strawberries, mandarin oranges, almonds and goat cheese and with a homemade poppy seed dressing.
Truth be told, I'm not a huge salad person. Mostly I eat them because I know I should, rather than because I really enjoy them. Except this salad. I love this Strawberry Spinach Salad! And while there's nothing earth shaking here, I wanted to share it for anyone else who might be struggling to find a salad to really enjoy.
I don't know why I love this salad exactly. I suspect it has something to do with the fruit instead of vegetables. And then there's goat cheese, that makes everything better in my books. And finally, I'm pretty sure it's about the baby spinach. When it comes to greens, I'll always take greens like spinach instead of lettuce.
And I certainly don't want to forget the poppy seed dressing. The homemade poppy seed dressing is made without any mayo or other creamy additions. It's simply oil, vinegar, some seasoning and a bit of sugar, that's emulsified into a creamy-like concoction. Completely satisfying without the need for cream.
Since it's field strawberry season, there's no better time than now to try this simple and satisfying salad.
Ingredient Notes for Strawberry Spinach Salad
Baby Spinach: I love baby spinach, but any "baby" green would work here, such as baby kale.
Strawberries: Any fresh strawberries work well, even grocery-store ones.
Mandarin Oranges: Look for juice-packed mandarin orange segments, for the healthiest option. Mandarins packed in light syrup are also fine, as are, of course, fresh orange segments.
Goat Cheese: I love Goat cheese, but you could also substitute crumbled feta cheese, if you prefer.
Sliced Almonds: Sliced almonds work perfectly in this salad, but slivered almonds would also be fine. You can, of course, substitute any nut, such as pecans or walnuts, if you like.
Red Onion: As noted, I don't always use red onion in this salad, so treat it as optional. You can also use a bit of yellow onion, if you like.
Vegetable Oil: Any neutral-tasting oil is fine here, such as canola or sunflower. I don't love olive oil on this salad, as I find it overpowers the delicate taste of the dressing.
White Vinegar: This is just regular, distilled white vinegar, though you could use white wine vinegar, if you like.
Cider Vinegar: The little bit of cider vinegar adds nice flavour, but if you don't have any on hand, simply add 1 more tablespoon of white vinegar.
Sugar: You'll want to tweak the amount of sugar to your taste. Poppy seed dressing is usually a little sweet, but if you find it too sweet, simply reduce to taste. You could also substitute cane sugar, in the same amount, or honey, using less.
Poppy Seeds: Yes, poppy seeds can go rancid, so check your poppy seeds before using and buy some fresh, if needed. I find 1 Tbsp is enough, but add more if you like.
Cook's Notes for Strawberry Spinach Salad
I never really measure any of the actual salad ingredients. I just throw some spinach in a bowl and top with what seems a decent amount of fruit etc. Consider the salad ingredient quantities approximate and adjust as seems reasonable or to your taste :)
I don't always put red onion in this salad. I find it works best in the salad when I'm having it as a side salad for dinner. When I have this salad for lunch, straight up, I often skip the red onion.
The poppy seed dressing recipe will make much more than you need for one salad. I like to have extra and it's just easier to make in a larger batch. That said, you can halve the recipe if you don't think you need extra.
Store the salad dressing in a jar with a nice tight lid (mason jar, works best). The oil will separate from the dressing as it sits in the fridge. Keeping it in a jar, it's super easy to shake it up and bring it all back together before using.
You don't need a food processor or blender to make the dressing, but it does help. If you don't have either, simply add the oil to the rest of the ingredients slowly while whisking vigorously! You may wish to grate the onion if not using a processor, as well, so it is not chunky in the dressing.
Top Tip! Save the juice from the mandarin oranges and use it for making flavoured water or to sweeten your iced tea. You can also mix it with other fruit juices, for some extra flavour.
Other Salads You Might Like ...
Strawberry Spinach Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
- 4 cups baby spinach
- 5 oz mandarin orange segments (canned, drained, about 1/2 small can)
- 6 medium strawberries (halved)
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds
- 1/4 cup red onion (thinly sliced (optional))
- 1/3 cup Goat cheese (crumbled)
Poppy Seed Dressing:
- 5 Tbsp white vinegar
- 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
- 2 1/2 Tbsp white granulated sugar (or 1 Tbsp honey)
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp dried mustard powder
- 1/4 cup onion (finely diced)
- 1 cup vegetable oil (or other neutral tasting oil)
- 1 Tbsp poppy seeds
- To make the Poppy Seed Dressing: In a food processor or blender, add the white and cider vinegars, sugar, salt, mustard powder and onion. Process or blend for 30-45 seconds, or until pureed. With the food processor or blender running on high speed, very slowly start adding the oil, in a very slow, steady stream, until all the oil is added. Add the poppy seeds and blend briefly to combine. Use dressing immediately or put in a jar with a lid and refrigerate until needed. *Note: Dressing will separate as it sits in the fridge. Just shake it in the jar to mix it back up again before using.
- For the salad: Add the baby spinach to a bowl. Add the strawberries, mandarin oranges, sliced almonds and red onion, if using. Toss to combine. Top with crumbled goat cheese, then drizzle with poppy seed dressing, to taste.