Perfect Spinach Salad

This classy spinach salad is a salad to impress! Smoky pecans and a creamy balsamic vinaigrette make the best counterpoint to this leafy green. Here’s a salad to impress. It’s everything a classy spinach salad should be, full of texture and flavor contrasts. You’ll barely notice you’re eating this healthy leafy green when it’s covered tangy balsamic vinaigrette. There’s crunchy smoky pecans, almost bacon-like glazed with maple syrup and soy sauce. Add hard boiled eggs or a crisp-tart apple, and you’ve got a stunning side salad that will make everyone ooo and ahhh. (It happens every time we serve it…really.) It’s almost like the little black dress of salads: it’s brilliant for any occasion. Ingredients in the best spinach salad You may notice this salad has a vague retro vibe. In fact, it’s a spin on my Grandma’s 1970’s spinach salad…with a few tweaks! For the dressing we went with a classic balsamic vinaigrette, which complements the flavors perfectly. Instead of bacon, smoky glazed pecans create the illusion of meat but make the salad vegetarian. (For a fully plant based salad, we’ve got options too!) Here’s what you’ll need for this classic spinach salad: Hard boiled eggs or apple: Hard […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

This classy spinach salad is a salad to impress! Smoky pecans and a creamy balsamic vinaigrette make the best counterpoint to this leafy green.

Spinach salad

Here’s a salad to impress. It’s everything a classy spinach salad should be, full of texture and flavor contrasts. You’ll barely notice you’re eating this healthy leafy green when it’s covered tangy balsamic vinaigrette. There’s crunchy smoky pecans, almost bacon-like glazed with maple syrup and soy sauce. Add hard boiled eggs or a crisp-tart apple, and you’ve got a stunning side salad that will make everyone ooo and ahhh. (It happens every time we serve it…really.) It’s almost like the little black dress of salads: it’s brilliant for any occasion.

Ingredients in the best spinach salad

You may notice this salad has a vague retro vibe. In fact, it’s a spin on my Grandma’s 1970’s spinach salad…with a few tweaks! For the dressing we went with a classic balsamic vinaigrette, which complements the flavors perfectly. Instead of bacon, smoky glazed pecans create the illusion of meat but make the salad vegetarian. (For a fully plant based salad, we’ve got options too!) Here’s what you’ll need for this classic spinach salad:

  • Hard boiled eggs or apple: Hard boiled eggs require forethought, so to whip this up in a flash substitute a crisp-tart apple. It’s just as good!
  • Smoky pecans: The secret to bacon flavor without meat! Glaze whole pecans in a mixture of soy sauce, maple syrup and smoked paprika.
  • Spinach: Baby spinach is more tender with a sweeter flavor; or, use chopped standard spinach.
  • Shallot: Thinly sliced shallot is the best trick for green salads. Its delicate oniony flavor is gentler than red onion.
  • Feta (optional): A sprinkle of feta cheese looks like confetti and brings a salty pop.
  • Balsamic vinaigrette: Tie it all together with this incredible homemade dressing.
Spinach salad

How to make smoky pecans (or use plain!)

One of the best parts of this salad is the pecans masquerading as bacon. Of course, if you’re running short on time: you can skip this step and just use plain pecans! But to make a truly magnificent spinach salad, it’s worth the time. Here are a few notes about the process:

  • You’ll need a skillet and 6 to 8 minutes. This is the time it takes to heat the glaze to cover the nuts.
  • They may come out soft or crunchy: either works! Making glazed nuts requires hitting the perfect sugar caramelization step to get them to dry into a crunchy glaze. If they come out soft: that’s ok! In fact, they taste more like bacon that way.

The best spinach salad dressing

What’s the best dressing for a spinach salad? Balsamic vinaigrette. Why? Spinach can have a bitter flavor undertone, so the tangy and subtly sweet notes of the dressing are the perfect pairing. Our favorite balsamic vinaigrette is very easy to whip up at home. All you need is 4 ingredients:

  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Maple syrup
  • Olive oil

The only other thing to note is to add the olive oil 1 tablespoon at a time and whisk vigorously. This is the key to getting a perfectly creamy emulsion. The Djion mustard also helps to make a fantastically creamy texture.

Balsamic vinaigrette recipe

Using hard boiled eggs in salad

This spinach salad is absolutely classic with hard boiled eggs, as it harkens back to that 1970’s bacon and egg salad. And, they add a great amount of protein! One egg has 7 grams of protein. This is specifically helpful when you are looking for a side dish with protein to round out a vegetarian dinner.

If you can, make up a batch of hard boiled eggs in advance. This makes the salad quicker to put together. Store the hard boiled eggs refrigerated with the shell on (this keeps them fresher).

Apple makes this spinach salad quick and easy (and vegan)

Often we don’t think ahead enough to have time for hard boiled eggs. So if we’re serving this for an easy weeknight meal side dish, we like to use an apple instead! Using a crisp-tart apple makes a great flavor and texture contrast and fills out the salad. Of course, it doesn’t have the protein that a hard boiled egg does. But it’s a great stand-in! Of course, you can also add apple to salad with the eggs: even better!

You can also use this as a vegan variation. Use a crisp tart apple and omit the feta cheese crumbles: or use a dairy free cheese crumble of your choice.

Best spinach salad

Other adders to this salad!

Here are a few more ingredients you could add to this salad that make it incredible tasty:

  • Mushrooms: Thinly sliced raw mushrooms are common in a classic spinach salad. Add these if you like!
  • Bacon: Can’t live without actual bacon? Swap the smoky pecans for bacon.
  • Prosciutto: Cured ham like prosciutto or jamón serrano would also work well.
  • Croutons: Try these Homemade Garlic Croutons.

Ways to serve this spinach salad

There are so many ways to pair this spinach salad! In fact, it’s one of the most versatile green salad recipes we have. Use it to round out a vegetarian dinner, or it pairs well with seafood and chicken. Here are our top ways to serve it:

Spinach salad

A few more spinach salads

Love spinach salad? Us too. Here are a few more variations on this easy side dish for all the seasons:

This spinach salad recipe is…

Vegetarian, dairy-free, and gluten-free. For vegan and plant-based, use the variations listed above.

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Spinach salad

Perfect Spinach Salad (No, Really)


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

This classy spinach salad is a salad to impress! Smoky pecans and a creamy balsamic vinaigrette make the best counterpoint to this green.


Ingredients

  • 2 hard boiled eggs or 1 large crisp tart apple
  • 1/2 cup whole pecans*
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or tamari or coconut aminos)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup or sugar
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 pinches kosher salt or flaky sea salt
  • 1 recipe Best Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • 6 cups baby spinach leaves or chopped standard spinach
  • 1 shallot
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles (optional)

Instructions

  1. Make the hard boiled eggs: Make the hard boiled eggs, if using (or make them in advance). Chop them into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Make the smoky pecans: Add the pecans, soy sauce, maple syrup and smoked paprika to a small non-stick skillet over medium heat. When it just starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low but still slowly bubbling. Simmer 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. In the last minute when the liquid is mostly evaporated, stir continuously until it is totally cooked out and the nuts start clumping together. Immediately remove from the heat and transfer the pecans to a sheet of parchment paper in a single layer. Sprinkle with 2 pinches kosher salt and allow to cool to room temperature, about 5 minutes. 
  3. Make the dressing: Make the Balsamic Vinaigrette
  4. Prep the fresh ingredients: Thinly slice the shallot. If using apple instead of hard boiled egg, thinly slice the apple. 
  5. Serve: Place the spinach on plates or in bowls. Top with hard boiled eggs or apple slices, smoky pecans, sliced shallot, and feta cheese crumbles.

Notes

*You can also use plain pecans and skip the soy sauce, maple syrup, and smoked paprika. Or, you can make maple glazed pecans.

  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Spinach salad

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

Baked Kale Chips

It’s so easy to make kale chips! These chips are seasoned to perfection and come out impossibly crispy. Watch out: they disappear fast! Ever made kale chips? Now’s the time to try. This irresistibly salty and crunchy snack makes crispy kale taste like the best invention since sliced bread. The only problem is: they disappear fast! Alex and I like to make up a pan of kale chips as a fun DIY: then we end up devouring them in minutes. Which is all well and good, because these babies are best eaten within a few hours of making them. This healthy snack is perfect for any occasion. Want an afternoon pick-me-up? Need a late night Netflix snack? Kale chips. How to make kale chips Kale chips are very easy to make: you just need to know a few tips to make them come out perfectly. There are lots of ways to make them; here’s what Alex and I like to do for ours: Use Tuscan kale. Alex and I prefer Tuscan kale to curly kale: the flavor is milder and it’s a little sturdier for chips. See below. Wash and thoroughly dry the kale. You’ll want the kale ultra dry […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

It’s so easy to make kale chips! These chips are seasoned to perfection and come out impossibly crispy. Watch out: they disappear fast!

Kale chips

Ever made kale chips? Now’s the time to try. This irresistibly salty and crunchy snack makes crispy kale taste like the best invention since sliced bread. The only problem is: they disappear fast! Alex and I like to make up a pan of kale chips as a fun DIY: then we end up devouring them in minutes. Which is all well and good, because these babies are best eaten within a few hours of making them. This healthy snack is perfect for any occasion. Want an afternoon pick-me-up? Need a late night Netflix snack? Kale chips.

How to make kale chips

Kale chips are very easy to make: you just need to know a few tips to make them come out perfectly. There are lots of ways to make them; here’s what Alex and I like to do for ours:

  • Use Tuscan kale. Alex and I prefer Tuscan kale to curly kale: the flavor is milder and it’s a little sturdier for chips. See below.
  • Wash and thoroughly dry the kale. You’ll want the kale ultra dry so that the oil sticks to it.
  • Tear the kale into “chip” sized bites. Remove the stems, since these get tough and stringy in the oven.
  • Season to perfection. You’ll mix with olive oil, then add salt and onion powder (see below).
  • Bake at 275 for 30 minutes. Place the chips in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at low heat for 30 minutes: you’ll be surprised at how crispy they become!
Baked kale chips

The best kale for chips? Tuscan kale.

After testing with both, we’ve found the best kale for kale chips is Tuscan kale. What is it? Tuscan kale is an Italian variety of kale with dark green leaves and a mild, almost sweet flavor. It’s also labeled as Lacinato kale, dinosaur kale, black kale, or cavolo nero (black cabbage in Italian). It’s called dinosaur kale because the scaly, ridged leaves almost resemble dinosaur skin! You should be able to find Tuscan kale at your local grocery store.

If all you can find is curly kale, you can use that too! Curly kale is fluffier than Tuscan, and it has a more bitter flavor. That bitter flavor mellows out in the oven, but the fluffier texture can make it more brittle. Tuscan kale has flatter leaves, making it more suited to chips.

Tuscan kale

Variations on kale chips: add-ins!

We created these kale chips to have a vaguely sour cream and onion flavor. Of course, you can create endless variations adding any spices you like. Here are some ideas to get your wheels turning; we’d suggest about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon to keep it from being heavy handed:

Tuscan kale

Kale nutrition

Kale chips are a perfect healthy snack when you’re craving something salty, but don’t want to give into a bag of potato chips. Leafy greens like kale are some of the healthiest foods you can eat! Kale is full of nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber. 1 cup of raw kale has 33 calories, 6 grams of carbs (2 of which are fiber), and 3 grams of protein. Because of its low calorie content, kale is among the most nutrient-dense foods on earth.

More kale recipes

Don’t stop with kale chips! There are so many tasty ways to add kale to your diet. Here are some of our top recommendations for eating more leafy green kale:

  • Best Ever Sauteed Kale The best way to eat this healthy leafy green! Scented with garlic and cooked in olive oil until tender, you’ll want to eat it every day.
  • Roasted Kale A tasty, easy side dish! Baked until tender and crispy at the edges, it’s quick to make and a total crowd pleaser.
  • Kale Quinoa Salad This colorful kale quinoa salad is full of healthy ingredients and tastes incredible! Meal prep this easy plant-based lunch idea for meals all week.
  • The BEST Kale Salad This is the BEST way to eat kale! A dressing of lemon, garlic and Parmesan cheese transforms kale into tangy goodness in this Tuscan kale salad.

This kale chips recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, dairy-free and gluten-free.

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Kale chips

Crispy Baked Kale Chips


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 2 to 3 servings
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

It’s so easy to make kale chips! These chips are seasoned to perfection and come out impossibly crispy. Watch out: they disappear fast!


Ingredients

  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale (also labeled as Lacinato or dinosaur kale)
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • Heaping 1/8 teaspoon fine sea or kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Wash the kale leaves, then dry them as much as possible with a clean dish towel. Tear the kale leaves away from the stems, and into the desired size for chips. In a medium bowl, gently toss the kale leaves with the olive oil.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the kale leaves in a single layer on top of the sheet and sprinkle them with salt and onion powder.
  4. Bake 30 to 35 minutes until the kale leaves are crisp. Cool and enjoy immediately! They’re best eaten within a few hours, but if you happen to have leftovers you can store them in a sealed container for 1 day.

  • Category: Snack
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Vegetables

Keywords: Kale chips

Want more vegan snacks?

If you’re looking to eat more plant-based recipes, healthy vegan snacks are crucial to making it through the day! Outside of these kale chips, here are a few more vegan snacks to try:

  • Crispy Roasted Chickpeas or Crispy Roasted Black Beans They’re the perfect salty snack! They’re combined with savory spices like cumin, garlic powder, and black pepper, and roasted until crispy.
  • Easy Edamame or Spicy Edamame Protein-packed edamame is a tasty protein-packed vegan snack! Edamame are soy beans you eat right out of the pod, squeezing them into your mouth with a satisfying pop.
  • Vegan Snack Bars The perfect wholesome snack! These bars are naturally sweet, featuring oats, chia seeds, and pecans.

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes