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.

Print
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

Smoky Cider Mezcal Margarita.

New favorite cocktail alert! Say hello to the apple cider mezcal margarita. It’s shocking, I realize. I’m back with another apple cider drink! I mean, when you buy one of those huge gallon jugs of it, you need ideas, right?  Enter the smoky mezcal margarita. With apple cider. Waaaay back in the day I perfected […]

The post Smoky Cider Mezcal Margarita. appeared first on How Sweet Eats.

New favorite cocktail alert! Say hello to the apple cider mezcal margarita.

This apple cider mezcal margarita is a delicious, smoky cocktail for fall! It's warming and refreshing and delicious all at once. Cheers!

It’s shocking, I realize. I’m back with another apple cider drink!

I mean, when you buy one of those huge gallon jugs of it, you need ideas, right? 

spiced sugar for margaritas

Enter the smoky mezcal margarita.

With apple cider.

Waaaay back in the day I perfected an apple cider margarita. A few years ago, I created a maple honeycrisp version. Sort of like a caramel apple margarita without the caramel but tastes like caramel because honeycrisps are everything. Both are SO good. 

If you’re an apple cider freak like I am, then you wait all year to create delicious recipes and drinks in your kitchen with said cider. 

And if I had to choose, the classic is probably what I gravitate toward the most.

This apple cider mezcal margarita is a delicious, smoky cocktail for fall! It's warming and refreshing and delicious all at once. Cheers!

I use that recipe ALL the time (just made them last weekend!) and it’s as close to fall margarita perfection I can get.

Or at least I thought so. 

Lacy reminded me that I had a bottle of mezcal on our bar and the wheels started spinning. It’s so smoky! It’s so… warming. Almost tastes charred, like your grilled your margarita or something. Just the thought was reminding me of an autumn bonfire and hayride. 

So I knew we had to try and perfect ANOTHER fall margarita. Once that was close to my original, but with a few extras, a few changes. 

This apple cider mezcal margarita is a delicious, smoky cocktail for fall! It's warming and refreshing and delicious all at once. Cheers!

Those of you that love mezcal will probably prefer this one. Those of you that enjoy tequila more will go for my old recipe. I personally like to switch it up and do both depending on the day, my mood and what else we are serving with it.

It’s a little smoky. A little citrusy… slightly heavy on the orange. Lots of cinnamon-y cider. And rimmed with spiced sugar!

This apple cider mezcal margarita is a delicious, smoky cocktail for fall! It's warming and refreshing and delicious all at once. Cheers!

Put me by a bonfire with a big plaid blanket and this in my hand! I’m done.

This apple cider mezcal margarita is a delicious, smoky cocktail for fall! It's warming and refreshing and delicious all at once. Cheers!

Apple Cider Mezcal Margarita

Smoky Apple Cider Mezcal Margarita

This apple cider mezcal margarita is a delicious, smoky cocktail for fall! It’s warming and refreshing and delicious all at once. Cheers!

to rim the glass:

  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 tablespoons cane sugar
  • 1 tablespoons coarse sugar
  • orange wedges

margarita

  • 3 ounces sweet apple cider
  • 2 ounces mezcal
  • 1 ounce Grand Marnier or orange liqueur
  • 1 lime wedge
  • cinnamon sticks for garnish
  • apple slices for garnish
  1. Stir together the cinnamon, allspice and sugars. Rub the rim of a glass with the orange wedge and dip the rim into the spiced sugar. Fill the glass with ice.
  2. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Pour in the apple cider, mezcal and grand marnier. Squeeze in the lime wedge. Shake for 30 to 60 seconds. Pour the mixture in the glass. Garnish with apple slices and cinnamon sticks. Drink!

This apple cider mezcal margarita is a delicious, smoky cocktail for fall! It's warming and refreshing and delicious all at once. Cheers!

Craving it already.

The post Smoky Cider Mezcal Margarita. appeared first on How Sweet Eats.

Smoky Summer Chicken Salad.

No more sad summer chicken salad lunches!  This smoky chicken salad is going to make you want to have chicken salad every.darn.day. Loaded with flavor. Super easy. And totally versatile! It may come as a surprise, but I have to freaking LOVE a chicken salad recipe in order to share it. I still have nightmares […]

The post Smoky Summer Chicken Salad. appeared first on How Sweet Eats.

No more sad summer chicken salad lunches! 

This smoky summer chicken salad is incredible! So much flavor from grilled chicken, sweet cherry tomatoes, corn, cheddar cheese and a secret ingredient!

This smoky chicken salad is going to make you want to have chicken salad every.darn.day.

Loaded with flavor. Super easy. And totally versatile!

It may come as a surprise, but I have to freaking LOVE a chicken salad recipe in order to share it. I still have nightmares from my childhood of chicken (or tuna… or egg…) salad swimming in mayo, with barely any flavor, and worst of all – loaded with celery.

I just can’t. 

chicken salad prep

I never HATED any of the salads like some people do, but the experience from a deli or cafeteria left a lot to be desired. So when I started making my own versions, I was blown away at how much I loved them. 

And yes, in case you think you’re going crazy: I’ve made a chicken salad similar to this before. My sweet corn and bacon chicken salad is creamier than this but just as good. But the winner by far is my lemon almond roasted chicken salad. You guys love this!

This smoky summer chicken salad is incredible! So much flavor from grilled chicken, sweet cherry tomatoes, corn, cheddar cheese and a secret ingredient!

First off, this isn’t even my own recipe.

This recipe comes from Lacy (again!) and is a chicken salad she has been loving for years. She has wanted to recreate it forever, so we got down to business.

It’s SO GOOD.

The smokiness? We grill the chicken which imparts a smoky flavor (you could totally grab a rotisserie chicken in a pinch) but we also dropped some liquid smoke in the mix! Just a tiny tiny drop. Makes it tastes SO good. 

We added both corn cut from the cob (or course because #summer) and tomatoes. They are just so sweet right now, so combined with the smoky flavor? We knew it would be everything.

Scallions and cheddar cheese also found their way into the bowl.

This smoky summer chicken salad is incredible! So much flavor from grilled chicken, sweet cherry tomatoes, corn, cheddar cheese and a secret ingredient!

The dressing is a yogurt and mayo hybrid with some seasonings and again, the liquid smoke. It’s amazing! 

This salad is SO delish served in lettuce cup (like the very crunchy iceberg ones). But it also works on top of salads and inside of sandwiches. I grabbed the multigrain croissants from my local grocery store and the combo was just dreamy. They are fabulous.

This smoky summer chicken salad is incredible! So much flavor from grilled chicken, sweet cherry tomatoes, corn, cheddar cheese and a secret ingredient!
It’s also pretty amazing when you stand over the bowl with a fork and eat it like that. Or scoop it up with chips. I am very very into this.

This smoky summer chicken salad is incredible! So much flavor from grilled chicken, sweet cherry tomatoes, corn, cheddar cheese and a secret ingredient!

Smoky Summer Chicken Salad

Smoky Summer Chicken Salad

This smoky summer chicken salad is incredible! So much flavor from grilled chicken, sweet cherry tomatoes, corn, cheddar cheese and a secret ingredient!

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, (halved or chopped)
  • 1 cup sweet corn kernels ((raw, grilled, cooked, frozen, etc!))
  • ⅓ cup sliced scallions
  • ¼ cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • ¼ cup plain greek yogurt
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon liquid smoke
  • Pinch of salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat your grill to the highest setting.
  2. Season the chicken thighs with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Brush them with olive oil. PLace the chicken on the grill and cook for 6 minutes per side. When finished, let the chicken rest for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, cube or shred the chicken.
  3. Place the chicken, tomatoes, corn, scallions and cheese in a large bowl. Toss it together.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mayo, lemon juice, liquid smoke, salt and pepper.
  5. Pour the dressing over the chicken mixture and toss well. Combine and stir until every bit is covered. Serve the chicken on croissants or toast with lettuce or microgreens.
  6. This stays great in the fridge for about 3 days. It tastes even better!

This smoky summer chicken salad is incredible! So much flavor from grilled chicken, sweet cherry tomatoes, corn, cheddar cheese and a secret ingredient!

Crunch! Flavor! I can’t get enough.

The post Smoky Summer Chicken Salad. appeared first on How Sweet Eats.