This Apple Spinach Salad is a delicious and healthy salad that is perfect for any occasion. It’s easy enough for a weeknight meal, and also fantastic to please a crowd.
The combination of sweet apples, tart apple cider vinegar, and creamy goat cheese is simply irresistible.
This Apple Spinach Salad Recipe is also flexible, you can substitute the walnuts for pecans or almonds (or leave out the nuts altogether), the goat cheese for feta or cheddar (or vegan cheese), and choose your dressing. The recipe below is always a hit, and you can make adjustments as needed.
The salad is also packed with nutrients, making it a great choice for a healthy meal.
- Fresh baby spinach: Baby spinach has a mild taste and it’s loaded with antioxidants and fiber.
- Red apple: A crisp red apple is not only high in nutrients and fiber, but it also tastes delicious when thinly sliced into a salad. You can also dice the apple, but I think the texture of thinly sliced apples here is fantastic.
- Red onion: Red onions pair wonderfully with spinach and apples; if red onion is too strong of a flavor for you, you can soak the thinly sliced onions in water for 10-15 minutes to mellow out their flavor. I like the punchiness of red onion, but adjust it to your liking by soaking them or leaving them out.
- Walnuts: Walnuts add crunch, flavor, and nutrition to your salad. Walnuts are excellent for brain health and heart health. Toasting the nuts deepens their flavor, but you can skip that step if you prefer them raw.
- Dried cranberries: Dried fruit adds more wonderful texture to this salad. Cranberries make this a classic Fall-season salad.
- Goat cheese (or fresh feta): The creaminess and tang of goat cheese or feta are great here. Shredded sharp cheddar is also nice. Or, leave it out for a dairy-free salad.
- Dressing: Apple cider vinegarette (recipe below) or balsamic vinegarette are both fantastic on an Apple Spinach Salad. I’ve started making the dressing with 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and 1 tablespoon of either apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar and it’s fantastic. Also, if you want to have a light garlic flavor in the dressing, smash open the garlic clove and let it sit in the dressing for 5-10 minutes instead of grating or mincing it. That will perfume the dressing with a light garlic flavor if you want to avoid the pungent raw garlic taste.
See the detailed recipe in the recipe card below.
- Toast the nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat (or in a toaster oven) until fragrant but not overcooked. Do you have to toast the nuts? No, you can use raw nuts, too. Toasting the nuts adds a wonderful deep flavor to your salad. If you don’t have time or prefer to not toast them you can skip this step.
- Make the dressing by whisking all of the ingredients in the bottom of your serving bowl. You can also add the dressing ingredients to a mason jar and shake the ingredients together until emulsified, which is useful to do if you’re making this salad ahead of time to serve later. Always dress the salad close to when it will be eaten. It’s okay to dress the salad up to an hour ahead, you just don’t want it to sit too long because the spinach can become soggy.
- Add all salad ingredients to the bowl and toss together with the dressing. Tear any large spinach leaves in half. If you want to make it pretty to serve, save about 1/3 of the nuts and cheese out then garnish the top of the salad after it’s tossed.
- Get the printable recipe in the recipe card below.
Apple Spinach Salad Tips
- Taste your apple before adding it to the salad. If it’s tart and not super sweet, consider making a sweeter salad dressing by doubling the maple syrup (or honey) in the dressing.
- Red onions are a classic pairing in an Apple Spinach Salad. If you find them too punchy/big on flavor, soak the sliced red onions in room temperature water for 10-15 minutes before adding them to the salad to mellow out their flavor. Or, substitute with green onions or leave them out if desired.
- For a fun twist, add 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme to the vinaigrette.
- To make the salad ahead of time, assemble the salad without the dressing and store it in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. When you’re ready to serve, add the dressing and toss to coat.
- The recipe written here makes about 4 entree servings or 8 small side servings. Scale up or down as needed.
Variations & Ideas
- Nuts: I often use walnuts in an Apple Spinach Salad, but pecans, almonds, or cashews are also good here. If you prefer a nut-free recipe, you can use sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds, or leave out the nuts if desired.
- Cheese: Goat cheese is delightful with apples. Fresh feta is also really nice in this salad, as is a grated or crumbled sharp cheddar. Or, you can leave out the cheese to make this salad dairy-free and vegan.
- Apple: There are many types of apples! I like to choose a Honey Crisp or good ol’ Gala apple. You can use any apple you like in this recipe. I like to slice them pretty thin (about 1/8-inch)for the best salad texture. And don’t peel your apple. The peel is full of nutrients and fiber. You can also use half apple and half pear in this salad, or use all pear to turn your Apple Spinach Salad into a Pear Spinach Salad.
- Cranberries: Dried cranberries add a nice flavor and texture to this salad. You can also use raisins or currants, or leave them out if you prefer. When the apples are extra sweet, I sometimes leave ou the dried fruit.
- Dressing: Apple cider vinegar is a classic pairing with apples, but you can substitute red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, champagne vinegar, or lemon juice in the recipe below. I love this salad with a combo of vinegar and fresh lemon juice. You can also swap out the Apple Cider Vinaigrette for Balsamic Vinaigrette, which is also wonderful on an Apple Spinach Salad.
Below is how I make this recipe most often. Try it as-is or make it your own. Enjoy!Print
This Apple Spinach Salad is always a hit! Add some chicken or salmon to make it an entree salad, or serve it as a side that everyone will love. This recipe serves 4; scale up or down as needed.
FOR THE SALAD:
- 5 ounces fresh baby spinach (that’s about 5 big handfuls—use small baby spinach leaves)
- 1 large (or 2 small) red apples, cored and thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
- 1/4 cup dried cranberries
- 3 ounces of crumbled goat cheese (or fresh feta)
- dressing recipe below, or 1/3 cup balsamic vinaigrette
APPLE CIDER VINAIGRETTE INGREDIENTS:
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, or fresh lemon juice (or your favorite vinegar*)
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup (or honey)
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 small clove of garlic, grated or minced (or smashed open to sit in the dressing**)
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- a few spins of freshly ground black pepper
- Toast the nuts for 3-4 minutes in a dry skillet over medium heat (or in a toaster oven) until fragrant but not overcooked.
- Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking all of the ingredients in the bottom of your serving bowl. Alternatively, shake the ingredients together in a medium-sized jar until emulsified if you’re making it ahead of time.
- Add the baby spinach to the bowl, tearing any large spinach leaves in half. Use your hands or tongs to coat all of the leaves in the dressing. Add the rest of the ingredients and toss to coat. To make it pretty, save about 1/3 of the nuts and cheese out then garnish the top of the salad after it’s tossed.
- Serve and enjoy!
*I’ve made this salad with different types of vinegar and it’s always good. My current favorite is a combo of 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice. Use what you have and make it your own.
** For a lighter garlic flavor in the dressing, smash open the garlic clove and let it sit in the dressing for 5-10 minutes instead of grating or mincing it. That will perfume the dressing if you want to avoid the pungent raw garlic taste.
Keywords: Spinach Salad, Apple Spinach Salad