Spinach Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Poppy Seed Dressing

Say hello to COLOR, Spinach Strawberry Salad style! Whether you need a healthy lunch or are looking for a salad to bring to a party that—this is critical—people actually want to eat, this Spinach Strawberry Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing and Feta is the recipe for you!

The best ever Spinach Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Poppyseed Dressing, pecans, and feta or goat cheese.

Strawberry Spinach Salad is my unofficial start to spring because—and I think it’s important that we are honest about this—a March or early-April spring is not a real thing when you live in the upper Midwest.

Slowly, however, my little yard turns greener, and I notice my salad cravings shifting away from warm toppings like the lentils and roasted vegetables in this Lentil Salad with Roasted Cauliflower or the sautéed potatoes in this Pea Salad to ones that are distinctly lighter and  brighter: strawberries, poppy seeds, feta.

Another catalyst for my subjective start to “spring” (and I am not even going to pretend that I am ashamed about this): the Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad at Panera returns. Oh happy day!

Today’s healthy Spinach Strawberry Salad is gateway food. It’s a starter to spring (or a continuation of it if you are lucky enough to live in a place where spring arrives on time).

It’s a starter to salad skeptics. Sweet berries, toasted pecans, creamy feta, and a lovely honey balsamic poppy seed dressing make for an easy transition to leafy greens, even if salad isn’t usually something typically pile willingly onto your plate.

And it’s a starter or side for any spring or summer party menu! Did someone ask you to bring a side for Easter this weekend? A potluck? A dinner party where you’re not sure what everyone likes? This Spinach Strawberry Salad is an ideal choice. It’s easy, crowd-pleasing, and flexible too.

Bowl of Strawberry Spinach Salad with Balsamic Poppy Seed Dressing

How to Make the Best Ever Strawberry Spinach Salad

Consider this recipe more of an adjustable, go-with-the-flow starter than a strict script.

I’ve included the ingredients and amounts to make a stellar Spinach Strawberry Salad for a crowd, but you can switch them up to suit your preference or keep things fresh and new when you come back to make it again. Here are a few ideas.

  • Spinach. Spinach and strawberries are classic together and an excellent choice. For a peppery twist, try using a blend of half arugula, half spinach.
  • Strawberries. Buy the juiciest, ripest fruit you can find. To change it up, try mixing in any combination of blueberries, raspberries, dried cranberries, or mandarin oranges.

A bowl of red ripe strawberries

  • Toasted Pecans. The necessary crunchy element that no good salad should be without. Not into pecans? Try swapping slivered almonds or chopped walnuts. Whatever nuts you choose, be absolutely sure to toast them first—it makes them crisp and 1,000x more flavorful.

Working around a nut allergy? Try toasted sunflower seeds.

Close up of a spinach salad with strawberries, feta, pecans, and poppy seeds.

  • Feta. The key to a truly satisfying, not-salad salad is to add a touch of creaminess, and cheese was born for it. In addition to mild feta, I adore Spinach Strawberry Salad with goat cheese. It’s extra decadent and tangy. 

Whether you choose feta or goat cheese, buy a block of it (or in the case of goat cheese, one of those cute little logs), and crumble it yourself.

I know the tubs of cheese crumbles are temping, but they fail miserably in the creamy department because they are coated in a starchy powder to keep them from caking together. TRUST ME HERE. If you are going to add cheese to your salad, why not make sure that cheese is lusciously creamy?

  • Red Onion. To give the salad a friendly bite and keep it from being too sweet.

RED ONION TIP: When you are using red onions raw like in this Spinach Strawberry Salad recipe, soak them in water first. This preserves the onions’ flavor but removes the harsh (and stubbornly lingering) aftertaste.

A bowl of Strawberry Spinach Salad

Let’s Talk Poppy Seed Dressing

When I crave Spinach Strawberry Salad, I crave Spinach Strawberry Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing. Maybe it’s the Panera factor, but I consider the two together a package deal to be embraced.

The poppy seeds feel cheery and add micro pops of texture too!

Rather than a creamy dressing, this Spinach Strawberry Salad calls for a poppy seed vinaigrette made with balsamic vinegar and honey for a few reasons:

  • Balsamic and strawberry are divine together.
  • The acidity of the dressing adds a nice balance.
  • I always have balsamic vinegar in my pantry.
  • It is FAST.

The two greatest barriers to making your own vinaigrette from scratch are time and ingredients. This one takes seconds, and you have everything you need to make it in your pantry right now.

A bowl of Strawberry Spinach Salad

As the recipe is written, this salad is perfect for a bright side or starter.

If you’d like to make this Spinach Strawberry Salad a full meal, try adding grilled chicken or shredded chicken (see: easy tutorial for how to cook shredded chicken or Instant Pot Chicken).

For hearty vegetarian option, check out my Strawberry Farro Salad.

The best ever Spinach Strawberry Salad with Balsamic Poppyseed Dressing, pecans, and feta or goat cheese.
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Spinach Strawberry Salad

Yield: 6 servings
Prep Time:
15 mins
Cook Time:
10 mins
Total Time:
20 mins
The best ever Spinach Strawberry Salad with balsamic poppy seed dressing, pecans, and feta. Beautiful, healthy, and always a crowd pleaser!

Ingredients

For the Strawberry Spinach Salad:

  • 3/4 cup raw pecans
  • 1/2 small red onion — very thinly sliced
  • 10 ounces fresh baby spinach — I also love a 50/50 arugula and spinach blend
  • 1 quart strawberries — hulled and quartered (about 1 pound)
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese — buy the block-style feta, not pre-crumbled; the texture is much better

For the Poppy seed Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions

  1. Toast the pecans: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the pecans in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the pecans smell fragrant and the center of a pecan is tan when the pecan is broken in half. (Do not walk away from the oven in the last few minutes of cooking. This is when nuts love to burn.) Transfer to a cutting board and roughly chop.

  2. Place the sliced onions in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit while you prepare the rest of the salad (this keeps their flavor but removes the harsh onion bite).
  3. Prepare the dressing: In small mixing bowl or large liquid measuring cup, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients—vinegar, oil, poppy seeds, honey, mustard, salt, and pepper—until well combined. (Alternatively, you can shake the ingredients together in a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid).

  4. Assemble the salad: Place the spinach in a great big serving bowl. Add the strawberries. Drain the red onion and add it as well. Drizzle about half of the dressing over the salad and toss to coat the leaves. Assess the amount of dressing. You want the spinach leaves to be nicely moistened but not swimming in dressing. Add a little more if needed to suit your preferences. Add the feta and pecans. Toss lightly to combine. Serve immediately, with extra dressing on the side as desired.

Recipe Notes

  • Dress the salad as shortly before serving as you can. If you don’t plan to eat it all right away, dress only what you plan to eat right away, then store the leftover, undressed salad in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Refrigerate leftover dressing in an airtight container (a jar is perfect) for up to 5 days, then shake before serving.
  • Nutrition is an estimate and has been calculated with two-thirds of the dressing, as you likely will not need all of it for the salad.
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: dressing, poppy seed, spinach strawberry salad, vinaigrette

Nutrition Information

Amount per serving (1 of 6) — Calories: 249, Fat: 20g, Saturated Fat: 5g, Cholesterol: 17mg, Carbohydrates: 16g, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 10g, Protein: 6g

Did you try this recipe? I want to see! Follow Well Plated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

This post contains some affiliate links, which means that I make a small commission off items you purchase at no additional cost to you.

About Erin Clarke

I’m fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, travel enthusiast, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN…

4 comments

  1. Yum!! This is the exact recipe I was looking for to take to an Easter party this weekend…and it couldn’t have come at a better time! Your food blog is hands-down my favorite! I’m always excitedly waiting for the next recipe to be posted!

  2. Saw this on instagram this morning and decided to make it for dinner. Soaking the onions really made a difference and let the other flavors shine through. A keeper. 

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