Easy spinach salad with candied pecans, bell pepper, celery, carrots, and dried cranberries. Top it with a drizzling of balsamic vinaigrette. Put it in a packed lunch with a vegan tuna salad sandwich or slab of easy baked tofu. Have it as a main course with some grilled garlic bread.
For many people, when they think of “vegan meals,” salads are the first things that come to mind. Lots of fresh produce + a simple vinaigrette is a straightforward and easy vegan meal.
But you know what? I do eat salad quite a lot.
Kale, romaine, and green leaf lettuce make wonderful salad bases. But when I want to reach for something really convenient, it doesn’t get easier than baby spinach.
Bagged baby spinach just requires a quick rinse, no chopping necessary. That makes it really handy for packed lunches, side dishes, and weeknight meals.
What do you put in a spinach salad?
Spinach salads are wide open when it comes to favorite ingredients. They go well with so many things!
For today’s easy spinach salad I used:
- Bagged baby spinach leaves
- Yellow bell pepper (Red or orange would be good too!)
- Chopped carrots
- Chopped celery
- Dried cranberries (Raisins would also work!)
- Candied pecans
Here are some other toppings that would be delicious in a spinach salad:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Green onions
- Sliced mushrooms
- Roasted chickpeas
- Jarred artichoke hearts
The slightly sweet nuttiness of candied pecans add a lot to this salad – especially the sugary crunch on the edges.
It’s not hard to make your own candied pecans. I regularly make them at Thanksgiving for my fall salad with roasted apples.
However, when I really want to simplify things, you can’t beat the ease of store-bought candied pecans. Trader Joe’s sells them by the bag in their nut area, and they’re very handy for throwing into a salad or snacking on their own.
Dress the salad just before serving
This balsamic vinaigrette is super simple with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, and salt. It’s a light, springy dressing that elevates the flavors already in the salad, but doesn’t overpower.
Plus, it only requires dirtying one bowl. There’s no cleaning the blender after you’re done, which is a plus on busy days.
Spinach salads are prone to wilting if they get wet. So I definitely recommend waiting to toss the balsamic vinaigrette with the salad until just before serving.
As long as you dress the salad at the last minute, all of the vegetables I used in this salad hold up well over a few days in the refrigerator. So it’s a good one to make on Sunday and then have for lunch during the week, or as a convenient side dish on those nights when you just can’t be bothered to cook.
What to eat with a spinach salad?
Easy spinach salad makes for a nice light lunch with artichoke crostini or a tomato bruschetta appetizer. It pairs well with soups like creamy vegan tomato soup or soothing vegan potsticker soup. It’s also terrific alongside a vegan egg salad sandwich.