This easy spinach salad is loaded with candied pecans, bell pepper, celery, carrots, and dried cranberries.
Top it with a drizzling of balsamic vinaigrette.
It’s great as a side dish with a sandwich or as a light lunch with grilled garlic bread. Vegan & gluten free.
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.
Now, obviously, vegans eat much more than that.
But you know what?
I do eat salad quite a lot.
Kale, romaine, and green leaf lettuce make wonderful 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 recipe 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
More topping ideas:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Green onions
- Sliced mushrooms
- Roasted chickpeas
- Jarred artichoke hearts
The slightly sweet nuttiness of candied pecans add a lot to this dish. 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.
They’re very handy for throwing into a salad or snacking on their own.
As an added bonus, pecans have some surprising health benefits!
Dress the salad just before serving
My favorite homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing 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 is prone to wilting if it gets too wet.
So I definitely recommend waiting to toss it with balsamic vinaigrette until just before serving.
As long as you dress it 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 with pecans
- Toss celery, carrots, bell pepper, spinach, pecans, and dried cranberries (or raisins) in a large bowl.
- Drizzle balsamic vinaigrette dressing to taste over salad to taste. Toss for even distribution of dressing. Or serve in individual bowls with balsamic vinaigrette on the side, so that guests can top their own just before eating.