This Spinach Strawberry Salad with Blue Cheese is a Southern classic with candied pecans, mandarin oranges, and a fantastic homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
The combination of flavors and textures will dazzle your taste buds and this is guaranteed to be the Best Ever Strawberry Spinach Salad you’ll ever taste!
Why This is the Best Strawberry Spinach Salad
We had some friends over for pizza last week. They brought pizza from our favorite local pizzeria and I contributed this blue cheese, mandarin, strawberry, and spinach salad.
Before we even dug in, John sampled the salad and immediately inquired about the delicious sweetness of the dressing. I shared that it was aged balsamic vinegar plus honey that rounded out the other flavors. During our meal, he had 3 helpings while his wife’s jaw dropped. He doesn’t even like salad, she reported. That sealed the deal, the recipe was going on the blog.
This salad recipe is also known as Baby Blue Salad and was on the menu at Homewood Gourmet in Birmingham, Alabama. It was published in Southern Living magazine in 2006.
The ingredients used for this salad can be tweaked to suit your taste buds, but here is what I used and why:
- Baby Spinach – the leaves are small and tender and make for easy-to-eat bites. Spring greens are a nice substitute or even a combination of both.
- Blue Cheese – offers creaminess, plus a sharp flavor to offset the sweet salad dressing. I used a creamy Gorgonzola cheese, but any favorite blue cheese will do. I’m also fond of Maytag. Feta cheese can be substituted if you aren’t a fan of blue cheese.
- Canned Mandarin Oranges – so easy since once the juice is drained, they can be added to the greens. Of course, segmented or supremed fresh oranges are a delicious alternative, too. Try blood oranges instead of navel oranges for a stunning deep color. Check out this post for details on How to Supreme an Orange.
- Fresh Strawberries – Another texture, another sweet flavor.
- Sweet and Spicy Pecans – These provide some crunch plus a touch of heat to offset the sweet ingredients
Tips for Making a Spinach Salad
Yes, this salad can be made early in the day you plan to serve it. The greens can be added to the serving bowl, plus all the toppings, but don’t toss. The dressing should be added right before serving to prevent soggy greens.
You can also leave the greens in the bag and have all the add-ins in little containers to keep everything fresh. Then it will just take a minute to add them, toss the ingredinents, then add the dressing.
They can easily be baked the day before. Just let them cool completely and store in an airtight container until you’re ready to use.
When a salad dressing is emulsified, it becomes creamy. The process starts with whisking together all the ingredients except for the olive oil. Note that the mustard is key to assisting with emulsification, so don’t omit. Once eveything is mixed, slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly and you’ll watch the dressing come together into a homogenized dressing.
More Tasty Salad Recipes
- Favorite Green Salad from Cookie + Kate
- Holiday Lettuce Salad
- Berry and Spinach Salad
- More of my Best Salad Recipes
- 5-ounce bag mixed spring salad greens or baby spinach
- 2 ounces crumbled blue cheese, crumbled
- 1 small can of mandarin oranges, drained
- 1-2 cups fresh strawberries, stems and any core removed, sliced
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup pecan halves
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- A pinch or more of cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small shallot, minced
- Pinch of salt
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Make pecans first. Stir together the 2 tablespoons of sugar and warm water and mix to combine. Add the pecans and soak for 10 minutes, then drain thoroughly.
Mix together the 1 tablespoon of sugar, chili powder, and cayenne pepper, then toss the pecans in the mixture.
Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment or nonstick foil and bake for 10 minutes at 350°, stirring once about halfway through the baking time. Move the pecans and parchment or foil to a cooling rack while preparing the rest of the salad.
Add the greens, then blue cheese, mandarin oranges and strawberries to a large salad bowl. Set aside.
Make the vinaigrette by whisking together the balsamic vinegar, mustard, honey, garlic, shallot, salt, and a few gratings of black pepper. Then slowly drizzle in the olive oil while continuing to whisk until the oil is incorporated and the dressing is thick and emulsified.
To serve, toss the salad with enough of the salad dressing to lightly coat the greens. Pass extra dressing as needed.
May use fresh oranges instead of canned,
Feta may be substituted for blue cheese if desired.
Store-bought candied pecans can be used instead of making your own.
This recipe was adapted from Southern Living.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 346Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 22gCholesterol: 7mgSodium: 265mgCarbohydrates: 23gFiber: 3gSugar: 18gProtein: 4g
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