Strawberry Spinach Salad

Strawberry Spinach Salad is your crowd pleasing side dish all spring and summer long that will have everyone clamoring for more (how many salads can say that?!)!

This strawberry spinach salad is spring and summer in a bowl!  It’s an irresistibly sweet, tangy, crunchy, creamy, fresh and vibrant explosion perfect for every occasion from Easter to Mother’s Day to today’s lunch or dinner.  This spinach and strawberry salad is made with fresh baby spinach, sweet strawberries, juicy clementine oranges, creamy avocado, caramelized pecans, salty sunflower seeds, tangy feta & thinly sliced red onions all drizzled with sweet and tangy poppy seed dressing that will knock your socks off. Of course, you can customize this strawberry spinach salad just how you like and I’ve included tons of recipe variations and substitutions to help. I’ve also included make ahead instructions (even assembling!) so this strawberry spinach salad can be the stress free, hypnotic steal-the-show side dish of your dreams.

We love spring and summer salads because that means strawberries!  Some of our favorite’s strawberry salads include: strawberry salad with strawberry balsamic vinaigrette, berry salad with creamy strawberry poppy seed dressing, berry salad in honey mascarpone dressing, broccoli strawberry salad with creamy poppy seed dressing, strawberry avocado pasta salad and now this hypnotic strawberry spinach salad!

showing how to make strawberry spinach salad by drizzling with strawberry spinach salad dressing

PIN THIS RECIPE TO SAVE FOR LATER

strawberry spinach SALAD RECIPE

My husband and I downed this strawberry spinach salad recipe in one day – down to every last sunflower seed.  Because this isn’t just any obligatory salad, this bright and beautiful salad is loaded with a rainbow of sweet, salty, tangy creamy, and crunchy bells and whistles which will have even the non-salad lovers coming back for thirds.

And if you think you know strawberry spinach salad with poppy seed dressing – this recipe amps the classic up a notch with the addition of creamy avocado, sweet clementine’s and salty, crunchy sunflower seeds – SO GOOD! And of course, the pièce de résistance, the perfectly balanced dressing kissed with orange juice and laced with basil.

Or in other words, this spinach and strawberry salad is a back pocket ace for every occasion and a MUST MAKE recipe!  Need a salad for Easter, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day that everyone will love? Strawberry spinach salad. Need a salad for a post pandemic potluck side that everyone will love? Strawberry spinach salad. Need a salad for baby or bridal showers that everyone will love?  Strawberry spinach salad. It’s literally the answer to all of your entertaining, special occasion, lunch and dinner needs and taste bud desires.

Although this easy spinach and strawberry salad is loaded with flavor, it’s also super simple to make, prep ahead friendly and versatile. I’ve included all sorts of ways you can customize the recipe to suit your mood and refrigerator such as swapping the oranges for pineapple, mangos or blueberries, adding asparagus, mushroom’s and/or bacon or making it a meal by adding lemon basil chicken or balsamic chicken Because you are going to want this strawberry spinach salad recipe all the ways. Now, let’s make some!

strawberry spinach SALAD recipe INGREDIENTS

This strawberry spinach salad is extremely versatile, but here is my favorite combination:  

  • Strawberries:  Choose ripe strawberries for the sweetest flavor (see tips below). You’ll want to rinse, drain and dry the strawberries but never soak strawberries in water or they’ll lose some flavor and nutrients. Cut the strawberries however seems appropriate for their size; halved if small; quartered if large.
  • Spinach: Spinach and strawberries are a classic combo but feel free to add other greens as well such as baby arugula or a spring salad mix. Tips on how to select spinach to follow.
  • Clementine oranges:  Are seedless and super easy to peel. “Cuties” brand is an example of what you are looking for.  Avoid tangerines as they are not seedless.
  • Avocados:  Slice or chop a large avocado for satisfying creamy bursts to complement the crunchy textures.  Make sure you use a ripe avocado but not overly ripe or it will turn to mush.  To tell if an avocado is ripe, squeeze it gently. A ripe avocado should yield slightly to pressure but not feel overly soft.  If your avocado ripens before you are ready to use it, it can be stored in the refrigerator which will dramatically slow down the ripening process.
  • Cucumber:  I recommend an English cucumber because then you don’t have to peel it (which looks prettier 😉 ), but you are welcome to substitute with a peeled, slicing cucumber.
  • Red onion:  I think red onion is a must in this strawberry spinach salad recipe or else the fruit can make it too sweet. Make sure to slice the onions very thinly so they don’t overwhelm your bite.
  • Feta:  Adds a salty, creamy, tangy richness and rounds out the flavors and textures.  And bonus, feta is lower in fat and calories than most cheeses such as mozzarella, Parmesan and cheddar but adds TONS of flavor.  Feta is sold by the block or in crumbles but go for the block if you can because it has superior texture as it crumbles.
  • Sunflower seeds:  Add a salty crunch that balances out the sweetness – and they’re addicting! Make sure to purchase, roasted, salted sunflower seeds for maximum flavor.  
  • Caramelized pecans:  Add a sweet scrunch that will be your favorite part of the salad!  I use my 5 Minute Caramelized Nuts in this recipe because it literally lakes 5 minutes and the nuts emerge beautifully caramelized, sweet and crunchy every time.  You can also buy candied nuts at Sprouts and Whole Foods.
showing how to make strawberry spinach salad recipe by adding spinach, strawberries, clementine oranges, cucumbers, avocados and red onions to a bowl


HOW TO PURCHASE FRESH SPINACH: 

  • Color:  Look for leaves that are perky medium to dark green in color without any yellowing, wilting or evidence of decay.
  • Stems:  Look for thin stems which indicates the spinach was picked at peak freshness which means it will have the best flavor and texture.  Large stems indicate overgrown spinach that will be tough and/or bitter.  
  • Feel:  Give the bag of spinach a gentle squeeze; if the spinach springs back easily, it’s likely fresh.
  • What to avoid:  Spinach leaves that are slimy, yellow or have a sour, musty odor.

HOW TO PURCHASE the best strawberries 

  • Choose in-season strawberries: Make this spinach and strawberry salad when strawberries are in season!  Fresh strawberries will deliver the sweetest, deepest flavor.   Strawberries are in season from spring to early summer, making this recipe perfect for Easter, Mother’s Day, end of school and Father’s Day.
  • How to pick strawberries:  Choose strawberries that are dark red, firm, fragrant and fully ripe – but not soft!  Ripe strawberries will deliver the sweetest, deepest flavor.

strawberry spinach salad DRESSING

Strawberry spinach salad and poppy seed dressing is such a popular combination because it is SO GOOD.  The dressing is everything. This poppy seed vinaigrette is sweet, tart, complex and simple all at the same time.  It elevates this spinach and strawberry salad to a whole new level because after all, a salad is only as good as its dressing – so use the best!  

This tantalizing vinaigrette takes minutes to whip up and can be made up to a week in advance. It’s a quick whisking of white vinegar, sugar, orange juice, dried minced onions, ground mustard, dried basil, salt, pepper, vegetable oil and poppy seeds. 

Drizzle the spinach and strawberry salad with the dressing, toss all the deliciousness together and you have a harmony of flavor and texture that is so drool worthy, you won’t be able to stop crunching its heavenly goodness, guaranteed.  When’s the last time you could say that about a salad?!

STRAWBERRY SPINACH SALAD DRESSING INGREDIENTS:

  • Oil:  You want a neutral oil such as vegetable oil, light olive oil, or grapeseed oil. Please don’t use canola oil as it’s too strong. 
  • White vinegar:  I have tried this dressing with other vinegars but white vinegar is my clear favorite.  Its strong, clean, tangy flavor balances the sugar perfectly. 
  • Sugar: Is the sweet element to balance the vinegar.  You can swap all or part of it with your favorite sweetener, but you must use a decent amount or the dressing will be too tangy.  
  • Orange juice:  Adds a fresh, vibrant citrus pop that beautifully harmonizes with the strawberries.
  • Poppy seeds:  Are nutty and slightly fruity with a pleasant texture.  They are also rich in magnesium, calcium and fiber.  You can usually find poppy seeds at the grocery store located next to the spices or on Amazon here.
  • Ground mustard:  Is the dried, ground mustard powder you keep with your spices in the pantry, not the fridge.  It helps balance the sweetness and adds a layer of subtle flavor.  If you don’t have it, use an equal amount of Dijon mustard instead.
  • Dried minced onions:  Are the dehydrated onion flakes you keep with the spices.  Use them straight from the bottle without hydrating first.  They add yet another subtle layer of flavor to round out the dressing.
  • Salt and pepper:  A must!  They are how we season the entire salad so be generous.
spinach and strawberry salad in a bowl with strawberries, candied nuts, red onions nd feta

HOW tO MAKE strawberry spinach SALAD

  1. Make Dressing: Whisk all the poppy seed vinaigrette ingredients together in a bowl or shake in a jar.  We want to make the dressing first so it has time to chill and the flavors to meld.
  2. Caramelize Nuts:  Add pecans, sugar and butter to a nonstick skillet and stir constantly.  The sugar will begin to clump around the nuts then will melt to envelop the nuts in a smooth buttery sugar coating.  Immediately transfer caramelized nuts to parchment paper so they don’t continue to cook and burn.  The caramelized pecans will harden as they cool.  That’s all the effort required for the delightful sweet crunch that you will crave in every bite of your spinach and strawberry salad.
  3. Assemble:  Toss all of the strawberry spinach salad ingredients together in a large bowl. You can either drizzle with desired amount of dressing and toss to combine (ONLY if you are eating right away and don’t expect leftovers) OR if you expect leftovers, serve the dressing on the side.
  4. EAT!

STRAWBERRY spinach SALAd recipe variations

The hardest part for me when making a salad is editing!  This strawberry spinach salad is a harmony of sweet, tangy, salty, crunchy and creamy as written.  You can use more or less of your favorite ingredients, omit ingredients, add ingredients, etc. as long as you maintain a balance of sweet, tangy, and crunchy. If you swap out an ingredient, replace it with something with a similar flavor profile.  Here are some ideas:

Dressing Variations

  • For a thicker dressing: Add all of the ingredients to a blender except the oil, then slowly add the oil in a steady stream. This will emulsify (thicken) the dressing.
  • Creamy poppy seed dressing: Reduce the oil to ¼ cup and add ½ cup mayonnaise or more as needed.

Fruit Variations

You can swap the clementine oranges for another fruit or make an entirely different salad by swapping the strawberries for a different fruit: 

  • Different berries: Raspberries, blueberries and blackberries could be swapped for ether the strawberries or oranges.
  • Mangos:  Only use ripe mangos so they will be sweet and juicy.  If you are intimidated by choosing and cutting mangos check out my how to cut a mango post.
  • Peaches: You can tell if a peach is ripe by gently squeezing, much like you would an avocado. If there’s a little bit of a give there, then it means the fruit is almost ripe but not quite; if there is real “give” then the peach is ready to use immediately.
  • Pineapple: Would be tasty swap for the clementine oranges. It is possible for a green pineapple to be ripe, but more often than not, look for yellow coloring around the eyes and base.  Look for eyes that are uniform in size as opposed to small on the bottom and large in the middle.
  • Grapes:  Red or green grapes as long as they’re ripe and sweet.
  • Pears: I prefer Bartlett or Bosc pears, but it really comes down to personal preference.  Take care your pear is ripe so it is sweet but not overripe or it will be mushy.
  • Apple: You will want to choose a sweet apple (Fuji are my fav) or a sweet and tart apple to balance each other out.
showing how to make strawberry spinach salad recipe by tossing ingredients together in a bowl

VEGGIE variations

  • Lettuce:  You can swap the spinach for half spring salad mix, all spring salad mix or a spinach arugula blend.  You can also use Romaine, kale, etc.
  • Green onions:  If red onions aren’t your thing, you can swap them for chopped green onions.
  • Bell peppers:  Red is the sweetest, yellow and orange the next sweet and green is more earthy.   
  • Broccoli:  Adds a wonderful earthy crunch.
  • Asparagus:  Trim ends of asparagus and chop into 1-inch pieces; blanch for 1-minute in boiling water then transfer to ice water.  
  • Mushrooms:  Add your fresh chopped mushrooms or marinated mushrooms for a sweet and tangy flair.

CHEESE varitions

  • Swap the feta for your favorite creamy cheese such as goat cheese, gorgonzola, or blue cheese.
  • You can also add fresh mozzarella pearls or chunks of provolone.

Nut variations

  • Nuts:  You can caramelize any nuts!  I’ve used my Caramelized Nuts recipe on everything from pistachios (Berry Spinach Salad)  to walnuts (Apple Cranberry Bacon Salad), to almonds, to cashews (tropical fruit salad) and of course, pecans. So, feel free to switch up the nuts and use your favorite or whatever you have on hand.
  • Toast instead of caramelize nuts:  I think the sweetness of the caramelized nuts is sublime but if you need to cut sugar you can toast the nuts instead.  Spread the pecans in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 350 for 8 to 10 minutes.

OTHER ADD-IN IDEAS

  • Bacon:  Crispy, crumbly and salty. Use thick cut bacon for its extra flavor and because it is hearty enough to stand up to the dressing without immediately becoming soggy.  The best way to cook bacon is low and slow over medium-low heat in a cast iron skillet so the fat has time to render and the bacon can crisp up.
  • Prosciutto:  Is silky and salty fabulous.
  • Grains: This Strawberry Spinach Salad would be superb with the addition of cooked quinoa, wild rice, brown rice, farro or couscous.
  • Jicama:  Choose a small jicama for sweeter, more appealing flavor.  Choose jicama that is firm, with a smooth skin that’s not cracked, shriveled or bruised and free of soft spots. 
  • Coconut:  Add coconut to a large baking sheet/jelly roll pan and spread into an even layer. Bake at 350 F degrees for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally and watching closely towards the end as coconut can burn quickly.
  • Olives:  Add a Mediterranean flair.  Kalamata olives are particularly wonderful known for their dark, rich, intensely fruity flavor.  Use pitted Kalamata olives and then halve them yourself because they are juicer and tend to hold together better than jarred sliced olives.
  • Chickpeas.  Add a nutty, earthy, creaminess and are a rich source of vitamins, minerals and fiber.
showing how to make strawberry spinach salad recipe by dressing with poppy seed vinaigrette

How to add protein to spinach and strawberry SALAD

This strawberry spinach salad is delicious with chicken, salmon, shrimp, pork or steak to transform it into the main event:

TIPS AND TRICKS FOR spinach and strawberry SALAD

  • Make ahead:  I’ve detailed full make ahead instructions below, so get giddy because you can prepare all the ingredients ahead except the chopped avocado.
  • Chill dressing.  You’ll want to refrigerate your dressing for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, so the flavors deepen and meld. Cold dressing is also much more appetizing than lukewarm dressing. If you are short on time, pop the dressing in the freezer for 30 minutes than refrigerate beyond that.
  • Customize dressing.   Some people like tangier dressing, some people prefer sweeter dressing so I recommend starting with the recipe as written and adjusting to taste, adding additional sugar for sweeter or vinegar for tangier one teaspoon at a time.
  • Customize ingredients.  The salad ingredients and measurements are simply suggestions.  You can add/swap any ingredients for your favorite veggies and fruits as long as you maintain a balance of sweet, tangy, and crunchy; if you swap out an ingredient, replace it with something with a similar flavor profile and texture. 
  • Tame Red onion:  I recommend soaking the sliced red onions in water first to remove some of the bite if you tend to find red onions too strong. To do this, place the sliced red onion in a fine mesh sieve and submerge the sieve in a large bowl of water for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the sieve and thoroughly dry onions with a paper towel.
  • Don’t dress salad.  Wait to drizzle the dressing on the salad until you’re ready to serve because spinach as the tendency to become soggy.  
  • Don’t use all of the dressing. You want the spinach leaves to be moistened but not drenched in dressing or they will become soggy quickly.  Add some of the dressing, toss, then add some more if it needs it.  You can serve with extra dressing on the side so people can add more if desired.
  • Serve immediately.  To that end, serve the strawberry spinach salad immediately after dressing so it’s at peak freshness.
  • Scale strawberry spinach salad up or down.   This recipe is easy to double for a crowd or cut it in half for lunches or a small group.

HOW DO I SERVE strawberry spinach sALAD?

There are three ways to serve spinach and strawberry salad:

  • If not expecting leftovers:  Add all of the salad ingredients to a large salad bowl.  You can toss everything together with the dressing or serve it on the side and let everyone dress their own salads.
  • If expecting leftovers:  Toss all of the salad ingredients together in a large salad bowl except avocados. Serve avocados and dressing on the side.  This will prevent the salad from getting as soggy when storing.
  • Salad Bar: If you want a fun entertaining idea, consider a salad bar where everyone can pile on as much or as little of their favorite toppings.  This works particularly well if you are making this recipe a main dish salad with chicken or shrimp and including more of the veggie, fruit, grain or cheese variation options. Everyone is a winner with a salad bar!
top view of spinach and strawberry salad recipe tossed in a bowl

HOW TO STORE strawberry spinnach SALAD

If you plan on storing leftover strawberry spinach salad, do not toss the salad with the dressing or the spinach will become soggy and wilted. Instead, store the salad and dressing in separate airtight containers. The salad without the dressing will last about 3 days in the refrigerator although the strawberries can soften the crunch of the spinach a bit.

To store the poppy seed dressing, transfer it to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to one week. The dressing will separate as it sits so shake or whisk to recombine before using.

PREP AHEAD spinach and strawberry SALAD

This strawberry spinach salad recipe is great to prep ahead so all you have to do is toss the salad:

  • Salad ingredients:  Can be chopped 24 hours in advance and stored in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator. 
  • Dressing:  Can be made up to 1 week ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 
  • Nuts: The caramelized pecans can be made up to one week ahead of time and stored in a sealed plastic bag or airtight container at room temperature. I often like to double the nuts for future use.

Make Ahead Strawberry Spinach Salad

This strawberry spinach salad can be assembled ahead of time if you layer the ingredients in the correct order.  The salad should be layered with the wettest ingredients on the bottom and the driest on the top to prevent soggy salad, covered, then stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Here’s how to layer your salad:

  • Strawberries
  • Cucumbers
  • Clementine oranges
  • Red onion
  • Spinach
  • Feta
  • Nuts

Right before serving, chop or slice your avocado and add it to the salad, then toss, drizzle and dig in!

WHAT to SERVE WITH STRAWBERRY Spinach SALAD recipe

This strawberry spinach salad is a light and refreshing side to practically everything!  I think the more appropriate question is – What doesn’t this spinach salad recipe go with? 

strawberry spinach salad recipe in a white bowl with candied nuts, feta and red onions

Strawberry Spinach Salad

This strawberry spinach salad is an irresistibly sweet, tangy, crunchy, creamy, fresh and vibrant explosion perfect for every occasion from Easter to Mother’s Day to today’s lunch or dinner.  This spinach and strawberry salad is made with fresh baby spinach, sweet strawberries, juicy clementine oranges, creamy avocado, caramelized pecans, salty sunflower seeds, tangy feta & thinly sliced red onions all drizzled with sweet and tangy poppy seed dressing that will knock your socks off. Of course, you can customize this strawberry spinach salad just how you like and I’ve included tons of recipe variations and substitutions to help. I’ve also included make ahead instructions (even assembling!) so this strawberry spinach salad can be the stress free, hypnotic steal-the-show side dish of your dreams.
Servings: 6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

Strawberry Spinach Salad:

  • 10 ounces fresh baby spinach or half spring mix
  • 1 quart strawberries, hulled and halved or quartered if large
  • 3 clementine oranges (like Cuties brand)
  • 1/3 small red onion very thinly sliced
  • 1 large avocado, sliced or chopped
  • 3/4 English cucumber, sliced and quartered
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
  • 1 recipe caramelized pecans (chopped after caramelizing)

Poppy Seed Dressing

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice (may sub 1 TBS vinegar)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons poppy seeds
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1 teaspoon dried minced onions
  • 1/2 tsp EACH dried basil, pepper

Instructions

  • Add all of the dressing ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk to combine or add to a mason jar, cover and shake. Adjust to taste if desired – adding additional sugar for sweeter or vinegar for tangier 1 teaspoon at a time. Refrigerate while you prepare the salad ingredients then whisk/shake again before drizzling over salad.
  • Prepare caramelized nuts according to recipe directions.
  • When ready to serve, toss all of the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. You can either drizzle with desired amount of dressing and toss to combine or if you expect leftovers, drizzle individual salad servings with dressing.

Notes

*See post for lots of recipe variation ideas! 

HOW TO STORE 

  • Salad: If you plan on storing leftover strawberry spinach salad, do not toss the salad with the dressing or the spinach will become soggy and wilted. Instead, store the salad and dressing in separate airtight containers. The salad without the dressing will last about 3 days in the refrigerator although the strawberries can soften the crunch of the spinach a bit.
  • Dressing:  To store the poppy seed dressing, transfer it to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to one week. The dressing will separate as it sits so shake or whisk to recombine before using.

PREP AHEAD 

This strawberry spinach salad recipe is great to prep ahead so all you have to do is toss the salad:
  • Salad ingredients:  Can be chopped 24 hours in advance and stored in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator. 
  • Dressing:  Can be made up to 1 week ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 
  • Nuts: The caramelized pecans can be made up to one week ahead of time and stored in a sealed plastic bag or airtight container at room temperature. I often like to double the nuts for future use.

Make Ahead 

This strawberry spinach salad can be assembled ahead of time if you layer the ingredients in the correct order.  The salad should be layered with the wettest ingredients on the bottom and the driest on the top to prevent soggy salad, covered, then stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Here’s how to layer your salad:
  • Strawberries
  • Cucumbers
  • Clementine oranges
  • Red onion
  • Spinach
  • Feta
  • Nuts
Right before serving, chop or slice your avocado and add it to the salad, then toss, drizzle and dig in!

Did You Make This Recipe?

Tag @CarlsbadCravings and Use #CarlsbadCravngs

Leave a Review, I Always Love Hearing From You!

Reader Interactions

leave a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

6 Comments

  1. Ramya says

    Will be making this soon i never had salad before perfect for my after office meals everyday will dm you if i make this and let you know how it goes Thanks Ramya

    • Jen says

      Thank Ramya, I hope you love it!

  2. Christie Gaines says

    This sounds delicious! Having this tomorrow!!

    • Jen says

      Thanks Christie, I’m excited for you to try it!

  3. Christie Gaines says

    OMGosh I made this the other night and it’s fabulous!!! So many different flavors to explode in your mouth! Thanks Jen for another delicious recipe!

    • Jen says

      YAY! I’m thrilled you loved it so much! Thanks for taking the time to comment!