Today is your lucky day! I'm feeling generous, so I am sharing with you my all-time favorite spinach salad recipe. Is it fancy? No. Is it easy to make? Yes. Is the Maple Dijon Dressing destined to become one of your favorites? Yes again. You're welcome.
What makes this salad (and the Maple Dijon Dressing) so special?
As I mentioned above, this is not the most complicated or ingredient-packed salad....but that's part of the appeal. You can make the components ahead of time and toss the salad together in mere minutes. I always have some of the dressing in a jar in the refrigerator and a container of the candied pecans in the pantry.
The dressing is the perfect combination of sweet and sour, and the grainy mustard seeds and shallot give it texture. All you need is a light coating on your greens, so it never feels heavy. The Granny Smith apples bring a juicy tartness and the candied nuts contribute a crunch and a hit of spice.
Known as "The Julie Salad" among my friends, who often request it for dinner parties, this recipe makes a great side dish for pretty much anything (pasta, steaks, chicken pot pie.....). We also regularly have it as a meal,topped with grilled chicken and a sprinkle of blue cheese, when we want something lighter and unfussy.
Ingredients and ingredient notes
- Non-stick baking spray: Don't forget this! Keeps the nuts from sticking to the foil.
- Pecans: You can use pecans halves and chop them or streamline the recipe and use chopped nuts. Feel free to substitute walnuts or almonds!
- Light corn syrup: I know that some people don't like the idea of using corn syrup, so in this case, you can substitute honey.
- Granulated sugar
- Kosher salt and pepper
- Cayenne pepper: optional, but it gives a nice kick of heat to the nuts. Use as much or as little as you prefer. I use a generous pinch.
Maple dijon dressing
- Shallot: Finely chopped. Feel free to substitute red onion or sweet yellow onion.
- Pure maple syrup: Don't use the imitation kind as it does not have the same true maple flavor.
- Whole grain Dijon mustard: If I can find it, I use the variety from Maille, as it is chock full of mustard seeds, but anything similar is fine!
- Red wine vinegar: You can substitute balsamic--the dressing will just have a darker color as a result. It's also fine to use champagne or white wine vinegar.
- Olive oil: There is such a small amount of oil in this recipe, that it will not make a big difference in flavor if you use canola oil or vegetable oil instead.
- Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Assembling the salad
- Baby spinach: Sometimes I like to use baby arugula instead of the spinach, or a mix of the two. Arugula is another green that has a similar appearance to baby spinach, but it has a peppery flavor. You could also mix in some chopped kale or use spring mix in place of the spinach.
- Granny Smith apples: Try substituting pears or mandarin oranges for the apples. If you like a less-tart apple, Gala or Fuji apples would make good substitutes.
- If you want to add cheese to the salad, I suggest a tangy goat cheese, crumbled blue cheese or gorgonzola for the best flavor combination.
Video: Watch my Spinach Salad with Maple Dijon Dressing in action
Step by step instructions
Step 1: Candied Pecans
Mix the pecans with the rest of the ingredients and spread them on a foil-lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake at 325F until bubbly, 15 minutes. Cool and crumble.
Step 2: Maple Dijon Dressing
Finely chop the shallot.
Add shallot and remaining ingredients for the dressing in a bowl and whisk to combine.
Transfer dressing to a mason jar (optional) and shake well to blend. Store any leftover dressing in the mason jar in your refrigerator.
Step 3: Assemble the salad!
Mix spinach with sliced apples, candied pecans and dressing -- serve immediately!
Frequently asked questions
Yes! The dressing keeps for up to one week, covered, in the refrigerator. I like to store it in a mason jar so that I can easily give it another good shake before adding to the salad.
Yes, the nuts can be made up to one week in advance and stored at room temperature in an airtight container.
Yes to both! Feel free to add a sprinkle of vegan cheese or a meat-free protein on top to make this salad a meal.
Looking for more satisfying salad recipes? Give these a try!
Did you make this recipe and love it? Take a photo and tag me on Instagram or give it a review!
The Best Spinach Salad with Maple Dijon Dressing
- 1 baking sheet lined with foil
- 1 whisk
- 1 mason jar or container with a lid (for shaking the salad dressing)
- Nonstick spray
- 1 cup pecans chopped
- 2 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Pinch cayenne pepper
Maple Dijon Dressing
- ⅓ cup pure maple syrup
- 2 tablespoon shallot finely chopped
- 3 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 10 oz baby spinach
- 1 large Granny Smith apple thinly sliced
- Preheat your oven to 325F. Spray a foil-lined baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
- Combine pecans with all of the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and toss to coat.
- Spread the mixture on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the nuts are golden brown and the sugar mixture is bubbling, stirring occasionally to break up clumps, about 15 minutes.
- Cool completely on the baking sheet and then crumble into small pieces.
Maple Dijon Dressing
- Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl, whisking well.
- Optional: Transfer dressing to a mason jar or covered container and shake it well to thoroughly combine.
- Place spinach in a large serving bowl. Add apples, candied pecans and dressing and toss to coat.