In this Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad, a bed of tender baby spinach is topped with plump and juicy strawberries, thinly sliced red onion, crumbled goat cheese, and candied walnuts then drizzled with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
You’ll love this easy and flavorful salad! Serve it as a side dish or as a starter to the main meal. It’s perfect in the Spring and Summer when strawberries are at their peak. It also makes for an impressive dish to serve on Valentine’s Day!
Spinach – Hearty leafy green perfect for holding up under the toppings and dressing.
Strawberries – Adds a sweet and slightly tangy flavor.
Goat Cheese – Crumbled goat cheese adds a nice creaminess to the salad.
Red Onion – Adds just a bit of kick to balance everything out.
Candied Walnuts – Provide a bit of crunch and sweetness to the salad.
Homemade Balsamic Vinaigrette – What’s a salad without the perfect dressing? This easy and delicious sweet and tangy dressing balances perfectly with this salad.
Step By Step Instructions
Note: Full recipe card below.
Start by making candied walnuts. They need to cool at room temperature for at least an hour or in the fridge for 10 minutes.
In a small saucepan, mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and water. Heat over medium until bubbling. Continue cooking, stirring often, for 1 minute or until the sauce has thickened.
Toss the walnut pieces in the sauce and continue cooking for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the walnuts are fully coated and the sauce has become sticky.
Transfer the candied walnut to the prepared baking sheet spreading them out as much as possible.
If you made these ahead of time, allow them to cool for at least 1 hour at room temperature before breaking them apart. If you didn’t make them in advance, place the baking sheet in the fridge for about 10 minutes before breaking apart the pieces.
To make the balsamic dressing, whisk together balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper until well combined.
Then, very slowly, drizzle in the olive oil whisking the whole time.
For individual salads, divide the spinach between four bowls. Then, divide the strawberries, red onion, goat cheese, and candied walnuts between the salads. Drizzle them with the dressing or serve it on the side.
For one large family-style salad, place the spinach in a large bowl and toss it in enough of the dressing to coat but not soak the spinach (note: you likely will not need all of the dressing). Then, add the strawberries, red onion, goat cheese, and candied walnuts to the top. Serve extra dressing on the side.
Tips & Tricks
- When you are making the salad dressing, be sure to drizzle the olive oil in very slowly whisking the whole time. If you pour a bit too fast, stop adding oil and whisk vigorously until everything comes together. Then, you can continue adding more oil.
- Another option for the dressing is to use a food processor. Add everything except for the oil and pulse them together. Then, slowly pour the oil in through the feed tube on top while the processor is running. This results in a thicker dressing but is easier than mixing by hand.
Substitutions & Variations
- Switch up the fruit or add a few different kinds. Of course, different berries taste great in this salad but diced apple or pear would also be great!
- If you want a tangier cheese, choose an aged goat cheese or feta. Or, opt for blue or gorgonzola cheese instead.
- Spring mix, arugula, and radicchio are great substitutions or add-ons to the spinach.
Store the components separately in airtight containers in the fridge. Then, assemble the salads right before serving.
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Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad
- 1 cup walnut pieces
- 2 tablespooons brown sugar packed
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt fine kosher or sea
- 2 teaspoons water
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar packed
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon salt fine kosher or sea
- 1/2 teaspoon cracked pepper
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 5 ounces baby spinach
- 1 cup strawberries sliced into half moons
- 1/2 cup red onion thinly sliced
- 3-4 ounces goat cheese crumbled
- Line a baking sheet with parchment. Set aside.
- Into a small saucepan, add the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and water. Heat over medium until bubbling. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute.
- Add the walnuts and toss to coat. Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes or until the walnuts are fully coated and the sauce has become thick and sticky.
- Transfer the walnuts to the prepared baking sheet. Cool at room temp for 1 hour or in the fridge for 10 minutes. Break apart any large pieces.
- In a bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, salt, and pepper.
- Then, very slowly, drizzle in the olive oil whisking the whole time. (see note)
Assemble the salads
- For individual salads, divide the spinach between 4 bowls. Top each with an equal amount of strawberries, red onion, goat cheese, and candied walnuts. Drizzle the salads with the dressing or serve it on the side. Serve immediately.
- For a large family-style salad, place the spinach in a large bowl and toss with just enough dressing to coat the leaves. (Note, you'll probably have extra dressing to serve on the side.) Then, top with the strawberries, red onion, goat cheese, and candied walnuts. Serve immediately.
- When adding the olive oil to the dressing, you want to pour it VERY slowly. Practically a drizzle. If you pour a bit too fast, stop adding oil and whisk vigorously until everything comes together. Then, continue adding the oil slowly.
- The dressing can be made in a food processor. Simply everything except for the oil to the food processor and pulse to combine. Then, slowly pour the oil in through the feed tube on top while the processor is running. This will result in a thicker dressing but is easier than mixing by hand.
- Store the components separately in airtight containers in the fridge. Assemble just before serving.