20-Minute Apple Spinach Salad with homemade maple-lime mustard dressing will make a healthy and refreshing addition to your favorite weeknight dinner! The addition of fruit, nuts, and cheese elevates this simple spinach salad to a new level. Easy enough to make on weekdays - presentable enough to serve for a special occasion! Serve it as a side, or add protein to turn this into a complete meal.
Simple spinach salad
This delicious 20-Minute Apple Spinach Salad features basic ingredients, such as red and green apples, baby spinach, pecans, dried cranberries, and goat cheese tossed together with the homemade Maple-Lime Mustard Dressing. You can serve this as a side with just about any main course (chicken, steak, pork, seafood, pasta). Or, add protein and make it a meal. Bring this crowd-pleasing side dish to picnics, potlucks, barbecue parties, and other gatherings with friends and family. Simple enough to make on a busy weekday - fancy enough to serve company! Other simple salads I recommend are spinach salad with parmesan and pine nuts and strawberry spinach salad with bacon and toasted almonds.
This simple spinach salad is packed with fiber and features quite a few colorful, healthy, and nutrient-rich ingredients. All of them are simple and can be easily found in most grocery stores making this salad a perfect choice for any day of the week year-round!
- Apples. I used 1 small red apple (Fuji, you can also use Gala or Honey Crisp) and 1 small green apple (Granny Smith). I did not peel the apples for presentation purposes.
- Spinach is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. It’s high in fiber and a good source of many vitamins and minerals. Spinach is a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as folic acid, iron, and calcium. I used baby spinach.
- Dried cranberries. I used Craisins - their sweetness fits perfectly with the apple spinach salad. You can also use dried figs, blueberries, or cherries. You can plump up the dried fruit by briefly blanching it with hot water.
- Pecans add crunch and texture to any salad and are packed with fiber and are rich in many nutrients. This includes zinc and Vitamin B1. I like to lightly toast them in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 10 minutes.
- Goat cheese adds creaminess.
- Simple dressing. Dress this quick and easy apple spinach salad with a delicious homemade dressing made with just 4 ingredients: maple syrup, mustard, olive oil, and lime juice. I recommend using freshly squeezed lime juice (not the bottled kind) and extra virgin olive oil. You can use either maple syrup or honey.
How to make it ahead
This easy spinach salad is so quick to assemble that it doesn't really need to be made in advance. All you need is 20 minutes in the kitchen. This is a great salad to bring to picnics, potlucks, and barbecue parties and to serve to a large crowd. In this case, you can double or triple the salad ingredients, and it might be helpful to prep some ingredients in advance. Here are my tips:
- Toast the pecans in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 10 minutes. Cool them off and keep them in an airtight plastic bag.
- Prepare the salad dressing up to 3 days in advance and store it refrigerated in a glass mason jar.
- I do not recommend prepping spinach or apples in advance as you can easily assemble them the day of!
- The assembly should take only 10 minutes before serving for the best results and freshness.
- Tip: don't add the pecans, goat cheese, and salad dressing until right before serving to keep the apple spinach salad fresh and to prevent the nuts from getting soggy.
Variations, substitutions, and recipe notes
Not only does this easy spinach salad feature really simple and easily accessible ingredients, but it's also an incredibly flexible recipe that you can easily adjust depending on what you have available.
- Greens. Use your favorite greens with this salad - spinach, arugula, mixed greens, garden greens, and lettuce.
- Nuts. Dress up an apple spinach salad with your favorite nuts: pecans, walnuts, cashews, or almonds. If using raw nuts, toast them briefly in the oven to make them crunchy. You can also purchase roasted nuts or use candied nuts.
- Add seeds. Add toasted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds in addition to the nuts or instead of them.
- Dried fruit. I used Craisins (dried cranberries). You can also use dried figs, blueberries, or cherries.
- Cheese. I recommend using goat cheese, feta, or gorgonzola.
- Salad dressing is made with maple syrup, mustard, olive oil, and lime juice. Maple syrup can be replaced with honey. You can use lemon juice instead of lime juice. I used Dijon mustard, but any mustard will work.
What to serve with it
Apple spinach salad will pair well with any main course. Serve it with grilled meats, chicken, steak, seafood, or pasta dishes. Here are a few suggestions:
- Creamy Chicken and Gnocchi with Mushrooms and Spinach
- Creamy Spinach Chicken
- Creamy Tuscan Chicken with Spinach, Artichokes, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes
- Chicken and Bacon Pasta with Spinach and Tomatoes in Garlic Cream Sauce
Other spinach salads you might like
- Strawberry Spinach Salad with Blueberries, Feta, and Pecans
- Spinach Salad with Peaches and Blueberries
- Cranberry Spinach Salad with Cashews and Goat Cheese and Lemon-Honey Poppy Seed Dressing
- Spinach Salad with Mango, Avocado, Blueberries, Strawberries, Cashew Nuts, and Balsamic Vinaigrette
Apple Spinach Salad
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 large lime juice freshly squeezed
- 6 oz baby spinach
- 1 cup pecan halves toasted, some of them chopped finely
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 1 small green apple (Granny Smith), cored and diced
- 1 small red apple (such as Fuji or Gala), cored and diced
- ⅓ cup goat cheese crumbled
Make salad dressing
- Combine all salad dressing ingredients in a mason jar. Whisk well with a fork, until emulsified. Add more lime juice to taste.
- I prefer to arrange the salad in individual bowls for presentation purposes.
- Add spinach to each individual salad bowl. Chop up half of the nuts. Nestle the remaining salad ingredients on top of the spinach.
- Drizzle with the salad dressing.
- Alternatively, you can combine all the salad ingredients (except pecans) in a large serving bowl, add the dressing, and toss to combine. Then, top the salad with toasted pecan halves (some of them chopped).
- If using raw pecans, toast them in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 5 or 10 minutes until a little bit darker in color and crunchy. Be careful not to burn the nuts.
- You can also purchase roasted, flavored, or candied pecans. In this case, you don't need to toast them.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
Made last night and added some diced chipotle lime chicken breast. Absolutely delicious. The dressing really shines and is simple to make.
Absolutely delicious salad. Made it last week for lunch with a friend and made it again today -- this time with blueberries. I had remaining dressing in a jar and it got more yummy over the few days. A winner! Thank you.
Kayla K Douglas
Excellent recipes! Very healthy and tasty!
Kayla, thank you so much! 🙂
There is a citrus allergy in my house, what can I substitute for the lime juice?
You can try white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Start with 1 tablespoon and then add more to taste. Enjoy!