Simple to make, tasty, and so colorful, this Apple Spinach Salad is perfect for any family dinner. It’s naturally gluten-free and can be dairy-free as well if needed. Crisp apples, juicy pomegranates, toasted almonds, savory onion, and crumbled feta cheese combine together to make an incredibly good salad. We love this salad served with my balsamic dressing with just a hint of maple syrup to round it out. Whether you’re looking for something stunning for your holiday table, company, or a delicious family dinner, this salad will be your go-to.
This is our favorite salad to make starting with apple season every fall and running straight through the spring. It comes together super fast thanks to the amazingness that is pre-washed baby spinach.
From there it’s just a matter of whisking up the dressing, crumbling the cheese, and toasting the almonds. You’ll find my tips below for how to shortcut even this super easy prep work.
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Spinach – I use pre-washed baby spinach because it’s fast and easy, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Spring mix and chopped lettuce works well with this salad as well.
- Apples – feel free to use any variety here that you love to eat fresh. I like to use Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, and any other crispy apple I come across in the store.
- Pomegranate arils – are nice to have because they’re juicy and visually appealing, but I often leave them out for simple weekday salads.
- Feta cheese – can be omitted if you can have dairy and/or replaced with any dairy-free option you’d like.
- Onion – I like to use diced red onion here because it’s not as strong as white onions. You can also use thinly sliced green onions or diced shallots as well.
- Sliced almonds – or any other nut you enjoy in spinach salads works here. I’ve used chopped pecans, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds in this recipe.
- Maple syrup – is optional to make the candied almonds and can be left out if you’re making plain toasted almonds.
- Balsamic Vinaigrette – is included in the recipe below, but you can use your favorite store-bought if desired. I would make a case for taking a couple of minutes to whisk up the homemade version because the flavor really is that much better. See the tips below for some make-ahead options.
How to make this recipe step by step
Step 1: Start by whisking together the balsamic dressing and set it aside while you make the salad.
Step 2: Next toast the almonds and candy them if desired. You can shortcut some of the prep time by using toasted nuts rather than the candied version in the recipe.
Step 4: Add the spinach to your serving bowl, then top with the apples, pomegranates, feta, onions, and almonds. Serve the dressing on the side for the best presentation, or drizzle a bit on top. You can also toss this salad together with the dressing before serving.
Ways to serve this
- Serve this with family-style dinners like my Slow Cooker Pot Roast, Gluten Free Lasagna, or Roast Chicken and Vegetables.
- Try this spinach salad alongside your next holiday meal like my Paleo Thanksgiving.
- This salad is great alongside pasta dishes like my Tuscan Sausage Pasta, Garlic Butter Shrimp Pasta, or Sausage Broccoli Pasta. Try it served as your veggie the next time you make Homemade Spaghetti Sauce.
Spring mix or chopped red/green leaf lettuce both work well here in place of the spinach.
You can omit them entirely and there’s still enough flavor to go around. But my favorite sub for pomegranates in this Apple Spinach Salad is chopped fruit juice sweetened dried cranberries.
Yes, you can use white balsamic, champagne vinegar, white or red wine vinegar, or freshly squeezed lemon juice in place of the balsamic vinegar in this dressing. The flavors will obviously vary, so add a touch of sweetener to taste if necessary.
- To store – you can keep all the ingredients separately and store them in airtight containers for up to 5 days for the spinach, feta, and pomegranates. The apples and onions are best cut up fresh. You can also make a bigger batch of the candied almonds and store them in a sealed container for up to 1 month. The balsamic dressing will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, but the garlic will get stronger over time, (can be omitted).
Tips & Tricks
- Use store-bought pomegranate arils you can buy all ready-to-go in little containers. Or with a couple of minutes of effort, you can use my Pomegranates Method to prep your own. Another shortcut is to use chopped dried cranberries instead.
- Make the balsamic dressing a day or 2 ahead if you know you’ll be running short on time.
- You can also crumble the feta cheese ahead of time as well as making the candied nuts. This makes this salad a cinch to pull together for holiday and family dinners.
- Make this into a dinner salad with some added chicken.
- It’s important to remove the candied nuts from the pan and cool them on parchment paper because as the pan cools the candied nuts will stick.
- Look for a balsamic vinegar that doesn’t have any ‘natural flavors’ or caramel coloring in it because pure balsamic vinegar will give you the best-tasting and healthiest dressing.
How to de-seed pomegranates in 1 minute-ish
Start by cutting the pomegranate in half, and then holding each half with the seed side down over a big bowl, take a wooden spoon and start whacking the pomegranate half.
You’ll be completely amazed as the pomegranate arils simply fall out with very little debris to pick out. I can de-seed a whole pomegranate in just under a minute now.
You can find my full tutorial, plus some pictures over on my Pomegranates 101
More Salad Recipe Inspiration
I really hope you enjoy this Apple Spinach Salad! If you do get a chance to make this recipe, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Apple Spinach Salad
Balsamic Salad Dressing
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp maple syrup - or to taste
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp Herbs d’ Provence
- 1 clove garlic - minced
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup sliced almonds - 4 ounces
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 8 cups washed baby spinach leaves - 8 ounces
- 1/2 small red onion - thinly sliced or finely diced
- 2 medium Honeycrisp apples - 1 pound, thinly sliced or diced
- 1 cup pomegranate arils
- 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese - 3 ounces
- Make the dressing by adding the balsamic vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, sea salt, and pepper to a bowl. Crush the Herbs d' Provence in your hand before adding them to the bowl along with the garlic.
- Next whisk the balsamic together before slowly add the olive oil in a thin steady stream while constantly whisking until completely emulsified. Or shake the dressing together in a tightly sealed mason jar.
- To make the candied almonds, toast the sliced almonds over medium-low heat in a 9" cast iron pan, shaking as they cook to make sure they toast evenly.
- When the almonds are golden, add the sea salt and maple syrup stirring vigorously to coat. Then remove the nuts from the pan and spread evenly over parchment paper to cool.
- Next place the spinach into a large serving bowl. Then top with the red onion, apples, pomegranate arils, and crumbled feta cheese.
- Top with the candied almonds and serve with the balsamic dressing on the side.
This post was originally published in 2016 but has been updated with new photos, nutritional facts, and more tips and tricks.