If you’re old enough, you’ve probably had this salad, Classic Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing, at least if you live in the States. It was everywhere in the late 70’s and early 80’s and was served for decades. And then it disappeared. Fell out of grace.
A bit of cooked Barley was the “by-product” of my Healthy Lemon Ginger Barley Water recipe awhile back. Well, if you know me, you know I try to waste nothing, and sure didn’t want to waste a morsel of wonderful, chewy, nutty Barley. (I love it, and so should you, btw! It’s really good for you!) And so I went on a quest and that quest ended in this Salad with Smoky Sheet Tray Roasted Vegetables & Barley. It’s a lot to use a cup of Barley, huh?!
Here it is, September already, and I’m in full on denial. Maybe that should be “fall” on denial! I keep seeing little signs, although you wouldn’t know it by the weather. Or the glut of fruits & veggies at the store. When I saw the Colorado peaches (imho) some of the best peaches in the world, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with them. Arugula & Peach Salad with Feta & Bacon.
There’s salad and then there’s SALAD – you know, the one that shouts rather than whispers? The one you want MORE of…the salad that has that little something extra to take it over the top. That’s this salad, Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans.
What is it about salty, sweet, tart that makes you want to take another bite and another and another? That special balance of flavors that hits all the right notes? This salad (you might have guessed from the name, lol) has Candied Pecans. Yep – golden, crunchy, sweet candied pecans to help balance out all the healthiness of this Spinach Quinoa Salad.
About Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans:
But that’s not all this salad has. There’s spinach of course, and sweet and tart blueberries along with crunchy pears or apples, and a handful of chickpeas tossed in for a little heft. Mix all that with the golden quinoa, cooked perfectly al dente for just the right amount of chew, and you have a little magic going on.
But wait there’s more! A deceptively simple, tart dressing with just a hint of honey (and strangely, a smidge of sesame oil that gives a “what’s in this” touch) perfectly offsets the rest of the flavors. melding all those disparate ingredients somehow into a gorgeous alchemy of flavor. Of course, you do have some latitude with this salad and it’s a great one to adapt to any seasonal flavors. If blueberries and pears aren’t your idea of nirvana, try something else. Maybe strawberries and blueberries? Maybe you just want to go rogue and use some melon or citrus. Hey, it’s your salad; add what you love and you can’t go wrong.
“Where’s the meat?” my sister asked, but between the light, fluffy quinoa, the chickpeas, and the pecans, this is actually a pretty substantial salad with a good amount of protein. It may not be “man” substantial, or even “sister” substantial, at least in my family apparently, and if that’s the case in yours, too, serve with poached or grilled chicken, either mixed in or alongside.
Making Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans:
There are a few components to make for this salad, and all can be made ahead. First of all, there’s the quinoa, and I gotta give a shout out to my Light Fluffly Quinoa for the Instant Pot or Stovetop. It always turns out beautifully and a great recipe takes out all the stress of cooking it. Whenever I make Quinoa, I try to get a leg up for a rainy day; I make extra and bag and tag it and freeze for later.
Then there are the Candied Pecans. They might seem like an “add on” and maybe not totally necessary, possibly a bit frivolous, but they add so much to the salad. They’re like a special little “cheffy” touch that does make this salad seem like it came from a high-end restaurant, and they’ll be part of the reason you keep eating this otherwise healthy salad! And they’re surprisingly quick and easy to make. Make a few more than you think you’ll need; you won’t be sorry! Btw, if pecans aren’t your thing, this same recipe can be used with just about any other nut.
Now the Chickpeas can be cooked up, and I have a recipe for Braised Chickpeas on my site here or Instant Pot Chickpeas. It always makes sense to me to make a full recipe of either when I need some and stash the rest in the freezer (about 1 1/2 cups are the equivalent of a can and that makes three cans worth in a pound). Since you’re already making the dressing, the quinoa, and the pecans, you might just be ready to open a can and rinse it off; there’s no shame to that game!
Saving Money on Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans:
Quinoa may not be cheap to buy, but its a good value for your money. It’s packed with protein, nutrients, and flavor and it’s a great way to up your nutrition game. It does pay to shop around, even at a single grocery store. Check the rice & beans aisle, the bulk aisle, and the health food aisle. You might need a calculator to figure out which is the best price. And of course, if you’re up to shopping around, compare prices at different stores; I’ve found they vary wildly.
There seems to be a big secret, and I get why you might want to pick up a big bag of spinach, especially since it seems like it’s ready to go. You still need to wash that spinach; greens can pose a health risk if you don’t. But that’s not the secret. The secret is that bagged lettuce, spinach, etc. is four to 10 times the amount of buying it by the head or the bunch. Those huge bags are “fluffy”but weigh very little. They’re priced by the ounce, which makes them hard to compare to actual non treated vegetables priced by the pound. Every time you pay more for less, you’re sending a message from the store all the way to the producers that it’s ok. And because they make so much more money selling by the bag, they’re happy to sell it to you, Happy to the point that it’s actually getting difficult to buy fresh vegetables in some stores – They are starting to stop carrying them.
Watch for sales on the blueberries or pick them up at your Buyer’s club or Aldi. They’re the new darling of the berries and have become readily available and so much cheaper! Pears of course, ae cheapest in season; if they’re on sale buy some that are ready now and some to ripen on your counter for later. Pecans and other nuts are best picked up during the fall sales prior to Christmas and tossed in the freezer. Again, your buyer’s club or Aldi may have great prices if a limited selection.Print
Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans
Spinach Quinoa Salad with Candied Pecans is one of those salads you’ll just want to keep eating and eating! A combo of sweet, tart, crunchy & chewy! Full of good for you ingredients! The easy candied pecans add a cheffy restaurant touch!
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Total Time: 45 minutes
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x
- Category: Salads
- Cuisine: American
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tablespoon honey
- pinch of salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (or your choice)
- 1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
For the Salad:
Mix together all ingredients together in a jar and shake. Drizzle over salad just before serving. You can add more honey to this, to taste. The dressing is very tart which plays wonderfully with the Candied Pecans. If you’re not using the Candied Pecans, you may like a bit more sweetness.
For the Salad;
Arrange salad as desired. Suggested: lay down a bed of the spinach, top with the quinoa and sprinkle the rest of the ingredients over the top. Drizzle with dressing right before serving.
If not using the candied pecans, add a little more honey to the dressing.
Keywords: Bargain Meal of the Week, Berries, Blueberries, Chickpeas, Dried Beans, Main dish salad, Pear, Pecans, Quinoa, Salad, Salad Dressings, Spinach, Spinach Salad
|Amount Per Serving|
|% Daily Value *|
|Total Fat 16 g||24 %|
|Saturated Fat 2 g||9 %|
|Monounsaturated Fat 9 g|
|Polyunsaturated Fat 4 g|
|Trans Fat 0 g|
|Cholesterol 0 mg||0 %|
|Sodium 215 mg||9 %|
|Potassium 583 mg||17 %|
|Total Carbohydrate 43 g||14 %|
|Dietary Fiber 7 g||29 %|
|Sugars 11 g|
|Protein 8 g||17 %|
|Vitamin A||109 %|
|Vitamin C||35 %|