Spinach Salad topped with orange slices, dried cranberries, and sunflower seeds, and drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette makes for a tasty and affordable dish.
Spinach has something going for it. It’s plentiful year-round, generally affordable, and available even in the dead of winter as sometimes the only affordable, familiar, and decent-looking salad green to be had.
Not only that, it’s a powerhouse of nutrition.
That said, folks don’t often know what to do with spinach. It conjures unfavorable images for some. At the least, beefy, bald guys with tattoos.
If you only know spinach from a can or a frozen brick, its time to meet fresh baby spinach. Delicious tucked into sandwiches, folded into egg bakes, and stirred into soup, baby spinach is also delicious in salads.
What is spinach salad?
The classic spinach salad, a la Julia Child features a hearty portion of bacon and the greens are wilted in a warm dressing made of the drippings. Delicious as it is, sometimes you want something fresh and bright.
This spinach salad boasts bright, sunshiny flavors with the addition of oranges, dried cranberries, and sunflower seeds—all of which lend texture and complexity at the same time as sweet, tart, and nutty goodness to otherwise bitter spinach.
This salad is delicious as a simple starter or side salad, but can also serve as a vegan main dish.
Feel free to add cooked chicken, bacon, beans, or nuts to up the protein content and make it a full entree meal.
No need for anything fancy here. These ingredients are regular grocery store staples.
baby spinach – Spinach is grown in a sandy medium, so try to buy the bagged variety as it’s been washed. Baby spinach is more delicate. Examine the bag carefully and avoid bags containing wilted leaves. Once home, store the spinach, refrigerated, in an airtight container amid layers of paper toweling to prolong its life.
oranges – We used one navel orange and one blood orange here, but you can use any mixture of orange, mandarin, or grapefruit. All are delicious in this salad.
dried cranberries – Cranberries are a sweet contrast to the tart oranges, but you can also use dried cherries or raisins.
sunflower seeds – I like the texture and color of sunflower seeds, but you can also use pepitas or your favorite type of chopped nut if that’s what you have.
green onion – Scallions offer a bright, fresh flavor, but you can also use thinly sliced shallot or sweet onion instead.
balsamic vinaigrette – Homemade balsamic vinaigrette is simple to make, but you can use the bottled variety if you prefer.
This is a type of salade composee, a salad where the ingredients are layered one atop the other.
- If you’re serving the salad right away, you can toss the spinach in the vinaigrette prior to assembling the salads.
- To remove the peel and pith from the oranges, follow this tutorial for cutting grapefruit. It’s the easiest way. Once removed, you can slice the oranges into rounds or cut them into supremes.
- Divide the spinach among four plates, then the orange slices, then the green onions, then the cranberries, then the sunflower seeds. Serve with the dressing.
If making these salads for meal prep, keep the wet ingredients (the dressing and the oranges) separate from the dry. A divided meal prep container or separate plastic bag or container is helpful for this. Assemble just before serving.
Knowing how much it costs you to prepare a recipe can help you decide if it’s the type of recipe to make regularly or one you might want to save for special occasions. Let’s crunch some numbers and see how this recipe pencils out.
- baby spinach – $3.00
- oranges – $1.30
- dried cranberries – $0.25
- sunflower seeds – $0.16
- green onion – $0.15
- balsamic vinaigrette – $0.20
Purchased at a mid-range grocer’s for non-sale prices, this salad pencils out to $5.06 per batch or $1.27/serving.
By contrast, an individual salad (with bacon) in the produce section sells for $3.33. You can add your own bacon for far less.
Save even more
You can cut the costs of this recipe by working the Good Cheap Eats System:
Use what you have – See the ingredients section for possible substitutions or get creative with what you already have on hand.
Make a plan for leftovers – Be sure to use leftovers in the package of cranberries, sunflower seeds, and vinaigrettes.
Shop the sales and clearance – Spinach is regularly a marked down item, due to its short shelf life. Grab it when you find a deal.
Cook from scratch – Make your own salad dressing for pennies.
This recipe really couldn’t be easier than it is, but having the right kitchen tools can really make your time in the kitchen more enjoyable. Over time, I’ve honed my collection so that they are perfect for my needs.
- meal prep boxes pictured – also available in red
- plastic cutting boards – I have blue boards for veggies and white boards for meat.
- Ergo Chef chef’s knife – I’ve had my set for several years and they work well.
- salad dressing cruet – I love this one!
Spinach Salad with Oranges & Cranberries Recipe
- 1 6-ounce package baby spinach
- 2 orange peel cut away and sliced into thin rounds,
- 4 tbsp dried cranberries
- 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
- 2 green onion (chopped)
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette
- Divide the spinach into four plates or meal prep containers. Arrange the orange slices on the spinach. If packing for later, consider placing the oranges in a separate container.
- Divide the cranberries, sunflower seeds, and green onion among the four salads.
- Serve with the balsamic vinaigrette.
This post was originally published on February 15, 2012. It has been updated for content and clarity.