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Spinach Strawberry Walnut Salad with Chicken and an easy, 3-ingredient Vinaigrette made with jam is a template for the perfect summer dinner!
I could honestly enjoy this salad almost every day! It's healthy, low-carb, and satisfies my sweet tooth with fresh strawberries. You'll resent boring salads after tasting this one.
Change out the berries, nuts, and cheese depending upon your mood and the season. Same thing for the easy dressing made with jam. Sweet Red Wine Vinegar Dressing is fantastic if you have all the ingredients.
With a combination of creamy, sweetness, and crunch, the basic salad template will take you far if you're trying to eat more greens. It's a festive salad, so it's perfect for special occasions too!
If you add protein, then dinner is complete! On the other hand, leave the chicken off if you need a side salad. Either way, you'll find yourself making this spinach salad again and again.
Ingredients and Variations
The name Spinach Strawberry Walnut Salad seems to say it all! But, just in case you want to customize it, we've outlined some mix and match options:
- Spinach - Flat baby spinach leaves are tender and perfect as a salad base. You don't even need to remove the stems. If using savoy or curly-leaf spinach, tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces and discard hard stems.
- Other green bases: Butter, bib, kale, romaine, and spring lettuce mixes are excellent too. I often mix one or more of these options with spinach leaves. Basically, use whatever lettuce you have available.
- Fresh Strawberries - Quickly rinse and dry them just before you're ready to make this salad so they'll be fresh and crisp. Remove the stems and slice. Don't use frozen strawberries. They will be mushy.
- Variations: Any berry, or a mix of them, will taste great. Our favorites include blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Dried berries can also be used.
- Walnuts - Toasting intensifies the flavor! But, the salad is enjoyable with raw, chopped walnuts too. See directions to cook on the stovetop below.
- Other nut options: Pecans, almonds, cashew, macadamia nuts.
- Cheese - We use shredded Colby Jack cheese because it's always in the house, and it's the way I fell in love with this recipe. But, it's not the only option!
- More choices: Feta cheese, goat cheese, plant-based versions.
- Chicken - If you have leftover chicken, use it or follow the directions below to quickly make it for this recipe. Of course, you can leave off the chicken if it's not going to be the main course.
- Salad Dressing - we used an easy vinaigrette made with raspberry or strawberry jam (more on that below.)
- Also, try Balsamic Vinaigrette.
It probably goes without saying, but this is a more or less recipe. We provided suggested amounts to estimate the nutritional information. However, adjust the ingredients to your tastes and toss in anything else you like.
Speedy Ways to Cook Chicken
To make chicken for this Spinach Walnut Strawberry Salad recipe reasonably fast, we suggest cooking it in a pan or poaching it.
To cook in a skillet:
Use chicken cutlets or breasts that aren't too thick or pounded thin. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil and/or butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season each side of the chicken with salt and pepper. Optionally, sprinkle with paprika for a little extra color. Add chicken to the pan and cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side or until cooked through.
We used this method to make Strawberry Chicken.
- Pound chicken if it's thick so it will cook faster.
- Add chicken to a stockpot in a single layer. Fill the pot with broth (or water) until the chicken is covered with an additional inch of liquid to spare above it. Bring broth to a boil.
- Once it is boiling, reduce to simmer and cover with a lid. Cook for about 8-10 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked. The exact timing varies depending upon how thick the chicken is and how much you are cooking at one time.
- Remove chicken and slice, dice, or shred.
Note: The internal temperature of the chicken should reach 165 °F. Allow it to cool for a few minutes, and then thinly slice or dice before adding to the salad.
How to Toast Walnuts in a Skillet
Toasting intensifies the taste and will make you love this salad even more. Once you've taken this extra step, you won't be able to go back to raw nuts!
Heat a dry frying pan over medium-high heat. Add walnuts to the pan in a single layer and cook for about 3-5 minutes or until lightly fragrant and lightly browned. Stir or shake the pan constantly because the walnuts will burn easily.
Jam Vinaigrette Dressing
A good salad dressing makes all the difference. Am I right? I want one that is easy, very tasty, and doesn't have lots of sugar. This recipe checks all the boxes, and it's hard to believe it only has these 3 ingredients:
- Raspberry or Strawberry preserves - Use an all-natural, low-sugar, or stevia-sweetened brand for a low-carb vinaigrette.
- Avocado oil - Extra virgin olive oil may also be used. But, I find that I notice the EVOO taste much more than I would like. Avocado or canola oil is mild and unnoticeable.
- Lemon juice - We've also used key lime juice!
Start with a 1 to 1 to 1 ratio. Whisk everything together in a small bowl. If desired, add a little extra jam or lemon juice to taste. Store up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
You can make the vinaigrette, cook the chicken, and toast the walnuts ahead of time. But, put Spinach Strawberry Walnut Salad salad together just before serving time!
Toss the spinach leaves with the vinaigrette to generously coat the leaves. Divide the greens between 4 serving dishes or mix them together in a big bowl. After that, just layer all the ingredients on top and enjoy!
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Spinach Walnut Strawberry Salad with Chicken
Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing
- 2 Tablespoons Raspberry or Strawberry preserves or your favorite flavor; use no sugar added or stevia-sweetened for a low-carb version
- 2 Tablespoons Avocado oil or olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons Lemon juice or lime juice
- ½ cup Walnuts
- 10 ounces Baby spinach leaves
- 1 cup shredded Colby Jack cheese
- ½ pound strawberries sliced
- 12 ounces cooked chicken sliced, diced, or shredded
Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing
- Add all of the ingredients to a small bowl and whisk to combine, and set aside.
- To toast walnuts, heat a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Add walnuts and constantly stir for 3-5 minutes or until the walnuts are lightly fragrant and browned. Remove from pan, allow to cool and chop.
- Add spinach to a large bowl.
- Drizzle dressing over the spinach and toss well to coat.
- Top with chicken. Sprinkle walnuts, cheese, and strawberries over the top, and enjoy!