This Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Apple and Pecans is my favorite fall salad! It works both as a side dish and a light lunch.
Once a month I’m creating a recipe to share as a contributor on my friend Lori’s site, RecipeGirl. I first shared this salad there.
You want to eat more fruits and vegetables. Right? I’m convinced they’re the key to achieving your healthiest body and feeling good.
Learn more about my Time-Saving Healthy Family Meal Plan.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s say it’s 3pm and you’re hungry for a snack. You could eat some crackers or a muffin. Or you could munch on a fresh apple, some grapes, or raw carrot sticks, along with a handful of almonds for protein. Which is going to give you the energy boost you need? Which is going to leave you lethargic and craving more carbs? I think you know the answer.
Like you, I struggle to choose healthy fruits and vegetables over carbs and sweets. But when I do, I feel so much better.
I have a really easy way to pack more nutritious fruits and vegetables into your diet. Salads! Eat a salad for lunch and a side salad with your dinner, and you can add at least 4 cups of fruits and veggies to your day.
The trick is to make that salad so full of flavor that you can’t wait to eat it. And if it’s going to be your whole meal, make sure it has enough protein to fill you up. This Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Apple and Pecans is one of my favorite salads that can pass for both a meal and a side dish. The quinoa adds a healthy does of protein to this salad. I love the way that the quinoa combines with the spinach and coats the little bites of goat cheese!
I love this salad so much that I made it two days in a row for two different family gatherings. It’s packed full of delicious flavors and textures. There are sweet-tart apple slices and cranberries, creamy goat cheese, and toasted pecans. The salad is dressed with a bright and tangy homemade honey-lemon vinaigrette. The quinoa absorbs some of the dressing, soaking up delicious flavor along the way. Yum!
If you like to prep your lunches ahead for the week, this Spinach and Quinoa Salad with Apple and Pecans is a great option. You can make the salad on Sunday, and then wait to add the dressing right before serving. Tossing the apples in a little bit of lemon juice will keep them from browning. Enjoy!
- ½ cup uncooked quinoa
- ½ cup raw pecans
- 6 cups fresh baby spinach
- 1 large apple, thinly sliced*
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- 4 ounces goat cheese
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
- a bit of black pepper
- To cook the quinoa, bring 1 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Rinse and drain quinoa and add it to the boiling water. Reduce heat to a low simmer, cover, and cook for 12-15 minutes, until water is absorbed. Transfer quinoa to a bowl to cool.
- Meanwhile, toast the pecans by placing them in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Cook until fragrant, stirring often. Watch pecans carefully as they can go from toasted to burned quickly. Set aside.
- While the quinoa and pecans cool, make the dressing. Whisk together all dressing ingredients until well combined. Set aside.
- To assemble the salad, place the spinach in a large bowl. Add the cooled quinoa, apple slices, cranberries, and toasted pecans. Crumble on the goat cheese. When ready to serve the salad, toss with dressing and serve.