Vegan spinach salad is a classic recipe that pairs perfectly with sweet and tangy maple balsamic dressing! In this post you’ll learn how to make a filling, satisfying side salad or light meal that’s fresh and tastes amazing.
Made entirely with plant-based ingredients, this recipe contains my go-to spinach salad ingredients with plenty of ideas on how to customize to your preferences. However you make your spinach salad, I hope you enjoy!
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Is Spinach Salad Vegan?
While spinach salad can certainly be made vegan, more classic or traditional recipes contain animal-based ingredients like cheese (feta or goat), meat (bacon) or eggs. Any of these ingredients make a spinach salad not vegan-friendly, therefore if you’re dining at a restaurant, you’ll want to double-check ingredients they use.
If making spinach salad at home, you have many options to veganize the recipe without reducing taste, texture, or your overall satisfaction. Whether you stick to my recipe or experiment with your own ingredients, you can absolutely make a vegan spinach salad that tastes great!
An important consideration when making salad is to make sure it is satisfying. Adding protein, fats and/ or carbohydrates can make salad more filling and satiating! Nuts and seeds, avocado, oil and fruits can help add variety, texture, flavor and a boost of nutrition to create a balanced and enjoyable spinach salad!
Vegan Spinach Salad Ingredients
There are two main components to any great vegan spinach salad. First, you’ll want to consider the main veggies and flavor-boosting ingredients that make the bulk of the salad. Once you’re happy with that mix, ensure you pair it with a great dressing.
Spinach Salad Vegetables and Flavor-boosters
- Spinach: Spinach is an amazing leafy green that provides a nutritious mix of vitamins and minerals. Its broad leaves are great for salad since it hangs on to dressing and other ingredients quite well.
- Pecans: My preferred nut of choice for this recipe, pecans are mild in flavor but pack in a lot of protein and healthy fats.
- Dry cranberries: Adding some sweetness, dried cranberry pieces really bring a lot of flavor to the salad and help it to feel more satisfying – especially for people who don’t typically like to eat a leafy green salad.
- Cucumber: Providing a crisp, light crunch to the salad, cucumber adds more green color and variety of vegetables to make the salad more interesting.
- Avocado: For a creamy boost of healthy fats that’ll keep you full and satisfied, avocado is a delicious choice!
- Hemp seeds: For more protein and healthy fats, hemp seeds are a great addition. They mix in nicely with the rest of the salad so you don’t notice them, but their nutritious properties make them an amazing spinach salad topping.
- Green onion: While other types of onions might overpower the salad, green onion has a mild flavor, providing its own unique taste.
Spinach Salad Dressing Ingredients
- Balsamic vinegar: This vegan spinach salad recipe tastes amazing with a balsamic vinegar-based dressing. As the base of the dressing, balsamic vinegar provides a flavorful acidity and exciting tanginess.
- Dijon mustard: I love adding mustard to salad dressings, and this one is no different. Dijon mustard adds some more “kick” to the dressing, making it unforgettable.
- Maple syrup: To balance out the vinegar, maple syrup provides some needed sweetness.
- Olive oil: For an extra boost of tasty and satisfying fats, olive oil makes this recipe so much more enjoyable.
- Salt: A pinch of salt further enhances all the flavors from the main salad ingredients and the dressing too.
How to Make Spinach Salad
Ready to start making this unforgettably delicious vegan spinach salad recipe?! Just follow the simple steps below and I’m sure yours will turn out amazing!
Step 1: Prepare Spinach Salad Ingredients
Begin by preparing your main salad ingredients. Start by measuring your spinach, then add pecans (whole or pieces), dry cranberries, diced cucumber, avocado, hemp seeds and chopped green onion.
Step 2: Mix Dressing Ingredients in a Small Jar
Salad dressings easy to make; just add all your ingredients in a small glass jar and give it a good shake (lid on).
You could also whisk the dressing together in a small bowl, using a fork or whisk if you prefer.
Step 3: Toss Together
When ready to serve, give your sealed jar of salad dressing another shake, then remove the lid. Pour the dressing over the prepped salad.
Toss the dressing and all salad ingredients together until everything is coated with dressing. The toppings may fall to the bottom of the mixing bowl, so when it comes time to serve make sure you reach down to get all that goodness!
Spinach Salad Variations
Want to make this salad uniquely your own? Made it a few times and want to try something new? Check out the ideas below to innovate your spinach salad.
Additional Salad Dressing Ideas
There are countless options for making delicious vegan spinach salad dressings. While I’ve chosen a maple balsamic dressing for this recipe, there’s plenty of other options including:
- Tahini dressing: Tahini, maple syrup, lemon juice, water, salt. Makes for a creamy and rich salad dressing.
- Avocado sauce: Avocado, lime juice, garlic powder (or fresh garlic), salt, pepper, water. Blend to create a flavorful and tasty dressing.
- Lemon Dijon dressing: Lemon juice, Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt, garlic powder, onion powder (possibly with ground coriander seed). Whisk for a tangy and spicy spinach salad dressing.
- Oil and vinegar: Any type of vinegar (red wine, white wine, white balsamic, apple cider etc.) plus your favorite olive oil. Add salt, pepper and other herbs/ spices for endless possibilities.
How to Build a Delicious and Nutritious Salad
The ingredients used in a spinach salad recipe are extremely flexible. Use whatever you like or have on hand! When it comes to making a tasty vegan spinach salad, the key is to layer in the flavors and textures from different ingredients. Here’s how to make a flavorful vegan spinach salad:
- Start with spinach: You could add in a variety of leafy greens as well!
- Add a crunchy nut (or seeds): This recipe uses pecans. Salads without a crunch are never as good (in my opinion). Almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, the possibilities are endless!
- Use fresh or dried fruit: The sweetness adds a nice layer of flavor. I love pairing cranberries with spinach. Fresh strawberries, apples or peaches are also great when in season.
- Add more crunch: Additional vegetables like cucumber can bring variety, flavor and crunch. Celery, carrots, bell pepper and radishes are other tasty options.
- Make it creamy: Use avocado or a nut/ seed butter to add a creamy element to the salad. Nut or seed butters are great to add to the salad dressing. This is optional, but I’ll never pass up an opportunity to eat avocado!
- Boost the flavor: Add ingredients like sliced green onion to pack in another layer of flavor to your spinach salad. Ginger, garlic or other aromatics are also a great option (could be blended into the salad dressing). Fresh or dried herbs are delicious. Spices (often added to the dressing) is yet another way to increase flavor.
Adding Protein to Vegan Spinach Salad
Nuts and seeds are by far the easiest option to add vegan protein to a salad. For this spinach salad recipe, I’ve chosen hemp seeds and pecans. Hemp seeds pack in protein and the pecans add a good crunch! Other vegan protein options for salads include:
- Chickpeas (regular or roasted)
- Black beans
- Tofu (marinated, baked, pan fried, smoked etc.)
- Tempeh (cooked/ baked etc.)
- Vegan bacon bits
- Tofu feta cheese
- Edamame (cooked and shelled)
Protein can also be found in salad dressings that use a nut and/or seed butter (ex. tahini, peanut butter) or has nuts and/or seeds blended in. I also have a high protein Caesar salad dressing recipe if you’d like to check it out!
Carbohydrates for a Filling Salad
This spinach salad recipe is lower in carbohydrates compared to most meals I eat, which is why I consider this a side salad. However, some people prefer meals that are lower in carbohydrates so do what works for you!
Lower amounts of carbohydrates are a main reason some salads aren’t filling or satisfying. Many people make the mistake of not adding carbohydrates to a salad, then feel hungry or have low energy later in the day (if they are relying on the salad for a meal on it’s own).
Some tasty vegan carbohydrate options for spinach salad include:
- Cooked sweet potato
- Fresh or dried fruit
- Vegan croutons
- Cooked grains (ex. barley, amaranth etc.)
You can also add carbs to the side of a salad. For example, a side of whole grain bread or a whole wheat pita.
How to Store Spinach Salad
This recipe is best consumed within a couple hours of mixing all the ingredients and dressing together. If you have any leftovers, store in an air tight container in the fridge.
Try to eat the remaining salad the next day because after a day or two the balsamic dressing will wilt the spinach leaves.
To make this recipe and have it available for multiple meals, I recommend keeping the salad and dressing separate until ready to eat. Divide the salad greens and nuts/ seeds into individual portions and keep your sealed jar of dressing available so that you can pour some over your salads before eating.
If you make this recipe, please rate and comment below to help others benefit from your experience!
Vegan Spinach Salad with Maple Balsamic Dressing
Spinach Salad Base
- 6 cups spinach
- ½ cup pecans
- ½ cup dry cranberries
- ¾ cup cucumber
- 1 medium avocado
- ¼ cup hemp seeds
- ½ cup green onion
- Prepare salad ingredients by chopping them and adding to a salad bowl.6 cups spinach, ½ cup pecans, ½ cup dry cranberries, ¾ cup cucumber, 1 medium avocado, ¼ cup hemp seeds, ½ cup green onion
- Whisk together the dressing ingredients or shake together in a jar.3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt
- Toss the salad with dressing before serving and enjoy!
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About Nicole Stevens
Nicole is a vegan Registered Dietitian (RD) and founder of Lettuce Veg Out.
She helps people thrive on a vegan diet with balanced recipes and easy-to-understand nutrition science.