Spinach, strawberries, mandarin oranges, goat cheese, and a homemade creamy strawberry dressing along with candied pecans. OH BABY. This will be your go to salad when you really want to impress!

I’ve been making this Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad for years! I think the first time was with my mother in-law. We love to experiment in the kitchen together. I’m pretty sure we used a sugar and chemical laden store-bought raspberry vinaigrette and some type of packaged candied nuts. Hey, it worked and this was before I became an ingredient label reader so I lived in a blissful bubble of obliviousness. But later I started taking the extra time to make my own pecans and dressing. Friend, it is oh so worth it.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the basics.

The base for the ahhhmazing salad is fresh spinach leaves, strawberries, mandarin oranges in 100% juice (drained), and goat cheese. You like how this is starting, right?

Why stop there? Don’t stop there. As good as those ingredients are (so good), it’s the Strawberry Basil Dressing and Sticky Candied Pecans that make people remember this salad.

My Strawberry Basil Dressing is my all time favorite dressing in all of the world. It’s lightly sweetened with strawberries and a splash of orange juice. Just toss a few simple ingredients into your blender and you’re done! You’ll have a creamy, luscious dressing that wows.

Every salad needs some crunch and this salad’s crunch is courtesy of my Sticky Candied Pecans. They’re far less expensive than the kind you’ll find in the store. Plus they have a super clean ingredient list. You’ll only need 4 ingredients. No sugar. No weird sugar substitutes. 

Enjoy this gorgeous salad as a side or entree. I’m telling you, offer it to guests when entertaining. When I have people over and they first see it their eyes light up big!

Rest assured, whether you serve this as a side or entree, everyone who is fortunate enough to eat it will be happy.

Why use mandarin oranges in 100% juice

While I’m typically a big proponent of all the fresh veggies and fruits, we’re not using fresh oranges here. What is that about, huh? I prefer those 4 oz cups of mandarin oranges in 100% juice in most salads because they are perfectly soft and sweet all year round!

Check those ingredients because some brands like to sneak in other things we don’t want. You’re looking for one with only fruit juice. No syrup and no sweeteners! We don’t need ’em.

3 ways to make this salad an entree

  1. You can easily enjoy this as a salad without any changes at all! Just serve up two large portions and call it an entree and, my friend, it will be an entree.
  2. Add grilled chicken! When I made this a few weeks ago for my neighbor and I to enjoy at lunch I topped our salads with my Lemon Herb Grilled Chicken. It was perfection.
  3. Love the idea of chicken on this salad but prefer a quick way to make that happen? I got you. Either shred up a store-bought rotisserie chicken (easily the greatest cooking life hack for any recipe ever) or use leftover chicken from your dinner the night before.

More recipes like this:

Ranch Chicken Chopped Salad

Berry Avocado Salad

Buffalo Grilled Chicken Salad

Blueberry Citrus Salad

Southwestern Steak Salad with Lime Vinaigrette

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Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad

Spinach, strawberries, mandarin oranges, goat cheese, and a homemade creamy strawberry dressing along with candied pecans. OH BABY. This will be your go to salad when you really want to impress!

Ingredients

Sticky Candied Pecans

  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Strawberry Basil Dressing

  • 1/2 cup light olive oil, Do not use extra virgin.
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 3 ripe strawberries
  • 3 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Fruits + Veggies + Cheese

  • 5 oz fresh spinach
  • 1/2 lb strawberries, sliced
  • 8 oz mandarin oranges in 100% juice, drained, This is two 4 oz cups.
  • 3 oz goat cheese

Instructions

Sticky Candied Pecans

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Add your ghee (or butter) and honey to a small pot on the stove. Melt over low or medium-low heat. Stir. Add the cinnamon. Stir again until well combined. Remove from heat. (You can also use the microwave to melt your ghee or butter. Be sure to use a microwave safe bowl. Stir in the honey and cinnamon.)
  • Place your pecan halves in a bowl. Pour the syrup mixture over your pecans. Stir until well coated. (I don't recommend trying to mix them up on the sheet pan. I find that the pecans don't get very well covered that way and you end up wasting a lot of the syrup.)
  • Spread the coated pecans in a single layer on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
  • Once cool, use a knife to chop the candied pecans. You can leave them in halves if you prefer. Set aside.

Strawberry Basil Dressing

  • While pecans are roasting, add all dressing ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.

Assembling the Salad

  • Assemble salads by layering spinach, strawberries, and mandarin oranges. Crumble the goat cheese on top. Add chopped Sticky Candied Pecans. Drizzle Strawberry Basil Dressing.

Notes

When I’m entertaining with this recipe I like to make the pecans earlier in the day and let them sit out to cool. That way the hardest part of the recipe is done well in advance. I then just blend the dressing, chop the finished pecans, and assemble the salads closer to the time my guests will arrive.
Feel free to double the dressing ingredients if you’d like more. I do if I’m serving a crowd.
Store any leftover dressing in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to 2 weeks. Shake or stir to eliminate separation before serving. 
This recipe easily creates 4 hearty side salads or 8 smaller (but still reasonably sized) side salads. You can also just turn it into 2 entrees. 
Nutritional information assumes 4 servings.

Nutrition

Calories: 575kcal, Carbohydrates: 22g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 54g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Cholesterol: 19mg, Sodium: 182mg, Potassium: 480mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 15g, Vitamin A: 3958IU, Vitamin C: 61mg, Calcium: 112mg, Iron: 2mg

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