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This spinach salad is loaded with fresh strawberries, mandarin oranges, goat cheese, candied pecans, and a homemade creamy strawberry dressing. It’s an incredible summery side salad or entree!

Update: This recipe was originally published in 2020 and has been republished with all new photos.

I’ve been making this Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad for years and it is far and away my very favorite salad recipe! The base for the ahhhmazing salad is fresh spinach leaves, strawberries, mandarin oranges, and creamy goat cheese. You like how this is starting, right? Don’t stop there. As good as those ingredients are (so good), it’s the homemade strawberry basil dressing and candied pecans that make people remember this salad.

My Strawberry Basil Dressing is the very best salad dressing in all of the world. It’s lightly sweetened with juicy 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 in minimal time.

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 you’ll only need 4 ingredients. No sugar. No weird sugar substitutes. The pecans give this spinach strawberry salad so much texture and they feel like such a treat.

All these different flavors work together to create the perfect summer salad. I can’t imagine a better light lunch than this. It’s also a great side dish or fun entree any time of year. This is my go-to salad when I have guests over. I’m telling you, offer this beautiful salad to guests when entertaining. They will be impressed!

Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad Ingredients

  • Spinach leaves: Baby spinach is the base for this salad. You can also use baby greens, mixed greens, spring mix, or any leafy greens you enjoy.
  • Strawberries: We want sweet strawberries so make sure the strawberries you select are ripe. This will give you a better tasting salad and dressing.
  • 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 here because they are perfectly soft and sweet all year round! You can find them by the canned fruit in your grocery store.
  • Goat cheese: Goat cheese crumbles add a creaminess to our salad. The cheese breaks apart some and coats the leaves so every boat has plenty of that tangy goat cheese flavor. If you’re looking to use a different cheese I recommend blue cheese, gorgonzola, or feta cheese.
  • Pecan halves: The pecans add a nice crunch to this salad. We’ll roast them with honey to make them extra special!
  • Butter or ghee: Butter or ghee (clarified butter) helps candy our pecans.
  • Honey: Honey is the sweetener of choice for the candied pecans.
  • Cinnamon: Candied nuts are always better with cinnamon.
  • Light olive oil: While I love extra virgin olive oil and use it in tons of recipes, do not use it here. Extra virgin olive oil has a strong flavor and an oily texture that really comes through in the finished dressing. We don’t want that! Light olive oil has a much milder flavor and blends beautifully so the strawberries and basil can shine. Trust me, the light olive oil makes a huge difference here!
  • White wine vinegar: White wine vinegar has a mild flavor that blends well with the other ingredients. You can use champagne vinegar if you need a swap.
  • Orange juice: This dressing is lightly sweet thanks to the strawberries and orange juice.
  • Basil: Fresh basil pairs so well with strawberries.
  • Salt: A little salt amps up the flavor of our salad dressing.

How to Make Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad

We’ll start by making the candied pecans. First melt the butter and stir in honey and cinnamon. Toss the pecans in that sweet mixture and place in the oven.

While the pecans are roasting, let’s create the strawberry dressing. Add all the dressing ingredients (strawberries, light olive oil, white wine vinegar, orange juice, basil, and salt) to a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth.

Chop your finished candied pecans once they come out of the oven.

Now let’s build our delicious salad. Assemble salads by layering spinach, strawberry slices, and mandarin oranges into small bowls or one large salad bowl. Crumble the goat cheese on top. Add chopped candied pecans. Drizzle the strawberry basil dressing on top.

How to Serve this Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad

This is a great side salad or a light entree. You can make it a more substantial meal by adding a protein. Add grilled chicken breasts! My Lemon Herb Grilled Chicken is perfection. To quickly add chicken, 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. Steak would also be amazing with this strawberry goat cheese salad recipe.

Can you make strawberry goat cheese salad ahead of time?

If you’d like to enjoy this strawberry spinach salad later I recommend not adding the goat cheese or the dressing to the other ingredients until you’re ready to enjoy. Store the salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator to up to one day. It’s best to store the homemade dressing in a separate airtight container. Give it a shake or stir before using as it will separate some.

5 from 4 votes

Strawberry Goat Cheese Salad

By Christina
This spinach salad is loaded with strawberries, mandarin oranges, goat cheese, candied pecans, and a homemade creamy strawberry dressing. It's an incredible summery side salad or entree!
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 side salads


Sticky Candied Pecans

  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • 1 tablespoon butter or ghee
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Strawberry Basil Dressing

  • ½ cup light olive oil, Do not use extra virgin.
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • 3 ripe strawberries
  • 3 fresh basil leaves
  • teaspoon salt

Fruits + Veggies + Cheese

  • 5 ounces fresh spinach
  • ½ pound strawberries, sliced
  • 8 ounces mandarin oranges in 100% juice, drained, This is two 4 oz cups.
  • 3 ounces goat cheese
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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.

Assemble 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.


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.


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

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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  1. Halley says:

    Holy smokes this is delicious! I can not believe the dressing! The husband said this is hands down the best salad he’s ever had. I’ve always made a version of this with sunflower seeds, red onion feta cheese, and a balsamic vinaigrette. This will definitely be the new one! Love the creaminess of the goat cheese! The pecans are SO delicious! (I only baked for 10 minutes, maybe my oven is hotter.)  I used coconut oil instead of ghee on the pecans because that’s what I have. I grilled some Jamaican jerk chicken and threw it on top. Super delicious entree salad! Thank you for this recipe!

    Question: could I use the mandarin orange juice from the can for the dressing? I didn’t think about that until afterwards. Maybe I’ll try that next time!

    1. Christina says:

      You certainly could! And so happy you enjoyed this so much!!

  2. Sarah Ostrander says:

    So delicious and a perfect side for holiday meals! 

  3. Emma says:

    Made this for thanksgiving and it was a huge hit! So delicious and easy to put together. 

  4. Krista says:

    Delicious and so simple! We added turkey and used blue cheese instead of goat cheese (only because we had it at home). Easy to substitute what you have on hand. So good!

    1. Christina says:

      Blue cheese would be so good with this! Thank you so much for trying it and leaving such a kind comment, Krista!