Classic Spinach Salad
With tomatoes, mushrooms, red onion, and bacon bits, classic spinach salad is topped with a warm bacon vinaigrette, and garnished with hard-boiled eggs.
Why you’ll love it: Spinach salad is hearty enough for a lunch or light dinner. It’s healthy and filling.
How long it takes: 30 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: skillet
What’s more tempting than a classic spinach salad with warm bacon dressing? The dressing is so good, you could eat it with a spoon: tangy, salty, smoky, sweet, savory. It hits all the flavor bases.
A classic spinach salad is slightly unique. It’s a warm salad. Most salads are made with a cold dressing, partly so that the tender greens stay crisp. A warm salad is made with greens that are more sturdy, maybe even a bit tough. The greens are tenderized by a warm dressing.
I love how the spinach wilts just slightly from the heat of the bacon dressing, not a lot, but just enough. Lightly cooked spinach has so much more flavor than raw spinach.
This has always been one of my favorite salads. It seems a little indulgent with eggs and bacon. Instead of olive oil, the warm vinaigrette dressing incorporates the rendered bacon fat, which is so flavorful.
I hope you don’t get the idea that this salad isn’t good for you. It’s a very delightful way to include healthy dark leafy greens in your diet, plus tomatoes, mushrooms, and onions, all of which are good for you, too.
Enjoy this salad for lunch or dinner. I love to serve spinach salad as a main course with warm crusty bread, like beer bread or Dutch oven bread. Spinach salad goes perfectly as a side dish with creamy soups, like smoky roasted tomato soup or creamy carrot soup.
About This Recipe
This salad comes together pretty quickly. You’ll need about a half hour to pull it together.
To save time, buy a package of pre-washed, ready-to-serve spinach, and mushrooms that are already cleaned and sliced. It doesn’t take long to slice the tomatoes and onion. The eggs can be made a day or two in advance (we love making hard boiled eggs in the Instant Pot!).
I’ll run through the how-tos right here to get you started.
The recipe card near the end of the post has complete instructions, measurements, and nutrition information.
What You’ll Need
- Baby Spinach: Baby spinach leaves are smaller and more tender than larger spinach leaves. If you do use mature spinach, remove the tough stems first and tear or cut the spinach into smaller pieces.
- Cherry or Grape Tomatoes: These bite-sized tomatoes are often sweeter than a larger hothouse tomato. Cut them in half so they can absorb the dressing more easily.
- Fresh Mushrooms: A classic spinach salad usually includes mushrooms. They provide nice color and textural contrast. If you’re not a fan, feel free to omit them.
- Red Onion: Thin slivers of red onion provide a savory balance to the salad.
- Hard-Boiled Eggs: The eggs can prepped ahead of time. Use the stovetop method or cook them in your Instant Pot. Instant Pot hard boiled eggs are always easy to peel.
- Thick Cut Bacon: The bacon is chopped into pieces and fried. You’ll use the crispy pieces to garnish the salad and reserve the drippings for the dressing. I prefer thick cut because the pieces are more substantial and hold up better in the salad. While we typically love to bake bacon, you’ll want to pan fry this because you’ll be using the drippings for the dressing.
- Shallot: Thinly sliced shallots are softened in the bacon drippings and added to the dressing.
- Garlic: A small clove of garlic is cooked in the dressing to add a very mild garlic flavor.
- Red Wine Vinegar: Fermented red wine vinegar is lightly acidic with a touch of sweetness.
- Maple Syrup, Worcestershire Sauce, Dijon Mustard: These three ingredients are flavor enhancers. You don’t need very much, just a hint of all three, along with Salt and Pepper.
How To Make It
Begin by hard boiling the eggs if you haven’t prepped them ahead of time. If you use the stovetop method, you’ll need 15 to 20 minutes to boil the eggs, or 10 minutes if you use your Instant Pot.
Next, prepare the salad ingredients and place them in a large bowl. Stir together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or measuring cup.
Chop the bacon into half-inch pieces and fry the pieces until they are crisp.
Remove the pieces to a paper towel lined plate to drain, reserving most of the rendered fat (bacon grease).
Add the shallot and briefly sauté it until it’s softened; add the garlic and cook for a quick minute or until it smells good. Don’t burn the garlic or it may taste bitter.
Give the dressing ingredients a quick stir and pour them into the hot skillet. Stir and cook for a couple of minutes until the vinaigrette is steaming hot. If you’re not ready to serve the salad, turn the heat down and keep the dressing warm.
Pour the dressing over the spinach mixture, tossing lightly until coated.
Garnish the salad with the bacon and hard boiled egg slices. Toss again, if desired. Serve immediately.
Make It Your Own
- Instead of spinach, serve the salad on sturdy lettuce, such as Romaine, or baby kale, dandelion greens, or arugula.
- Add crisp homemade croutons or toasted sunflower seeds to the salad. Spinach salad tastes great with feta cheese added, too.
- Cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, or balsamic vinegar can be substituted for the red wine vinegar. Each have unique flavors that will change the salad in exciting ways.
To get a start on the salad ahead of time, boil the eggs, peel, and chill them in the refrigerator up to 3 days in advance. Prep the spinach ahead of time: wash and spin it dry. The dressing can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. When ready to serve the salad, reheat the dressing in a small skillet until steaming hot.
Once the salad has been topped with the warm dressing, it’s best served immediately. If you don’t plan on serving it right away, store the salad and dressing separately in the refrigerator. Reheat the dressing right before serving.
Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me @rachelcooksblog on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest!
- 2 large eggs, hard boiled (see note)
- 5 ounces baby spinach
- 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
- ¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 4 slices thick cut bacon (5 to 6 oz.), cut into ½ inch pieces
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced (about ¼ cup)
- 1 small clove garlic, minced
- Hard boil eggs, if you haven’t done that yet. See the notes below for stovetop method or use your favorite method. Slice or chop the eggs and set aside.
- In a large bowl, toss together spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, and red onion.
- Whisk together red wine vinegar, maple syrup, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl or measuring cup.
- In a medium sized skillet over medium heat, fry chopped bacon until crisp. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to cool. Reserve 3 tablespoons of drippings in skillet.
- Over medium heat, sauté shallot until softened, 1 to 2 minutes; add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Give the dressing ingredients a quick whisk and then add to the pan. Continue to cook until dressing is steaming hot, about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Pour warm dressing over salad. Toss until coated. Garnish with sliced hard-boiled eggs and bacon. Serve immediately.
- To hard boil eggs (stovetop method): Place eggs in a single layer in the bottom of a saucepan. Cover with cold water, at least one inch over the top of the eggs. To prevent cracking and to help the eggs peel more easily, add ½ teaspoon salt or baking soda when the water starts to boil.
Over high heat, uncovered, bring water and eggs to a full boil. Turn the heat off, cover the pan, and let the eggs sit for 10 to 12 minutes.
Drain water from eggs, and immediately place them in a bowl of ice water for 4 to 5 minutes or until completely cooled.
Peel the eggs carefully under running water); pat the eggs dry with paper towels.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.
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