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This hearty Winter Salad is tossed with a light citrus vinaigrette and loaded with bacon, cranberries, red onion, toasted pecans and crumbled feta cheese. It’s sweet, savory, salty and absolutely delicious! Perfect for holiday gatherings or simple weeknight dinners.

Close overhead shot of a bowl of spinach salad with pecans cranberries and feta cheese

Fresh green salads are a staple in our meal plan all summer long, while roasted vegetables tend to take center stage during the cooler months. You might love a Southern Sweet Potato Casserole or a pan of Garlic Roasted Broccoli, but that doesn’t mean that you have to ignore a simple spinach salad at this time of year.

A winter salad with a bright, zesty orange dressing is the perfect companion for heavier entrees. It’s full of flavor, but it won’t weigh you down!

What is Winter Salad?

Winter salad highlights the produce and flavors that are more readily available in the cool weather months. Winter salad recipes can feature roasted root vegetables, cranberries, winter salad greens, pomegranates, and citrus fruit. The options are endless, so feel free to make substitutions that reflect your personal preferences. There’s no wrong way to enjoy a salad!

Process shot of adding Winter Salad ingredients to a large bowl

How to make Winter Salad:

This particular salad only requires a few minutes of work — just be sure that you allow enough time to cook, cool and crumble your bacon before you’re ready to assemble!

What goes in a winter salad:

First, combine all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl. I’ve used baby spinach here, but you can substitute with other greens of your choice.

Overhead shot of winter salad ingredients in a blue and white bowl

What are winter salad greens?

If you don’t want to use the baby spinach, you can substitute with other cool weather greens such as arugula, kale, or even shaved Brussels sprouts.

Prepare the Salad Dressing:

Next, prepare the citrus vinaigrette to dress your salad.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Olive oil
  • Orange juice and orange zest
  • Dijon mustard
  • Maple syrup
  • Green onions
  • Salt

Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a jar with a lid.

Citrus vinaigrette dressing in a mason jar

When zesting the orange, be sure that you only scrape off the outer peel — this is where all of the essential oils and flavors are found. You do not want to scrape off the white pith, since it has a bitter taste.

Orange with microplane for zest

Just before serving, whisk or shake together the dressing until completely combined. Then just drizzle over the salad, to taste!

Pouring winter salad dressing over a bowl of spinach greens

What to eat with Winter Salad:

This light, fresh, and bright salad is the perfect contrast to heartier winter fare. Any of these entrees will go well with the salad:

Citrus vinaigrette dressing in a glass bottle for winter salad

Cook’s Tips and Recipe Variations:

  • I used a 5-ounce container of baby spinach leaves here, but you can increase the amount of spinach (and other toppings) to accommodate the size of your group.
  • If you like a lot of dressing, or if you’re doubling or tripling the salad ingredients to serve a larger crowd, you can easily double or triple the dressing ingredients as well.
  • Prepare the dressing in advance and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Allow the dressing to come to room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving, and whisk or shake at the last minute to combine.
  • Add sliced pear to the salad.
  • Substitute fresh pomegranate seeds in lieu of the cranberries.
  • Use goat cheese or blue cheese instead of the feta cheese.
  • Swap out the pecans and use chopped walnuts or slivered almonds instead.
  • Champagne vinaigrette, poppy seed dressing, or balsamic vinaigrette would all be great winter salad dressings as well.
  • Prep ahead! Make sure that you allow enough time to cook and cool the bacon, and to toast and cool the nuts before assembling the salad. For a shortcut, you can purchase pre-cooked bacon at the grocery store. To quickly “toast” nuts in the microwave, place nuts in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high in 30 second intervals, just until golden brown and fragrant (this usually takes a total of about 1 minute).
  • Make it a meal! Add some rotisserie or other cooked chicken to the salad and serve it as a light entree. The salad is delicious paired with corn muffins or warm bread.
Overhead shot of a winter salad in a ceramic pottery bowl on a wooden surface

More winter salad recipes that you might enjoy:

Close overhead shot of a bowl of spinach salad with pecans cranberries and feta cheese

Winter Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Cooling Time 15 minutes
Total: 40 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 296.9 kcal
This hearty Winter Salad is tossed with a light citrus vinaigrette and loaded with bacon, cranberries, red onion, toasted pecans and crumbled feta cheese!

Ingredients
  

FOR THE SALAD:

  • 2 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 (5 ounce) container fresh baby spinach
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ½ of a small red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons chopped, toasted pecans

FOR THE CITRUS VINAIGRETTE:

  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice + ½ teaspoon orange zest
  • 1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon minced green onions
  • ¾ teaspoon salt

Instructions

  • Place all of the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.
  • Place all of the dressing ingredients in a mason jar, seal the lid, and shake until completely combined. Drizzle over the salad, toss, and serve immediately.

Notes

  • I used a 5-ounce container of baby spinach leaves here, but you can increase the amount of spinach (and other toppings) to accommodate the size of your group.
  • If you like a lot of dressing, or if you’re doubling or tripling the salad ingredients to serve a larger crowd, you can easily double or triple the dressing ingredients as well.
  • Prepare the dressing in advance and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Allow the dressing to come to room temperature at least 30 minutes before serving, and whisk or shake at the last minute to combine.
  • Add sliced pear to the salad.
  • Substitute fresh pomegranate seeds in lieu of the cranberries.
  • Use goat cheese or blue cheese instead of the feta cheese.
  • Swap out the pecans and use chopped walnuts or slivered almonds instead.
  • Champagne vinaigrette, poppy seed dressing, or balsamic vinaigrette would all be great winter salad dressings as well.
  • Prep ahead! Make sure that you allow enough time to cook and cool the bacon, and to toast and cool the nuts before assembling the salad. For a shortcut, you can purchase pre-cooked bacon at the grocery store. To quickly “toast” nuts in the microwave, place nuts in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high in 30 second intervals, just until golden brown and fragrant (this usually takes a total of about 1 minute).
  • Make it a meal! Add some rotisserie or other cooked chicken to the salad and serve it as a light entree. The salad is delicious paired with corn muffins or warm bread.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/4 of the salad and dressingCalories: 296.9kcalCarbohydrates: 21.7gProtein: 5.2gFat: 21.9gSaturated Fat: 5.5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 12.4gCholesterol: 19.2mgSodium: 790.1mgPotassium: 250.9mgFiber: 3gSugar: 17.1g
Keyword: Christmas Salad, citrus vinaigrette, winter salad
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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