Hearty, satisfying, colorful, full of texture, and alive with bright flavors – this Mixed Berry Spinach Salad and Poppy Seed Dressing is delivering on everything we want our best salad life to be. Salad for dinner? When it looks like this? ABSOLUTELY!
Having called my husband out many times on this blog about his “soup is not a meal” comment makes it just a tad awkward to admit that I used to say, “Salad is not a meal.”
Oh, dear 20-year-old college kid Marci. You were so, so wrong. You just weren't doing it right. Shredded iceberg topped with half a bag of croutons is definitely not a meal. Neither was the cereal with water you used to eat when money got tight . . .
This salad: If there were ever a salad to make you bounce up and down in your seat and erupt with inappropriately timed giggles while your kids are trying to tell you about their day at school . . . this would be the one.
Tender greens, sweet/tart berries, creamy goat cheese, crunchy sweet/spicy walnuts, buttery avocado, and delightfully chewy farro all doused in a tangy poppy seed dressing . . . I just drifted away into a blissful daze of happiness . . . and drool may or may not have just hit my hand.
This is what salad for dinner should look like, my friends! Are you ready to jump on this train?
WHY YOU WILL LOVE THIS BERRY SPINACH SALAD WITH FARRO AND POPPY SEED DRESSING
- INSTANT POT FARRO COMIN' IN HOT: I promised you a great recipe to highlight Instant Pot Farro – THIS IS THE ONE! Farro soaks up the dressing and elevates the entire salad eating experience. My husband is even on board – Farro is a salad must!
- PERFECT HARMONY OF INGREDIENTS: For a salad to be next level, each ingredient needs to have presence without overshadowing the others. The combo of goat cheese, berries, nuts, farro, and avocado play so well together, there's simply never a boring bite.
- POPPY SEED DRESSING: Typically this type of dressing is cotton candy sweet and has your salad veering way too close to “Dessert Land”. This lightened-up version is bright and punchy and will be your new go-to salad dressing.
- HEALTHY, WHOLESOME, YUMMY: As I tell my kids, I don't eat the foods I do just because they are “healthy”. I eat them because they are insanely delicious and make a drive-thru burger look like dog food. Yay for salads that don't leave you feeling cheated, not for one tiny second.
- SWEET AND SPICY WALNUTS: I suggest that these are optional in the recipe card, but for me personally? Not optional. I make double batches of them and keep them in my freezer at all times.
HOW TO MAKE BERRY SPINACH SALAD WITH POPPY SEED DRESSING
- Shake up the dressing
- Pile your greens on a plate (or in a large salad bowl if you're serving a crowd) and add the toppings
- Drizzle dressing over salad and dive in
SEE RECIPE CARD BELOW FOR DETAILED COOKING INSTRUCTIONS
TIPS FOR SUCCESS
- FAST ASSEMBLY: To make this come together in under 10 minutes, I like to have the farro, walnuts, and poppy seed dressing prepared in advance.
- MAKE IT A FULL MEAL: I typically serve this salad with a side of grilled chicken for dinner and maybe even a hot loaf of Crusty Bread on the side. Keeps the whole family happy 🙂
- YOU DECIDE THE INGREDIENT AMOUNTS: You'll notice in the directions I don't give specific amounts of the ingredients because when it comes to salads, I have a “throw in a bit of this and a bit of that” mentality. You make your salad your way! For example, mine gets half a block of goat cheese – my husband gets a few crumbles (crazy man).
- HOW TO PREPARE FOR A CROWD: As suggested in the recipe notes, for a party crowd I would aim for about 6 – 8 cups of greens which is a good amount of greens for the amount of salad dressing written for. When I make salads for a crowd, I fill a bowl with the greens and toss in half of the toppings with a good amount of dressing. I then add an extra handful of toppings on top and a final drizzle of dressing. Having that extra bit right on top makes it look GORGEOUS and also keeps everything from falling to the bottom of the bowl after the first person takes their serving. Note: if you plan to serve the salad dressing on the side, double the salad dressing recipe. People will always use more if they add it themselves.
- SWAP SPINACH FOR KALE: If you love massaged kale salads like I do, drizzle a little dressing over a bowl full of kale, give it a 1 -2 minute massage, then add the remaining ingredients. AMAZING!
- SWITCH UP THE TOPPINGS: Berries not in season? Try chopped mango or peaches, mandarin oranges, cranberries, or pomegranate seeds. Roasted butternut squash is also delicious.
HOW TO STORE
- Store: If you suspect you'll have leftovers, serve the salad dressing on the side, otherwise the salad will go soggy in the fridge. Each element can be refrigerated and eaten throughout the week, with the exception of the avocado which you'll want to chop right before serving. I keep the walnuts in the freezer for up to 3 months.
MAKE AHEAD TIPS
Prepare the Instant Pot Farro, walnuts, and salad dressing up to 3 days in advance. Wash berries and chop strawberries up to a day in advance. Dice the avocado right before serving – doing this in advance will cause it to brown.
WHAT TO SERVE WITH SPINACH SALAD
- Instant Pot Chicken with Cheese Sauce
- Grilled chicken or steak – Try this Lemon Garlic Grilled Chicken.
- Hot Crusty Bread. This Asiago version would also be delicious.
- Instant Pot Tofu for a vegetarian protein.
- Autumn Style Spinach Salad: Swap the berries for roasted butternut squash or sweet potatoes.
- Strawberry Spinach Salad: Keep it classic by omitting the farro and only adding strawberries – you know you've seen this salad at a party or two!
- Massaged Kale and Berry Salad: Swap the spinach for kale for the most delicious massaged kale salad.
- Sweet Orange Vinaigrette: Swap the poppy seed dressing for this sunny orange version.
Just as my husband is wrong, wrong, wrong about soup not being a meal, I will publicly admit that I was so very wrong to ever suggest that a salad was only an appetizer.
I could happily dive into this salad 5 days a week and never tire of the flavor party it brings to a Plain Jane weeknight dinner.
If you've never experienced farro in a salad before, be sure and report back! I'd love to hear what you think.
MORE INSTANT POT SALAD RECIPES
- Instant Pot Mexican Street Corn Salad
- Instant Pot Caribbean Chicken Salad
- Instant Pot Healthy Potato Salad
- Classic Italian Pasta Salad
TOOLS/INGREDIENTS USED TO MAKE BERRY SPINACH SALAD AND POPPY SEED DRESSING
- Instant Pot
- Mason Jar
- Whisk Ball (my favorite way to shake up dressings)
Mixed Berry Spinach Salad and Poppy Seed Dressing
Berry Spinach Salad with farro and crunchy walnuts, dressed with a tangy Poppy Seed Dressing – this is a salad for dinner you'll be happy to see!
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: Side Dish
- Method: Pressure Cooker
- Cuisine: American
For the Poppy Seed Dressing
- 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 – 3 tablespoons honey (depending on how sweet you like it)
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise or yogurt
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon poppy seeds
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
For the Salad
- spinach (baby kale, arugula, or a spring mix is also good)
- crumbled feta or goat cheese
- avocado, diced
- sliced strawberries, raspberries, and/or blackberries
- Sweet and Spicy Walnuts – recipe below. Can substitute with roasted/salted pecans.
- Instant Pot Farro – see notes
For the Sweet and Spicy Walnuts (Optional but they really make the salad shine. Can be prepared at least a week in advance)
- 3 cups walnuts
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- 2 tablespoons maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ – ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
For the Poppy Seed Dressing
- Place all ingredients in a jar. Shake until thick and incorporated. If the dressing is thinner than you like, add an extra tablespoon of mayo or yogurt. Taste and add extra salt or honey to taste.
For the Salad
- Combine desired amounts of salad ingredients on a plate. Drizzle with salad dressing and serve immediately.
- Note: I left out the measurements on purpose so it could be adjusted to feed an individual or a crowd. To make a large salad for a crowd, I suggest filling a bowl with spinach, folding the salad dressing and half of the toppings into the spinach, then scattering extra toppings on top. This will prevent all of the “goodies” from sinking to the bottom of the bowl when it’s served.
For the Sweet and Spicy Walnuts
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with nonstick foil or parchment paper.
- Place walnuts in a bowl. Drizzle with melted butter and maple syrup and toss to coat.
- Sprinkle nuts with salt, cayenne pepper, and cinnamon and again toss to coat.
- Spread nuts on to baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown. Watch closely and toss them with a spatula every 5 minutes or so to prevent burning.
- Remove from oven and set the pan on a cooling rack. The nuts will crisp as they cool.
- For Instant Pot Farro, combine 1 cup of rinsed farro, 1 ¼ cups water, and ¼ teaspoon salt in the pressure cooker pot. Cook at high pressure for 8 minutes with a 10 minute natural release. Fluff and serve. For more details, see this post about Instant Pot Farro.
- Preparing the farro, walnuts, and salad dressing ahead of time will make the salad come together in minutes when you’re ready to serve. Cooked farro can be stored in the fridge for up to a week. Walnuts can be stored at room temperature for a week or in the freezer for 3 months or so. Salad dressing can be stored for 1 – 2 weeks in the fridge.
- The salad dressing is enough for about 6 cups of greens – perfect for having on an individual salad all week or for one big salad for a crowd.
- If you like massaged kale salads, I suggest chopping up Tuscan kale and massaging a bit of salad dressing into it 15 minutes before adding remaining toppings and extra dressing (this is delicious!)
- Adjust the ingredients to fit your taste. Chopped mango, mandarin oranges, cranberries, or pomegranates make a great substitution for the berries. Roasted butternut squash is also amazing.
- For a more complete meal, add grilled chicken or Instant Pot Shredded Chicken.
Keywords: Spinach Salad, Berry Spinach Salad, Farro Salad
This salad is a winner in my book! There’s so much ingredient flexibility that I’m excited to try different versions. The farro gives it a nice chew and more substance. And the poppy seed dressing has become my new favorite (swoon). I substituted Everything Bagel seasoning for the poppy seeds because I could not find them. (Where the heck are they in a regular grocery store?)
I laughed at your comment about this salad making a drive-thru burger look like dog food! We think alike Marci.
Oh Candice, I do love your comments! I adore Everything Bagel seasoning, so now I’m super excited to try this swap. How much did you use of it?
I always find poppyseed in the spice aisle, is that where you were looking?
And seriously, this salad or fast food burger? Is it even a question. (notice I used a period there instead of a question mark, haha!)
No, it’s not even a question!
I looked in the spice aisle for poppy seeds; maybe I just overlooked them. I used 1 teaspoon of Everything Bagel seasoning in the dressing. My Aldi version of Everything Bagel also has salt, garlic, and onion in it. I probably should have scaled back on the 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp onion powder called for in the dressing as the finished dressing was a little onion-y, but I still loved it!