This Strawberry Basil Pecan Salad with Goat Cheese Dressing is a sweet and tangy summer salad bursting with fresh flavors and homemade croutons.
Do you love salads? I wouldn’t say that I am a huge fan of salad. Like, I am not one of those people who craves salads. I wish I was, it would really make healthy eating easier. So, when I do eat a salad, I like to load it up with different, interesting toppings. Maybe one of the reasons I am not a lover of salad is that I have never been a big fan of salad dressing. I know, it’s weird. In fact, it was only a few years ago that I started using ANY kind of dressing on my salads, before that I ate them plain. Even now I order my dressing on the side, and when I make a salad at home I usually just whisk together a little olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice. I strongly identify with Sally in “When Harry Met Sally” because of her need to order everything on the side.
Usually I find myself throwing together a salad when I have nothing to eat for lunch or if I’m on my own for dinner and don’t want to cook. I tend to rifle through the fridge and pantry until I can come up with some respectable ingredients and then toss everything into one of my HUGE stainless steel bowls with a simple oil and vinegar dressing and eat it right out of that. Pure class.
One of my favorite combinations is strawberries, candied pecans and goat cheese. I had a salad with those ingredients many years ago at a super cute tea house, and I have been riffing on it ever since. And I noticed that often the goat cheese mixes with the vinaigrette and makes a creamy dressing. It’s nice because you get some goat cheese in every bite instead of just getting it every now and then. After my years hating salad dressing, imagine my surprise when I LOVED this goat cheese dressing. The honey balances out the tanginess of the goat cheese and lemon juice, and it is creamy but not heavy.
When I made the first version of this salad, it was a night that I had not made any plans for dinner, Mr. Briar was working late and I was really hungry. I noticed that I had the end of a loaf of bread that was a little too stale to eat on its own, so decided to turn it into croutons. Have you ever made your own croutons? It is so easy, and they are sooo much better than the ones you buy at the store. I like that freshly made croutons have crunch but also are still a little soft in the middle. It makes them easier to eat since they don’t splinter apart when you try to get them on your fork, and also much more pleasant to chew.
Strawberries and basil just taste like summer, the candied pecans add crunch and the homemade crutons really just make this salad a meal. Add that goat cheese dressing and suddenly I am happily eating salad for dinner. So if you, like me, are not a fan of salad, this Strawberry Basil Pecan Salad with Goat Cheese Dressing might just convert you.
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Strawberry Basil Pecan Salad with Goat Cheese Dressing
For The Salad:
- 4-6 cups fresh baby spinach
- 1 cup fresh strawberries sliced
- 1/2 cup candied pecans or just toasted
- 1/2-1 cup basil leaves
For The Croutons:
- 4 ounces high quality bread such as pugliese, cut into cubes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- kosher salt
- fresh ground black pepper
For Goat Cheese Dressing:
- 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
- 1 tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice
- 1 ½ teaspoons honey
- 2 ounces soft goat cheese chevre
- 1 tablespoon water
- kosher salt
- fresh ground black pepper
To make The Croutons:
- Heat oven to 350°F degrees.
- On a baking sheet, toss bread cubes with olive oil and oregano, season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden brown, turning halfway through baking.
To make The Goat Cheese Dressing:
- Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, honey, goat cheese and water. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Add spinach, basil leaves, strawberries, pecans and croutons to a large bowl and toss together. Add dressing and toss to coat. Or you can serve the dressing on the side.
Dressing adapted from Skinnytaste
I love goat cheese. I put it on salads all the time. I don’t know why I never considered making a dressing out of it. This dressing was delicious, and a great way to get the goat cheese in every bite!
Hi Gwen – Yay! So glad you loved the dressing!
Ashlyn // Dollop Of Yum says
I love salad and this looks fantastic! The homemade croutons look absolutely fantastic! I have never gotten around to making them before, but have always wanted to.
Thanks so much Ashlyn! This was the first time I made croutons and it was totally worth it!
Demeter | Beaming Baker says
Omigosh, you’re just like Sally in “When Harry Met Sally”? How funny! I love that last scene, where she’s talking about having the chocolate sauce for the wedding cake on the side. Lol. This strawberry basil salad looks soooo good! I especially love the addition of pecans! Also, congrats on the website layout change! At first, I was like, where am I? Did I type in the wrong url? Hehe. Everything looks great. 🙂 Pinning!
Haha, YES, Demeter, it is my favorite movie! I love it. Although I am not as type A as Sally, my house is def not as clean as hers and I don’t drink Evian 🙂 Thank you for noticing the new layout! I am still tweaking it but I love it so far! Thanks for the pin dear!
Rebecca @ NOURISHED. the blog says
That dressing! I really think I could put that stuff on everything! Love the strawberries and nuts here too!
Thanks so much Rebecca!
I too used to hate salads, but for a different reason. I always associated salads with anemic vegetables and limp lettuce. I no longer hate salads, but even if I were still in my salad hating phase I would give this a try- it looks fantastic.
Oh yes, I hate those wimpy salads too. Thanks so much Allyson!
Nicole @ Young, Broke and Hungry says
I’m the same way and usually thrown whatever random ingredients I find in a bowl and call it a salad.
This recipe though looks so much more classier and the combination of strawberry and goat cheese never fails.
Thanks Nicole! I am all about being classy 😉
Dawn @ Girl Heart Food says
That goat cheese dressing is EVERYTHING! So good! I do enjoy salads, but not just any old salad. I love ones like this with some extra special ingredients in there. I’ve made homemade croutons before and they are so much better than store bought (plus, like yourself, easy way to use stale bread..waste not want not, right 😉 ? ) I bet this would be great with chicken too! Yum!!
Thanks so much Dawn! yes, chicken would be great in here!
I love salad dressings and this goat cheese one would be a great addition to my staple. I mostly make a quick yogurt dressing that goes with almost everything or just plain olive oil and vinegar. I can’t wait to try this and a salad featuring strawberries sounds perfect at the moment.
Thanks so much Adina! Yes, I ususally do very simple dressings as well, this one is a great way to change it up!
Kelsie | the itsy-bitsy kitchen says
Oh Meghan, thank you for this salad. It looks SO GOOD. I’m a salad person completely and now I want this one. Now. Those croutons look amazing, goat cheese and strawberries are perfect together, I love basil. I can’t wait to try it!
Thank you so much Kelsie, I hope you love it!
Megan @ Meg is Well says
Did you say goat cheese dressing? I am so there. And strawberries, candied pecans, and spinach is one of my favorite combos too! I’m sure a lot of healthy eaters are envious of your ability to eat salads without dressing-it’s like a super power.
I can totally see the connect to Sally, from “When Harry Met Sally”! Very particular tastes~~Nothing wrong with knowing your food limits~?
I love this recipe! The spinach/basil mixture is one of my fav’s, and the strawberries are in season now & very addictive. The other ingredients sound like a delicious way to bring it all together~I’ll definetely be trying the goat cheese dressing~~as I’m allergic to dairy, this sounds particularly intriguing to me!
Thank you! Yep, this dressing is just for you!