Spinach Blackberry Salad with Balsamic Chicken
A delicious summer salad bursting with crisp cucumber, juicy blackberries, crunchy pecans, and balsamic-marinated chicken. An easy blackberry vinaigrette takes it over the top. Fresh, filling, and healthy!
While I love a simple spinach salad as much as anyone, sometimes you just want to make things a little more exciting. The dark, leafy green is incredibly nutritious and makes the perfect base for all kinds of extras.
You’ll love this particular spinach blackberry salad because it uses simple ingredients, is light and healthy, and has a terrific balance of flavors and textures.
With the addition of tender grilled chicken, this salad makes a wonderful, complete lunch or dinner. I love serving it as a side dish, too, without the chicken if it’s alongside another main.
That combination of spinach, cucumbers, and blackberries is just too perfect and easy to throw together — you’ll want it all the time!
What you need for a spinach blackberry salad
- Spinach: I buy pre-washed spinach nearly every week. It lasts longer than most other greens and can be used in countless ways.
- Blackberries: Juicy, plump, slightly sweet, slightly tart. A jewel of summer!
- Cucumber: Light, crisp cucumber goes so perfectly with blackberries, it’s a no-brainer to add to this salad. Use small Persian cucumbers, as shown here, or a long, thin English cucumber, sliced and halved. Either has relatively low water content and will help you avoid a soggy salad (ick).
- Glazed pecans: Every salad needs a little crunch! I usually buy these at Trader Joe’s, where they are sold with the other nuts and dried fruit. Similar versions are available at nearly any grocery store. If they’re not located with other nuts, look near croutons and other salad fixings.
- Crumbled feta: Every salad also needs a little creaminess! If feta’s not your thing, try goat cheese or ricotta salata (which is different from regular ricotta).
- Blackberry vinaigrette: Takes an already delicious salad and knocks it out of the park! And it’s easy — just a blend of pureed blackberries, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dried thyme, salt, and pepper.
- Grilled balsamic chicken: If you’re adding the protein, get excited, because this marinade is to die for. To make it, you’ll need more olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
This is the same marinade I created for balsamic grilled chicken Cobb salads. It’s so good we had to find more ways to enjoy it!
If you’re really pressed for time, or only have a few blackberries, you can save them for the salad and skip the blackberry dressing. Just use a basic balsamic vinaigrette instead.
Tips and time-savers
- Pre-washed, pre-crumbled: A little convenience goes a long way; pre-washed baby spinach and pre-crumbled feta make it quick and easy to throw this together.
- Hit the marinade window: You can marinate the chicken for as little as 20 minutes or up to four hours ahead of time. If you need to marinate it longer — say, overnight — leave out the lemon juice. The acid in even a small amount of citrus can negatively impact the texture of chicken when left in a marinade for a long time.
- Shake and store the dressing: If you have a small jar with a tight-fitting lid, such as a reused jam jar, it’s the perfect vessel for making salad dressing. Store any extra in the fridge. It keeps well for at least a week — just let it sit at room temperature for a minute or two and shake well to recombine before using.
- Extra chicken? Great! Save it and serve alongside grilled veggies the next night, or shred it for use in a sandwich or another salad. Balsamic chicken should never go to waste!
More spinach salads
- Balsamic Sea Salt Spinach Salad (takes 2 minutes and goes with everything!)
- Spinach Salad with Bacon and Eggs
- Spinach Salad with Nectarines and Pecans
- Strawberry Spinach Salad with Walnuts and Feta
Are you a spinach salad fan? If you make this summery blackberry version, don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! I love to know how recipes go for you, and it helps other readers, too.
Spinach Blackberry Salad with Balsamic Chicken
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
- 8-10 cranks fresh-ground black pepper
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 3/4 cup blackberries
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- pinch kosher or sea salt
- 6-8 cranks fresh-ground black pepper
- 4 cups baby spinach
- 1-2 Persian cucumbers sliced
- 1 cup blackberries
- 1/4 cup glazed pecans
- 2-3 tablespoons crumbled feta
- First, prep the chicken. In a large bowl, combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Whisk until smooth. Add the chicken, turning to coat in the marinade. Cover and transfer to the fridge for at least 20 minutes and up to 4 hours.
- When ready to cook, discard marinade and grill or saute chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. Set aside and, when slightly cooled, slice into strips.
- To make the dressing, puree blackberries in a food processor or blender. Press the resulting pulp through a fine mesh strainer or sieve to remove the seeds. Discard seeds; combine strained puree with the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt, and pepper in a small jar with a tight-fitting lid. Cover, shake well, and set aside until ready to serve. Dressing can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week.
- To assemble the salads, combine spinach, cucumbers, and blackberries in a bowl. Drizzle on a small amount of the dressing and toss. Add sliced chicken, pecans, and feta. Serve with additional dressing as desired.
- This yields 2 generous salads, perfect for a filling lunch or dinner. If serving as a side, estimate 4 portions.