Few things are more satisfying than a hearty Spinach Salad with warm Bacon Dressing. Thick-sliced bacon and some of its melted fat gently wilt the leafy greens, while hard-boiled eggs and red onion make every bite amazing.
Old-fashioned spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette is a blast from the past, and absolutely worth a revisit. After all, what’s not to love about a salad dressing made with bacon drippings? It’s the perfect balance of sweet and tangy, smoky and bright. And it’s the perfect way to use up one of those giant bags of baby spinach in your veggie drawer.
Chances are that everyone will eat Popeye-sized proportions of this salad, so don’t worry about the bacon fat. The warm dressing gently wilts the salad, sneaking more leafy greens onto every delicious forkful.
Just make sure that you have your prep ready to go and your eggs cooked, because this salad should be served almost immediately after tossing. In fact, buying pre-washed spinach might be your best move to reduce prep and get dinner on the table pronto!
Spinach salad ingredients:
- Spinach. This can be baby spinach, or the curly, velvety larger leaf spinach. Just make sure you rinse mature spinach well in lots of cold water, since it usually grows in sandy soil.
- Eggs. Hard or soft-boiled eggs give the spinach salad a little extra creamy oomph. How to boil eggs perfectly? That’s down below.
Warm bacon dressing ingredients:
- Bacon. Thick-cut bacon, uncured bacon, or maple bacon. Smoked, hickory, it’s all good here.
- Olive oil. Depending on how fatty the bacon is, you may need to add a little olive oil to the dressing to get the proportions right. But then again, you may not.
- Red onion. Minced shallots or onion give an extra bit of bite to the dressing.
- Sugar. Or honey, if you’d rather! The dressing is on the sweet side, so if that’s not what you’re after, start with a small amount and add more if needed. Some people add a dollop of mustard to balance out the sweet.
- Vinegar. White vinegar works, but so does apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, or even balsamic vinegar. (Lemon juice works, too!)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper. With this salad, salt and pepper matters more than ever!
Optional salad ingredients:
- Croutons. Make your own croutons out of bread, pita, or cornbread.
- Red onion slices. The dressing has red onion, but a little extra onion never hurt anyone.
- Mushrooms. Raw sliced button mushrooms are traditional and taste delicious.
- Sunflower seeds. Shelled sunflower seeds add crunch and good fats to the salad.
- Apple. A Fuji or Gala apple, sliced, can add unexpected crunch.
- Cheese. Go all-out with some crumbled Gouda or blue cheese.
- Walnuts. Toasted walnuts, especially.
How to make the salad dressing:
- First, chop the bacon into small pieces. Fry it up in a skillet over medium heat until the bacon gets crispy. When done, move the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate while you work on the next step.
- Next, carefully pour the bacon drippings into a liquid measuring cup. You need ¼ cup rendered bacon fat to make the dressing in the recipe as it is written. If you have more than that, you can discard the extra. If you don’t have enough, top it off with olive oil until you hit the ¼ cup mark.
- Then pour the fat back into the skillet and heat over medium high heat until it shimmers. Add the red onion, vinegar, sugar, and some salt and pepper.
- Cook the dressing until the onion softens—about 3 minutes. Then remove from the heat. Most importantly, make sure you have your other salad ingredients ready to go; this salad is at its best when the dressing is still warm.
How to make Spinach Salad with bacon dressing:
- Grab your biggest bowl and add the spinach. You should probably add more than you think you’ll need; as the dressing coats the spinach, the greens will shrink down in volume.
- Next, pour the warm bacon dressing right over the spinach and toss well to combine. The spinach will become super glossy and rich-looking.
- Once the spinach is tossed, you can divide the salad up into portions for a plated salad, and add the crisp bacon and egg slices to the top of each. Or, you can serve it on a giant platter with the egg and bacon on top so everybody can eat family-style.
The best way to hard boil an egg:
Someone could write an entire book on all the ways to boil an egg, but here’s a fail-proof method for making beautiful hardboiled eggs.
- First, place eggs in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil.
- Boil the eggs for exactly one minute, then immediately remove from the heat. Cover the pan and let the eggs sit in the hot water for exactly (eggsactly?) 10 minutes. Meanwhile, make a separate bowl of ice water and keep it nearby.
- Then immediately drain the eggs and plunge them into the bowl of ice water. Once the eggs have cooled, they’re ready to peel and slice.
Low-sugar, Whole30, or keto spinach salad:
The warm bacon dressing has a lot of sugar. If you’re limiting your carbs, following a specific diet, or just trying to eat less sugar, here are some great options.
- Use a keto-friendly sugar substitute. Monkfruit powder, Swerve, or stevia.
- Go natural. Make the salad dressing with honey, date paste, date sugar, or agave nectar.
- Roasted sweet potato. Leftover cubes of cooked sweet potato can add sweetness without the processed sugar.
Spinach Salad with Bacon Dressing
For the bacon dressing:
- 1 pound bacon finely chopped
- Olive oil as needed (see note 1)
- 1 red onion minced (see note 2)
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar or less to taste (see note 3)
- 1/2 cup white vinegar (see note 4)
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
- 1 pound baby spinach (see note 5)
- 4 large eggs hard-boiled, peeled, and quartered
To make the bacon dressing:
- In a large skillet over medium heat, fry bacon until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels.
- Pour rendered bacon fat into a measuring cup. Pour off all but ¼ cup, or add olive oil to reach ¼ cup. Return fat to skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.
- Add onion, sugar, vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste (I like ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper). Cook until onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat.
To make the salad:
- In a very large bowl, add spinach. Immediately pour over warm bacon dressing and toss to wilt. Portion the salad onto individual plates if desired and garnish with bacon and eggs.
- Olive oil: If you don't render enough fat from your bacon, just add olive oil until you reach ¼ cup.
- Red onion: Minced shallot works too.
- Sugar: This dressing is sweet. If you don't like overly sweet dressings, feel free to start with 1 or 2 tablespoons of sugar and increase as you see fit.
- Vinegar: I always use white vinegar, but cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, or white wine vinegar are also good.
- Spinach: Flat-leaf spinach is the best for salads and is usually sold in bunches or pre-washed in bags (often labeled "baby spinach"). Curly-leaf spinach, sold in crinkly bags, is tough, fibrous, and better for cooking than eating raw.
- Cleaning your spinach: Wash small amounts of greens in a bowl, swishing around to loosen any dirt. Spin dry in a salad spinner or lay on a clean kitchen towel. Roll up the kitchen towel and store in the refrigerator to keep your greens fresh.
- Croutons: Make your own croutons out of leftover bread.
- Extra vegetables: Add thinly sliced raw mushrooms or red onion slices (soak in ice water if they seem angry).
- Nuts: Toasted sunflower seeds or walnuts would both taste good with this salad.