This winter pear salad includes spinach, lentils, walnuts, goat cheese and the BEST simple balsamic vinaigrette recipe. Hearty & delicious.
I don't know about you but, with all of the holiday treats around, I start literally craving vegetables. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for enjoying the festive foods this time of year, especially when they're homemade. But when I find myself at home for lunch or a weeknight dinner, I want something veggie-packed to balance it all out.
All that to say, this winter pear salad is exactly what I'm wanting this time of year. It incorporates seasonal ingredients like pears and walnuts but I also feel super good after eating it. Plus, it comes together FAST, which I know we all need this time of year.
The recipe is vegetarian as written but you could easily add some chicken if that's not your thing. This salad works well as an entree OR to bring to a get-together or serve as part of a holiday meal.
You start by cooking the lentils. This can be done ahead of time as part of your weekly meal prep. While they cook, you'll mix the balsamic vinaigrette and thinly slice your pears. Then all you have to do is toss the ingredients together and dinner is done!
Winter Pear Salad
- 1 cup dry lentils (brown or green)
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 5 oz spinach
- 2 pears
- 1 cup walnut halves
- 4 oz goat cheese
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- Place 1c lentils + 2c vegetable broth in a medium pot. Bring to a boil and simmer ~20-25 mins or lentils are cooked until tender but not mushy.
- For balsamic dressing, combine: 1/2c olive oil + 1/4c balsamic vinegar.
- Cut 2 pears into thin slices.
- Toss spinach w/ pears + cooked lentils + walnuts + goat cheese + dressing to taste.
Variations on this Winter Pear Salad
There are SO many tasty variations you can make on this winter pear salad. That's one thing I love about simple recipes – it's easy to experiment and really make them your own! Here are a few ideas if you're in the mood to mix it up:
- Add chicken for extra protein.
- Use thinly sliced apples in place of pears if pears don't look good this week.
- Sub pistachios or pecans for the walnuts.
- Use feta or gorgonzola in place of goat cheese (or omit – dairy is always optional on our gluten free, paleo and super fast meal plan recipes.)
- Sprinkle on some dried cherries.
Come up with a variation you love? I'd love to see it. Post on Instagram and tag me @prepdish!
Is this easy winter salad recipe good for meal prep?
Yes! This easy winter salad recipe is perfect for meal prep. All you need to do is cook the lentils and make your homemade balsamic vinaigrette ahead of time. Store both in the fridge. Then when dish day rolls around, you just have to slice your pears and toss everything together.
If you do meal prep this dish, make sure to allow the balsamic vinaigrette to come to room temperature before you serve.
Tips for the Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe
I'm pretty passionate about homemade salad dressings. They're just SO incredibly simple and make a big difference in both the taste and nutrition of your salad.
A great, simple balsamic vinaigrette recipe is something everyone should have. I mean, it requires just two basic ingredients and less than 5 minutes to make. I always batch my salad dressings, making enough for the week. It makes it so easy to eat enough greens throughout the week.
All you really have to do to make this simple balsamic vinaigrette recipe is whisk together the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. However, if you want the end result to be a bit more emulsified, you can also give it a few pulses in a food processor to help the ingredients mix completely. Or, shake for 30 seconds or so in a mason jar.
You can also experiment with adding ingredients if you like. You might add a touch of dijon, a drizzle of honey or some minced fresh herbs like rosemary or thyme. All of these are delicious additions!
Lastly, with a recipe with just two ingredients, you'll want to choose quality balsamic or your end results will suffer. There is quite a range of balsamic vinegars and some are quite thin and acidic while others are thick and basically delicious all on their own. You don't need to spring for the most expensive one but try to find one that's not super acidic either for the best results.
What is the nutrition like for this hearty vegetarian salad?
This hearty vegetarian salad is packed with quality nutrition! It has protein and healthy fats from the walnuts, more protein from the lentils and so many nutrients from the pears and spinach. Here are a few of the highlights:
Spinach (Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron)
Spinach is great for your eye health and may help prevent inflammation. Due to its high fiber content, it's also great for digestion. Plant compounds in spinach may also help prevent and slow the growth of certain cancers.
Pears (Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Potassium, Copper, Antioxidants)
Due to their combination of vitamins and nutrients, pears are beneficial for your heart, gut health, reducing cancer risk and fighting inflammation. As with many fruits, much of the nutrition is in the peel so don't peel these nutritional powerhouses!
Lentils (B Vitamins, Magnesium, Zinc, Potassium, Iron, Folate, Protein)
Rich in both protein and iron, lentils are an excellent food for vegetarians in particular. They also contain high amounts of polyphenols, which studies have shown may help fight cancer. Lentils may also have a beneficial impact on cholesterol. On the downside, lentils do contain lectins, an anti-nutrient, though you can reduce these by soaking lentils before cooking (pour out the soaking liquid, don't cook with it.)
Walnuts (Copper, Folic Acid, Phosphorus, Vitamin B6, Manganese, Vitamin E, Antioxidants, Polyphenols, Fiber)
Many consider walnuts to be the healthiest nut, in part due to their high antioxidant content. They may help reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, as well as supporting healthy brain function and healthy gut bacteria. They are a true super food!
Goat Cheese (Vitamin A, Vitamin B2, Calcium, Probiotics)
If dairy bothers your stomach, you may want to try goat cheese. Goat cheese, and hard goat cheese in particular, is easier on digestion, due to differences in the protein structure and lower levels of lactose. It also offers several vitamins like Vitamin A, Vitamin B2, calcium and probiotics, in addition to healthy fats and protein.
Olive Oil (Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Monounsaturated Fats, Antioxidants)
Due to the type of fat it contains, olive oil may reduce inflammation. It also reduces the risk of Alzheimer's, stroke and heart disease. Make sure to get high quality extra virgin olive oil, as it retains more antioxidants and nutrients.
Balsamic Vinegar (Antibiotics, Probiotics)
Made from grape juice, balsamic vinegar contains antioxidants that may help lower cholesterol. It also contains probiotics that are good for healthy digestion.
FAQ – Everything You Want to Know About Winter Pear Salad
What are lentils and what do you do with them?
Lentils are a small legume. You eat them cooked and they're excellent in soups and atop salads.
Are lentils a protein or carb?
Both! Lentils are a source of both protein and carbohydrates. According to the USDA, 1/2 cup of lentils contains about 9 grams of protein and 20 grams of carbs. So while they're an excellent vegetarian protein source, lentils are not a low carb food.
What goes well with pears?
Both walnuts and soft cheese like goat cheese or gorgonzola go famously well with pears. Hence the pairing (pearing?) in this salad.
What is the healthiest way to eat pears?
Make sure to eat the peel when you eat pears to get the most nutrition as the peel is rich in fiber and nutrients.
How do you eat salad in the winter?
Incorporate plenty of winter flavors and seasonal produce to keep salads appealing in the winter. It may also help to have a side salad alongside something warm, like soup.
What can I put in salad to fill me up?
Salads are naturally high in fiber, which helps with satiety. But for a meal that will actually keep you full, make sure to include both protein and healthy fats in your salads. Think items like avocado, nuts, olive oil, cheese, legumes, salmon, chicken, hard boiled eggs, etc.
I want more winter salad recipes!
I've got you covered! I'm all about creating seasonal recipes that will keep you eating healthy AND enjoying your food all year long.
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