Side Dish Recipes from The Kitchn

Recipe: Spinach Salad with Warm Brown Butter Dressing

Image Credit: Sarah E Crowder

While I love bacon dressing, my husband isn't a fan and our vegetarian friends can't partake, so I wanted to make an equally delectable warm vinaigrette to toss with an easy spinach salad. The result of using brown butter instead of bacon fat is a salad that's worth making again and again.

Image Credit: Sarah E Crowder

For this quick side dish, I kept the classic spinach salad as the base because it holds up so well to the temperature of the dressing. The leaves soften ever-so-slightly without truly wilting. I added tangy pickled onions, briny Pecorino, and toasted pecans.

The vinaigrette itself has depth and nuttiness from the brown butter, plus a zing of balsamic and some sharpness from Dijon mustard. I love how the vinaigrette brings this particular salad together, but I'm also looking forward to trying it on other sturdy salads, like ones with kale or farro. I think it has bacon dressing beat for this reason — it has that same unctuousness, but more adaptability in application.

Image Credit: Sarah E Crowder

Spinach Salad with Warm Brown Butter Dressing

Serves 4

  • 1/2 pound

    baby spinach (about 5 cups)

  • 1/4 cup

    shaved Pecorino Romano

  • 1/4 cup

    toasted pecans

  • 1/8 cup

    pickled red onions (get the recipe)

  • 4 tablespoons

    (2 ounces) unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon

    Dijon mustard

  • 1 teaspoon


  • 1 tablespoon

    balsamic vinegar

In a large bowl, toss the spinach with the cheese, pecans, and pickled onion.

Heat the butter in a small saucepan or skillet over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, begin whisking and continue cooking until it becomes light brown and smells nutty, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in the mustard, honey, and vinegar until emulsified.

Drizzle the warm dressing over the salad, toss to combine, and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

  • To gauge when the butter is properly browned, I go more by aroma than color. Once my kitchen fills with that deliciously nutty scent, I know it's ready.
  • I'm partial to balsamic, but other vinegars, like red wine and sherry, work in the recipe too.

Per serving, based on 4 servings. (% daily value)

  • Calories: 786
  • Fat: 18.4 g (28.3%)
  • Saturated: 9.1 g (45.5%)
  • Trans: 0.5 g
  • Carbs: 5.2 g (1.7%)
  • Fiber: 1.6 g (6.2%)
  • Sugars: 2.7 g
  • Protein: 4.5 g (9%)
  • Cholesterol: 39.1 mg (13%)
  • Sodium: 164.4 mg (6.8%)