Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad

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The BEST EVER strawberry and avocado salad with a creamy poppyseed dressing and delicious 2-ingredient candied almonds! chelseasmessyapron.com

A show-stopping simple Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad with fruity sweet strawberries, creamy avocado, crunchy candied almonds, and tangy feta cheese. The poppy seed dressing is the absolute best and takes only minutes to whip together.

Overhead view of Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad in a large serving bowl.

Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad

This is one of my all-time favorite salad recipes! It has the perfect blend of flavors and textures — creamy, sweet, and crunchy. This recipe is based off a favorite salad from Panera Bread Company®, but with my own twist– of course! 

Panera’s Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad has a medley of fruit, chicken, nuts, and a poppy seed dressing. For this recipe, we’ve got the strawberries, the nuts, and the poppy seed dressing, but I replaced the other fruits with avocado and some feta cheese. The avocado lends an incredible creaminess that works so well with the crispness of the nuts and strawberries. And the feta cheese ties everything together so nicely. 

View of sliced strawberries on a cutting board.

Is poppy seed dressing good for you?

While the poppy seed dressing does have a good amount of mayo and sugar in it, it also boasts some positive effects when enjoyed in moderation. There are many health benefits to consuming poppy seeds as well as apple cider vinegar. And despite the drawbacks, if poppy seed dressing gets you to eat lots of healthful ingredients (like lettuce, avocado, nuts, and strawberries), it’s a great dressing to enjoy on occasion. And after all, you’re not going to be consuming that much of it!

For a healthier (lemon juice and olive oil based) poppy seed dressing, try the dressing included in this apple quinoa salad recipe.

Process shots: dressing ingredients in the blender jar; blended until smooth; stirring in poppy seeds; pouring over the salad.

Candied almonds

The candied almonds add a nice crunch and additional sweetness to the salad. They’re also quick and easy to make– only two ingredients and one skillet — no oven necessary!

Because they are made in a skillet, they do require constant supervision; the candied almonds can go from perfect to burnt in a matter of seconds. My biggest tip here is to stir them constantly and watch carefully. As soon as the sugar begins to get sticky and wet, remove the almonds from the burner and continue to stir until the sugar is completely absorbed into the almonds.

Process shots of making candied almonds: place sugar and slivered almonds in a skillet; heat and stir constantly; sugar beginning to melt and stick to the almonds; finished candied almonds.

Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad variations

  • Panera’s salad has blueberries, pineapple, and mandarin oranges in addition to the strawberries, so feel free to add in any other additional fruits to “copycat” that recipe.
  • We love feta cheese best, but another great option with this salad is blue cheese or even goat cheese.
  • While I think this poppy seed dressing recipe is the absolute best and highly recommend trying it (I promise it’s so easy to make!) you can use store-bought dressing in a pinch. My personal favorite is Brianna’s poppyseed dressing® (not sponsored).
  • Add in some grilled chicken and call it a meal! We love this grilled chicken marinade recipe.

Recipe tips

  • Dressings can easily be adjusted to personal preference, so taste the dressing and adapt as needed. You may want to add a bit more sugar if you like things sweeter or a little more vinegar for more tang.
  • When serving Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad for a party, event or holiday meal I recommend making the candied almonds and dressing a day or two in advance. This makes the final assembly a breeze! It’s also a good idea to make both in advance so the almonds will have enough time to harden and the dressing has a chance to thoroughly chill and intensify the flavors.
  • Use a good mayonnaise for the dressing. After all, the better the mayo, the better the dressing will taste. I love Hellman’s/Best Foods® (not sponsored) since it has a rich flavor without being overly sweet or tangy. It really is the best mayo for this dressing!

Overhead view of the fully dressed Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad.

Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad storage

Due to all the juicy ingredients, this salad doesn’t sit or store well after it’s made. Once assembled, the salad needs to be eaten soon after; otherwise the poppy seed dressing wilts the greens, the avocado will brown, and almonds will soften–not a pretty sight.

To make parts of this salad in advance: Prepare the dressing ahead of time and store in a mason jar in the fridge. Prepare the candied almonds in advance and store in an airtight container in a dry area. I wouldn’t recommend preparing any other parts of this salad in advance.

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Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad

5 from 5 votes
A show-stopping simple Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad with fruity sweet strawberries, creamy avocado, crunchy candied almonds, and tangy feta cheese. The poppy seed dressing is the absolute best and takes only minutes to whip together.
Print Recipe

Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad

5 from 5 votes
A show-stopping simple Strawberry Poppy Seed Salad with fruity sweet strawberries, creamy avocado, crunchy candied almonds, and tangy feta cheese. The poppy seed dressing is the absolute best and takes only minutes to whip together.
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Keyword Strawberry poppy seed salad
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 -6 as a side salad
Calories 280kcal
Cost $5.71

Ingredients

Stovetop Candied Almonds (Note 1)

  • 1 cup (95g) sliced or slivered almonds
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (80g) white granulated sugar

Creamy Poppyseed Dressing

  • 1/3 cup (72g) full fat mayonnaise (I recommend Best Foods/Hellmans)
  • 2 tablespoons EACH: whole milk, heavy cream, white granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon poppy seeds

Salad

  • 8 cups (140g; 5 oz) baby spinach or mixed greens
  • 2 cups (275g) strawberries, stems removed and sliced
  • 1 ripe large avocado diced (or 2 small avocados)
  • 1/3 cup (45g) crumbled feta cheese

Instructions

  • CANDIED ALMONDS: Place the sliced almonds and sugar in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook and stir constantly. The sugar will begin to melt, become a sticky liquid, and then stick to the almonds. This takes about 3-4 minutes; watch carefully and stir constantly to avoid burning the nuts. As soon as the sugar starts turning liquid-y, remove the skillet from the heat and continue to stir until almonds are well coated. Spread the candied almonds onto a sheet of parchment paper and let cool. Once hardened, break apart and set aside.
  • DRESSING: Combine all of the ingredients, except the poppy seeds, in a small blender jar and process until combined. Taste and adjust any flavors to personal preference. (If you'd like a sweeter dressing, add an additional 1-2 tablespoons white sugar.) Stir in the poppy seeds. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to serve (Dressing stays good for 1 week stored this way).
  • SALAD ASSEMBLY: Add the mixed greens to a large platter or bowl. Remove the stems of the strawberries and slice thinly. Peel the avocado, remove the pit, and then chop or thinly slice. Add the strawberries and avocado to the lettuce, followed by the feta cheese and candied almonds to personal preference; we add about 1/3 cup. (See Note 1) Drizzle on the dressing (to personal preference, you may not use all the dressing -- See Note 2) and toss the salad. Enjoy immediately.
  • STORAGE: This salad doesn't sit well with the dressing, so only dress what will be enjoyed the same day. Store any leftover salad and dressing separately. Almonds and cheese should also be stored separately. Avocado will brown if cut in advance.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: This is more almonds than you'll need for the salad, but sugaring the almonds works best with this volume. Store leftover almonds in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months or in the pantry for 2-3 weeks. Use leftover almonds as a snack, or as a topping for yogurt bowls, acai bowls, or salad.
Note 2: The dressing is likely more than you will need for the salad. Store leftovers in the fridge for 4-5 days and use for other salads or for a fruit/veggie dip.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 6servings | Calories: 280kcal | Carbohydrates: 25.3g | Protein: 9.6g | Fat: 17.6g | Cholesterol: 12.8mg | Fiber: 5.7g | Sugar: 17.5g

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?

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Nutrition facts in strawberry poppy seed salad

 
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25 Comments

  1. What a gorgeous salad, Chelsea! Strawberry salads are my absolute favorite. Love the candied pecans in here, such a perfect touch!

  2. I already love strawberry spinach salad but this is even better with the avocado and candied pecans. Two things I cannot resist!

  3. Chelsea – I love a good spinach salad; this one looks like it wouldn’t disappoint. The candied pecans in here make my heart melt. I’m a sucker for a candied pecan, but in a salad! It must add the perfect sweetness and crunch!

  4. Gorgeous salad I love this type of salad. I can’t believe after my grocery shop after work that I literally have all the ingredients. I am taken with the idea of the avocados and strawberries
    in the mix together. Awesome.

  5. I am just drooling over this salad! What a lovely combo – strawberry, almonds and avocado?! I can’t wait to give this a try!

  6. 5 stars
    I made this for dinner tonight. It’s delicious! That dressing is especially divine! The candied almonds gave it nice crunch and sweetness. Will definitely make this again! Thanks!

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