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Autumn Crunch Pasta Salad

Autumn Crunch Pasta Salad: A simple pasta and spinach salad with tart apples, crisp celery, toasted pecans, sweet dried cranberries, and juicy oranges. This salad is dressed with a simple poppyseed vinaigrette.
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Keyword Autumn Crunch Pasta Salad
Prep Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 -8 as a side
Calories 234kcal
Cost $5.89


  • 5 ounces fresh spinach half a 10 ounce bag (6 cups; 140g)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (150g) dry small pasta
  • 3/4 cup (87g) chopped celery
  • 1 large Granny Smith Apple, thinly sliced or chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 can (15 oz; 425g) drained mandarin oranges (or 2 mandarin oranges)
  • 3/4 cup (91g) dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup (41g) pecans, coarsely chopped (See Note 1)
  • Optional: Feta cheese


  • 2 tablespoons EACH: apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar
  • 2-4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon each: paprika & onion powder
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon poppyseeds
  • Fine sea salt and freshly cracked pepper


  • COOK PASTA: Cook the pasta according to package directions to al dente. Make sure to generously salt the water; this is what will actually season the pasta! I add 1 teaspoon salt to every 4 cups of water.
  • DRESSING: While the pasta is cooking, prepare the dressing. In a mason jar combine the apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, sugar, (adjust -- more or less to personal preference, I use 2 tablespoons), paprika, onion powder, olive oil, poppyseeds, and salt and pepper (I add 1/4 teaspoon each). Seal the jar and shake vigorously to combine.
  • FINISHING PASTA: Drain the pasta once it's cooked through and immediately toss a few tablespoons of the dressing with the pasta. Chill the dressed pasta in the fridge.
  • REMAINING INGREDIENTS: Meanwhile, prep the other additions: thinly slice the celery, thinly slice (or chop) the apple and toss with the lemon juice, and peel the oranges or drain from the can.
  • ASSEMBLY: In a very large bowl, toss the completely cooled pasta with the spinach. Add in the celery, apple, oranges, dried cranberries, and coarsely chopped pecans. Drizzle dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Add feta cheese to personal preference and enjoy immediately.
  • STORAGE: This salad isn't very great leftover. If you aren't eating this immediately, keep the ingredients separate from the dressing and only toss with the dressing right before eating. Top with pecans and feta after dressing the salad.



Note 1: if desired, toast the pecans. Let completely cool and then coarsely chop before adding into the salad.
To toast pecans: If you want to toast the pecans, place them in a single layer in a dry saucepan (don't add anything) over medium heat. Stir constantly until the nuts are barely fragrant -- just a couple of minutes. Watch carefully as the nuts are VERY easily scorched/burned.


Calories: 234kcal | Carbohydrates: 33.7g | Protein: 3.5g | Fat: 10.8g | Sodium: 24mg | Fiber: 3.3g | Sugar: 17.2g