Spinach and beet salad with feta and walnuts

A tasty variation on a classic favourite!

I’ve read that the extraordinarily popular beet and goat cheese combination was introduced about 40 years ago in California, though it took considerably longer to make its way to Canada. Throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s it seemed like just about every restaurant I visited had some sort of beet and goat cheese salad on its menu. Despite having enjoyed some very good versions, I admit I got to the point of beet and goat cheese fatigue. Having taken a rest, I thought it time to refresh that classic pairing and decided that feta was just the ticket. I find the flavours in this salad prop each other up absolutely perfectly and it’s hearty and protein-packed enough to serve double duty as a meal or a side dish. 



  • 6 cups (6.2 oz or 192 g) baby spinach leaves (or other baby greens)
  • 1 lb (454 g) beets (about 4 medium)
  • 1 cup (150 g) crumbled feta
  • 2/3 cup (100 g) chopped walnuts, toasted


  • 1/3 cup (90 ml) olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons (45 mL) balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) Dijon
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon (10 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon (5 mL) water (optional)


  • Wash beets well and trim off root and stem ends. Cook until tender in the middle when tested with the tip of a sharp knife – you can do this by boiling them in a large pot of water for about 45 minutes or by wrapping in foil and baking for about 50-60 minutes at 400F. Larger beets will take longer to cook.
  • While beets are roasting, prepare the vinaigrette. It is best when made in with an immersion or regular blender (so long as the conventional blender has a lid with a removable centre so you can drizzle the olive oil extremely slowly). You can whisk it by hand; it will not emulsify or thicken as much but it will still be delicious.
  • Start by putting 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of the olive oil in a small, microwave-safe bowl along with the minced garlic. Cook for 30 seconds on high heat then refrigerate for 2 minutes to cool slightly.
  • Place the balsamic vinegar, maple, Dijon, salt and minced garlic + oil mixture in the blender or a vessel large enough to accommodate the immersion blender. Blend until combined, then with the blender running, add the oil very slowly (a few drops at a time is ideal) to the balsamic mixture. If you’re going at the correct speed in terms of adding the oil slowly, it should take about 2 minutes to add it all.
  • Once the oil has all been added, the mixture should be quite thick. Add the lemon juice and water then blend for a few seconds; taste and add a bit more salt, mustard or lemon juice if you feel it needs a little more punch.
  • Let the cooked beets cool for about 10 minutes then peel. Cut the beets into 1/2 inch (1.25 cubes) and place in a bowl. Drizzle about 1/4 of the dressing over the beets and toss gently to combine.
  • When ready to serve, finish assembling the salad. Place the spinach in a large serving bowl. Drizzle with about half the dressing then toss gently to combine. If the spinach is not coated enough per your liking, add a little bit more dressing and toss again.
  • Toss the beets in their bowl once more, then scatter on top of the dressed spinach. Sprinkle the feta and walnuts over top and serve within the hour.

Serves about 8 as a side dish or 3-4 as a main course.

Author: Paula Roy

Welcome to my kitchen! I love simple dishes prepared with passion and am always seeking to find new methods to make food as fun and flavourful as possible. If you enjoy this space be sure to check out my Rogers TV Ottawa cooking show, Paula Roy's Favourite Foods, available on local cable, streaming and a dedicated playlist on Rogers TV's YouTube channel.

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