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Cranberry Goat Cheese Salad with Walnuts

This simple yet elegant cranberry Goat Cheese Salad with walnuts is quick and easy to toss up, and can be served with almost any dinner, or as a light flavor-packed lunch on it's own.

Spinach leaves, dried cranberries, walnut pieces and crumbled cheese in a bowl on wooden backdrop.

Why Make This Simple Salad 

The simple, delicious vinaigrette dressing can be whisked together in a matter of seconds.

This salad is a great accompaniment to holiday meals, as a side dish for or a light and flavorful mid day lunch or light dinner.

It uses whole food ingredients, making it a healthy meal choice that you won't leave you feeling guilty for enjoying all of its flavor with ever. 

It's a fast salad that can be ready quick and is great when you need a last minute healthy salad.

Simplest Salad Ingredients

Get the full recipe for this delicious salad in the recipe card at the bottom of the post. 

Ingredients for Goat Cheese Salad
  • Goat cheese- you can use regular goat cheese which will be easier to crumble but has a much more pungent flavor. Or you can try chèvre- which is pictured above and is a young, fresh goat cheese that is creamy, but it can still be crumbled. Whichever you choose to use, keep it refrigerated up until the very point that you're ready to crumble it.
  • Oil- Choose a neutral flavored oil like vegetable oil, grapeseed oil, or canola oil. Less neutral oils like olive oil overpower the other flavors.
  • Nuts- Choose raw walnuts that have not been roasted or salted; whole walnuts will need to be given a rough chop, unless you purchase them already chopped. Avoid tiny walnut pieces. You could also use crunchy pecans.
  • Spinach- Use fresh, baby spinach leaves for this salad. You could also swap this out for any other favorite salad greens.
  • CranberriesDried sweetened cranberries are preferred over unsweetened, which may be too bitter.
  • Shallots- minced shallots bring a little onion flavor to the dressing
  • Basalmic Vinegar- the base of the dressing
  • Honey- gives the dressing just a hint of sweetness and helps balance the acidity. This can be swapped out for maple syrup

How to Make Goat Cheese Salad

Start by making the dressing in a small bowl before moving on to salad assembly for this delicious dish. 

Dressing Instructions

You can either do this a day in advance, or right before making the salad.

Mince the shallot finely.

Whisk together the oil, vinegar, honey, shallot, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a mixing bowl of some sort.

Balsamic vinegar, oil, shallot in a mixing cup with a metal whisk.

How much oil and vinegar should I add? 

The standard vinaigrette oil to vinegar ratio is about 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar, for example 3 tablespoons of oil for every 1 tablespoon of vinegar.

This is not a hard and fast rule, and most recipes deviate somewhat, as taste preferences also do.

This recipe calls for a slightly more acidic vinaigrette, with 2 parts oil to 1 part vinegar.

The addition of honey helps to balance out that extra acidity nicely, but you can always add more oil for a less acidic dressing if you like, and vice versa.

If you're making the dressing in advance, store it in the refrigerator in a closed container.

Toss The Salad

In a large salad bowl, add the spinach leaves (washed if not already), dried cranberries and roughly chopped walnuts.

Hold off on the goat cheese for now, that will be added to the large bowl at the very end.

Give the greens a nice gentle toss to distribute the cranberries and walnuts as shown below.

Fresh baby spinach leaves, chopped walnuts and cranberries in glass bowl.

Balsamic Dressing Application Tips

It's important to not just dump the salad dressing all over the salad greens. If you just dump the dressing in certain parts could have more dressing and other parts have none. You will also make your spinach wilt faster.

Also, be sure to shake the dressing right before pouring, because the oil and vinegar separate quickly.

Pour a portion of the dressing lightly around the inside of the bowl above where the top of the salad reaches, allowing it to run down and coat the inside of the bowl.

That way, when you toss it, you lightly and evenly coat the leaves with what is on the inside of the bowl and you don't drown the salad ingredients.

Balsamic salad dressing pouring onto edge of glass salad bowl.

Repeat this process until the salad is sufficiently dressed to your liking.

It's likely that you'll have dressing leftover, so go easy on how much you pour into the bowl.

You can always add more-but you can't take it back out.

Baby spinach leaves covered in a light dressing.

Crumble the Goat Cheese

Young, fresh goat cheese, also known as chèvre is typically on the softer side.

For this reason, keep it chilled right up to the point that you are going to crumble it so that it breaks apart.

If you still find that it's just to creamy (some are more than others) pop it in the freezer for up to 10 minutes to make it more firm, and use a fork to scrape crumbles directly over the salad.

You could just get a regular log of goat cheese instead of the younger fresh goat cheese if that's what you prefer. 

Toss these crumbles with the salad, gently.


Save any unused vinaigrette dressing in a tightly closed container in the refrigerator for up to one week. 

I wouldn't recommend saving the salad for later as once the dressing has been on the spinach leaves, they'll start to wilt and change texture. 

Recipe Tips

  • Keep the goat cheese chilled until right before ready to use; if too soft to crumble place in the freezer for 10 minutes and use a fork to crumble directly over salad greens.
  • Pour dressing (shake/whisk first!) around the inside of the bowl and let it coat the bowl, tossing the greens to become coated; repeat with more dressing until fully dressed to your taste.
Salad bowl of baby spinach, goat cheese crumbles, dried cranberries, and walnuts with bowl of dressing.

Can I make this ahead of time?

The dressing can be made in advance and stored in the fridge until ready to assemble the salad.

Can I only use baby spinach? 

No, if you prefer a different type of lettuce or lettuce mix, you can totally use that.

A nice spring mix or some mixed greens would be great options to use for this creamy goat cheese salad.


Add fruit. Add some fresh blueberries and strawberries for a strawberry goat cheese salad. This salad with the fruit would be great with some fresh squeezed lemon juice as well. Try adding a few slices of crisp red apples, green apple, or juicy oranges for another option.

Add more vegetables. Adding in other vegetables may help round out the salad a bit more. Sliced bell pepper, red onion, cucumber, carrots, diced sweet potatoes, and things of that nature might make it last a little bit more. 

Try arugula. Change it up and add some arugula for an arugula goat cheese salad. Take it from a side salad to a main dish on your dinner table by adding protein. To bulk it out a bit, try adding some cooked protein. Cooked chicken or shimp would work nicely. Add some more fresh greens or other lettuce options as well. 

Swap vinegar. Balsamic can be swapped for red wine vinegar or white wine vinegar if you prefer that flavor. 

Use flavored goat cheese. Instead of classic plain goat cheese, opt for flavored goat cheese, like cranberry goat cheese. 

Add a different pop of texture. Try adding some pomegranate seeds for another fun flavor and texture on this great salad.

Did you make this salad? Let me know what you think in the comments below, or leave a quick and easy 1-5 star rating for others to view.

📖 Recipe

Spinach leaves, dried cranberries, walnut pieces and crumbled cheese in a bowl on wooden backdrop.

Cranberry Goat Cheese Salad with Walnuts

Sweet dried cranberries, crunchy walnuts, tangy goat cheese and baby spinach tossed in a light honey balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
5 from 6 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: cranberry goat cheese salad, cranberry spinach salad, cranberry walnut salad, salad with walnuts
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 5 servings
Calories: 261kcal
Author: Erin
Cost: $4.40


  • 6 cups baby spinach roughly an 8 ounce bag of store bought
  • ¼ cup goat cheese crumbled (like chevre)
  • ½ cup dried cranberries sweetened
  • ½ cup walnuts raw, roughly chopped
  • ½ shallot finely minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • cup vegetable oil can use grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • pinch salt and pepper optional


  • Whisk together oil, vinegar, honey, minced shallot, and salt and pepper (optional).
  • Wash and dry or spin lettuces. Add to salad bowl.
  • Toss gently with cranberries and walnuts.
  • Pour enough dressing around the outside of the bowl (not on the salad) enough to coat the outside of the bowl. Toss salad and taste to see if you need to add more. Repeat until salad is dressed enough. Save excess salad dressing for up to two weeks.
  • Crumble cheese over salad, toss gently to combine.


  • Keep goat cheese chilled until just ready to use. If it's too soft, place in freezer to firm up a bit more, and use a fork to scrap crumbles directly over salad. 
  • Shake/whisk dressing before pouring as oil and vinegar separate-keep in mind you likely won't use it all, so don't pour it all.
  • Store excess dressing in the fridge in a tightly closed container for up to one week. 


Serving: 1g | Calories: 261kcal | Carbohydrates: 17g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 71mg | Potassium: 261mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 12g | Vitamin A: 3493IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 2mg
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Recipe Rating


Thursday 7th of September 2023

I loved eating this salad at a restaurant years and years ago and finally got the ingredients to do it myself. I used a store bought vinegarette and thought my taste buds changed cause it was gross.

I decided to look up a recipe (seemed so simple thought it was unnecessary) and BAM same delicious taste I'd been craving yay and thank you!


Monday 27th of June 2022

Wonderful taste and beautiful presentation.