Spinach and Pear Salad with Gorgonzola and Walnuts

This is my one and only go-to salad to make when guests are expected. Sliced pears laid out on a bed of fresh green spinach (or other greens). Topped with a sprinkling of tart craisins, crunchy walnuts and strongly flavoured, salty, blue veined Italian gorgonzola cheese and then drizzled over with a generous pour of sweet and creamy poppy seed salad dressing. So beautiful. So tasty. I've yet to meet anyone who hasn't enjoyed this salad.


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Ingredients in Spinach, Pear, Gorgonzola and Walnut Salad

This visually stunning salad and very colourful salad hits all the sensory taste buds on the tongue with its variety of tastes and textures. In short, there's something in it for everyone.

Pears: Sweet and crunchy

Walnuts: Nutty and earthy 

Craisins: Tart and chewy dried cranberries

Gorgonzola Cheese: Originally for Italy, this cheese made from cow's milk is named after a town in the province of Milan. Gorgonzola is a crumbly, strong smelling, mild-sharp tasting, salty and creamy cheese with a slightly nutty flavour.

Poppy seed salad dressing: Sweet and creamy

Salad greens: Fresh and crunchy spinach or other greens


Garbage Bowl Pear Salad for a Large Crowd

If I'm making one large salad for a crowd, I make the garbage bowl version from which everyone can serve from. In the garbage bowl version I add what's on hand. In this case, I bulked up the salad with cherry tomatoes and croutons and then added a couple of slices of silhouetted pear steaks for decoration. 

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Garbage Bowl version of Spinach and Pear Salad
  • All the toppings are just sprinkled on top of the greens.
  • I don't toss the salad since all the little toppings will then end up in the bottom of the bowl. Instead, left untossed, as people serve their salad with tongs, they will get a nice mix of greens and toppings.
  • I keep the dressing on the side so that guests can pour as much dressing as they like. As long as the dressing is not poured over the salad, the greens will remain fresh.
  • This Pear Garbage Bowl salad can be prepared upto 2 hours ahead of time and kept covered in the refrigerator. Just before serving sprinkle on the croutons.

Plated Pear Salad for an Intimate Dinner

I do the plated version of this spinach pear salad when I have a small dinner for up to 4 dinner guests and we're all eating at the table.This salad can be easily plated for individual diners ahead of time and set out in the kitchen until ready to bring out onto the dining table.
  • To create a pear fan, first cut a pear in half and scoop out the core. Then slice into thin slices and fan out over the salad greens. 
  • Sprinkle on the toppings onto each individual plate.  
  • No tossing or mixing required
  • Pour the dressing on just before serving or leave the dressing at the table for guests to drizzle on their desired amount.
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Individually plated version of Spinach and Pear Salad topped with a pear fan.


 Substitutions in Spinach, Pear, Gorgonzola and Walnut Salad

 If you can't get your hands on these exact ingredients, they can easily be substituted out.

Pears: Switch out pears for apple pears or even apples.

Walnuts: Slivered almonds or pecans are great substitutes for walnuts.

Craisins: Golden raisins with their tart flavour are not as sweet as dark raisins and are a good substitute to craisins.

Gorgonzola Cheese: Substitutes for Gorgonzola are Spanish Cabrales, Danish blue, Roquefort and Stilton. These are all strong flavored.

For milder options, feta cheese is a decent substitute with its creamy, crumbly and salty texture. Another option is soft goat cheese or cottage cheese which is very mild, though not as salty.

Poppy seed salad dressing: Creamy ranch dressing is a good substitute for poppy seed dressing, though not as sweet. Or try making your own homemade poppy seed salad dressing.

Salad greens: Fresh spinach greens are great, but can easily be substituted out with a variety spring mix like baby spinach, baby lettuce blends and baby greens like rocket, green oak lettuce, lolla rosa lettuce, red oak leaf lettuce, green chard, red chard, mizuna and radichhio for a variety of color, textures and flavours.

 Recipe for Spinach and Pear Salad with Gorgonzola and Walnuts

Servings: 4


4 cups spinach or mixed greens of your choice
2 pears (Bosc, Anjou or pears of your choice), chopped or sliced into pear fans
2 tablespoons craisins
2 tablespoons walnuts
  1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese
Poppy Seed Salad dressing (as desired)

Step by Step Instructions:

  1. In a large bowl, add the salad greens.
  2. Top with the cut pears.
  3. Sprinkle on the toppings of craisins, walnuts and gorgonzola cheese.
  4.  Keep covered and refrigerated until ready to serve. Don't toss the salad before serving to prevent the toppings from settling into the bottom of the bowl. 
  5. Serve the poppy seed salad separately for diners to drizzle onto their salad before eating.

Related Recipes:

Other things to do with pears: Try my German style Cardamom Pear Cake

 Check out My Cookbook Index for a full menu.

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