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Spinach Berry Salad

Spinach Berry Salad with Buttermilk Dressing and Candied Juniper Almonds

Renée Robinson

A Showstopping Salad with Strawberries and Blackberries.

As you can see, there are only a few ingredients in this salad, but this particular combination is one of my favorites. I’d happily eat this anytime. For the dressing, I combined my favorite calamansi vinegar with some buttermilk, olive oil, a little mustard, nigella seeds and seasoning. What a great dressing this is. That tinge of sweetness from the vinegar is superb when balanced with buttermilk. The slight onion flavor of nigella seeds provided a perfect little hit of flavor, too.

As I was putting this together in my head I realized I wanted some candied almonds for a crunchy topping. My son and I were tossing around ideas for adding  some additional flavor and he suggested juniper. I immediately knew it would be perfect. So, we ground up some dried juniper berries and added them to the sugar syrup as the almonds were candying. 

Candied Almonds

It is so easy to candy nuts in a non-stick skillet. The entire process takes about 10 minutes. You can use granulated or brown sugar, add assorted flavorings, etc. In this case, I didn’t want the deep flavor of brown sugar as I thought it would be wrong for the spinach and berries. I wanted the nuts to be lighter tasting and stuck with granulated sugar. What a beautiful addition the juniper turned out to be. It’s delicate, but adds a unique element to the overall flavor profile of the salad. You won’t use all the nuts in this salad, so you’ll have some left for nibbling. 

I’ve mentioned it many times, but I think it bears repeating: When I make this kind of salad, I keep everything else very very simple. There is so much flavor and texture going on with the salad, only the simplest accompaniments are needed. Grill some chicken, lamb chops, pork tenderloin, etc. Or how about some sausages? Any of those would work and you have a little extra time to spend making a salad that will steal the show. 

Spinach Berry Salad with Buttermilk Dressing and Candied Juniper Almonds

Recipe by Renée Robinson



A creamy buttermilk dressing using some of my favorite ingredients - calamansi vinegar and nigella seeds. It is exquisite with the spinach, strawberries, and blackberries. Quickly candied juniper flavored almonds put it over the top.

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  • Buttermilk/Olive Oil Salad Dressing Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

  • 1 tablespoon calamansi vinegar

  • 1/4 cup buttermilk

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon nigella seeds

  • black pepper, freshly ground

  • Candied Juniper Almonds Ingredients
  • 1 cup whole almonds, very roughly chopped

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon Morton’s kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 1/2 teaspoon juniper berries, ground in a spice grinder

  • Salad Ingredients
  • 5 oz. baby spinach

  • 8 oz. Strawberries, trimmed and quartered

  • 6 oz. blackberries

  • 4 scallions, trimmed and sliced diagonally into 1/4 inch thick slices

  • kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup juniper candied almonds, see above

  • Buttermilk, Olive Oil, and Calamansi Vinegar Salad Dressing, see above


  • Buttermilk/Olive Oil Salad Dressing Directions
  • Whisk together all ingredients. Put aside.
  • Candied Juniper Almonds Directions
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and butter it.
  • In a medium non-stick skillet, combine sugar, salt, water, and ground juniper berries. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add almonds, stirring constantly. The water will evaporate and the syrup will become crystallized while adhering to the almonds. This will only take a few minutes. Remove from the heat, spread on the parchment and let cool.
  • Salad Directions
  • Place the spinach on a platter. Top with the strawberries, blackberries, and scallions. Sprinkle with a little kosher salt. Scatter the candied almonds on top and add the dressing. Enjoy!

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