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Easy Spinach Salad – Panzanella Style (with Bread)
Aren’t croutons one of the best parts of a salad?
When I was kid I would always pick all the croutons off of salads and eat them first.
The best ones were soaked just enough in the dressing that they were still crunchy, but packed with flavor.
Well, this simple spinach salad took me back to those crouton days.
But, there was one big difference:
I wanted to eat the rest of the spinach salad just as much as the bread.
This spinach salad with bread is a take on panzanella – the classic Tuscan bread salad. Let’s just call it spinach panzanella.
Delicious bite-sized pieces of bread are toasted and tossed with greens and flavorful ingredients. Olives, Parmesan, and shaved kohlrabi create a flavor bomb in every bite.
The taste of briny, salty olives combined with nutty Parmesan is addictive.
Top it all with a simple apple cider vinaigrette to balance out the flavors and you have a simple salad recipe perfect for any meal. The spinach can handle being dressed for a day or two, so you can make this salad ahead. The bread chunks will soak up some dressing, so they’ll be packed with flavor.
Make this spinach salad for a light lunch or side dish. It is filling enough that it won’t leave you hungry.
To recap: this salad is flavorful, simple to make, and healthy. So, keep reading to learn how to make it yourself!
Health Benefits of this Spinach Salad
This salad is jam packed with healthy ingredients. With plenty of nutrient rich vegetables this salad will help you maintain your energy throughout the day.
If you can, opt for bread made with at least some whole grains. Whole grains contain the entire nutrient rich grain berry. Your body takes longer to break down whole grains. This reduces blood sugar spikes and their associated sluggish feeling.
Here are some highlights about the health benefits of the main ingredients:
One of the biggest health benefits of spinach is its high iron content. It is also rich in folate and vitamins C, A, and K according to the BBC. These nutrients help transport oxygen in the blood, increase energy levels, and improve bone health.
Olives are high in healthy fats, contain antioxidants, reduces inflammation, and even helps protect against strokes and heart disease. Read more about each of these benefits here on Healthline.
According to VeryWell Fit, kohlrabi may reduce inflammation, cell damage, and the risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. Like other vegetables in the cabbage family, it is loaded with vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, B6, and potassium. In fact, 1 cup of kohlrabi contains 140% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin C!
How Long Does this Spinach Salad Keep?
This salad will last 1-2 days covered in the refrigerator after dressing.
In fact, it is a great make-ahead side dish for either later in the day or the next day.
To keep longer: Make the salad and dressing separately, but do not dress the salad. When ready to serve, dress the salad according to the recipe. The dressing will keep up to a week while the greens will last 3-4 days in the refrigerator, covered.
Storing this Spinach Salad
This salad should be stored, covered in the refrigerator.
I love these OXO glass containers for storing completed dishes like this salad. You can store, cover, and serve all in one container.
What is Panzanella?
Panzanella salad is a traditional Tuscan salad made with tomatoes, onions, soaked stale bread, and other fresh vegetables like lettuce, basil, or cucumbers. It is typically made and eaten in the summer when tomatoes are plentiful and fresh.
This spinach salad was inspired by panzanella. The addition of bread is a trademark of the Italian summer salad.
Bagged vs. Bunched Spinach
You will most likely have two options for fresh spinach at your grocery store:
Bagged or bunched.
Let’s look at each option.
Bagged – Cleaned and ready to use. A bag of spinach will be mostly leaves with small stems. Though, this may not taste quite as good as freshly picked bunched.
Bunched – May be more flavorful than bagged spinach if freshly harvested. Bunched must be cleaned to remove dirt and sand. These will also come with stems, so the actual amount of leaves you get will be less than a bag of the same weight.
The Bottom Line
The only time I get bunched spinach is if i’m at the farmer’s market and spinach is in season. Other than that, I’m opting for the ease of using bagged spinach. Plus, you get more bang for your buck since the stems are trimmed.
Baby vs. Regular Spinach – What’s the Difference?
In addition to bunched vs. bagged that we talked about in the last section, you will most likely have two more options for purchasing bagged spinach: regular (mature) and baby.
Mature – Large, hearty, juicy leaves that have a strong taste.
Baby – Small, more delicate leaves. This has a mild flavor and should only be eaten raw.
The Bottom Line
Both are great options for raw salads. I typically opt for mature bagged spinach. Mostly because the leaves are heartier, so it will keep better with dressings.
How-to Buy The Ingredients
Here how to buy the main ingredients:
Bread – Opt for bread that contains some whole grains if possible. Sourdough is also great and easier to digest. Better yet, make your own.
Spinach – See the sections above for buying bagged versus bunched versus baby spinach. The recommendation here is to buy bagged spinach. It’s easy to clean and the stems have already been removed.
Kohlrabi – Look for small (3” in diameter or less), smooth skinned bulbs. Avoid bulbs with marks or spots. This weird looking vegetable is a member of the cabbage family. Kohlrabi is often eaten raw because it has a nice crunch.
Olives – Opt for Kalamata or a type of jarred green olive. Avoid other black olives. These are green olives that have been artificially ripened – turning black in the process. If you have extra olives, then check out this olive tapenade drip recipe.
Parsley – Always look for bright herbs with perky leaves. Avoid any discoloring or drooping leaves.
Parmesan – Parmigiano Reggiano is the undisputed king of cheeses. It’s pricey, but worth it if you can. Grana Padano, Piave, and Pecorino-Romano are delicious, milder, and cheaper alternatives.
Variations to This Salad
Experimenting is one of the most fun parts of cooking! There are an infinite number of possibilities with this salad. Here are a few ideas:
Add fresh tomatoes and/or onions – The classic panzanella salad is made in the summer with fresh tomatoes and onions. If the season is right, then these two ingredients would be perfect to add.
Add chicken – Have some leftover chicken from this buttermilk roasted chicken? Toss it on this salad.
Canned or smoked fish – Want to add some protein to make it a meal? Add some canned or smoked sardines, yellowtail, tuna, trout, or salmon for a filling dish. This would be a perfect complement to the briny olives and Parmesan.
Top with roasted beets – Roasted beets are earthy, sweet, and packed with healthy benefits. They are also super versatile. Use this oven roasted beets recipe to cook a batch and add to this salad.
Add an egg – Follow the directions in this potato salad recipe to make two 7-minute hard-boiled eggs. Break up the eggs, add an extra tablespoon of dressing and toss.
Want to Top this Spinach Salad with a Different Dressing?
Here are a few other dressings that would be great for making this salad:
And If none of those work for you, here are more: 10 Healthy Dressings That Make Everything Taste Better
More Salad Recipes
Sometimes, you just need a healthy salad. A light dish that resets your appetite.
Check these simple salad recipes:
Spinach Salad Panzanella Style
- 6 oz. bread, torn into bite sized pieces (about 4 cups)
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 1 bag or bunch of spinach, thinly sliced (4-5 oz.)
- 1 cup parsley, leaves and tender stems
- 1/2 cup kalamata or any green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
- 1/2 bulb kohlrabi, peeled, and thinly sliced (about 4 oz.)
- 2 oz. Parmesan, shaved
- 1/2 cup Basic Apple Cider Vinaigrette
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Toss bread pieces with olive oil and salt on a baking sheet. Roast 8-10 minutes until crispy on the outside, but still chewy in the center. Let cool for a few minutes.
- While bread is roasting and cooling, make the salad and the dressing if you do not already have it prepped. To make dressing, add olive oil, vinegar, and Dijon to a resealable jar. Cover jar and shake for about 20 seconds to emulsify the dressing. Season with salt.
- Add dressing to a large bowl. Add spinach, parsley, olives, kohlrabi, parmesan, and bread to the bowl and toss to coat. Serve immediately or the next day.
Ready to Make this Bread Salad?
This salad is a great compromise with picky eaters. It has a ton of healthy ingredients, but is crazy flavorful.
Plus, it has toasty bread. And who doesn’t at least like the taste of bread?
I love that this salad can be prepped and dressed the day before. But, you can totally make this salad even earlier if you have the right container. The key is to keep your salad dressing separate from the salad components.