Spinach apple salad meets plant-based bacon and Dijon dressing. Match made! This is a great salad full of sweet, savory and a hint of spicy goodness. Great for a lite lunch or side that requires seconds.
Crispy plant-based bacon
This recipe was partially inspired by our intense love for healthy sheet pan bacon and the good news is the if you make a full batch (8 ounces of tofu), you’ll be able to make a salad and still have enough left over for a TLC sandwich.
If you’ve not made this crispy tofu bacon before or need a refresher, the full recipe is here & I’ve included the half recipe you’ll need on the card. The great news here, is that you can make the bacon several days in advance. It also says crisp in the salad the next day when you are browsing for a quick lunch. That is of course, if you’ve not eaten it all the night before (which we did the first night we had it).
The 3-ingredient dressing
There have been a few challenging things about following a plant-based oil-free diet. If you asked me about some struggles, salad dressing would likely make it on the list. The first step, abandoning the bottled stuff along with all the added sugars, salt and flavor enhancers was problematic, but not impossible. Getting dressings that were thick and still oil-free was a slightly more complex issue for me. Without a doubt, I still love rich ranch dressing made with cashews, but I’ve got a new resolution these days and that’s exploring simple salad dressings that don’t require nuts.
My secret ‘sauce’
Not so secret – it’s mustard! Why? Mustard is like a little miracle in a jar in my opinion. It’s ubiquitous and I’m always discovering new kinds or brands. So, I must be in good mustard-loving company.
Did I say it was ubiquitous?
There are few ingredients as popular as mustard. Seriously, for something that’s a relative of the cabbage plant, has anything endured the culinary love of mustard? The ancient Greeks new it and whether you are indulging in the super-hot Japanese varieties, sweet Italian, black (made with black mustard seeds) or yellow mustard from a squeezy bottle, it’s a staple in almost every kitchen.
One of my personal favorites is Dijon, which is one of the French, sharp mustard varieties. It has a bit of a horseradish and sharp-spicy flavor, so you don’t need much to give your salad dressings a zip. It’s my favorite for my easy red wine-shallot dressing I used for this spinach apple salad and it pairs well with another of our favorite apple salads with cranberries which causes me to mention how well is goes with tomatoes and balsamic in cranberry quinoa salad. Ah mustard, the possibilities are endless and just like the jars on the shelves, new recipes and combinations of ingredients become infectious.
If you are into mellower versions of mustard, they are all there waiting for you. Trying mixing together a bit of ‘bog-standard’, everyday mustard with a bit of agave syrup and a pinch of garlic powder. That’s what I have with simple salads at least twice a week. Best of all, I look forward to it.
Is mustard vegan?
In general, mustard is indeed vegan. (If, however, you start exploring the more exotic kinds, you’ll want to keep a close eye on the labels. The one glaring exception to the ‘in general’ rule is honey mustard. Honey, an animal product, doesn’t belong in the vegan bucket which is why we exclude it.
You should also be a bit leery of mustard sauces. Anything ‘sauce’ is usually a red flag unless you have a complete list of ingredients. So go for the pure mustard and make your own mustard lover’s sauce if you want full assurance.
Does prepared mustard contain oil?
The topic of mustard and oil is a bit cloudy because of course, there is mustard oil which is an oil extracted by pressing and processing mustard seeds. You can find this in some Indian cooking.
Prepared mustard as we know it is made when mustard seeds are activated using an acid such as vinegar, lemon juice or even wine. You’ll notice that when you open a jar of mustard and return to it, there is a bit of liquid at the top. Nothing wrong with your mustard. The emulsifier has just started separating. Give it a good stir and get to spooning it up.
As a first defense, if you are wondering if that exotic mustard someone put in your holiday basket contains oil, start with the label. You’ll know right away though as the oil will easily separate from the mustard seeds (ground or unground), leaving you with an accumulation of oil at the top of the jar. Normally though, oil is not added to those prepared jars you take off the shelves. It’s possible; however, rare that oil will be used as a preservative, although the chances are low.
Cutting on the bias
Although we probably all display some bias when it comes to mustard preferences, let’s turn our attention to another bias and that involves cutting. It has nothing to do with preferences and all about angles.
If you start browsing cooking books or looking at recipes, you will likely run into the phrase ‘cut on the bias’. This simply means cutting your ingredient, most popularly, at a 450 angle. The idea behind this is to create more surface area of an ingredient which makes is thinner. You’ll see this strategy often used for stir fry, because foods cut on the bias will cook quicker.
I cut the celery I used for the spinach salad on the bias to make celery a bit more interesting and frankly to make it easier to manipulate with a fork. Cooking experimenting is not limited to ingredients folks. You’d be surprised at how something as simple as a new angle on the chef’s knife turns an everyday ingredient into something special when it hits the table. Give this a try next time you are making a veggie platter for dipping. Celery and carrots cut on the bias makes a nice change from our more traditional sticks.
We have a phrase in our house – “new mustard”. It means we have an overabundance of some ingredient (last week it was green peppers). For whatever reason, we tend to have multiple jars, multiple kinds, too many to get-in-the cupboard jars of mustard. I’m not entirely sure of how that happens. I could pretend that we are just conscientious shoppers, so we buy it on sale. That might be partially true, but not entirely.
The truth is, we don’t want to risk running out of something we love. I suppose that when it comes to something we love, we can all be a bit precious, maybe even leaning on hoarder. In the scheme of things ‘new mustard’ is perfectly acceptable, something to make us smile. As long as that something you love doesn’t just sit on the shelf or cause harm, I say, keep a healthy stock and enjoy. Peace.Print
Spinach apple salad with plant-based bacon
Spinach apple salad with plant-based bacon and oil-free Dijon dressing is full of sweet, savory and a hint of spicy goodness for a healthy, easy salad.
- Prep Time: 25 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Salads & Bowls
- Cuisine: American
- 4 oz. (250 gm.) firm tofu
- 2 Tbsp. cup tamari or soy sauce
- 2 tsp.maple syrup
- 1 ½ tsp. liquid smoke
- 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- ¼ tsp. onion powder
- ¼ tsp. garlic powder
- ¼ tsp. black pepper
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- 2 Tbsp. minced shallots (you can also use finely chopped red onion)
- 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard (or another prepared mustard)
- ¼ tsp. salt (optional)
- 4 cups baby spinach, or regular spinach leaves, rough chopped
- 1 firm, tart apple, cored and diced
- 1 celery stalk, cut thin on the bias (about ¼ inch or less)
- 1 medium red onion, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
- Rinse the tofu and press it between two plates or other surfaces with the top surface weighted to help get the moisture out of the tofu. I find it helpful to cut the tofu into quarters before pressing it. Press for 20-30 minutes.
- Once you’ve pressed the tofu, set the oven to preheat at 4000 F (2000 C) and line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Add the tofu, tamari, maple syrup, liquid smoke, vinegar, onion and garlic powder, black pepper and cayenne pepper to a food processor with a blade and process the ingredients until smooth.
- Turn the tofu onto the baking tray and use a spoon to spread it evenly. Try to spread it to a consistent thickness of ¼ inch (thicker if you want).
- Place the tofu in the center rack of the heated oven and bake until the tofu starts to firm up and brown (about 20 - 25 minutes).
- Once browned, remove the baking tray from the oven (leave the oven on) and gently pick it up using the parchment paper and place it on a cutting board or mat. Carefully slice the tofu into slices or cubes.
- To flip the tofu, place a fresh sheet of parchment paper over the top and lay the baking tray over that. (use oven mitts if the tray is too hot). Lift everything up and flip so the cutting board is now on top. Remove the board and the top sheet of parchment paper.
- Gently separate the slices so the sides will brown and place them back in the oven. Continue baking for an additional 5-10 minutes until it is browned.
- Serve immediately or allow the tofu bacon to cool and then store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Dressing & salad
- To make the dressing, whisk together the red wine vinegar, shallots, mustard and salt (if using).
- In a salad bowl, mix together the spinach, celery, apple, onion and bacon squares.
- Add the dressing and serve immediately or serve the dressing on the side.
- Prep time and cook time include making the tofu bacon. For convenience, this can be made a few days before. Make the entire recipe and use the rest in sandwiches or other recipes.
- Nutritional information also includes tofu bacon.
- You substitute the spinach for any salad green mix or use 4 cups chopped kale.
Keywords: spinach apple salad with plant-based bacon