Amazing Romaine Salad with Light Poppy Seed Vinaigrette (2024)

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4.74 stars (46 ratings)

Jan 26, 201599

Oh, this salad! It’s amazing, delicious and life-changing. The dressing and nuts can be whipped up in advance so everything can be tossed together in a flash!

Well here you go. A week or so ago I promised (on Instagram) to share this wonderful romaine salad with you (sorry for the teaser) and it kind of feels like a holiday, all this bubbly anticipation in my tummy like something really exciting is about to happen.

Salad will do that to you when it’s as amazing as this one.

Amazing Romaine Salad with Light Poppy Seed Vinaigrette (1)

My friend Teri kindlygave me this recipe after she and I made about 3,000 pounds of it for a church Christmas party last month.

I can tell you this, there were more rave reviews over this magical salad than any other thing on the menu.

Literally, people were rushing into the kitchen after the party wanting to know what was in the magnificent salad and what prompted the change from the usual bowl-of-iceberg-lettuce-with-enormous-bottle-of-ranch-dressing that is normally served at such things (we quickly hid the gigantic, sanitized tub we had used to mix it all up in – you know, keep the magic alive that whipping it up for 400 people wasn’t a big deal at all).

Amazing Romaine Salad with Light Poppy Seed Vinaigrette (2)

The light vinaigrette (kind of sweet, kind of savory, kind of all things yummy) can be made in advance, along with the candied walnuts, and then it’s just a matter of tossing things together: crisp romaine lettuce, bacon, dried cranberries or cherries, any number of cheeses (feta, bleu, Parmesan) and sweet, crunchy candied nuts.

Oh, and just a note about those divine candied nuts? Um, you should probably just go ahead and quadruple that batch because I may or may not be able to testify that they are also divine sprinkled atop yogurt and eaten for a snack at about 2:43 p.m. every single day.

Amazing Romaine Salad with Light Poppy Seed Vinaigrette (3)

I’ve been keeping all the ingredients in separate containers in the fridge/pantry so I can get this on my plate lickety-split for lunch. Talk about a pick-me-up on your average Tuesday afternoon.

Plus, try adding grilled or rotisserie chicken to this salad for a heartier, main dish option. Heaven. I think I know what that is now.

Amazing Romaine Salad with Light Poppy Seed Vinaigrette (4)

One Year Ago: Roasted Maple-Glazed Pork Tenderloin
Two Years Ago: White Peppermint Hot Chocolate
Three Years Ago: Lemon Crinkles

Amazing Romaine Salad with Light Poppy Seed Vinaigrette (5)

Amazing Romaine Salad with Light Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

Yield: 8 Servings

Prep Time: 20 minutes mins

Cook Time: 5 minutes mins

Total Time: 25 minutes mins

4.74 stars (46 ratings)

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  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • cup white vinegar (see note)
  • cup avocado oil, olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon poppy seeds

Candied Nuts:

  • 1 cup chopped nuts, walnuts or pecans are my favorites
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Small pinch of salt and cayenne pepper


  • 2 heads romaine lettuce, chopped
  • ½ cup feta, bleu or Parmesan cheese
  • 6-8 strips bacon, cooked and chopped or crumbled
  • ½ – 1 cup dried cranberries or cherries


  • For the dressing, combine all the ingredients except the poppy seeds in a blender and process until combined. Add the poppy seeds and give it another whirl to combine. Pour in a jar and keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

  • For the nuts, in a 10-inch skillet, combine the nuts, sugar, butter, salt and cayenne. Heat over medium, stirring constantly with a silicone spatula or wooden spoon until the sugar and butter melts and coats the nuts, 3-5 minutes. Immediately scrape the nuts onto a sheet of parchment and separate carefully into pieces to cool.

  • In a large bowl, toss the lettuce, cheese, bacon, dried fruit, and cooled nuts (break them into smaller pieces with a mallet, if needed). Pour a bit of the dressing over the top and toss to combine. Add more dressing, if needed (you may not use it all). Serve immediately.


Vinegar: I’ve also made it deliciously with red wine vinegar and an orange champagne vinegar I spied at Trader Joe’s.

Author: Mel

Course: Salad

Cuisine: American

Method: No-Bake

Serving: 1 Serving, Calories: 410kcal, Carbohydrates: 33g, Protein: 8g, Fat: 30g, Saturated Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 23mg, Sodium: 501mg, Fiber: 5g, Sugar: 25g

Recipe Source: adapted from my friend, Teri (reduced the oil and sugar a bit in the dressing, added a pinch of salt and cayenne to the nuts)

Other Recipes Like This:

Amazing Spinach Salad with Sweet-Spicy Nuts, Apples, Feta and Bacon
Romaine Salad with Chicken, Cheddar, Apples, and Cranberry Vinaigrette
Chopped Greek Chicken Salad with Pita Croutons and Tzatziki Dressing
Mexican Chopped Salad with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

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posted on January 26, 2015 (last updated May 16, 2024)

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4.74 from 46 votes (34 ratings without comment)

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99 comments on “Amazing Romaine Salad with Light Poppy Seed Vinaigrette”

  1. Nicole Reply

    Hi Mel, I’m wondering if apple cider vinegar would be a good sub in this salad?

    • Mel Reply

      You could definitely try that – it will change the overall flavor of the dressing, but it should be fine.

  2. Karen Becker Reply

    This salad really is amazing! My husband and I couldn’t stop eating it at dinner tonight. I used red wine vinegar, olive oil and Parmesan for the cheese (I think goat cheese would also be a good cheese option). I didn’t make the candied nuts – I just used some slivered almonds instead. This recipe is a keeper!

  3. Katie Reply

    One of the best salads I’ve made. Huge hit at the family dinner tonight. i didn’t have any nuts to candy and it definitely would’ve tasted better with some, but when my 2 year old is enjoying it, you know it’s a good salad. I added some spinach which tasted yummy yummy as well.

  4. Lauren Reply

    I made this salad last night to go w a pasta dish , subbing in iceberg (I know!) in a pinch. My husband absolutely LOVED this salad. So many great flavors going on in this salad. Can’t wait to make it again!

  5. Rachel Russell Reply

    Best salad ever!

  6. Andrea Reply

    Just made this salad and it is AMAZING, Mel!!!! I am the person who has never made a salad at home that I loved, nor even really liked if we are being honest. This is restaurant quality and is so easy!!! The kids and my husband said it was good too, huge win! You continue to be my standby and are a household name – thanks for what you do! Gos bless! – Andrea

  7. Julie Reply

    Hi Mel! Don’t know if I’m way too late to ask a question about this recipe but just in case…I’ve made your Amazing Spinach Salad many times and love it, especially the dressing. This salad has so many of the same components but dressing quite a bit different.,.more sugar, way more mustard, less oil. Just wondered how the other dressing would do on this salad. I would add the poppy seeds because I love them. What are your thoughts? Which dressing do you like better? (I’m guessing you will say you like each dressing best with its respective salad!) I’ve been cooking for my family for 30 years but I still love to come here for fresh inspiration and have made many of your recipes….even used some for catering jobs! Thank you!

    • Mel Reply

      Hi Julie – if you like the other dressing, then yes, you can definitely use it on this salad and add poppy seeds! I like both the dressings for different reasons but they can definitely be interchangeable.

  8. Erin L Russell Reply

    Hi Mel! Just curious, is it White Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar? Thanks in advance!

    • Mel Reply

      You can use either but I use white vinegar mostly.

  9. Cris Reply

    I hit a home run with two of your recipes last night…the Feta Dip and this wonderful salad. I forgot the cranberries and it was still delishous! My husband woke up talking about it this morning. I served it with a beef stew and toasty bread..YUM!!

    • Cris Reply

      I forgot to add….I used Parmesan Reggiano and blue cheese. I think I may make it again tonight.

  10. Nanci Reply

    Do you think the poppy seeds add much flavor or could they be left out?

    • Mel Reply

      They add a nice texture and flavor, but you could definitely leave them out.

  11. Robyn Reply

    Hi Mel. Quick question. What’s your favorite cheese to use in this salad? And do you like the dried cranberries or cherries better? I know it’s all personal preference, but you’ve never steered me wrong! Love your recipes.

    • Mel Reply

      I love either feta cheese or Parmesan (shaved or freshly grated). I almost always use dried cranberries and love them!

  12. Dia Reply

    Is the mustard used dry or the yellow mustard we use for hotdogs? Thanks….

    • Mel Reply

      I use yellow prepared mustard (not dry mustard).

  13. Shalise Reply

    Hey! I’m wondering where you got your classic salad dressing container?? I love it, I can’t find anything like it.


    • Mel Reply

      Hey Shalise – a friend of mine gave it to me years ago (it was from her mother or grandmother’s collection0, so unfortunately, I don’t have a good source. Sorry!

  14. Kris Reply

    Such a good combination of ingredients! Everything works together so well (even though I burned the walnuts). I just can’t seem to get the candied nuts right, though. This time they burned, last time the sugar didn’t dissolve completely…maybe one day I’ll get it right XD

  15. Denise Reply

    My question is that the basic formula for oil and vinegar dressings are that the oil is 3 parts to 1 part vinegar. Why is this not the case for this dressing ? Isn’t that the normal ‘rule’ ? please msg me asap !

    • Mel Reply

      I don’t think there’s official rules for salad dressing, at least not that I know of. I love the dressing in this recipe as written!

  16. Caitlin Reply

    Hi Mel,
    A couple of weeks so you were kind enough to point me toward this recipe for a bbq we were having. The party was last night and I took your advice and made this salad so I just wanted to thank you for the suggestion and let you know that the salad went over very well. All the food was amazing and this salad held it’s own. I will most definitely be making this one again in the future. Thanks so much!

  17. Stephanie Reply

    I’m not sure if I be commented on this yet or not, but it doesn’t hurt to again! This is an amazing salad! I love to mix the romaine with a cabbage kale mix I can get at Costco. I have made this for the last 3 weeks consistently for lunch for both the hubby and I. It is absolutely delicious! 5 stars!

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Amazing Romaine Salad with Light Poppy Seed Vinaigrette (2024)
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