This Is The Best Salad You Can Make For A Crowd

spinach salad

When I was a teenager, my oldest brother Cole got married to a woman had become the yin to his yang, the butter to his toast, and the apple of his eye: Marianne. Our whole family was drawn to her energy, sense of humor, wit, and generosity, and we were awed by her many talents too!

She was a skilled seamstress, and once their daughter Julia started ballet, she sewed her some of the most beautiful and intricate ballet costumes I’d ever seen. Marianne was an equally skilled cook too, and we often argued over who would get the last of the delicious sides and desserts she would bring to family dinners.

Marianne was only in early fifties when she passed away after a sudden aneurysm in 2007. It was devastating to lose a member of our family like that, but I’ll always cherish my memories of her (especially her infectious laugh!) and the numerous delicious recipes she shared with us over the years.

In today’s post, I want to share one of my all-time favorite recipes of hers with you. And trust me, Marianne’s Spinach Salad—much like the woman herself—is like no other!

spinach salad

It’s Not JUST A Spinach Salad…

One of the things I like most about this particular version of spinach salad is how timeless it feels. It never feels dated or tired, and it’s always the first salad to disappear when I bring it to family dinners and potlucks.

When you combine the creamy cottage cheese, the sweet and tangy dressing, salty bacon pieces, and tender greens, this salad becomes something more than the sum of its parts. It’s a food-based alchemy beyond my own comprehension, and something you simply need to experience for yourself! :-)

While this salad is a staple for us during the holidays (it’s a mainstay of my tried and true holiday dinner menu), it’s also delicious any time of year! I’m so excited about being able to gather with friends and family again this summer, and you can bet this salad will be on the food table!

spinach salad

How To Make Marianne’s Spinach Salad


For the salad:

2 bunches spinach (about 12 ounces)
1 head green lettuce
3 cups Swiss cheese, grated
1 lb. bacon, cooked and crumbled
3/4 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
16 ounces cottage cheese

spinach salad

For the dressing:

3/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 tsp dry mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp poppy seeds
3/4 cup sugar
1-2 tsp salt


spinach salad

Start by rinsing the spinach and lettuce and patting them dry with a clean towel. (You can remove the stems from the spinach at this point if they seem particularly fibrous, but I don’t usually bother.)

Roughly chop the lettuce, then place the spinach leaves and chopped lettuce in a large salad bowl. Pile the Swiss cheese, crumbled bacon, sliced mushrooms, and sliced red onions on top of the greens.

spinach salad

In a separate bowl, prepare the dressing by whisking the oil, vinegar, mustard, poppy seeds, sugar, and salt together until combined.

spinach salad

If You’re Serving It Immediately

Finish the salad by pouring the cottage cheese and prepared salad dressing over the top of the other ingredients, then toss and serve.

spinach salad

If You’re Serving It Later

If you’ll be serving the salad later, cover the salad bowl tightly with plastic wrap, transfer the dressing to an airtight container, and store both in your fridge. Just before serving, top the salad with the cottage cheese and dressing and toss it all together.

spinach salad

What’s your favorite kind of salad?

spinach salad

Marianne’s Spinach Salad

Jill Nystul
With its combination of sweet, salty, tangy, and creamy flavors, this unique and crave-worthy salad has a little something for everyone!
3.81 from 227 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American
Servings 12 people
Calories 501 kcal


Salad Ingredients:

  • 2 bunches spinach
  • 1 head lettuce
  • 3 cups Swiss cheese grated
  • 1 lb. bacon cooked and crumbled
  • 3/4 cup fresh mushrooms sliced
  • 1/2 red onion sliced thinly
  • 16 oz cottage cheese

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1-2 tsp salt


  • Start by rinsing and drying the spinach and lettuce.
  • Then remove the stems from the spinach if necessary, and roughly chop the head of lettuce.
  • Place the spinach and lettuce in a large salad bowl, then add the Swiss cheese, bacon, mushrooms, and red onion.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients.
  • Just before serving, add the dressing and cottage cheese to the salad and toss to combine.


Calories: 501kcalCarbohydrates: 20gProtein: 19gFat: 39gSaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 56mgSodium: 685mgPotassium: 554mgFiber: 2gSugar: 15gVitamin A: 5830IUVitamin C: 18mgCalcium: 329mgIron: 2mg

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Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Food & Recipes

  • I have made this salad many, many times and it’s always a huge hit. Sometimes I don’t even add the dressing because the cottage cheese mixed in is like a dressing itself. Thank you Jillee so much for sharing the recipe.

  • Hi Jillee, this sounds delicious, what type of lettuce do you suggest, over in the Isle of Man there are hot house (floppy) lettuce, iceberg, radicchio, endive etc?
    Thank you x

  • I love Spinach Bacon salad! This sounds similar to the one I normally make with Poppyseed dressing but I’m intrigued by the addition of cottage cheese and can’t wait to try! What type of lettuce do you use? Romaine? Butter leaf? Red/ green leaf?

  • You always have such helpful posts. And this meets a need I’ve had lately, “What to bring to a potluck?” Thank you for sharing this recipe and for making it easy to print out. I will be trying it soon.

  • Made this yesterday for my daughter-in-laws birthday dinner. Made half the recipe. Left out the mushrooms (she doesn’t like them) and replaced the sugar with swerve sugar subsitute and used provolene cheese instead of swiss cheese since that’s what I had on hand. It was so good and got many compliments. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe.

  • Since I’ve got a party later this afternoon and have been deliberating over which of my special recipes to bring, I will instead bring this lovely salad! It’s about time I add something new to my potluck arsenal. Thank you for sharing Marianne’s recipe. We do live on in the hearts of many with our recipes, don’t we?

  • For those who are concerned about the high sugar content- my mom has a recipe almost identical from an old family friend. The recipe uses 1/3 cup sugar vs the 3/4 cup in Jillees recipe. We don’t use the mushrooms that are called for. It’s still delicious.

  • Beautiful memory. Can’t wait to try the recipe. I recently invented a simple salad dressing that is so good on my “easy green” salad. Green lettuce, green olives (Pearl brand), blanched asparagus, marinated artichoke hearts and sliced avocado. My recipe is this: use your Good Seasons cruet for the right amounts of apple cider vinegar, water and olive oil. Add 1 tsp each of dill, oregano, garlic powder and salt. Shake well.

  • One trick I’ve used with vinaigrette dressings is to stir in some lecithin, preferably powdered if I can find it but granules will work also. It’s a natural “detergent” that makes oil and water-based liquids (i.e., oil and vinegar) “marry” so that they don’t separate.

    This salad does look like something everyone would eat – not just the veggie lovers! My stand-by green salad to take to gatherings is broccoli salad, with celery, halved grapes, raisins, and sunflower seeds. The dressing is basic (mayo/yogurt, vinegar, sugar) and needs to be mixed in advance to let the broccoli soften and the flavors meld, but the salad travels well and doesn’t turn “ooey” like salad greens can.

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