This mandarin pasta spinach salad with teriyaki dressing is easy, quick, healthy, and tossed in the most addictive teriyaki vinaigrette dressing!
If you love pasta salad as much as I do, then you’ll want to make these other reader favorites: Mexican Street Corn Chicken Pasta Salad, Strawberry Avocado Chicken Pasta Salad, Greek Tortellini Pasta Salad, and Pesto Chicken Pasta Salad.
This salad is my newest obsession. I mean, I’ve made it 3 times in the past 5 days. You’re probably thinking that’s a bit much. But it’s true! I made it once for my husband and myself, then for a neighbor (and myself), and then for a huge family gathering on Sunday (where I was present). Every single time it completely disappeared and everyone raved about it. I’m sure it’s due mostly to the dressing, which is positively addictive and makes me want to cry tears of blissful, heavenly joy.
Why This Recipe Works
Teriyaki dressing — The combination of craisins + spinach + mandarin oranges + pine nuts + cilantro borders on magical. But the dressing! The dressing is stuff actual dreams are formed of.
The dressing easily doubles — I’ve actually doubled the pasta salad dressing and saved half to keep in the fridge for another salad. However, all day long I find myself looking for anything and everything to dip in this stuff. Pasta, chicken, pretzels, cucumbers, my finger…
Mandarian oranges — These little, tasty citrus wedges are an unexpected (but totally amazing) addition to this spinach salad. They offer a nod to Asian food, pair well with spinach (a little bitter, a little sweet), plus offer a soft texture to the chewy craisins and crunchy pine nuts. Don’t sleep on the oranges, is what I’m getting at.
Teriyaki sauce — The dressing simply wouldn’t work without teriyaki sauce. Salty, sweet, savory, it’s all the things in one lovely bottle.
Here’s How You Make It
- First, cook the bowtie pasta (or other smallish) according to the package’s directions, then drain and rinse in cold water. Set it aside.
- You can make the dressing while the pasta is boiling. Just add all of the dressing ingredients to a jar with a tight fitting lid or in a bowl (again with a lid if it has one). Either shake the dressing ingredients in the jar with the lid on or whisk in a bowl to combine. Let the dressing remain chill in the fridge.
- Now combine the pasta, spinach, nuts, oranges, raisins, and cilantro to a bowl and toss.
- Pour the chilled dressing over the pasta salad right before serving and give it a toss again to combine. Serve and enjoy!
What’s the Difference Between an Orange and a Mandarin?
Mandarins are a kind of orange. Mandarin is a broad term for smaller, sweeter orange fruit like clementines and tangerines. So tangerines are a kind of mandarin. They are easier to peel too, thanks to a thinner skin that’s more loosely attached to the fruit.
Ideas for Customizing this Recipe
- Add some bite and flavor to this spinach salad with some finely diced red onions or shallots. (I recommend shaking up finely diced shallots with the dressing.)
- Crumbled feta or goat cheese would make an amazing addition to this spinach salad.
- Instead of pine nuts, you could add slivered almonds or finely chopped pistachios.
- Any type of smaller pasta shape you have on hand is fine in this pasta salad. I just like the bowties because they add a fun, pretty shape. But rotini, fusilli, and penne would work great too.
- If you’d prefer a different dressing in this pasta salad, try my Orange Poppyseed Dressing (it’s amazing!).
- Instead of mandarins you could use thinly sliced apples, ripe pears, or even peaches.
Is Raw Spinach Healthy?
Do you love raw spinach? Then you’re in luck because not only is it delicious, but it’s also nutritious. Raw spinach contains tons of iron, vitamin C, niacin, potassium, folate, and riboflavin. Not to mention it’s a green, leafy veggie that has protein, fiber, and calcium too!
- The thicker the teriyaki sauce, the better the pasta salad dressing will be. My favorite brand is Kikkoman, but you can use whatever thicker brand you like.
- Unless you purchase your spinach already bagged and washed, I recommend rinsing the spinach leaves first. They can still have dirt/grit on it that doesn’t taste so great when you go to chew it. I simply soak my leaves in the sink/colander/salad spinner, then let the water drain through.
- If you prefer to use fresh mandarin oranges, it’s best to peel them and then try to remove as much of the pith as you can before slicking and adding to the pasta salad.
- For best results, do not dress the salad until just before you’re ready to eat it or the spinach will get too soggy. In fact, I wait to make the salad till just before we’re about to eat it or take it somewhere, then dress it. The dressing can be made a couple days ahead of time and stored in the fridge, though.
More Incredible Salad Recipes
- Strawberry Spinach Salad
- Greek Avocado Chicken Salad
- Pesto Chicken Pasta Salad
- Greek Tortellini Pasta Salad
- Best Teriyaki Sauce Recipe
Did you try this simple pasta salad recipe? GREAT! Please rate the recipe below!
Mandarin Pasta Spinach Salad with Teriyaki Dressing
- 8 ounces bowtie pasta noodles
- 4 cups spinach leaves
- ½ cup craisins
- ⅓ cup pine nuts - or cashews
- 1 4-ounce can mandarin oranges - drained
- ¼ cup cilantro leaves - roughly chopped
- ⅓ cup teriyaki sauce - (the thicker, the better!)
- ⅓ cup rice wine vinegar - (may sub apple cider vinegar)
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder - (if you have it)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ cup oil - (such as vegetable oil, canola oil, olive oil)
- Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
- While pasta is boiling, prepare the dressing. In a jar combine all dressing ingredients. Cover and shake to combine. Chill until ready to use.
- In a large bowl toss together pasta, spinach, raisins, nuts, mandarin oranges, and cilantro. Just before serving pour dressing over salad, toss, and serve.
Hi Tiffany. your recipe was posted by a friend on facebook and it looked good so i made it for a picnic at an outdoor musical venue. i didn’t have pine nuts so i used slivered almonds and added shredded chicken cuz my husband needs meat. it was more than yummy!!! loved it! my friend asked for the recipe and i’m makin it tonight (without chicken) for a women’s potluck so i’ll see which i prefer. thank you!!!
Hi Kathy! So excited to hear that you loved this salad! No joke, it’s my most favorite salad on this entire site! I love it both with and without chicken- definitely interested to hear what your preference is! Thanks for your feedback! 🙂
I definitely like the salad better with the chicken. Better substance, taste, texture and all-arounD deliCiousness!!! 😃
Hi! Do the pine nuts need to be toasted?
Hi Gina- I don’t typically toast mine before putting them on this salad but you could if that is your preference!
9/5/18 Hi! I made this for a luncheon today. I did add the 1 TBSP Cornstarch and heated the dressing as AJ recommended, as the Teriyaki sauce was thin. I followed the recipe exactly. I wanted it to taste as good as the other reviews but it did not. It was flavorless and gummy. Not sure what went wrong but Will try again.
Hi Pamela- super bummed to hear your dressing didn’t turn out! I am not sure what went wrong- I haven’t had that issue before! I hope that this next go around turns out a lot better for you because this is my most favorite salad ever!!
This dish looks delicious and especially, I like this dish.
That is my one of the FAVORITE salad.