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Oranges, Caramelized Red Onions and Baby Spinach in Balsamic Vinaigrette

5 stars based on 3 votes

orange salad

One of my all-time favorite restaurants is the legendary Inn at Little Washington in Washington, VA. I’ve only been there a few times – once for my college graduation and a few milestone birthdays – but I’ve had the cookbook, The Inn at Little Washington: A Consuming Passion by Patrick O’Connell, on my coffee table for over a decade. It’s one of those gorgeous cookbooks full of stories and photos that you can just slip away into.


Many of the recipes in the book are complex but this one is easy to make. O’Connell takes a classic Italian combination – oranges, red onions and greens – and gives it a Moroccan twist by adding cinnamon and nutmeg to the vinaigrette. Sounds unusual but it really works, and the flavors are perfect for fall.


It’s a terrific salad for entertaining because it’s elegant and different, and you can do all of the preparation ahead of time.

Let’s begin. For the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, spices and salt.


Dip the onion slices into the vinaigrette, being careful to keep the rings intact. Then arrange the onions on foil-lined baking sheet.


Broil until soft and lightly caramelized, 5-10 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t spark and burn.


Set aside until ready to assemble the salad. Next, slice the oranges into rounds and place them in a dish with the vinaigrette to marinate for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours.


When ready to serve, arrange the baby spinach on a platter or individual plates, then top with the caramelized red onions and marinated oranges. Drizzle vinaigrette from soaked oranges over top or serve on the side.


Note: O’Connell serves the oranges and onions buffet-style on a platter garnished with watercress. I serve them on a bed of baby spinach instead because it’s a bit more substantial and watercress can be hard to find.

Oranges, Caramelized Red Onions and Baby Spinach in Balsamic Vinagrette

Servings: 4-6


  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1/8-inch thick rounds (try to keep the rounds intact)
  • 4 naval oranges
  • 7 ounces (about 5 cups) baby spinach (or watercress or arugula)


  1. Set oven rack 5-6 inches from top and preheat broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Make vinaigrette by combining olive oil, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a small bowl.
  3. Dip onions into vinaigrette, being careful to keep rounds intact, and lay in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Broil until soft and caramelized, 5-10 minutes. Keep a close eye on them so they don't burn. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to assemble salad.
  4. Peel the oranges with a sharp knife (it's easiest to use a serrated knife), carefully removing all of the white membrane. Slice into rounds about 1/4-inch thick, remove any seeds, and place in a 9x13-inch baking dish. Pour vinaigrette over top, making sure oranges are well coated on both sides, and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours.
  5. To assemble the salad, place spinach on large platter or individual plates. Scatter caramelized onions over spinach, and then place marinated oranges on top. Quickly whisk vinaigrette from soaked oranges, then drizzle over top or serve on the side.

Reviews & Comments

  • 5 stars

    I made this last week for a party –
    It was beautiful on a buffet table
    On a bed of spinach – made the recipe exactly as written – elegant and delicious. Left overs are great too.

    - Chris on December 1, 2016 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Yum!!!! Made this with the beef stew. Another fantastic recipe!!

    - Jennifer on December 29, 2014 Reply
  • 5 stars

    Made this salad last night with the chicken kabobs and basmati rice. I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious this was AND my husband loved it! All three dishes really compliment each other. Plus I used dried orange-cranberries with sliced almonds in the rice.

    - Donna Turovac on August 5, 2014 Reply
  • Great recipe! I cut the onion a little thicker and grilled them ,cuz its summer now and if i can grill it I will! It was delicious…think I’ll try grilling the orange slices Too next time. Thanks for the recipe!

    - John Watts on July 15, 2013 Reply
  • Making this for our holiday dinner this weekend- adding pecans and blue cheese…..YUM!

    - Kelly on December 13, 2012 Reply
  • Delicious salad, perfect for holiday entertaining. I made it a couple of times last fall and it was always a hit with my guest. I made no changes to the recipe.

    - Ann Grandin on October 9, 2012 Reply
  • Delicious Salad perfect for holiday entertaining. I made it a couple of times last fall and it was always a hit with my guest. I made no changes to the recipe.

    - Ann Grandin on October 9, 2012 Reply
  • This was a perfect addition to our thanksgiving table. My whole family, who have rather specific ideas of what should be eaten at Thanksgiving, loved it! The spice is just right. I could eat that dressing on many a salad!!

    - Rachel on March 1, 2012 Reply
  • Can’t wait to make this tomorrow. Looks yummy.

    - Mary on February 26, 2012 Reply
    • Made it. Toasted some pecans & sprinkled them on top.
      it is a winner!

      - Mary on February 27, 2012 Reply
  • I made this and added the seeds from a half of a pomegranite. Gave it bursts of a tangy sweetness and crunch. The brilliant red seeds against the dark green spinach looked very Christmasy, and I wish I had known to make this a week ago!

    - Whitney Price on December 29, 2011 Reply
  • Another huge hit at my dinner party from this site! Everyone was intrigued by the look of the salad; some were asking if the oranges were grapefruits or pineapples. The cinnamon and nutmeg really made it extra special. We had a little leftover, and the oranges tasted bitter the next day so definitely serve it on the same day you make it.

    - Kim on December 24, 2011 Reply
  • Made this for a big crowd on Thanksgiving. Not only was it delicious, it was beautiful. Thank you!

    - Karen G. on December 11, 2011 Reply
  • That looks delicious. I’m going to try this for Thanksgiving.

    - Mara on November 20, 2011 Reply
  • This was delicious!

    I added tofu to the onions and roasted at 450 degrees. My broiler and I have issue; in other words, I ALWAYS end up with flambe!

    Thank you for another delicious recipe!

    - [email protected] Kel Show on November 20, 2011 Reply
  • Mmmm…I’m so curious to try it. I don’t think I’ve tried a combination like that before.

    - carpeseason | Liz on November 10, 2011 Reply
  • Mmm I love balsamic vinegar! This recipe looks great!

    - Ashley @ Wishes & Dishes on November 9, 2011 Reply
  • Beautiful! I was looking for a new thanksgiving salad that’s not too heavy and this may be it!

    - Laura on November 9, 2011 Reply

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