Refreshing Summer Salad with Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette

After I made this salad, a combination of greens, nuts, and fruit with a homemade vinaigrette, the weather flip-flopped from hot to cool. But by Sunday afternoon, our outdoor conditions were absolutely perfect.

Overhead image of two shallow white ceramic bowls filled with arugula, strawberries, blueberries, chopped walnuts, and sliced apples, topped with chocolate balsamic dressing, on a gray surface with two folded beige cloth napkins topped with forks, printed with orange and white text at the bottom and the midpoint of the frame.

Even with temperatures predicted to drop below 50˚F in the evenings, hot and dry weather is predicted in the extended forecast, with sunshine everywhere.

It’s summer, people. This is salad weather.

Vertical oblique image of two white shallow bowls of arugula with fresh berries, sliced apples, chopped nuts, and chocolate balsamic dressing, on a gray surface with folded cloth napkins.

If you aren’t from the Midwest, you might not realize that Chicago gives us many seasons, sometimes in the same week, or even in the same day. And the weather does this anytime it wants to.

Overhead image of two white ceramic bowls filled with a homemade salad made with arugula, fresh fruit, and chopped nuts, topped with homemade balsamic chocolate dressing, on a gray surface with scattered berries and folded beige cloth napkins topped with forks.

I recently spent a gloomy morning at the library, watching dark skies send rain onto waving maple trees and brick houses. But by early evening, the sun was bright, the air sending warm, smoke-laden breezes from the charcoal grills being fired up all around us while we walked through the neighborhood.

Later still, the breezes turned cold again, and I pulled on my thickest coat before I stepped onto the street and got in my car.

Overhead vertical closely cropped image of a shallow white bowl of salad with arugula, strawberries, blueberries, apple slices, chopped walnuts, and chocolate dressing, on a gray surface with a folded beige cloth napkin and a fork to the left.

This has happened before, like when the air turned near-balmy in February, or when we had our first snow before Halloween. And it will happen again.

So when you visit, please bring a coat and t-shirts, sunscreen and an umbrella. We make no guarantees.

Overhead image of a shallow white ceramic bowl of fruit, nut, and arugula salad topped with chocolate balsamic dressing, on a gray surface with two folded beige cloth napkins, a fork, scattered blueberries, a whole strawberry, and another identical bowl in the top left corner of the frame.

If you come see us in June, we will have salad – light and refreshing, cool and crunchy.

Whereas the winter is Chicago will make you crave hearty beef stew, summer is all about fresh leafy greens and crunchy vegetables – even if it’s raining, or the air turns cold and there are puddles along the path our doorway.

This isn’t California – you can’t eat our locally-grown produce year-round – but I’ve found it can be smarter to eat for the weather you want rather than the weather you have.

Sometimes, when you eat like it’s summer, summer comes.

Overhead image of a forkful of salad being held up to the camera with more in a white bowl in the background, made with fruit, nuts, and arugula with a chocolate dressing, on a gray surface with another bowl of the dish, two beige cloth napkins, and another fork.

This recipe has loads of things that are good for you, and that taste great as well: fresh greens, chopped toasted walnuts, apples, and fresh berries. With a rich, totally decadent chocolate balsamic dressing on top, you might forget for just a moment that you aren’t eating dessert.

It’s perfect to enjoy at the dinner table while you gaze out the window, making plans for the garden or dreaming of sunnier days, or you can pack it up and bring it with you on a picnic on the next sunshine-filled, sparkling afternoon.

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Overhead horizontal image of a shallow white bowl at the center of the frame, filled with arugula, fresh berries, apple slices, and chopped walnuts, with chocolate balsamic salad dressing on top, on a gray surface with two folded beige cloth napkins and a fork, with scattered fresh berries.

Refreshing Summer Salad with Chocolate Balsamic Dressing

  • Author: Meghan Yager
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 2 servings 1x


A refreshing summer salad with chocolate balsamic dressing is the combination of fruity, sweet, and savory flavors that you’re craving right now.



For the Salad:

  • 4 cups arugula, or 50/50 mix with various salad greens
  • 1/2 gala apple, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced strawberries
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped toasted walnuts

For the Vinaigrette:

  • 3 Tbsp dark chocolate chips
  • 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper


  1. Divide greens between two plates. Top evenly with apple slices, blueberries, and strawberries.
  2. In a small microwave-safe bowl, melt chocolate in 30-second increments, stirring in between each, until smooth. Stir in balsamic vinegar, oil, honey, salt, and pepper. Cool for 5 minutes in the refrigerator. Drizzle dressing over the salad.
  3. Sprinkle with toasted walnuts. Serve immediately.


Adapted from a recipe by Angela Roberts of Spinach Tiger.

  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Salads
  • Method: No-Cook
  • Cuisine: Vegetarian

Keywords: salad, chocolate balsamic dressing, berries, summer, lunch

Cooking By the Numbers…

Step 1 – Slice Fruit, Chop Walnuts, And Measure Remaining Ingredients

Slice half a gala apple, removing the core and discarding it.

Remove the tops of several strawberries and slice until you have a 1/2 cup total.

Overhead image of three small square and six medium round glass bowls of oil, honey, salt and pepper, chopped valnuts, chocolate chips, balsamic vinegar, chopped strawberries, whole blueberries, and sliced apples, with a pile of fresh arugula to the right, on a gray surface.

Chop enough toasted walnuts until you have 2 tablespoons total.

Measure out all of the remaining ingredients as listed in the ingredients list.

Step 2 – Plate

Divide the greens between two plates.

Vertical overhead image of two white ceramic bowls filled with arugula topped with fresh berries and apple slices, on a gray surface.

Divide the apple slices, blueberries, and strawberry slices evenly between the two plates.

Step 3 – Make Dressing

Melt the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl in 30-second increments on 30% power. Be sure to stir in between each, until smooth.

Overhead horizontal image of melted chocolate with a spoon in a small glass bowl, on a gray surface.

Add the balsamic vinegar, oil, honey, salt and pepper to the chocolate, and stir to combine.

Overhead horizontal image of a glass bowl of melted chocolate, on a gray surface.

Let the dressing cool by setting the bowl in an ice bath, in a larger bowl filled halfway with ice and water. Stir until cool.

Step 4 – Finish and Serve

Drizzle cooled dressing over each plate. Sprinkle each with a tablespoon of chopped toasted walnuts.

Overhead horizontal image of a shallow white bowl at the center of the frame, filled with arugula, fresh berries, apple slices, and chopped walnuts, with chocolate balsamic salad dressing on top, on a gray surface with two folded beige cloth napkins and a fork, with scattered fresh berries.

Serve immediately.

Chocolate + Greens + Fruit = So Good

Arugula  truly is the best base for this salad because it lends itself to the sweet and bright pops of flavor that come through in every single bite. Plus you get that little hint of peppery flavor in every mouthful.

You can also try out a 50/50 combo of arugula and mixed spring greens if you like. The light freshness of the other greens with the peppery arugula offers an added punch of vibrant taste.

Horizontal image of a shallow white ceramic bowl of arugula topped with fresh fruit, chopped nuts, and chocolate balsamic vinaigrette, on a gray surface with two folded beige cloth napkins, forks, and scattered berries, with another bowl of the same dish at the top of the frame.

Do you need more salad ideas that incorporate fruit for this week?

What’s your favorite leafy green to eat in salads? Tell us in the comments below, and be sure to come back to rate the recipe once you’ve tried it at home.

Photos by Meghan Yager, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on June 15, 2009. Last updated: December 14, 2021 at 4:52 am. With additional writing and editing by Meghan Yager and Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home,, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.

10 thoughts on “Refreshing Summer Salad with Chocolate Balsamic Vinaigrette”

  1. I am so jealous you are in Chicago! I was hoping my hubby would get a job at IIT and we could move there, but he got it right here in Kalamazoo X(~ Ah well, at least I’m not too far away… The salad looks great 🙂

  2. Thanks, Jacqui!

    Nick – It’s been just over a week, and I love getting feedback (even if it’s negative, although I am glad you like it!)

    Meeso – Thanks for reminding me I am blessed. Chicago has good things, for sure. Although Kalamazoo… well, you’re not far from blueberry picking and pumpkin patches, am I right?

  3. Today being Tuesday, our weather currently in the midst of flash-flood warnings, I am eating my words about it being warm and sunny most days. Oh, well. Time for salad nonetheless.

    Maya – Glad to know I’m not alone!

    Lainey – Thank you and I know!

    Jen – Ha! That’s usually all it takes for me, too.

  4. Thank you Shannalee. I was really enjoying your post (I love Chicago) and I was thinking what a nice salad… and then “hey it’s angela of spinach tiger” Surprise. And, it’s such a compliment that you took the time to read the instructions. I can remember so clearly the day I made that salad and thought WHO puts white chocolate on salad. Why not? Salad is my favorite food. Suffice to say, so glad I found your blog.

    Cheers, Angela

  5. I’ve also read dark chocolate is a good choice with arugula, and I will have to try that. Thanks for the great recipe!


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