This Holiday Salad is the perfect dish to add to your holiday menu. It’s tossed with a flavorful apple cider vinaigrette, and takes just 10 minutes to assemble from start to finish!
Why You’ll Love It
It’s delicious. This is one of those recipes that has everyone licking their salad bowl. The combination of sweet apples, tart cranberries, and crunchy pecans, all tossed in a tangy dressing, make it a salad you’ll crave. Creamy Gorgonzola takes the flavor over the top, but you can also swap the blue cheese for feta crumbles, if you prefer. (Or serve the cheese on the side, to give your guests the option.)
It’s fast. All you have to do is stir together the dressing, and chop 2 ingredients. When you use pre-washed mixed greens as the base for your salad, the assembly is a breeze.
You can make it ahead of time. You can prepare the dressing up to 3 days in advance, and keep it stored in the fridge for an easier holiday meal. Just chop the onion and apple shortly before serving, and toss it all together with the dressing.
It pairs perfectly with other side dishes. The flavors in this salad are the perfect companion for other popular sides, like mashed potatoes, gravy, and stuffing.
Ingredients You’ll Need
This salad is super-flexible, so feel free to add any seasonal extras you love, such as roasted beets or roasted butternut squash.
You could also add pomegranate seeds for color, or some sliced oranges, if you like. Walnuts, sliced almonds, or pistachios also make a great swap for the pecans.
If you’re not a fan of blue cheese, try using goat cheese or feta, instead. (Or leave it off for a dairy-free salad, and offer the option on the side.)
How to Make the Best Holiday Salad
1. Make the salad dressing.
In a 12-ounce mason jar with a lid, combine the apple cider vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, spicy brown mustard, garlic, honey, salt, and black pepper. Use a small whisk or spoon to stir well, until the dressing looks smooth.
Taste and make any adjustments, as needed. If the dressing is too sweet for you, try adding a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice and stir again. Or you can add more sweetener, if the dressing tastes too tart. Once the dressing tastes good to you, set it aside while you assemble the salad.
Make-Ahead Tip: You can prepare this salad dressing up to 3 days in advance, if you want to plan ahead! Just keep it stored in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it, and let it sit on the counter for 1 hour prior to your holiday meal, so it can come back to room temperature again. (This makes it easier to pour.)
You only need to slice two things for this recipe: apples and red onion. I like to keep the pieces small, so they are easy to pick up on a fork!
You can cut the apples into matchsticks (as pictured here), dice them into small chunks, or thinly slice them and fan them out over the salad. (You can see an example of this in my Apple Walnut Salad recipe.)
When you are ready to serve the salad, arrange the pre-washed greens on a large platter, or in a large serving bowl. Sprinkle the apple and onion over the top, then add in the dried cranberries and pecans.
Add the crumbled cheese, if using, then generously drizzle on the dressing. (It’s okay if you don’t use all of the dressing at once; it will keep well in the fridge for several more days.)
Toss well, and then the salad is ready to serve right away.
Frequently Asked Questions
Which type of lettuce works best? I tend to rely on the bagged mixed greens at the store, since they come pre-washed for a busy holiday meal, but you can also use spicy arugula as the base, or finely chop a head of romaine lettuce. (Romaine is my favorite, if you don’t mind taking the extra time to finely chop it. Large pieces are too difficult for your guests!)
Can I use a different sweetener? Yes, of course! You can use maple syrup instead of honey, if you need a vegan salad dressing. And feel free to use less sweetener, if you prefer a more tart dressing.
Looking for more holiday salads? Try this amazing Brussels Sprouts Salad, Greek Cauliflower Salad, Kale Salad with Caesar Dressing, or Wild Rice Salad with Orange Vinaigrette.
Holiday Salad with Apple Cider Dressing
Apple Cider Dressing:
- 3 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon spicy brown (or Dijon) mustard
- 1 clove garlic , minced
- 2 to 3 tablespoons honey
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 pound mixed greens*
- 1 large apple , thinly sliced
- ¼ large red onion , thinly sliced
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ½ cup pecans
- ½ cup crumbled gorgonzola
- To prepare the dressing, combine the vinegar, olive oil, mustard, garlic, honey, salt, and pepper in a 12-ounce glass jar with a lid. Start with just 2 tablespoons of honey, and add the other tablespoon if you'd like the dressing to be sweeter. (My family prefers using all 3 tablespoons.) Stir well, until the dressing looks well mixed, and set it aside.
- To assemble the salad, add the leafy greens to a large salad bowl, and top them with the sliced apples, onions, dried cranberries, and pecans. You can add the blue cheese on top, too, or serve it on the side with a spoon, for guests who might not enjoy cheese.
- Pour the dressing generously over the salad, just before serving, and toss well to make sure everything is well coated. You might not need to use all of the dressing, but any leftovers will keep well in the fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container. (This dressing can also be made in advance, for an easier holiday meal. Chop the apple and onion, and assemble the salad shortly before serving, so the apple won't brown.)
Update Note: This recipe was updated in November 2022 with minor changes. If you prefer the original version, simply use 2 tablespoons of honey (instead of 3) and reduce the mustard by 1 teaspoon. I also added salt & pepper to this new version, and stir it together in a jar instead of blending it in a blender. For the salad, you can use 3 chopped romaine hearts as the base, and use 4 cups of shredded purple cabbage instead of the apple. (Print the old recipe here.)
If you try this holiday salad recipe, please leave a comment and star rating below letting me know how you like it!
Questions and Reviews
You’re so not the only one who does that!! I was supposed to make a salad for Thanksgiving but totally procrastinated, then stressed about what I was going to make!! :O
I love the new blog layout!
Just a few things I can’t find now, is there a way to go to the previous post, there used to be a spot to click before.
And is there a way up top to go to the latest entry?
Thanks for amazing recipes and sharing them with us!!! Can’t wait for the new cookbook to come out!
Thank you! I’m still learning all the nuances of this new theme design, but all of my latest posts are on the homepage– just click the Detoxinista logo to be taken there. I’ll have the newest recipe posts in the top 3 spots. 🙂 I haven’t figured out how to do the previous posts yet… I’ll ask my web designer if there’s an easy solution for that.
Yay! The logo works perfect, I just like to make sure I haven’t miss any!!
Layout looks really clean and works well on computer and iPhone so far, I’m sure there are so many little things to a webpage that you never have to think about but it’s coming along great 🙂 thanks!!
I really like it too! I guess my go-to salad is probably a fruit salad. I mean, I can’t think of a single person who doesn’t love love love fresh fruit any time of year. But any green salad with blueberries or pom arils this time of year wins my heart!!!!
Mmm.. I love a good fruit salad, too. My mom actually makes a hot curried fruit dish every year for Christmas brunch, and I totally need to give that recipe a makeover because it’s delicious! But she uses canned fruit, and there has to be a better way. 😉
This sounds/looks fabulous! Can you recommend any other cheese to replace the Gorgonzola? Thanks!
I’m right there with you! I don’t eat meat or dairy, so a nice, hearty salad is my go-to for family get-togethers! I always make a very similar salad, except I use shredded Brussel Sprouts instead of lettuce. You should try it! Even those who “hate” Brussel Sprouts love it!
Made this last night and it was a hit! Love the crunch the cabbage adds to the salad. And love that it throws together so easy. Thanks Megan! And the new blog design looks awesome!
Thanks; I’m glad you enjoyed the salad!
This salad is awesome! Used feta cheese instead of gorgonzola (to make it gluten free). Served it along with your Vegan Tuscan Pumpkin pasta. Great combo!
This salad was so good…and the dressing, let’s just say I’m hooked and have been making and eating this for lunch for over a week and haven’t tired of it at all!! Thank you, thank you
I’m so glad to hear that! Thanks for letting me know. 🙂
I made your salad and dressing for Christmas Eve at my sisters and it was a huge hit! My new new go to holiday salad. Thank you!
Will make this soon.. maybe I will use pomegranate seeds instead of cranberries!
Do you eat dairy?
Yes, but I have recently been trying to cut back on it.
Megan, I wanted to tell you that everybody who eats this salad absolutely loves it! I now make it for Christmas Eve dinner and on Christmas Day. Most of the people who love it do not eat all that healthy so that is a big win. Thanks so much for another yummy recipe!
Hi Megan, yes I always stress about the last minute salad. What I make is very similar to your recipe. When in season, I add chunks of butternut squash for color. Substitute rice vinegar for raw apple cider, add a clove of pressed garlic and a tablespoon of dried basil to the dressing and it really pops.
I was asked to bring a salad to a thanksgiving dinner and I’m so glad I picked this one to make! Everyone commented how good it was. Very festive looking too! I added pomegranate seeds and less dried cranberries because I didn’t wanted it to be too sweet. Toasting the almonds gave it extra crunch. Thank you so much. This is now my favorite holiday salad.
Delicious salad. Will certainly make this regularly.
Loved it!! This is now MY favorite holiday salad!! Took to thanksgiving dinner it was a hit!!
Love this salad! My family has been making this for years but we use walnuts instead of pecans. It’s a definite fave & guests always love it as much as we do. Blue cheese has been substituted if we don’t have gorgonzola.
Took this to a gathering; Completely gobbled up! So, so good!
Made this the other day for a group of “foodie” friends EVERYONE LOVE IT! I did have the cheese and nuts on the side and I TOASTED the nuts also used mixed greens and butter lettuce ..recipe was super easy nd I will be making this often. THANK YOU!
I’m so glad it was a hit, Heather! Thanks for coming back to let me know.
This salad is so good! I used pistachios and feta cheese and it was so good. I took it to work and got lots of compliments and recipe requests. Perfect salad for a party or potluck. Now go make it!
I thought my memory was bad! I remembered recipe differently! I will keep the cabbage & romaine because they’re my favorite two items. Love the crunch and uniqueness of the two. Am trying the dressing with your new tweaks! Thanks for this recipe. People rave about it. 😊
I hope you’ll love the new dressing tweaks! I rely on the pre-washed shortcuts now that I have young kids, but the romaine + cabbage version is still delicious, too. 🙂
Is the recipe for the previous version of this salad available anywhere (the one with cabbage and romaine)? This update looks awesome, too, but I have had a request for the salad I brought to NYE last year, which was the “old” version. Thank you!
Yes, I included it in the notes, but you can also find the old recipe here: https://detoxinista.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Original-Holiday-Salad-with-Apple-Cider-Dressing-Detoxinista.pdf
Tasty, fresh, and a great bright salad for any time of year, not just the holidays! It was a very welcome dish at the Thanksgiving table.