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!
The combination of sweet apples, tart cranberries, and crunchy pecans, all tossed in a tangy dressing, make this holiday salad recipe one you’ll crave.
To prepare it, 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!
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
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 the salad dressing 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.)
To assemble this salad, 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 fanned apples 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
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.
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.)
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.
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. If you find you need to brighten the flavor, stir in 1 tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- 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.
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!