Holiday Salad with Apple Cider Dressing

Amanda M. Rye

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!

holiday salad topped with pecans and apples.

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

salad ingredients labeled in glass bowls.

What salad ingredients will you need?

  • Lettuce
  • Apple (or pear)
  • Red onion
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Pecans
  • Blue cheese crumbles
  • Apple cider vinaigrette (recipe below!)

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.)

salad dressing stirred together in a glass jar.

2. Chop. 

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.)

apple cut into matchsticks on cutting board and added to salad.

3. Assemble. 

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.

holiday salad on large platter with dressing added.

​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 topped with pecans and apples.

Holiday Salad with Apple Cider Dressing

This Holiday Salad is the perfect dish to bring to your next holiday party. It’s tossed with a flavorful apple cider vinaigrette, and takes just 10 minutes to assemble!

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cook Time: 0 mins

Total Time: 10 mins

Servings: 8 people

Ingredients

Apple Cider Dressing:

  • 3 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
  • 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

Salad Assembly:

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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.)

Notes

Nutrition information is for 1 of 8 servings, assuming you use all of the dressing and toppings. This information is automatically calculated using generic ingredients, and is just an estimate, not a guarantee.
*I buy a big box of mixed greens from the store, since they already come triple-washed and save time for the holidays. You can also use a large head (or two) of romaine lettuce, and finely chop it so it’s easy to serve for your guests.

Nutrition

Calories: 213kcal, Carbohydrates: 18g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 10g, Cholesterol: 5mg, Sodium: 170mg, Potassium: 189mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 13g, Vitamin A: 717IU, Vitamin C: 15mg, Calcium: 54mg, Iron: 1mg

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 chopped romaine as the base, and use shredded purple cabbage instead of the apple.

If you try this holiday salad recipe, please leave a comment and star rating below letting me know how you like it!

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