Sweet Potato Salad with the BEST Dressing! (Make Ahead Friendly)

Amanda M. Rye

This Sweet Potato Salad will have everyone coming back for seconds – ideal for the holidays or crave worthy for every day!

This Sweet Potato Salad recipe is a vibrant, beautiful, showstopper for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and every dinner in between!  It’s loaded with maple kissed roasted sweet potatoes, peppery arugula, tart apples, sweet and crunchy caramelized pecans, punchy red onions, salty toasted pepitas, creamy goat cheese and sweet tart dried cranberries, all drizzled with bright and tangy Pomegranate Orange Vinaigrette.  Of course, feel free to mix and match your favorite ingredients (loads of variations included).  This Roasted Sweet Potato Salad is a stunning addition to any feast and is easy to assemble ahead of time!

Company worthy salads are one of my favorite recipes to bring to potlucks.  Some of our favorites include: Pear Salad,  Apple Salad, Fall Salad, Beet Salad, Mandarin Orange Salad and Roasted Butternut Squash Salad.

How to Make Sweet Potato salad Video


top view of sweet potato salad with roasted sweet potatoes

Sweet Potato Salad Ingredients

In this easy fall salad recipe, sweet potatoes are roasted until tender, then combined with arugula, caramelized pecans, goat cheese and apples, then drizzled with homemade Orange Pomegranate Vinaigrette. It will look like a lot of ingredients, but most of them are just tossed together, so it’s very straightforward to make.

Let’s take a closer look at what you’ll need to make this Sweet Potato Salad recipe (full measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post):

For the Roasted Sweet Potatoes: 

  • Sweet potatoes: Use any color of sweet potato you’d like, although I prefer the copper skin and deep orange flesh of garnet yams (which are actually sweet potatoes).
  • Olive oil: Use a quality extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor. 
  • Maple syrup: Use pure maple syrup, not imitation pancake syrup.
  • Spices: The roasted sweet potatoes are seasoned with salt, pepper, cinnamon, garlic powder, and paprika.   
showing how to make sweet potato salad by roasting sweet potatoes

For the Salad:

  • Arugula: I love the peppery flavor of arugula combined with the sweetness of the potatoes and caramelized nuts.  Make sure to use baby arugula as mature arugula tends to be too potent. 
  • Apple: Use a Granny Smith apple for its tartness to compliment the sweet ingredients. You can slice your apple or chop it into chunks – totally personal preference, no need to peel first.
  • Dried cranberries: These add sweet-tart flavor and texture galore to the salad. 
  • Pepitas: AKA pumpkin seeds. I recommend using roasted, salted pepitas, as raw pepitas won’t deliver all the flavor.  You can also roast and salt them yourself. 
  • Cheese: Use your favorite crumbled cheese such as feta, goat cheese or Gorgonzola for its creamy, sharp, salty bite.  I recommend purchasing fresh cheese in a log/block and crumbling it yourself.  It tends to be creamier than purchasing crumbles.
  • Red onion: The sharpness is needed to cut through the sweetness of the salad. You can chop or thinly slice the onion; use more or less to taste.
  • Caramelized nuts: I used pecans but you may use any nut or nut blend you like. The recipe I’ve linked takes just 5 minutes to prepare and is heaven all on its own.

For the Dressing: 

  • Pomegranate juice:  This can be found with the rest of the juices, or sometimes it is located in the refrigerated section. Look for 100% pomegranate juice. You can portion out and freeze whatever juice you don’t use in this salad for a later – or add it to acai bowls – or drink it!  
  • Orange juice and zest: Use fresh oranges because we are also using some of the zest.
  • Olive oil: Use quality extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
  • Red wine vinegar: Adds the delightful tanginess.  Use more or less to taste.
  • Dijon mustard: Adds an oomph of flavor.
  • Maple syrup: Balances the dressing. Please use pure maple syrup and not the imitation kind.
  • Seasonings: Salt, pepper, dried thyme, and allspice round out the dressing.
showing how to make sweet potato salad recipe by adding pomegranate orange vinaigrette
  • Maple syrup: can be substituted with honey. 
  • Dried cranberries: can be substituted with dried cherries, dried apricots or pomegranate seeds. 
  • Baby arugula: can be substituted with mixed greens. 
  • Caramelized nuts: Can be substituted with roasted and salted nuts such as slivered almonds or cashews. 
  • Pepitas: can be substituted with roasted, salted sunflower seeds.

How to Make Sweet Potato Salad

This Sweet Potato Salad recipe is easy to prepare! While the sweet potatoes are roasting, begin chopping the salad ingredients and caramelizing the nuts, then, toss everything together when the sweet potatoes come out of the oven.

  • Step 1:  Make the vinaigrette.  Whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl, or shake in a jar.
  • Step 2:  Roast the sweet potatoes.  Toss the cubed potatoes with olive oil, maple syrup and spices, then roast until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes.  
  • Step 3:  Caramelize the Nuts.  Stir the nuts, sugar, and butter together in a nonstick skillet until the sugar melts and completely coats the nuts, about 5 minutes, then turn out onto parchment paper. Chop the nuts once cooled.
  • Step 4:  Serve.  Toss all of the salad ingredients together in a large bowl, including the roasted sweet potatoes.  If serving right away and you don’t expect leftovers, drizzle the salad with the desired amount of dressing and toss to combine. If you expect leftovers, serve dressing on the side.
showing how to make sweet potato salad by roasting sweet potatoes with spices
  • Prep ahead: Get excited because you can prepare ALL of the ingredients for this Sweet Potato Salad recipe ahead of time – full instructions to follow.
  • Make the salad dressing first: The dressing needs time to chill and the flavors develop – no one likes warm salad dressing! If you are making the salad and serving immediately, place the dressing in the freezer for 30 minutes and then transfer to the refrigerator so it is sufficiently chilled.
  • Customize dressing: Some people like tangier dressing, some people prefer sweeter dressing, so I recommend starting with the dressing as written then adjusting to taste.  For sweeter, add additional maple syrup one teaspoon at a time, for tangier, add additional vinegar one teaspoon at a time.
  • How to roast pepitas: If you can only find raw pepitas, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a nonstick skillet, add your seeds along with ¼ teaspoon salt stir until toasted. Turn onto a parchment paper-lined plate to cool.
  • Make your own pomegranate juice: Make your own pomegranate juice by smashing pomegranate arils and straining the juice through a fine mesh sieve. Depending on the ripeness of the pomegranate, your homemade juice may be less sweet/tangier, so don’t hesitate to adjust the dressing as needed.
  • Roast the sweet potatoes until fork tender: You don’t want the potatoes to roast to fall-apart tender, fork tender will do it, that way the potatoes will hold their own against the other ingredients. 
  • Serve immediately.  Once you dress the salad, serve immediately so the salad doesn’t become soggy.
  • Scale the recipe up or down: This salad is easy to double for a crowd or cut it in half for lunches or a small group. Use the the arrows next to the servings in the printable recipe card to scale the recipe up or down.
  • Serve as a plated salad: Place the greens on plates, top with the roasted sweet potatoes, then remaining salad ingredients. 
  • Swap the sweet potatoes: Use roasted butternut squash cubes instead of sweet potatoes.
  • Add protein: This salad recipe can instantly be made into an entrée salad by adding shrimp, salmon, chicken, steak or pork. Try doubling the dressing and marinating the protein in it before cooking.
  • Swap nuts: I used pecans, but caramelized walnuts, almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts would all be tasty. Or, use regular roasted and salted nuts instead of caramelized nuts. 
  • Add crumbled bacon: Cooked and crumbled bacon would be a welcome addition to the salad. 
  • Add veggies: Add any veggies your heart desires such as bell peppers, mushrooms, cucumbers, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower etc.
  • Swap seeds: If pepitas aren’t your thing, you can use pine nuts or pistachios – just make sure they’re roasted and salted!
  • Swap cheese: Use either feta, goat cheese, gorgonzola or another soft and crumbly cheese.
  • Omit cheese: Keep this recipe dairy-free by omitting the cheese altogether. 
  • Add grains: Adding cooked brown rice, farro, quinoa, couscous etc. immediately introduces another delectable texture.
  • Add beets: You can roast your own beets (see this Beet Salad recipe for instructions) or add jarred pickled beets.
sweet potato salad recipe in a bowl with roasted sweet potatoes

This Sweet Potato Salad makes a superb addition to all your holiday festivities! Serve it with Herb Butter Turkey, Brown Sugar Glazed Ham, Honey Baked Ham, Garlic Herb Butter Pork Tenderloin, Pot Roast, Beef Tips and Gravy, or Slow Cooker Honey Balsamic Roast Beef. 

It also is wonderful with practically EVERYTHING else that graces your table from Garlic Butter Salmon, to Chicken Divan, to Bolognese, to Crockpot Chili to Million Dollar Mac & Cheese to Oven Fried Chicken. 

sweet potato salad recipe in a bowl with roasted sweet potatoes




©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

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  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled, chopped into ¾-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp EACH salt, paprika, cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


  • 3 cups baby arugula (not standard arugula)
  • 1 Granny smith apple, sliced or chopped
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • 1/3 cup roasted salted pepitas (or sunflower seeds)
  • 1/3 cup feta or goat cheese crumbles
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Recipe 5 Minute Perfect Caramelized Nuts (I use pecans) (May sub slivered almonds)


  • 3 tablespoons pomegranate juice
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup (more or less to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp EACH salt, pepper, dried thyme, allspice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil



  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Add cubed sweet potatoes to a foil lined baking sheet. Toss with olive oil, maple syrup and seasonings.

  • Spread potatoes into a single layer. Roast for 25 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile, caramelize the nuts.

  • MAKE AHEAD: Roast, cool and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before serving or reheat in a 350 degree F oven until slightly warmed.


  • When ready to serve, toss all of the salad ingredients together in a large bowl, including the sweet potatoes.

  • If serving right away and you don’t expect leftovers, then drizzle with desired amount of dressing and toss to combine. If you do expect leftovers, serve the dressing on the side.

  • Plated salad variation: Place the greens on plates, top with the potatoes, and remaining salad ingredients, then drizzle with dressing.

  • Chill the dressing: The dressing needs time to chill and the flavors develop – no one likes warm salad dressing! If you are making the salad and serving immediately, place the dressing in the freezer for 30 minutes and then transfer to the refrigerator so it is sufficiently chilled.
  • Customize the salad.  The salad ingredients and measurements are simply suggestions.  See the post for LOTS of variations.  You can add/swap any ingredients for your favorite veggies, fruits, cheese, seeds and nuts. 
  • Storage: After the salad is dressed, it is best served within an hour because the arugula will become soggy. If you hold the dressing, the salad can last up to four days stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. For the freshest leftover (meal prep), store the ingredients in separate containers, then assemble salads fresh.


Make Ahead

This recipe can be made 100% ahead of time then tossed together when ready to serve or you can prepare parts of the salad ahead of time:

  • Sweet potatoes: roast, cool, then refrigerate until serving. When ready to use, bring to room temperature or reheat them in a 350ºF oven until slightly warmed.
  • Apple: can be peeled, chopped/sliced up to 24 hours ahead of time and soaked in a mixture of apple juice and lemon juice or tossed in some of the vinaigrette.
  • Red onions: chop/slice the red onion up to 24 hours ahead of time and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. 
  • Caramelized nuts: can be made 1 week ahead of time and stored in an airtight container on your counter.
  • Dressing: can be made up to 5 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I recommend making the dressing ahead of time because it allows time for the flavors to build and meld. Dressing also tastes 1000X better chilled.
  • 100% Make ahead: layer the salad ahead of time (after soaking the apples) in a salad bowl in this order: sweet potatoes, red onions, apples, arugula, pepitas, caramelized nuts, goat cheese.

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