Don’t overlook this Apple Walnut Salad. Vibrant and complex with layers of crunch and zip, this stunning green salad is perfect for a holiday gathering. It’s anything but forgettable and just what a more decadent meal needs to feel balanced and complete.
Salads at big holiday meals are easy to pass over. Not this one.
The varied flavors, textures, and an unexpected, absolutely delectable cinnamon dressing make it memorable and something your guests will thank you for preparing.
Crisp, sweet apple slices are a natural pairing with rich, toasty walnuts and creamy blue cheese (yes, you can swap goat cheese or make it an apple walnut feta salad if you prefer).
A handful of cranberries give it festive color and pops of tangy sweetness.
For the greens, I chose a mix of arugula and endive, a slightly bitter green that is in prime season right now. It’s important that the greens are strong enough to stand up to the other bold flavors in this salad; they give it the backbone it needs.
The crowning touch that makes this salad unforgettable is a vibrant maple dressing with a touch of cinnamon.
The cinnamon tastes fantastic with the apples. The overall effect will lead you to believe the walnuts are candied (even though all we need to do is toast them in the oven. So much easier!).
The Best Apple Walnut Salad
This memorable, beautiful salad might feel fancy, but it’s actually super easy to prepare! You can fully assemble it up to 1 day in advance, then dress and toss it just before serving (see more in Storage & Make Ahead Tips below).
- Arugula. A member of the Brassica family, arugula is a delicious green with its own unique flavor. It’s tender and has a slightly peppery taste that adds wonderful flavor to salads like this one.
- Belgian Endive. While there are a few varieties of endive, you’ll want to use Belgian endive specifically for this recipe. It resembles a small head of lettuce with light yellow leaves. Refreshingly crisp and mildly bitter, it is a welcome counterpart to both the apples and arugula.
- Apples. The apples soak up the scrumptious dressing flavor and add a wonderful juicy crunch to the salad.
- Dried Cranberries. With their chewy texture, sweet flavor, and festive color, dried cranberries are an exceptional addition for both elegance and taste.
- Blue Cheese. A classic pairing with apple and walnut, blue cheese is a perfect fit here. For something mild, use gorgonzola; for something stronger, look for Cabrales (a Spanish blue cheese) or Roquefort (which is French). Not into blue cheese? Feta and goat cheese both work well.
- Nuts. Freshly toasted walnuts make all the difference in the world.
- Maple Cinnamon Dressing. A little sweet, a little tangy, and a lot delicious (especially with the apples!). Be sure to add it gradually so that you don’t accidentally overdress the salad.
- Toast and chop the walnuts.
- Whisk the dressing ingredients together. Stir in the apples.
- Place the arugula and endive in a bowl.
- Add part of the cranberries, cheese, and walnuts.
- Transfer the apples to the bowl with the greens. Toss to coat. Continue to add the dressing until the salad is moist.
- Finish with the remaining toppings and toss. ENJOY!
- To Store. This tastes best the day it is made, but I also enjoyed it leftover, adding some fresh greens and a drizzle of extra dressing to liven it back up. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 2 days.
If you know you’re going to have leftovers, only dress the part of the salad you plan to eat. Refrigerate the apples and dressing in a separate storage container from the salad ingredients. Dress just before serving.
Make Ahead Tip
Prep all the ingredients up to 1 day in advance. Store the walnuts at room temperature. Refrigerate the rest of the salad and the dressing separately. Dress just before serving.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Mixing Bowls. Multiple sizes for preparing all the components of this salad.
- Small Whisk. No more splashing salad dressing all over the counter.
- Apple Corer. Makes light work of cutting apples.
Apple Walnut Salad
FOR THE SALAD:
- 3/4 cup raw walnut halves
- 2 small apples or 1 large apple cored and thinly sliced (recommended: Honeycrisp)
- 4 ounces baby arugula about 4 tightly packed cups
- 3 Belgian endives* about 6 ounces
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries or golden raisins
- 3 ounces crumbled gorgonzola** goat cheese, or feta (about a generous 1/2 cup)
FOR THE DRESSING:
- 1 small shallot very finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the walnuts into a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the nuts smell fragrant and toasty and they are crisp. Immediately transfer to a cutting board to cool. Roughly chop.
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients: shallot, olive oil, red wine vinegar, maple syrup, cinnamon, and salt. Add the apple and toss to coat.
- In a large serving bowl, place the arugula. Thinly cut the endive crosswise into very thin rounds (you'll have 3 cups or so). Add them to the bowl.
- Add half each of the cranberries, cheese, and walnuts.
- With a spoon, scoop the apple slices into the salad (some of the dressing and shallots will cling to the apples; some will be left behind in the bowl). Add a few more spoonfuls of the dressing to the salad to moisten it, then toss to coat. If the salad seems dry at this point, continue to spoon on small amounts of the dressing, tossing after each, until it’s moist but not sopping (it’s easy to overdress salad!).
- Sprinkle the remaining cranberries, cheese, and walnuts over the salad, then very lightly toss once more. Taste and add a bit of additional salt if desired (the amount you need will vary based on your cheese; with gorgonzola, our salad was just right). Enjoy immediately, with any remaining dressing on the side for serving as desired.
- *A bitter green like endive provides a delicious, bright, and welcome counterpoint to the sweet apples and is a classic pairing with arugula, especially if you are serving this as a part of a larger meal. Radicchio would be the closest swap. If you aren’t a fan of endive, you can swap it for spring mix, chopped romaine, or really any mixed lettuce you prefer.
- **A mild blue cheese such as gorgonzola is my favorite in this recipe (it’s so tasty with the walnuts and arugula!) but if that isn’t your thing, goat cheese is my second choice (still delish), and feta is a good option too.
- TO MAKE AHEAD: Prep all the ingredients up to 1 day in advance. Store the walnuts at room temperature. Refrigerate the rest of the salad and the dressing separately. Dress just before serving.
- TO STORE: This tastes best the day it is made, but I also enjoyed it leftover, adding some fresh greens and a drizzle of extra dressing to liven it back up. Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight storage container for up to 2 days.
- If you know you’re going to have leftovers, only dress the part of the salad you plan to eat. Refrigerate the apples and dressing in a separate storage container from the salad ingredients. Dress just before serving.
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