Recipes » Salad Recipes » Apple Cranberry Salad

Apple Cranberry Salad

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4.8 from 6 votes
This refreshing Apple Cranberry Salad highlights beautiful autumnal flavors with a counterpoint of blue cheese drizzled with a delicious balsamic vinaigrette (recipe included).
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 7 minutes
Finished salad in a decorative bowl.

This light, refreshing Apple Cranberry Salad highlights beautiful autumnal flavors of apples, cranberries, and walnuts with a counterpoint of blue cheese and is tossed in a delicious balsamic vinaigrette (recipe included). It’s a lighter side dish option for your Thanksgiving menu.

One of the biggest feast days of the year is almost here! Have you started planning your menu yet? I have. But I’m still refining it and probably will right up until we sit down at the table.

Finished salad in a decorative bowl.

If you’re still looking for ideas, I have a lighter suggestion for you. We don’t always think of salads for Thanksgiving, but they can be a great choice!

On this day of heavy eating and indulging in rich foods, it’s sometimes nice to include at least one thing that’s on the lighter side.

This lovely Apple Cranberry Salad with its Balsamic Vinaigrette is one of my favorite salads that compliment turkey. It fits right in with the traditional sides with its autumnal theme of apples, cranberries, and walnuts. And the blue cheese rounds out the flavors quite nicely.

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  • A Thanksgiving salad that’s lighter than traditional side dishes.
  • Very easy to make.
  • Perfect autumnal flavors.

Ingredient Notes

Ingredients needed for the recipe.
  • Butter Lettuce (I like a soft leaf lettuce for this recipe such as butter lettuce. Red (or green) leaf lettuce also works as does Boston lettuce.)
  • Apples (A crisp, sweet-tart apple make a great combination with the cranberries and blue cheese. My preference is Granny Smith. Honeycrisp or Golden Delicious would also be nice.)
  • Walnuts (Substitute pecans if you like.)
  • Blue Cheese (Purchase the crumbles or get a wedge and crumble it yourself.)
  • Balsamic Vinegar (Buying balsamic vinegar can be similar to purchasing a bottle wine. If you’re unsure which to choose, this guide from The Spruce Eats might be helpful.)
  • Olive Oil (I recommend using a good extra virgin olive oil for this recipe.)

You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe at the bottom of this post.

How to Make Apple Cranberry Salad

Let’s Go Step-by-Step

I always like to show you the photos and step-by-step instructions for my recipes to help you picture how to make them in your own kitchen. If you just want to print out a copy, you can skip to the bottom of the post where you’ll find the recipe card.

Toast the Walnuts

Walnuts in a small skillet.
STEP 1.

STEP 1. In a dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast the walnuts. Shake the nuts several times while cooking to prevent scorching. Set the walnuts aside to cool while you prepare the rest of the salad.

COOK’S TIP 
Toasting will take about 6 to 7 minutes. Watch them carefully and remove them from the heat when they’re nicely browned.

Slice the Apples and Toss the Salad

STEP 2. Slice the apples lengthwise into thin slices.

STEP 3. Combine the apples, lettuce, walnuts, cranberries, and blue cheese in a large bowl. Toss the salad to combine.

Make the Vinaigrette

STEP 4. Add the vinegar, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper to a small bowl.

STEP 5. Slowly add the olive oil while whisking constantly.

Serve

Finished salad served on individual plates.
STEP 6.

STEP 6. Serve the salad on individual small plates and pass the dressing for guests to drizzle over.

Make Ahead and Storage Information

  • Make Ahead: You can prepare the salad ahead, but may find that the apples turn brown if prepped too far in advance. To prevent that from happening, toss the apple slices with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.
  • Storage: Because the lettuce is quite delicate and the apples tend to turn brown, this salad has a short storage time. Leftovers can be placed in a covered container in the fridge and should be consumed within 24 hours.
  • Freezing: Not possible for this recipe.

Variations and Suggestions

  • This salad is so good with a leftover turkey cranberry sandwich!
  • Don’t save this salad only for Thanksgiving. It’s great any time of year. It’s great with roasted chicken, or even as a side for your favorite spaghetti dinner.
  • If you’re not a fan of blue cheese, try substituting crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese.
  • Substitute an equal amount of honey for the granulated sugar.
  • It’s nice to spice the dressing up slightly with a few drops of Tabasco or your favorite hot sauce.
  • If you prefer pecans, you can easily substitute them for the walnuts.
  • Vary your salad by substituting half the lettuce leaves with baby spinach.
  • Leftover balsamic vinaigrette is wonderful drizzled over roasted chicken!
Finished salad in a decorative bowl.

Questions About Apple Cranberry Salad

Which apples are the best for this thanksgiving salad recipe?

You’ll want to choose apples that are tart, sweet, and crisp. My favorites are Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, and Golden Delicious.

How do I keep the apple slices from turning brown?

If it’s going to be more than about 30 minutes before you serve your salad, you may need to take measures to stop the apple slices from browning. This is easily done by tossing them with a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice.

I’m not crazy about balsamic vinegar. Can you suggest a different dressing?

If you’re not into balsamic vinaigrette dressings, you can always substitute apple cider vinegar in the recipe or make my lemon vinaigrette or poppy seed dressing instead.

Have you tried this recipe? I’d really appreciate you giving it a star ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating in the recipe card or in the comments section.
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Recipe

Finished salad in a decorative bowl.

Apple Cranberry Salad

This refreshing Apple Cranberry Salad highlights beautiful autumnal flavors with a counterpoint of blue cheese drizzled with a delicious balsamic vinaigrette (recipe included).
4.84 from 6 votes
Print It Rate It
Course: Salads
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Total Time: 17 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 715kcal
Author: Lana Stuart

Ingredients

  • 1 cup walnuts toasted
  • 2 crisp apples (such as Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, or Golden Delicious)
  • 6 cups butter lettuce (or red or green leaf lettuce, or a mix of both)
  • ¾ cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup crumbled blue cheese

For the vinaigrette:

  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove minced or grated
  • 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  • In a dry skillet over medium-high heat, toast the walnuts. Shake the nuts several times while cooking to prevent scorching. Set the walnuts aside to cool while you prepare the rest of the salad.
  • Slice the apples lengthwise into thin slices.
  • Combine the apples, lettuce, walnuts, cranberries, and blue cheese in a large bowl. Toss the salad to combine.
  • Add the vinegar, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper to a small bowl.
  • Slowly add the olive oil while whisking constantly.
  • Serve the salad on individual small plates and pass the dressing for guests to drizzle over.

Notes

Toasting the walnuts will take about 6 to 7 minutes. Watch them carefully and remove them from the heat when they’re nicely browned.
Ingredients:
  • I like a soft leaf lettuce for this recipe such as butter lettuce. Red (or green) leaf lettuce also works as does Boston lettuce.
  • A crisp, sweet-tart apple make a great combination with the cranberries and blue cheese. My preference is Granny Smith. Honeycrisp or Golden Delicious would also be nice.
  • Purchase the crumbled blue cheese or get a wedge and crumble it yourself.
  • A good extra virgin olive oil is recommended.
Make Ahead and Storage Information
• Make Ahead: You can prepare the salad ahead, but may find that the apples turn brown if prepped too far in advance. To prevent that from happening, toss the apple slices with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.
• Storage: Because the lettuce is quite delicate and the apples tend to turn brown, this salad has a short storage time. Leftovers can be placed in a covered container in the fridge and should be consumed within 24 hours.
Variations and Suggestions
  • This salad is so good with a leftover turkey cranberry sandwich!
  • Don’t save this salad only for Thanksgiving. It’s great any time of year. It’s great with roasted chicken, or even as a side for your favorite spaghetti dinner.
  • If you’re not a fan of blue cheese, try substituting crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese.
  • It’s nice to spice the dressing up slightly with a few drops of Tabasco or your favorite hot sauce.
  • If you prefer pecans, you can easily substitute them for the walnuts.
  • Vary your salad by substituting half the lettuce leaves with baby spinach.
  • Leftover balsamic vinaigrette is wonderful drizzled over roasted chicken!

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1 | Calories: 715kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 56g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 17g | Monounsaturated Fat: 25g | Cholesterol: 25mg | Sodium: 772mg | Potassium: 525mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 34g | Vitamin A: 2798IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 248mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your health care provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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— This post was originally published on October 20, 2012. It has been updated with new photos and additional information.

Apple Cranberry Salad on a vintage plate with antique flatware.

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11 Comments

  1. I’ve made several of your recipes and enjoyed them all; but I have to tell you that the Copper Pennies were a GIANT hit as a sidedish this Thanksgiving. I felt guilty taking compliments since it was so EASY :)

    Thanks, Lana :)

  2. Since it’s just us, I am doing the traditional stuff. I used your recipe to try to gauge the proportions on Mama’s undisputed, hands down, best of the entire world, dressing. I usually just wing it. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

    Blessings and love to all.

    Miss P

    1. Happy Thanksgiving and love to y’all as well. If you get to North Georgia this weekend, give us a call. We’ll have leftovers :-)

      1. Turned out great! Thanks for all of the time that you put in to translate the recipe of, again, the undiputed Queen of Dressing!!!

        Happy Thanksgiving.

        Miss P

  3. They all look scrumptious Lana!! :) I especially love the idea of pairing butternut squash and blue cheese. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

  4. Lana – when you posted the Copper Pennies recipe months (years?) ago, it brought back great memories, and I’ve made them several times since then. They will be part of our Thanksgiving dinner also – always a big hit!