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.
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.
❤ Why We Love This Recipe
- A Thanksgiving salad that’s lighter than traditional side dishes.
- Very easy to make.
- Perfect autumnal flavors.
🥘 Ingredient Notes
- 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
Toast the Walnuts
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.
PRO 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.
STEP 6. Serve the salad on individual small plates and pass the dressing for guests to drizzle over.
🕒 How to 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 Information
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. This recipe can’t be frozen.
🔀 Variations and Suggestions
- This salad is so good with a leftover turkey 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!
❓ Questions About Apple Cranberry Salad
You’ll want to choose apples that are tart, sweet, and crisp. My favorites are Honeycrisp, Granny Smith, and Golden Delicious.
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.
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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Apple Cranberry Salad
- 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
- 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.
- Watch the walnuts when toasting and remove them from the heat when they’re nicely browned.
- You can prepare the salad ahead, but may find that the apples turn brown if prepped too far in advance. To prevent browning, toss the apple slices with a tablespoon of lemon juice. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.
- 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.
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.
— This post was originally published on October 20, 2012. It has been updated with new photos and additional information.