Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Whether you’re hosting a large family dinner or contributing a side dish to a potluck, I have the perfect Thanksgiving salad for you. This apple pecan salad screams Thanksgiving. It has crunch, flavor, and enough colorful pizazz that it’ll be the highlight of any Thanksgiving table!
I used to not be much of a salad person because honestly, they were boring as all get out. But this apple pecan salad is a whole different beast. Bring this to your Thanksgiving dinner, and I guarantee you’re going to have people begging you for the recipe by the end of the night. The best part is, it’s super simple to make. Let’s get cooking!
What’s in this apple pecan salad?
We are all about fall with this one, which is why it is a perfect Thanksgiving salad! You’ll need:
- Baby spinach and chopped lettuce. These are the salad greens we use for this salad, but if you’d like to swap in some baby kale or other leafy greens, feel free!
- Apple. Any apple will do the trick!
- Red onion.
- Gorgonzola cheese. If you aren’t a fan, we’ll talk more about this in a sec.
- Pecan halves. Toasted pecans add a nutty crunch that is a nice contrast to the creamy gorgonzola.
- Dried cranberries.
- Our homemade honey mustard dressing.
Do I have to use gorgonzola cheese?
Gorgonzola cheese has a unique flavor that can be difficult to replicate. If it’s been aged a long time, it can be sharp with a nutty flavor, while if it’s only been aged a short time, it tends to be smooth and mild. It’s a crumbly, soft cheese, so it’s easy to break apart and sprinkle on your apple pecan salad.
However, if you aren’t a fan of gorgonzola, you can substitute it with another crumbly cheese. Blue cheese is probably closest in flavor since gorgonzola is part of the blue cheese family. If you prefer a milder or more tangy flavor, you could try feta cheese, which also crumbles well.
How do I toast my pecan halves?
Toasting pecan halves is easy, and you can do it in the oven or your frying pan. To toast them in the oven, preheat the oven to 325°F. Arrange your pecans in a single layer on a parchment-covered baking sheet, and then bake your pecans for seven to ten minutes to get them toasty.
If your oven is full, you can pan-fry your pecans in a dry skillet that’s been heated over medium heat. Make sure your pecans aren’t touching each other and allow them to roast for three to five minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
You’ll know your pecans are done when they smell toasty and more nutty, and are just starting to brown. Don’t let them get too dark, or they will taste burnt instead of tasty.
What if I don’t like or have pecans?
Pecans are a smooth, buttery nut that tastes delicious in a variety of recipes. Honestly, the salad will taste best with roasted pecans. However, if you need to substitute them out, it will still taste delicious!
If you’d prefer, hazelnuts are very similar in flavor to pecans. Of course, walnuts are another popular salad topping. Macadamias and cashews are both sweet, smooth, and buttery, so they’d taste great in your Thanksgiving salad in place of pecans. Basically, whatever nut you use, you’ll still end up with a great fall salad.
I’m allergic to nuts. What can I use instead?
If you have a nut allergy—or you just don’t like them—you can still make this apple pecan salad without losing the crunch that pecans provide. An excellent substitute for nuts in salads are seeds. Pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds will add a seasonal crunch to your salad, and if you toast them in the oven or on the stovetop, you’ll get a bit of that nutty flavor as well!
How can I make this apple pecan salad more filling?
As it’s written, this apple pecan salad makes a great side dish for eight people, or a main dish for four. If you’d like to make it more filling, add some grilled chicken or, for a vegetarian-friendly salad, some drained and rinsed canned chickpeas.
Can this salad be made ahead of time?
You can definitely make this salad ahead of time, with one catch. To preserve the fresh crunch, you should make the dressing ahead of time and keep it in a separate container until you’re ready to serve your salad. This will prevent the leafy greens from getting soggy.
Slicing your apple ahead of time may cause browning, so if you choose to do this, you might want to soak it in a water and lemon juice solution. Pre-sliced apples and pre-mixed salad are good for about a day in the fridge, while the salad dressing can be made up to three or four days in advance.
You could also prepare it as a mason jar salad, like we did with our apple walnut salad in a jar.
What are some other amazing Thanksgiving side dishes I can try out?
Of course, if you try it and you still aren’t a fan of salads, don’t fret—I promise I won’t hold it against you—because I have a ton more Thanksgiving side dishes you’re bound to love!