A fresh, versatile and easy to pull together salad, this Apple Cranberry Salad features fresh salad greens, apples, dried cranberries, nuts and blue cheese with a tangy Maple Buttermilk Dressing. A seasonal delight with color, creamy, crunch and flavor! This recipe is vegetarian and easily gluten free.
Why You’ll Love this Apple Cranberry Salad Recipe!
A suitable side for the holidays, lunch or with soup, this crunchy and festive salad goes a long way in the flavor department! It’s got crunch, creamy, sweet and fat culminating in a satisfying salad you’ll make over and over again. Here’s why you should give it a go:
- Make Ahead – pull this festive together in no time using my get ahead tips.
- Versatile – enjoy with your favorite greens, nuts, apple variety and blue cheese.
- Scaling Up – whether you’re making for two or for a small crowd, this recipe doubles with ease.
- Festive – I love whippin’ this salad up for gatherings or holidays because it’s just so pretty! The colors are eye catching.
Ingredients for Cranberry Apple Salad
What you’ll appreciate most about this apple salad with cranberries is its versatility. You can switch it up based on what’s in the larder and/or preference. Here’s what you’ll need to make this delicious green salad (see recipe card for details):
- Salad Greens – there are many to choose from! Pictured, I include Frisée or curly endive for beautiful texture and a hint of bitter. Also included is spinach, spicy mustard greens and red butter lettuce topped with microgreens. A bag of mixed spring greens or arugula is quite nice too. Choose romaine lettuce for an extra crunchy salad. I find a mix of greens, at least two or more, to be the tastiest in any salad.
- Apples – you’ll need just one large apple or choose two different smaller apples for flavor, like Gala, Honey Crisp or Liberty. For a salad with green apple, try a Granny Smith apple.
- Dried Cranberries – look in the bulk bins for best value. You can use apple juice sweetened or cane sugar sweetened cranberries. If you like the tartness of cranberries, you can opt for unsweetened. As an alternative, try these Roasted Beets! A delicious sub for cranberries in this salad!
- Pecans – gently toast these for a nutty, earthy flavor. For an apple cranberry walnut salad you can easily sub walnuts for the pecans.
- Purple Onion – sliced thin for a pop of spicy flavor. To quell the heat of purple onions, soak them in water for about 15 minutes, drain and pat dry.
- Blue Cheese – there are dozens of varieties of blue cheese. For this salad, I like a classic blue cheese from Rogue Creamery or you can sub goat cheese for a more delicate flavor. I like Cypress Grove Humbolt fog. English stilton is also a tasty choice. If following a vegetarian diet, check the label to ensure no animal rennet is included in the cheese making process.
Ingredients for Apple Cranberry Salad Dressing
You may be wondering what dressing goes with apple cranberry salad. While we love a good balsamic dressing, this maple buttermilk dressing is like the “little black dress” of salad dressings where it pairs easily with a variety of salad ingredients. The addition of maple syrup, offers a a hint of sweet with a fall and winter feel. Here’s what you’ll need to make it (see recipe card for details):
- Buttermilk – this is not an ingredient I typically keep on hand, but for this dressing, it’s worth the buy. You can use full fat or low fat here.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – creates a tangy, earthy flavor.
- Mayonnaise – adds body, helps the dressing cling to the lettuce and aids in thickening. Use your favorite here. I like Vegenaise.
- Whole Grain Mustard – adds flavor and texture to the dressing.
- Maple Syrup – for a pop of sweet to balance tart cranberries.
Quick Guide: How to Make Apple Salad with Cranberries
Choose the freshest greens you can get your hands on and a variety, at least two-three, for color and texture. Here’s how to make this festive green salad (see recipe card for details):
- First, add all the dressing ingredients to a lidded jar and shake until smooth and creamy.
- Second, toast the pecans and wash the greens.
- Third, slice the apple into small, bite size pieces and cut your purple onion thin.
- Next, transfer the salad mixture to a large salad bowl, add the apples, pecans, cranberries, onion and blue cheese.
- Last, drizzle the dressing over the salad, toss and enjoy!
GET AHEAD: the dressing can be made up to four days in advance and stored in the fridge. Toast the pecans up to a week in advance and store in the pantry.
PRO TIP: After dicing the apples, toss with a squeeze of lemon juice before adding them to the salad. This will help prevent the flesh from oxidizing (turning brown), keeping them pretty for serving.
How to Wash Salad Greens
The quickest and easiest way to wash and dry greens is with a salad spinner. Here’s how to do it:
- First, place torn salad greens into the basket of a salad spinner. Fill the basin and basket with cold water just until it almost reaches the top of the lettuce.
- Second, gently swish the greens around in the water. This helps loosen any soil or dirt of the leaves.
- Next, let the lettuce soak in the cold water for a few minutes. This helps crisp the leaves.
- Last, drain the lettuce and spin it to throughly dry the leaves.
How to Dry Lettuce Without a Salad Spinner
The easiest way to dry lettuce without a salad spinner is employing the rollup method. After giving the lettuce a wash in a bowl, drain the greens in a colander, then lay a clean kitchen towel on the counter. Transfer the lettuce to the towel in one layer and gently roll it up. Repeat as needed being careful not to bruise the lettuce.
Mains to Share with Apple Cranberry Salad
This salad shines with complementary seasonal mains. Share with recipes that feature winter squash, mushrooms, cabbage, potatoes or just about any brothy soup. Here are a few ideas:
A Few Recipe Tips
- Get Ahead! Make the dressing up to four days ahead, and toast the pecans up to a week ahead.
- Mix it Up: Choose a variety of salad greens for best texture and flavor.
- Vegetarian Cheese: if following a vegetarian diet, be sure to check the label on the blue cheese to make sure it’s not made with animal rennet. Both Rogue Creamery and Cypress Grove are vegetarian friendly.
- Variation: If you love beets, try subbing cranberries for diced Roasted Beets. It’s divine!
More Apple and Cranberry Recipes to Love
- Apple Cranberry Cobbler
- Apple Walnut Baked Oats with Cranberry Butter
- Apple and Beet Salad
- Apple Dumplings Stuffed with Brown Sugar Cranberry Butter
Apple Cranberry Salad with Maple Buttermilk Dressing Recipe
For the Dressing:
- 1/2 cup (130 grams) Buttermilk full fat or low fat
- 3 tablespoons Mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Prepared Whole Grain Mustard
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Maple Syrup add a touch more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon each, Sea Salt and Black Pepper
For the Salad:
- 1/2 cup (65 grams) Pecan Halves
- 5 cups (110 grams) Salad Greens like butter, Frisée, spinach, mustard, loosely packed
- 1/3 cup (50 grams) Dried Cranberries *see note
- 2 cups (200 grams) Fresh Apple medium dice, about 1 large apple
- 1/4 cup (20 grams) Red Onion sliced into thin moons
- 1/3 cup (45 grams) Blue Cheese crumbled **(see note)
- Micro Greens for garnish, optional
Make the Dressing:
- In a lidded jar, add the buttermilk, mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, mustard, maple syrup and salt and pepper. Shake until the ingredients are smooth and incorporated. Taste for sweet and seasoning adjustment. Set aside.
Make the Salad:
- Oven: Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit (180 Celsius). Place the pecans on a small baking pan and toast in the oven for about 5-7 minutes. Stove Top: Toast the pecans in a pan on low to medium heat, tossing frequently for 2-3 minutes. They go from done to burnt quick so watch them closely, adjust the heat as needed. The pecans are done when they're fragrant and slightly darker. Set aside to cool. Chop into bits or leave them whole.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the washed and dried salad greens, top with apples, pecans, cranberries, red onion and blue cheese. Sprinkle with micro greens if using.
- Dress the salad (you may not use all the dressing), toss and share.