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Winter Salad with Maple Cider Vinaigrette features crisp apples, red onion, and blue cheese crumbled all tossed together with salad greens and sprinkled with homemade candied pecans. This recipe combines all the flavors — sweet, tart, sharp, spicy — for a refreshing and delicious salad.

close up view of winter salad with apple slices, red onion slices, candied pecans, and blue cheese crumbles in a salad bowl.

 

Sometimes, a simple salad won’t do the trick — especially during the holidays when you’re enjoying all kinds of mouth-watering dishes, like roasted turkey, flavorful casseroles, sauteed veggies, and more.

That’s why I keep some easy winter salad recipes on hand this time of year. We could all use some light and refreshing salads on the holiday menu!

Why you’ll love this Winter Salad recipe!

  • Perfect Winter Salad. It’s the perfect mix of savory and sweet with deliciously tangy dressing!
  • Refreshing Break from Heavy Holiday Dishes. For me, it’s certainly a nice change from all the heavy holiday foods I’ve been consuming– We could all use a break!
  • Perfect for Meal Prep. This is one of my favorite winter salad recipes because you can make it well ahead of time, which is handy when preparing for a holiday dinner party.
ingredients for winter salad and a vinaigrette on a table.

Ingredient notes

Candied Pecans

  • Pecans | Choose quality pecan halves for the best results.
  • Butter | Toss them in melted butter to help the sugar and spices adhere to the pecans and produce a golden outside.
  • Sugar | Use white granulated sugar or brown sugar– Whichever you prefer!
  • Spices | Add savory and subtly spicy flavor to the sweet candied pecans with ground ginger and curry powder.
  • Salt and red pepper | To round out the taste, use a bit of kosher salt. Then sprinkle in ground red pepper for the final kick of heat!

Maple Dijon Dressing

  • Vinegar | I like to use apple cider vinegar to compliment the fruity elements and seasonal flavors.
  • Maple syrup | Sweeten the dressing with pure maple syrup.
  • Dijon mustard | For a bit of spice and tangy notes, whisk Dijon mustard into the mix.
  • Salt and pepper | Just a pinch of salt and pepper helps to season the dressing lightly.
  • Oil | Use extra-virgin olive oil for the best flavor.

Salad Ingredients

  • Leafy greens | Of course, you’ll need fresh greens, like a spring mix or baby spinach.
  • Apple | One of my favorite parts of this easy recipe is the thin and crisp apple slices– Yum!
  • Red onion | Bring bitterness and tangy notes with thinly sliced red onion.
  • Blue cheese crumbles | Bring all the flavors together with the tangy, savory, and nutty flavor of blue cheese crumbles.

How to make the Best Salad with Maple Dressing

This recipe combines all the flavors — sweet, tart, sharp, spicy — for a refreshing, delicious, and colorful salad.

Prepare Pecans

STEP 1 | Preheat and prep

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

making candied pecans on a baking sheet and a bowl of vinaigrette on a table.

STEP 2 | Coat pecans with butter

Next, place the pecan halves in a small bowl and toss them with melted butter.

STEP 3 | Add spices and sugar

Set out a large bowl and add the sugar and spices. Stir them together, then add the buttery pecans, tossing to coat.

STEP 4 | Toast pecans

Now, spread the pecans in a single layer on the prepared pan and bake for 10 to 13 minutes, or until they are lightly browned.

STEP 5 | Cool

Then, cool the pecans on the pan set on a  wire rack for 20 minutes, separating them with a fork once they have cooled.

tips

  • Prepare the candied spiced pecans ahead of time. Then, just before serving, toss with the salad greens, toppings, and dressing.
  • For this salad recipe, the candied pecans are best enjoyed at room temperature.
  • Try chilling the salad bowls in the freezer for at least half an hour before adding the salad to them. This will help keep the salad cool and fresh while you eat it.
salad greens and topping on a table for a winter salad.

Prepare Vinaigrette

Start with a small bowl and add some of the dressing ingredients. Whisk together apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Then, pour the olive oil into the bowl slowly, whisking as you go until the vinaigrette is well blended and emulsified.

Prepare Salad

STEP 1 | Combine ingredients

First, combine the winter salad greens, sliced apple, red onion, and blue cheese in a large salad bowl.

STEP 2 | Toss with dressing

Next, drizzle the salad with the desired amount of Maple-Cider Vinaigrette, gently tossing to coat.

drizzling maple dijon vinaigrette over a salad in a bowl on a table.

STEP 3 | Garnish and serve!

Then, sprinkle the salad with candied curried pecans and additional blue cheese, if desired.

Enjoy fresh!

Try some of my best winter salad recipes, like this Christmas Salad with pomegranate seeds, pistachios, pear slices, and dried cranberries. Or, this Cucumber Tomato Feta Salad adds vibrant color to a holiday spread. 

Variations and substitutions

  • Other Winter Fruits. Add more of your favorite ingredients at their peak in winter, like oranges, pears, or fresh lemon juice.
  • Additional Toppings. Make this recipe your own with more toppings, like roasted pumpkin seeds or nutty sunflower seeds.
  • Citrus Twist. Add freshly squeezed orange juice to the dressing to brighten the flavor.
  • If preferred, substitute the spinach or spring mix with romaine lettuce for a crisp and watery bite.
  • If you’re not a blue cheese fan, try creamy goat cheese or feta cheese instead!
  • You can also make this recipe with walnuts, chestnuts, almonds, or another favorite.

Storage and reheating tips

  • The vinaigrette may be made up to three days ahead and stored covered in the refrigerator. The vinaigrette recipe makes enough to dress this salad with a little extra left over so you enjoy it again on another salad.
  •  If you don’t plan on serving the salad right away, leave the dressing on the side to preserve the freshness and crisp texture of the ingredients.
close up of winter salad in a bowl with apple slices and candied pecans.

Frequently asked questions

Why are my homemade candied pecans sticky?

More than likely, you didn’t bake the pecans for as long as they needed. The sugar must reach a high temperature to solidify once cooled, preventing a sticky texture. If they are too sticky, place them back in the oven for a few more minutes.

What is a vinaigrette made of?

To be considered a vinaigrette, the salad dressing recipe should include a base of oil and vinegar.

What is winter salad?

Like a summer salad that uses summer produce and bright flavors to combat the heat, a winter salad includes winter produce and warm and cozy fall tastes that work against the chilly weather. Winter salads commonly have pecans, walnuts, spices like nutmeg and ginger, and fruits like apples, pears, or cranberries.

Serving suggestions

Serve the recipe as a delicious side salad for tender and juicy Grilled Sirloin Steak or this Chicken Breast with Creamy Dijon Mustard Sauce.

On the other hand, a great side dish for this tasty salad with maple dressing as the main dish is a steamy cup of soup, like my Loaded Potato Soup or savory Pork Meatball and Wild Rice Soup!

Salad in a serving bowl on a table.

Looking for more Delicious Winter Dishes?

Try this Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with crispy bacon pieces, my Creamy Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup, and this adorable and festive Instant Pot Acorn Squash stuffed with wild rice, Italian sausage, chestnuts, dried cherries, and more tasty winter ingredients!

Please share!

Your shares are how this site grows, and I appreciate each one. Do you know someone who would enjoy this recipe? I’d love it if you would share it on Facebook or Pinterest!

close up view of winter salad with apple slices, red onion slices, candied pecans, and blue cheese crumbles in a salad bowl.

Winter Salad with Maple Cider Vinaigrette

This recipe combines all the flavors — sweet, tart, sharp, spicy — for a refreshing and delicious salad.
4.20 from 20 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Salad
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings
Calories 885 kcal

Ingredients
  

Candied Spiced Pecans

  • 1 6-oz. pkg. pecan halves
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

Maple Cider Vinaigrette

  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad

  • 1 10- oz. pkg. salad greens spring mix or spinach
  • 1 llarge apple thinly sliced
  • 1 small red onion thinly sliced
  • 1 4-oz. pkg. blue cheese crumbles

Instructions
 

Prepare Pecans

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • Place pecan halves in a small bowl and toss with melted butter.
  • In a larger bowl, stir together the sugar and spices. Add the pecans and toss to coat.
  • Spread pecans in a single layer on the prepared pan and bake for 10 to 13 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  • Cool in pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then separate the pecans with a fork.

Prepare Vinaigrette

  • In a small bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Pour the olive oil into the bowl in a slow stream, whisking as you go until the vinaigrette is well blended and emulsified.

Prepare Salad

  • Combine the salad greens, sliced apple, red onion, and blue cheese in a large salad bowl.
  • Drizzle with desired amount of Maple-Cider Vinaigrette, gently tossing to coat.
  • Sprinkle with candied curried pecans and additional blue cheese, if desired.

Notes

Recipe adapted from Southern Living, December 2009.
  • Prepare the candied spiced pecans ahead of time. Then, just before serving, toss with the salad greens, toppings, and dressing.
  • For this salad recipe, the candied pecans are best enjoyed at room temperature.
  • Store candied pecans an airtight container until ready to use (up to one week).
  • Try chilling the salad bowls in the freezer for at least half an hour before adding the salad to them. This will help keep the salad cool and fresh while you eat it.

Nutrition

Serving: 1gCalories: 885kcalCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 12gFat: 81gSaturated Fat: 17gPolyunsaturated Fat: 61gCholesterol: 37mgSodium: 704mgFiber: 7gSugar: 23g

Life Love and Good Food does not claim to be a registered dietician or nutritionist. Nutritional information shared on this site is only an estimate. We recommend running the ingredients through an online nutritional calculator if you need to verify any information.

Keyword apple, candied pecans, holiday recipe, homemade salad dressing, vinaigrette
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was.
Sheila Thigpen, blogger

About Sheila Thigpen

Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer

Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.

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