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This apple pecan salad, perfect for a light lunch or side dish, features crisp apples, dried cranberries, crunchy pecans, broccoli and shaved parmesan. Tossed with a maple vinaigrette, it’s full of fall flavors.
In Montreal we have a small local chain called Mandy’s that just makes great hearty salads. Most of them are vegetarian, although you can get meat as an add-on. But you REALLY don’t need to.
The sheer volume of salad makes it totally satisfying even without meat. And if you’re thinking that you’d quickly get bored chowing down on an enormous pile of leafy greens, you would be wrong. Every bite pretty much knocks you out with the different taste and textures. If you’re ever in town, it’s worth the detour.
Now this is not a Mandy’s recipe, but I did have their salads in mind when I tossed this apple pecan salad together. It’s full of familiar fall flavors with crisp fresh apples, chewy dried cranberries, and crunchy pecans. I added some raw broccoli and shaved Parmesan for extra fun and flavor.
If you like, you can add grilled chicken, or even bacon bits to it.
And if you’re looking for a copycat recipe for the Wendy’s apple pecan chicken salad, add some chicken, sub in some blue cheese crumbles for the Parmesan, and you’ll come pretty close.
Why This is The Ultimate Fall Salad
It’s easy to make. All you need are a few pantry staples and fresh vegetables and you can toss this apple pecan salad together any night of the week.
It’s full of fall flavors. Fall foods don’t only have to be pumpkin spice sweets or meaty mains, this is the perfect salad and truly one of the fall favorites in my home, making it’s way onto the holiday table more often than not.
For the Salad
Mixed Salad Greens
For the greens, you can use your favorite salad greens, from romaine lettuce to iceberg lettuce to spring mix, baby spinach, or kale.
I opted for the baby kale mix I discovered when I made this amazing roasted sweet potato salad a few weeks back. In general, I like to use more delicate greens, like spring mix, when I plan to serve a salad as a side, and heartier greens like romaine and baby spinach, kale, and chard when I’m serving it as a main course.
For hearty salads that are also meatless, I like to add a combination of vegetables – for the textures and flavors. Broccoli florets are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and can be eaten raw, cooked, or steamed.
Choose a tart apple variety, such as Honeycrisp or Granny Smith apples, or a mix of apples. These are sweet apples but with a tartness that will provide a nice contrast to the sweetness of the dried cranberries and the toasted crunchy pecans. Use thinly sliced apples so they are easy to eat.
The strong, nutty flavor of parmesan cheese takes this apple pecan salad up a notch. You can also use a cheese of your choice, like goat cheese or feta cheese. Blue cheese crumbles would also go well with the flavors and textures in this salad.
Toasting pecans enhances their flavor and gives them an extra crunchy texture.
To toast pecans, preheat your oven to 350F. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes, or until they are fragrant and golden brown. Let the pecans cool completely before adding them to your apple pecan salad.
Dried cranberries are sweet and tart and complement the flavors of the crisp apples, crunchy pecans, and nutty parmesan.
For the Dressing
This homemade vinaigrette and I go way back. I’ve always loved a sweet and tangy salad dressing and this maple vinaigrette has been one of my faves for years.
Maple syrup is a natural sweetener that adds a rich, caramel-like flavor to the dressing. It is also a good source of antioxidants.
The mayonnaise adds body and richness to the dressing. It also helps to emulsify the dressing, preventing it from separating.
White wine vinegar
White wine vinegar will add a touch of acidity and brightness and also help balance out the sweetness of the maple syrup.
Heart-healthy olive oil is a must for any salad dressing. Use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor and of course all the health benefits.
How to Make Apple Pecan Salad – Step by Step
1. In a large bowl, add the leafy greens, broccoli florets, sliced apples, parmesan, crunchy pecans, dried cranberries, and green onion.
2. In a small bowl, whisk the maple syrup, mayonnaise, and white wine vinegar until combined. Now slowly add in the olive oil while whisking it until the dressing is smooth and emulsified.
3. Add the salad dressing to the vegetables and mix. Your apple pecan salad is done!
You can add a protein of your choice – like chicken breast strips, bacon, or maybe even tofu!
You can also add more leafy greens of your choice or other veggies like red onion and bell pepper.
You can use goat cheese, feta cheese, or blue cheese or gorgonzola instead of the Parmesan.
You can also take this fall salad up a notch by adding candied pecans instead of just roasted ones. To make candied pecans, follow the instructions for the candied walnuts in this strawberry goat cheese salad.
This is a great hearty salad recipe for dinner parties and holiday tables because it takes 15 minutes to throw together. But if you have some leftovers, you can store it in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
The maple syrup dressing should be stored separately and it will last for about a week in the refrigerator. To serve, simply toss the apple pecan salad with the dressing and enjoy.
More Favorite Salad Recipes on the Blog
Fall Salad with Maple Vinaigrette
- 5 oz mixed greens such as a mix of baby spinach, kale, and chard
- 1/2 cup broccoli florets thinly sliced
- 1 apple thinly sliced
- 1 oz Parmesan cheese shaved with a vegetable peeler or knife
- 1/2 cup toasted pecans
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1 green onion thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 tablepoons white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large salad bowl, combine the salad ingredients.
- Inn a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, mayonnaise, and white wine vinegar. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly, until smooth and emulsified.
- Toss the desired amount of dressing with the salad ingredients until well coated.