Fall Salad With Pomegranate Dressing

This fall salad is autumn in a bowl!  It’s irresistibly delicious, fresh, vibrant, satisfying and gorgeous for potlucks, thanksgiving and Christmas!

 This Fall Salad is loaded with  sweet crisp apples and pears, savory roasted butternut squash, crunchy caramelized pecans, salty toasted pepitas, punchy red onions, tangy Gorgonzola cheese, sweet tart pomegranate seeds, fresh spring mix lettuce all drizzled with sweet, bright and tangy Pomegranate dressing. It’s a symphony of sweet, salty, savory, and crunchy, creamy, light and satisfying. 

top view of fall salads with apples

Fall Salad worthy of Thanksgiving

Can you believe Thanksgiving is next week?!  I’ve been busy making and posting Thanksgiving recipes in anticipation of the epic holiday, because I want to it be your most delicious Thanksgiving ever.  You can see all of my Thanksgiving Recipes, including this newly added Fall Salad, on this Thanksgiving Round Up Post divided into appetizers, sides and desserts or you can see them all at a glance at my Thanksgiving recipe index.

Just like every Thanksgiving needs a tender, juicy turkey, every Thanksgiving table needs a Fall Salad.  But not just any green salad, a salad that can hold its own against the MVPs of the table, a salad that will have you going back for seconds, a salad that will have you asking “who made the salad?,” a salad that will have you begging for the recipe.  I bring you such a salad.

This Fall Salad will have you licking the plate.  It the most comforting salad while still tasting fresh and vibrant.  There is something about the combo of the sweet, crunchy nuts with the tangy cheese, the sweet tart bright pops of pomegranate seeds with the salty pumpkin seeds, the sweet crisp apples and pears with the savory, melt-in-your-mouth roasted squash that is just magic –  as all Thanksgiving sides should be.

You can prepare the dressing, squash and nuts the day before for an easy throw-together side – that doesn’t require the oven.  You can also customize the add-ins with any of your favorite greens, fruits, nuts or cheeses.

up close of Thanksgiving Fall Salad with pears, apples, pecans, cheese

What Ingredients are in Fall Salad?

The ingredients for this Fall Salad are pretty straightforward but the roasted squash and caramelized nuts do require an extra step (to make them worthy of your Thanksgiving table!).  Both are extremely simple to make and transform this Fall Salad into otherworldly  delicious – so please don’t skip them!  You can purchase already pre-chopped squash or caramelized nuts if you prefer to make this Fall Salad even easier (see my tips and tricks section).

  • Greens I like to use a spring salad mix because it makes your life easier – no chopping lettuce!; but more importantly, it feels fancier than just romaine, I like the texture better than just spinach and it is not as potent as all arugula or endive. Of course, you can swap it out for your favorite greens.
  • Roasted Butternut Squash:  I could eat this roasted squash all in one sitting, but it becomes exponentially more delectable with forkfuls of crisp pears and crunchy greens. We toss or chopped squash with olive oil, cinnamon, salt, pepper and a dash of cayenne for maximum flavor.

how to make fall salad by roasting butternut with cinnamon

  • Apple:  You will want to choose a sweet apple like Fuji or honey crisp to complement our tangy cheese and pomegranate seeds.  You can slice your apples or chop them into chunks – totally personal preference.
  • Pear:  For This Fall Salad, I prefer Bartlets or Bosc pears, (I used Bartletts this time), but it really comes down to personal preference.  Take care your pear is ripe so it is sweet but not overripe or it will be mushy.

  • Cheese:  I think every green salad needs cheese.  For this Fall Salad, I’ve chosen Gorgonzola cheese.  Gorgonzola is a type of blue cheese but not as poignant as Roquefort blue cheese.  It is salty with a tangy bite that beautifully compliments the sweet caramelized nuts
  • Nuts:  Don’t skip the nuts!  Nuts add a necessary crunch to any salad and caramelized nuts add a sweet addicting crunch that your palate longs for in every bite.  I use my 5 Minute Caramelized Nuts in this Fall Salad because it is so easy and the nuts emerge beautifully caramelized, sweet and crunchy every time.  I chose to caramelize pecans but you could also caramelize walnuts.

showing how to make fall salad by caramelizing pecans

  • Seeds: We need pepitas for their salty crunch.  Take care to purchase roasted, salted pepitas otherwise you can roast and salt them yourself.  Just raw pepitas will not deliver the flavor we’re looking for.
  • Pomegranate Seeds: You can purchase a whole pomegranate and seed it yourself or you can buy just pomegranate seeds in a container for a shortcut.
  • Dried Cranberries: I included craisins as an optional add-in because we already have the sweet from the nuts but feel free to add them. I personally think they dried cranberries make everything better. You could also add in dried cherries or apricots.

HOW TO MAKE Fall SALAD

To make this autumn salad:

  1. Make Dressing: Whisk all the Pomegranate Dressing ingredients together in a bowl or shake in a jar.  We want to make the dressing first so it has time to chill and the flavors to meld.
  2. Roast Butternut Squash: Toss squash with olive oil, cinnamon, salt and pepper and a dash of cayenne. Roast 15-20 minutes or until tender. Meanwhile…
  3. Caramelize Nuts: The nuts really only take 5 minutes!  Add butter, sugar, and nuts to a saucepan and let the magic happen.  I like to roughly chop my nus once cooled.
  4. Assemble:  Toss all of the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. You can either drizzle with desired amount of dressing and toss to combine (ONLY if you are eating right away and don’t expect leftovers) OR if you expect leftovers, serve the dressing on the side.
  5. EAT! Everyone will be licking their plates and coming back for seconds and thirds!

side view of fresh fall salad in large wood bowl with pecans, pears, apples, squash, dried cranberries, butternut squash, gorgonzola cheese

TIPS FOR Fall SALAD

  • Can I make my dressing ahead of time?  Yes!  Make the Salad Dressing first so it has time to chill and the flavors develop.  Not one likes warm salad dressing!  You can also make it up to 5 days in advance and store in the refrigerator.
  • Can I make my dressing sweeter?  You can make the dressing sweeter by adding more sugar or tangier by adding more vinegar according to your personal taste.

pouring fall salad dressing over salad

  • What if I can’t find pepitas? You can replace the pepitas with roasted, salted sunflower seeds if you can’t find them.  I get my pepitas at the bulk section at Sprouts.
  • What if I can only find raw pepitas? If you can only find raw pepitas, then heat a drizzle of olive oil in a nonstick skillet, add your ½ cup pepitas along with ¼ teaspoon salt stir until toasted. Turn onto a parchment paper to cool.
  • What if I don’t know how to remove pomegranate seeds?:  Don’t be intimidated!  There are lots of tutorials online.  I would google “how to remove pomegranate seeds in water” for my favorite method.  If don’t want to purchase a whole pomegranate and seed it yourself, just buy pomegranate seeds in a container.
  • Can I use Pre-Cut Squash?  Absolutely!  If you don’t want to peel and chop your squash (probably the most time consuming part of the Fall Salad), you can purchase pre-peeled and chopped squash.  If they are chopped larger or smaller than 1-inch” then adjust cooking time accordingly.

showing how to make fall salad by roasting butternut squash

  • Can I make may squash in advance?  You can roast your squash a day in advance and store in the refrigerator until its time to toss with your Fall Salad.
  • Can I use different nuts?  If you don’t want to caramelize your own nuts, then you can buy them at specialty stores such as Trader Joes.
  • Can I add other vegetables?  Yes!  Red bell peppers, cucumbers, shredded carrots, etc. would all be delicious.
  • Can I add protein?   Transform this Fall Salad into a meal by adding chicken, shrimp or tofu.
  • Can I add grains?  I think this Fall Salad would be superb with the addition of cooked quinoa or wild rice – yum!

HOW TO KEEP APPLES AND PEARS FROM TURNING BROWN

My favorite way to keep pears and apples from oxidizing and turning brown after slicing is to put them in a bowl of apple juice.  This way they don’t become bitter like soaking in lemon juice can do.

If you only have lemon juice on hand, then mix ½ cup water and 2 tablespoons lemon and then toss your apples and pears in the mixture.

Both of these methods will prolong the oxidation process, but you still want to slice your pear and apple as close to serving as possible.

up close of pears and pomegranate seeds in Fall Salad

Pomegranate Vinaigrette 

I’ve chosen to pair his Fall Salad with sweet and tangy Pomegranate Dressing.  It is bright and vibrant and only takes a couple minutes to make!  It compliments and enhances all of the salad ingredients rather than overwhelming them.

showing how to make pomegranate dressing for fall salad

Our Pomegranate  Dressing is a quick whisking or shaking of:

  • olive oil
  • pomegranate juice
  • apple cider vinegar
  • sugar
  • Dijon mustard
  • garlic powder
  • ginger powder
  • salt and pepper
  • poppy seeds (optional)

I like to add poppy seeds to most of my vinaigrettes for a little extra fun and flirty action, but they are totally optional if you don’t keep them on hand.   When you’re ready to serve, just make sure you give your dressing a good shake/stir again to recombine.

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tossing Fall Salad with tongs

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

tossing Fall Salad with tongs that has pears and apples, pecans

top view of fall salads with apples

Fall Salad

This fall salad is autumn in a bowl!  It’s irresistibly delicious, fresh, vibrant, satisfying and gorgeous for potlucks, thanksgiving and Christmas! It is loaded with  sweet crisp apples and pears, savory roasted butternut squash, crunchy caramelized pecans, punchy red onions, tangy Gorgonzola cheese, sweet tart pomegranate seeds, fresh spring mix lettuce all drizzled with sweet, bright and tangy Pomegranate dressing. It’s a symphony of sweet, salty, savory, and crunchy, creamy, light and satisfying. 
Servings: 10 servings
Total Time: 45 mins
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 15 mins

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Ingredients

Salad

  • 12 oz. spring salad mix
  • 1 pear sliced or chopped
  • 1 sweet apple sliced or chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup roasted salted pepitas
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 4 oz. soft crumbled gorgonzola cheese
  • 1 Recipe 5 Minute Perfect Caramelized Nuts (using pecans)

Roasted Squash

  • 3 cups butternut squash peeled and chopped into 1/2″-3/4” cubes
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp EACH cinnamon, salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Dash of cayenne

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoon sugar more or less to taste
  • 1 tablespoon poppyseeds optional
  • 1 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • ¼ tsp EACH garlic powder, salt, pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ginger powder

Instructions

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

  • Combine all of the Pomegranate Vinaigrette ingredients in a bowls or jar with a tight-fitting lid. Either whisk or shake vigorously until combined. Store in the fridge until ready to serve (up to 5 days). Shake/whisk before serving.

Caramelized Pecans

  • Prepare according to directions. I like to chop my nus after they are cooled. You can make the nuts days in advance and store them in an airtight container.

Butternut Squash

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Add butternut squash followed by olive oil, maple, cinnamon, salt, pepper, cayenne and toss until evenly coated. Lay in a single layer and roast for 15-20 minutes, or until tender.

Assemble

  • When ready to serve, toss all of the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. If serving right away and you don’t expect leftovers then you can drizzle with desired amount of dressing and toss to combine. If you expect leftovers, serve dressing on the side.

Notes

Prep Ahead

  • Dressing:  can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in the refrigerator. 
  • Squash: roast the butternut squash, cool and refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days. 
  • Nuts: caramelized nuts can be made up to 1 week in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature.  
  • Apples and pears: can be peeled, chopped/sliced up to 24 hours ahead of time and soaked in a mixture of apple juice with a couple tablespoons lemon juice or pomegranate juice with a couple tablespoons lemon juice.
  • Red onions:  chop the red onions up to 24 hours ahead of time and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  
If you need to bring the salad to a gathering, then layer the ingredients in this order so it doesn’t get soggy, then toss when ready to serve: pomegranate arils, apples, pears, red onions, salad mix, seeds, nuts, goat cheese.

TIPS FOR Fall SALAD

  • Can I make my dressing sweeter?  You can make the dressing sweeter by adding more sugar or tangier by adding more vinegar according to your personal taste.
  • What if I can’t find pepitas? You can replace the pepitas with roasted, salted sunflower seeds if you can’t find them.  I get my pepitas at the bulk section at Sprouts.
  • What if I can only find raw pepitas? If you can only find raw pepitas, then heat a drizzle of olive oil in a nonstick skillet, add your ½ cup pepitas along with ¼ teaspoon salt stir until toasted. Turn onto a parchment paper to cool.
  • What if I don’t know how to remove pomegranate seeds?:  Don’t be intimidated!  There are lots of tutorials online.  I would google “how to remove pomegranate seeds in water” for my favorite method.  If don’t want to purchase a whole pomegranate and seed it yourself, just buy pomegranate seeds in a container.
  • Can I use Pre-Cut Squash?Absolutely!  If you don’t want to peel and chop your squash (probably the most time consuming part of the Fall Salad, you can purchase pre-peeled and chopped squash.  If they are chopped larger or smaller than 1-inch” then adjust cooking time accordingly.
  • Can I make may squash in advance?  You can roast your squash a day in advance and store in the refrigerator until its time to toss with your Fall Salad.
  • Can I us different nuts?  If you don’t want to caramelize your own nuts, then you can buy them at specialty stores such as Trader Joes.
  • Can I Add other vegetables?  Absolutely!  Red bell peppers, cucumbers, shredded carrots, etc. would all be delicious.
  • Can I add protein?   Transform this Fall Salad into a meal by adding chicken, shrimp or tofu.
  • Can I add grains?  I think this Fall Salad would be superb with the addition of cooked quinoa or wild rice – yum!

Did You Make This Recipe?

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Reader Interactions

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14 Comments

    • Jen says

      Agreed! You will love it!

  1. Meredith says

    Wow, really loved this one. I keep stumbling across your recipes, every single one I’ve tried has been amazing. We especially love this salad, and your BBQ chicken chili!

    • Jen says

      Thank you for taking the time to comment Meredith, I love hearing this Fall Salad was a winner, especially because it is one of my favs! Thank you for making my recipes!

  2. Jenbas says

    I just made this salad for Thanksgiving and it was beautiful, hearty, and delicious. I cheated by buying dressing (I couldn’t find pom dressing so I used raspberry). A++

    • Jen says

      Thank you so much for the A++ rating Jen! I’m so pleased it was a hit, Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Suzanne says

    This looks so good! I love fall salads the best! So many rich and filling flavors!

    • Jen says

      Agreed, they are my favorite! I hope this one becomes a new favorite!

  4. Luz says

    I made this delicious salad and made the dressing 12 hours ahead and it had a gooie tarnish color layer in top almost like the consistency of very thin pancake mix. I shook the container but it didn’t dissolve. Why is that. What did I do wrong. I wish I could attach a picture but don’t know how

    • Jen says

      Hi Luz, the oil will naturally separate and rise to the top. It simply needs to be vigorously whisked together again before using.

  5. Ben Derenbach says

    I love all your recipes, Jen, and this looks like another winner! Please suggest entrees and sides it will complement. Thank you for all your hard work. Your posts are always well-thought-out, interesting, and complete!

  6. Rachel says

    If you are looking for a showstopper Thanksgiving salad recipe, end your search right here. This recipe looks and tastes delish. So much going on here with flavors and textures in all the right ways. Be sure to make the candied nuts; the recipe lives up to the name. I did need to add more salt to the dressing, but I also love salt. Definitely recommend this one.

    • Jen says

      Thanks so much for taking the time to leave such a glowing review Rachel! I’m thrilled you loved this salad so much!

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