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Apple Salad with Apple Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

This Apple Salad is bursting with apples, cranberries, candied walnuts, bacon, and feta all drizzled with sweet and tangy Apple Poppy Seed Vinaigrette.  Its a refreshing balance of sweet and savory and gorgeous for special occasions but easy enough for everyday.  And you are going to want to this Apple Walnut Salad every day.  Its the perfect addition to your Thanksgiving feast because not only is it scrumptious and deceptively sophisticated, but it can all be prepared beforehand with the exception of slicing the apples for a NO STRESS side that everyone will rave about!
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 6 -8

Ingredients

Apple Salad

  • 1 small head romaine lettuce chopped
  • 8 oz. spring salad mix or spinach
  • 2 Fuji or honeycrisp apples thinly sliced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 6 slices bacon cooked and crumbled
  • 1 red bell pepper chopped
  • 1/2 small red onion thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese crumbles
  • 1/2 cup roasted salted pepitas (or sunflower seeds)
  • 3/4 cup Recipe Caramelized Walnuts *

Apple Poppy Seed Dressing

Instructions

  • Add all of the dressing ingredients to a medium bowl and whisk to combine or shake in a mason jar. Refrigerate while you prepare the salad ingredients then whisk/shake again before drizzling over salad. The dressing can be made up to five days in advance.
  • When ready to serve, toss all of the salad ingredients together in a large bowl. You can either drizzle with desired amount of dressing and toss to combine or if you expect leftovers, drizzle individual salad servings with dressing.

Video

Notes

Don't miss the "how to make" recipe video at the top of the post!
All ingredients are a guideline. Add more or less of your favorite salad fixings!
*The caramelized nuts recipe makes 1 cup nuts. I suggest making 1 cup caramelized walnuts and using the desired amount in the salad and eating/storing the rest :)

TIPS AND TRICKS FOR APPLE WALNUT SALAD

  • Make dressing first.  Make the Apple Dressing first so it has time to chill and the flavors develop - no one likes warm salad dressing!  If you are making the Apple Salad and serving immediately, place the dressing in the freezer for 30 minutes then transfer to the refrigerator so it is sufficiently chilled.
  • Customize dressing.   Some people like tangier dressing, some people prefer sweeter dressing so I recommend starting with one tablespoon sugar than adding additional sugar a teaspoon at a time if desired. For a tangier dressing, add additional apple cider vinegar.
  • Prep ahead:  I've detailed how you can make the Apple Salad ahead of time below, but get giddy because you can prepare all or some of the ingredients ahead of time. You can make the the dressing, bacon, caramelized walnuts, red bell peppers and red onions the day before so all that’s left to do is chop 2 apples  – that’s it for for an easy side that doesn’t require the oven!
  • Tame Red onion:  I recommend soaking the red onion in water first to remove some of the bite if you tend to find red onions too strong. To do this, place red onion in a fine mesh sieve, submerge the sieve in a large bowl of water for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove sieve and thoroughly dry onions with a paper towel.
  • Scale Apple Salad recipe up or down.     This Apple Salad is easy to double for a crowd or cut it in half for lunches or a small group.

APPLE SALAD RECIPE VARIATIONS

  • Can I use different nuts?  You can swap the walnuts for caramelized pecans or almonds if you prefer.  If you don’t want to caramelize your own nuts, then you can buy them at stores such as Trader Joes. If you're not sure your grocery store carries caramelized/candied nuts, be sure go ask!
  • Can I add different seeds? Absolutely! Just make sure they're roasted and salted. Sunflower seeds, pine nuts, pistachios are all tasty.
  • Can I add other vegetables?  Yes!  Cucumbers, shredded carrots, broccoli, etc. would all be delicious. Roasted butternut squash, or roasted beets would also be fab!
  • Can I add other fruit to Apple Salad? Creamy avocados would be a welcome addition if they are your thing. Pears, Mandarin oranges, mangos, pineapple, raspberries, blueberries, are all welcome additions; just take care that you don't make your Apple Salad too sweet with sweet fruit. You may want to consider offsetting the sweetness of additional fruit with tart apples such as Granny Smith apples.
  • Can I add grains?  I think this Apple Salad would be superb with the addition of cooked quinoa, wild rice, brown rice, farro or couscous.
  • Can I use a different cheese?  You can any soft crumbly cheese such as goat cheese, blue blue cheese or Gorgonzola.
  • Can I add protein?   Absolutely !  Make this Apple Salad a main dish by adding shredded chicken, shrimp or tofu.

HOW TO MAKE AHEAD

This Apple Walnut Salad can be made 100% ahead of time then just tossed together when ready to serve!
  • Apples. The Apples can be sliced up to 24 hours ahead of time and soaked in a mixture of apple juice and lemon juice. I've detailed several options below to prevent oxidation which begins as soon as you slice the apples.
  • Vegetables:  You can chop your Romaine lettuce, bell peppers, and red onions up to 24 hours ahead of time. Store veggies in separate airtight containers or in sealable bags with a paper towel so they stay fresh and crisp. I do not recommend storing your pre-cut veggies longer than a day because the beauty of this salad is its freshness.
  • Nuts. The caramelized walnuts can be made up to one week ahead of time and stored in a sealed plastic bag or airtight container at room temperature. I often like to double the nuts for future use.
  • Bacon. The bacon can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time but it will become increasingly soft the longer it sits in the refrigerator. For the crispiest bacon, make it as close to assembling as possible.
  • Dressing:  You can make the Apple Salad dressing up to 5 days ahead of time and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. I actually recommend making the dressing ahead of time because it allows time for the flavors to build and meld. Dressing also tastes 1000X better chilled.

HOW DO I KEEP APPLES FROM TURNING BROWN IN SALAD?

  1. My favorite way to keep apples from oxidizing and turning brown after slicing is to put them in a bowl of apple juice with a splash of lemon juice.  This way they retain their apple flavor and don’t become bitter like soaking in lemon juice can do.
  2. Alternatively, you can toss them in some of the dressing because the apple cider vinegar will help keep them fresh.
  3. Thirdly, If you only have lemon juice on hand, then mix 1/2 cup water and 2 tablespoons lemon and then toss your apples in the mixture.
All of these methods will prolong the oxidation process, but you still want to slice your apples as close to serving as possible.

HOW DO I SERVE Apple Salad SALAD?

There are three ways to serve Apple Salad:
  1. If you don’t expect or want leftovers: add all of the salad ingredients to a large bowl and toss with desired amount of dressing.
  2. If you expect leftovers:  add all of the salad ingredients to a large bowl except bacon and dressing.  Let individuals top dress their own servings with dressings and bacon.
  3. Create a Salad Bar: line up all of the salad ingredients in separate serving bowls and let guests assemble their own Apple Salad. This works particularly well if you are making Apple Salad a main dish salad with shredded chicken or shrimp and are including more of the veggie, fruit, grain or cheese variation options.