This Thanksgiving Salad with Apples and Candied Walnuts is a colorful mix of butter lettuce and radicchio, and an explosion of flavor from the sweet candied walnuts, salty pancetta, and a savory dressing that makes any holiday meal into something special.
When it comes to a holiday appetizer, our Thanksgiving Salad is a step above the average. Bold, rich, and crisp, this holiday salad is decadent enough to make your Thanksgiving menu special, but still light enough to not overpower the meal.
Melt in your mouth butter lettuce and bitter radicchio make for a textured contrast, and when layered together result in a beautiful hue of deep green and purple. Filled with bites of crisp apple, creamy goat cheese, crispy pancetta, and candied walnuts, the maple dijon dressing brings this sweet, salty, and savory salad together for a warm and hearty bite.
Serve our Thanksgiving Salad with Candied Walnuts with our other Thanksgiving recipes including Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Apples and Walnut Raisin Crumble, Loaded Twice Baked Potatoes, and Homemade Green Bean Casserole.
Our Thanksgiving Salad is a blend of simple yet sophisticated ingredients that make this salad special for any holiday. See the recipe card for quantities.
- Butter lettuce: A green leaf lettuce also known as bibb lettuce. Boston leaf lettuce is also a closely related to butter lettuce.
- Radicchio: Any variety will work but we find the rosso di Verona (round) and rosso di triveso (elongated) to be the most common.
- Apples: Add a hearty crunch to the salad, sweetness to balance the acidity of the dressing and bitterness of the radicchio.
- Pancetta: Adds saltiness for enhanced flavor and pairs well with the apple and candied walnuts.
- Candied walnuts: Make your own with the recipe or buy store-bought to save some time.
- Chèvre: Soft goat cheese is creamy, tangy, and the perfect pairing for the apples and walnuts in the salad.
- Garlic: Adds a peppery flavor to the dressing.
- Maple syrup: Our favorite sweetener that gets used for the walnuts and salad dressing.
- Dijon mustard: Acts as an emulsifier to the salad dressing so it doesn’t separate.
- Apple cider vinegar: Use raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar, if available.
- Extra virgin olive oil: The base of any great salad dressing. Use a good quality olive oil, if available.
- Salt and pepper: Season everything, always.
Step by Step: How to Make Our Thanksgiving Salad
A little work goes a long way for this Thanksgiving Salad, which makes it a great appetizer to serve on special occasions and holidays.
Step 1. Arrange the pancetta in a frying pan and place on medium-high heat. Sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is browned and lightly crisp. Transfer to a towel-lined plate and set aside. Discard excess fat.
Step 2. Return the pan to medium-high heat and pour in 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Bring to a boil for 1 minute, then add the walnuts, and cook another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Arrange the nuts in a single layer on a plate to cool.
Step 3. In a small bowl, add garlic, olive oil, cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons maple syrup, dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk until it emulsified and thickened, about 15 seconds.
Step 4. In a large salad bowl, gently toss the lettuce and radicchio with half the dressing. Arrange apples on top and sprinkle with goat cheese, then the walnuts and pancetta. Drizzle with remaining dressing.
- Radicchio: Bitter lettuce such as frisée or endive are great alternatives to radicchio.
- Butter lettuce: Substitute for green or red leaf lettuce or romaine.
- Gala apples: Any variety of apples will work. Pears are the best substitute for apples in this recipe.
- Pancetta: Prosciutto would be our first option but bacon will work instead of pancetta. The pancetta can be omitted if making a vegetarian Thanksgiving salad.
- Walnuts: Pecans that are candied also taste wonderful with our Thanksgiving salad.
- Chèvre: Feta cheese is the best substitute for the goat cheese.
- Garlic: ½ teaspoon of garlic powder can be used in place of the garlic.
- Maple syrup: Honey or agave syrup are good alternatives. Sugar can also be used if it's the only available option.
- Apple cider vinegar: White wine vinegar can also be used.
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Here's what you'll need to make our Thanksgiving salad.
- White Frying Pan
- Le Creuset Wooden spoon
- Salad Servers
- Duralex Glass Bowls
- All-Clad Measuring Spoons
- Small Whisk
Storage and Transportation
You can make the salad dressing ahead of time along with cooking the pancetta and candied walnuts. If you’re transporting it, bring the ingredients in separate containers and assemble the Thanksgiving salad before the meal.
Arrange pancetta in a room temperature frying pan or skillet before placing on the stove. This will allow the fat to render out slowly resulting in a perfectly crisp pancetta that’s juicy on the inside.
What is radicchio?
Radicchio is a leafy lettuce that grows in heads of bitter leaves that are mainly wine-red with white at the base.
Thanksgiving Salad with Apples and Candied Walnuts
- 4 oz pancetta diced
- ½ cup walnuts chopped
- 2 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 clove garlic finely minced
- 3 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- pinch sea salt
- pinch freshly ground pepper
- 1 head butter lettuce torn into bite-size pieces
- 1 small head radicchio torn into bite-size pieces
- 2 small gala apples cored, halved and thinly sliced
- 4 oz goat cheese crumbled
- Arrange pancetta in a frying pan and place on medium-high heat. Sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pancetta is browned and lightly crisp. Transfer the pancetta to a paper towel lined plate and set aside. Discard excess fat.
- Return the pan to medium-high heat pour in 2 tablespoons (30 ml) maple syrup. Bring to a boil for 1 minute, then add the walnuts, and cook another 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Transfer the nuts to a plate and spread out into a single layer. Set aside to cool for at least 10 minutes.
- In a small bowl, add garlic, olive oil, cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons maple syrup, dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk until it emulsified and thickened, about 15 seconds.
- In a large salad bowl, gently toss the lettuce and radicchio with half the dressing. Arrange apples on top and sprinkle with goat cheese, then the walnuts and pancetta. Drizzle with remaining dressing.