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This fantastic fall apple salad combines crisp apples, leafy greens, sweet cranberries, and crunchy pecans in a vibrant vinaigrette to enjoy all fall and holiday season!

completed Easy Apple Pecan Salad [With Cranberries] in a bowl
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Quick and Flavor-Packed Cranberry Apple Salad with Pecans

With holiday tables loaded with family favorites like candied yams, green bean casserole, and cornbread stuffing, it’s easy to bypass the salad during the holiday season. No fear of that happening with this cranberry apple pecan salad.

We actually have several vegan fall/Thanksgiving salad recipes you might love – like our pumpkin salad, butternut salad, and beet ‘feta’ salad – with the latter two already containing apple. For those who love the sweet-tart addition of a fall salad with apples, though, why not make them the key ingredient?

This fall apple salad combines crisp, tart Granny Smith apples (or other crisp apples, sweet or tart) with fall favorites like cranberries and pecans (or walnuts/pepitas), mixed leafy greens, spinach, or kale, and vibrant maple/brown sugar Dijon vinaigrette. The result is a salad mega-loaded with flavor, color, and texture in every bite. Looking for another fruity-based salad? Try out this pear salad!

Not only do the flavors and textures hit all the right notes and brighten up any holiday/potluck table, but it requires minimal prep work, takes minutes to throw together, and it’s easy to customize, too!

The Ingredients and Substitutions

ingredients for Easy Apple Pecan Salad [With Cranberries] measured out on a white surface
  • Leafy greens: We love using whatever salad mix we can get our hands on, though lettuce (like butterhead) would work, too, or make a peppery arugula apple salad.

Increase the nutrients further by making spinach apple salad or apple and kale salad. For the latter, massage the leaves with the dressing to tenderize them.

  • Apple: Use crisp, sweet-tart, or tart apples (or a combination of both). We used tart Granny Smith apples, but honey crisp, fuji, pink lady, or gala also work.
  • Tofu: (optional) Use extra-firm or super-firm tofu and crumble it to combine with the dressing for a vegan tofu ‘feta’ or buy vegan feta cheese.
  • Nuts/Seeds: Apple pecan salad or apple walnut salad are particularly popular, but feel free to use sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds/ pepitas, almonds, etc.
  • Cranberries: (or raisins) To add color, chew, and bursts of tangy sweetness. Alternatively, make the salad with pomegranate and apples for extra juiciness.

The Mustard Vinaigrette Dressing

  • Olive oil: Use a light extra-virgin olive oil, so the flavor isn’t too robust.
  • Brown sugar: Or unrefined coconut sugar/ maple syrup – add to taste.
  • Vinegar: We used apple cider vinegar this time, but adding some balsamic vinegar would also work.
  • Dijon mustard: Or regular yellow mustard, in a pinch, for tangy heat.
  • Water: To bring the simple vinaigrette to the correct consistency.
  • Garlic: We used garlic powder, but use minced garlic if preferred (2-3x amount).
  • Salt & pepper

For a dressing similar to Wendy’s pecan apple salad, replace the water with a blend of pomegranate juice and orange juice, use white wine vinegar and/or balsamic vinegar, and add some orange zest.

What Could I Add to an Apple Fall Salad?

  • Cinnamon: Adding cinnamon to the dressing makes the pecans taste candied.
  • Beet apple salad: Beets’ earthy, slightly sweet flavor pairs wonderfully with apple. Use thinly diced, sliced, or shredded roasted, boiled, or steamed beets.
  • Broccoli apple salad: Add blanched or roasted broccoli florets for texture/flavor.
  • Roasted vegetables: This fall salad with apples is perfect for tossing in any leftover Thanksgiving roast veg, like making a Brussels sprout apple salad, adding pumpkin/butternut squash, sweet potato, etc.
  • Grains: Make a heartier meal with cooked quinoa, millet, farro, couscous, etc.
  • Avocado: For creaminess, healthy fat, and antioxidants. Add when serving.
  • Red onion: Thinly sliced for the burst of flavor in this apple lettuce salad.
  • Lentil apple salad: Turn this apple and pecan salad into a heartier meal with canned lentils, chickpeas, or cannellini beans.
  • Shaved fennel: To add extra crisp texture with a mild licorice-like flavor.

How to Make Apple Pecan Salad

  • First, combine all the dressing ingredients in a small bowl or jar and shake/mix well.
  • Then, crumble the tofu into a bowl and add two tablespoons of the dressing. Mix well and set it aside to marinate.
  • Meanwhile, wash, dry, and prepare the apples by dicing half and thinly slicing half.
  • To assemble the cranberry apple salad, first combine the leafy greens and diced apples and toss. Then garnish the apple salad with cranberries, sliced apples, nuts/seeds, and the tofu ‘feta.’ Enjoy immediately, only adding the dressing when serving.

FAQs

Do I have to peel the apples?

It’s entirely up to you. We often don’t since it adds color and extra nutrients.

Can I replace the apples?

You could use Anjou or Bartlett pears (no need to peel).

How do you keep the apples from browning too quickly?

While the acidity in the dressing will somewhat help to keep the apples from browning prematurely, if you want to extend their color for as long as possible, squeeze some lemon juice over them, too.

Pro Recipe Tips

  • Use crisp apples: The texture is best for salads. Other than that, you can decide if you’d prefer a more sweet or tart flavor.
  • For more flavor: Toast the walnuts/pecans in a dry skillet until fragrant.
  • Tweak the dressing to taste: Prepare it first, then leave it to sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Before serving, taste and adjust any of the elements to your liking.
  • Leave the ‘feta’ to marinate: While it will taste okay if prepared and eaten immediately, it’ll be even better if given at least 30 minutes for the flavors to meld and marinate.
completed Easy Apple Pecan Salad [With Cranberries] in a bowl

Storage Information

This cranberry walnut apple salad is best on the day it’s made. However, any leftovers of the assembled salad may last a further day in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The dressing can be made 4-5 days in advance (and the tofu ‘feta’ will store for 3-4 days, too).

If you want to plan for leftovers, store the salad and dressing separately and combine the two when serving. If you only add the apples when serving, the remaining salad ingredients will store for 4-5 days in the refrigerator.

More Vegan Fall Apple Recipes

Photos by Alfonso Revilla

Easy Apple Pecan Salad [With Cranberries]

5 from 30 votes
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 0 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Servings: 4
This fantastic fall apple salad combines crisp apples, leafy greens, sweet cranberries, and crunchy pecans in a vibrant vinaigrette to enjoy all fall and holiday season!

Ingredients 

  • ½ cup of crumbled tofu
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 5 tablespoons of water
  • 5 ounces of mixed greens
  • 2 Granny Smith apples
  • ¼ cup sunflower seeds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, or any other nut or seed
  • ¼ cup of cranberries or raisins

Instructions 

  • Add the tofu to a small bowl. Set aside.
  • In a small jar or bowl, mix the olive oil, garlic powder, apple cider vinegar, salt, black pepper, sugar, dijon mustard, and water. Mix well and add 2 tablespoons of dressing to the crumbled tofu. Mix well and set aside.
  • To assemble the salad, dice 1 and a half apples and thinly slice the other half for garnish. Place the mixed greens in a large salad bowl and add the diced apples. Toss well and garnish with the slices of apples, nuts, cranberries, and tofu.
  • Serve immediately with the dressing on the side to keep the greens fresh and crispy.

Notes

  • Use crisp apples: The texture is best for salads. Other than that, you can decide if you’d prefer a more sweet or tart flavor.
  • For more flavor: Toast the walnuts/pecans in a dry skillet until fragrant.
  • Tweak the dressing to taste: Prepare it first, then leave it to sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Before serving, taste and adjust any of the elements to your liking.
  • Leave the ‘feta’ to marinate: While it will taste okay if prepared and eaten immediately, it’ll be even better if given at least 30 minutes for the flavors to meld and marinate.

Nutrition

Calories: 176kcalCarbohydrates: 19gProtein: 6gFat: 10gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gSodium: 183mgPotassium: 294mgFiber: 5gSugar: 11gVitamin A: 3599IUVitamin C: 38mgCalcium: 145mgIron: 2mg

Disclaimer: Although plantbasedonabudget.com attempts to provide accurate nutritional information, kindly note that these are only estimates. Nutritional information may be affected based on the product type, the brand that was purchased, and in other unforeseeable ways. Plantbasedonabudget.com will not be held liable for any loss or damage resulting for your reliance on nutritional information. If you need to follow a specific caloric regimen, please consult your doctor first.

Additional Info

Author: Toni Okamoto
Course: Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American
Method: No cook
Diet: Vegan
Tried this recipe?Please tag us at @PlantBasedOnABudget! 🙂
About

Toni Okamoto

“They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy.
My goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy,
‘Cause true wealth comes from good health and wise ways…
we got to start taking better care of ourselves ” – Dead Prez

More about Toni Okamoto

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