Festive Holiday Salad

My "signature salad" during the holidays, the one that friends both know to expect and request specially. It's loaded with holiday flavors like cranberry and walnut plus slivers of a good blue cheese. It's perfect for carrying to other homes, easily stretching from a single indulgent salad for one or two up to salad for a crowd, either way, no measuring or fuss. Make it at the last minute or make it ahead of time, this easy green salad is extra tasty and festive!

Festive Holiday Salad ♥ KitchenParade.com, my 'signature salad' for the holidays, ten minutes start to finish.

Real Food, Fresh & Seasonal. An Annual Tradition During the Holidays. Mere Minutes to the Table. Weeknight Easy, Weekend Special. Potluck & Party Friendly. Naturally Gluten Free.


Festive Holiday Salad Made the List!

"Bring your salad ... "

"Okay," I readily agree, happy for a "signature" salad that everyone loves, remembers and requests.

For a holiday dinner, a Christmas party, a New Year's Eve supper, this is my answer to that "bring a salad" request and one I've carried into other homes for years too-many-to-count.

This is no spartan salad that will grace our tables come January.

it's one of celebration, of exuberance, of joy, one worthy of the reason of our season.

Festive Holiday Salad ♥ KitchenParade.com, my 'signature salad' for the holidays, ten minutes start to finish.

A "Holiday"? Salad


No feigning political correctness here, no entering into the politically charged holiday vs Christmas vs winter lexicon debate.

Truth is, this is my favorite holiday salad, my favorite Christmas salad and my favorite all-winter salad from Thanksgiving to Valentine's.

It's easy to assemble either ahead of time or at the last minute, easy to make in small batches for a couple of people having supper at home or in big batches for buffets, parties and potlucks.

And if there happen to be leftovers, you won't mind. Picking out the cranberries and walnuts and cheese might be the very best part!

Festive Holiday Salad ♥ KitchenParade.com, my 'signature salad' for the holidays, ten minutes start to finish.

What's In My Festive Holiday Salad?

In all my recipes and most well-written recipes, every ingredient serves a purpose. Each one matters. Each one contributes to the overall dish. It's not that an ingredient can't be substituted by something else but when choosing the substitute, it's important to understand why the original ingredient was present in the first place.

  • The Salad Greens Over the years, I've become partial to soft lettuces for this salad, especially red leaf lettuce and a soft spring mix. Other lettuces work fine but I turn to this one because the softness seems to soak up the dressing just a bit, its softness contrasts well with the more chewy cranberries, nuts and cheese. Find what you like!
  • The Caesar Dressing Once a year, I buy a bottle of store-bought dressing, just for this salad. Could I make my own Homemade Caesar Salad Dressing? Of course. (And you can too. You do YOU.) But for this salad, I embrace simplicity during a time when there's often so much time pressure, so many activities fighting for our attention. So bottled dressing it is! That said. Commercial salad dressing is soooo thick and gloppy. I recommend thinning it with a little milk or buttermilk. You want just the lightest touch of Caesar dressing here.
  • Dried Cranberries Love these! But do watch for ones coated in oil (what are you thinking, Trader Joe's?) because the oil goes rancid quickly, ugh. Also dried cranberries do, well, dry out if they're in the pantry for more than a couple of months. It's Christmas, stock up on fresh dried cranberries!
  • Toasted Nuts I'm partial to walnuts here, again, maybe just because I've been making this salad for so many years and walnuts are slightly softer than pecans, say, and almonds, definitely. What's not negotiable is the nuts being toasted.
  • A "Stinky" Cheese You won't need much, just a sprinkling. We usually have a stinky cheese on hand (my husband is a huge fan ...) but otherwise, it's easy to find a good blue cheese or a Gorgonzola or something similar at good grocery stores, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods (especially the cheese section's basket of small chunks of odd bits and pieces of cheeses). Avoid the tubs of crumbles, you want something wetter and stickier and definitely higher quality.
  • Finishing Salt This is such an important touch, one I adopt in all the green salads i make, night in, night out. My favorite here is a bit of flaky Maldon salt or bits of fleur de sel.
Festive Holiday Salad ♥ KitchenParade.com, my 'signature salad' for the holidays, ten minutes start to finish.

For Best Results

For my weekly column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I interviewed chefs and translated their restaurant recipes for home kitchens. The most iluminating question? "How can a home cook ensure the same results?" So now I ask that question of myself, too, for my own recipes. Have another question? Ask away, I'll do my best to answer!

  • DRY THE SALAD GREENS Be sure to let the lettuce / salad greens dry completely because, once dry, they'll need less dressing because the dressing can lightly coat individual leaves. I do this early in the day, letting the greens air dry right in the salad spinner after they're washed and spun dry. Otherwise, pat the greens dry between layers of paper towel.
    If it works timing-wise, chill the greens too. Admittedly, chilling is more important for salads served asap, it kinda defeats the purpose to chill greens and then put a salad onto a buffet for a couple of hours. But think about it, aren't your favorite restaurant salads chilled?

  • GO EASY ON THE DRESSING Start tossing the greens (by themselves) with a spoonful of dressing, taking the time to lift and toss, lift and toss, coating completely but lightly. It's surprising how little is needed when technique comes into play.

  • FRESH, QUALITY INGREDIENTS This is a simple salad. Good ingredients matter. That said, everything in this salad is easily found, easily accessible in a regular ol' grocery store, no farmers market required, no organic blah-blah recommended. More good news! While dried cranberries, nuts and good cheese aren't inexpensive, they're used in small amounts and not especially pricey.

  • STORE & CARRY SEPARATELY If you're prepping this salad ahead of time, great! Just keep each of the ingredients separate until just before serving. For a "to go" salad, I pack up a pretty salad bowl and servers, then fill the bowl with separate bags of washed/chilled greens, cranberries, toasted nuts, even the cheese plus that bottle of dressing.

Bookmark! PIN! Share!

How do you save and share favorite recipes? recipes that fit your personal cooking style? a particular recipe your mom or daughter or best friend would just love? If this festive salad hits the mark, go ahead, save and share! I'd be honored ...

Festive Holiday Salad ♥ KitchenParade.com, my 'signature salad' for the holidays, ten minutes start to finish.


Hands-on time: 10 minutes
Time-to-table: 10 minutes
Makes enough for one or two or a few or many, as needed

All amounts are flexible but to limit calories, go easy on the nuts, cranberries and cheese, even if they are the extra-good bits.
  • Soft salad greens, dried well and torn in bite-size pieces
  • Caesar dressing thinned with a little milk or buttermilk
  • Dried cranberries, roughly chopped
  • Toasted walnut pieces or toasted pecan pieces, roughly chopped
  • Crumbles of a good “stinky” cheese such as Stilton or Saga blue or Gorgonzola
  • A sprinkle of a good finishing salt such as fleur de sel or Maldon
  • For garnish, extra bits of cranberry, nuts and cheese

Wash and tear the greens, make sure they're completely dry. Just before serving, use two large forks to gently toss the greens and thinned Caesar, using just enough to lightly coat the greens. Toss the nuts, cranberries and cheese into the greens. Garnish, then sprinkle with finishing salt and serve.

MAKE-AHEAD I'm famous for bringing this salad to Christmas gatherings! I prep all the ingredients but transport them separately, all tucked into a big wooden salad bowl. Just before serving, assemble the salad, it takes all of two minutes!

TO SERVE NOW Toss the greens, cranberries and nuts. Lightly dress the greens with the thinned dressing, then gently turn in the cheese chunks.

TO MAKE AHEAD & CARRY Separately package the salad greens, cranberries, nuts and cheese in freezer bags. Just before serving, mix the salad as directed.

EMBELLISHMENTS The salad needs none, but if you're inclined, add thin ribbons of radicchio or a handful of fresh-chopped herbs.

THE SALAD GREENS For greens, I return again and again to leafy red lettuce but many would work, including something with a little sharpness such as arugula. Be sure the greens are completely dry, in fact, I like to wash the greens early in the day, then refrigerate right in the salad spinner so they dry out even further. If there's no time for that, gently pat the greens dry with a paper towel.
THE DRESSING The holidays can be so overwhelming, I've become famous for Festive Holiday Salad without letting it become one more thing for me to overdo. I rarely buy salad dressing but for once, for this, I do, a low-fat Caesar – and then I thin the dressing with milk. The idea is to barely coat the greens, just lightly, not with gloppy abandon. I've even been known to grab a packet of dressing from the grocery store salad bar – it works in a pinch but honestly, those packets aren't the best. I've also used one homemade dressing, it's the house dressing and is nearly always on hand – that makes My Everyday Creamy Herb Salad Dressing even more convenient than remembering to buy salad dressing.
TOASTING THE WALNUTS Could you use other nuts? Sure but I must say, I'm sold on walnuts, they're somehow softer than other nuts. To toast the walnuts, spread evenly on a baking sheet and toast at 400F/200C for about ten minutes until beginning to darken and turning aromatic. Need more info? See (how to toast nuts). I usually toast a whole bagful, then keep them in the fridge. Nearly always, toasted walnuts are 50x better than untoasted walnuts! That said? I nearly always have a jar of Maple-Glazed Pecans on hand, they're decidedly tasty too.
DRIED CRANBERRIES Dried cranberries will go further (and you'll use fewer without sacrificing taste) if they're chopped a bit before adding.

FOR MORE INFO If you "skipped straight to the recipe," please scroll back to the top of this page for ingredient information, ingredient substitutions, tips and more. If you print this recipe, you'll want to check the recipe online for even more tips and extra information about ingredient substitutions, best results and more. See https://www.kitchenparade.com/2011/12/festive-holiday-salad.html .
NUTRITION ESTIMATE Per "Side Salad" Serving: 195 Calories; 14g Tot Fat; 3g Sat Fat; 13g Carb; 3g Fiber; 12mg Cholesterol. WEIGHT WATCHERS Sorry, due to technical issues during a laptop conversion, Weight Watchers points will be updated later. I know, I know, there are no "amounts" shown in the recipe so how did I calculate the nutrition information? I did once weigh/measure all the ingredients, that's where the nutrition information comes from. But the point is, this is supposed to be a "make it on the fly" salad, one you just throw together. But it's Christmas, you'll make this salad without thinking, just adding cranberries and nuts until it's enough, adding more or less cheese depending on taste. So this time, just once, let's just wing it and enjoy.

More Winter Salad Ideas

~ salad recipes ~
Orange & Avocado Salad, another healthy mid-winter salad ♥ KitchenParade.com.

Winter Greens Salad with Oranges, Avocado, Olives, Feta & Orange-Cumin Vinaigrette, another simple seasonal salad ♥ AVeggieVenture.com

Simple Dandelion Salad, another simple seasonal salad ♥ AVeggieVenture.com

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

~ lettuce recipes ~
~ cranberry recipes ~
~ nut recipes ~
~ cheese recipes ~

~ All Recipes, By Ingredient ~
~ How to Save Money on Groceries ~

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Quick Suppers are Kitchen Parade favorites and feature recipes easy on the budget, the clock, the waistline and the dishwasher. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail, you'll find my current address in the FAQs. How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, for more scratch cooking recipes using whole, healthful ingredients, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. If you make this recipe, I'd love to know your results! Just leave a comment below.

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2011 & 2022

Alanna Kellogg
Alanna Kellogg

A Veggie Venture is home of "veggie evangelist" Alanna Kellogg and the famous asparagus-to-zucchini Alphabet of Vegetables.


  1. Catherine12/11/2011

    Love this type of salad. Had something similar about 5 years ago in California, but it had some citrus fruits in it, and possibly some pear I think. Not sure what the dressing was, but the combo of the nuts, greens, and blue cheese etc. was really refreshing.

  2. Alanna, I'll definitely add this to my three regular winter salads (coleslaw, beets & oranges, fennel & oranges) - love the sound of dried cranberries and salad leaves and nuts and blue cheese!
    Happy bolidays!


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Thank you for taking a moment to write! I read each and every comment, for each and every recipe. If you have a specific question, it's nearly always answered quick-quick. But I also love hearing your reactions, your curiosity, even your concerns! When you've made a recipe, I especially love to know how it turned out, what variations you made, what you'll do differently the next time. ~ Alanna