This plant-forward recipe is gluten-free, vegetarian, low-sodium, refined sugar-free, heart healthy and easily modified for dairy-free, nut-free and vegan diets.
Seasonal apples at their peak, baby spinach leaves and pecans are the foundations of this Harvest Apple Salad recipe that’s sure to become a family favorite. The addition of the homemade apple cider vinaigrette recipe brings out the flavors of fall, making this a beautiful salad recipe to serve at Thanksgiving or autumn gatherings. And that vinaigrette? It’s a gluten-free salad dressing recipe you’ll want to keep around all season long!
- Baby spinach or mixed greens of your choice
- Blue cheese crumbles (optional)
- Freshly cracked pepper
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Unfiltered apple cider
- Apple cider vinegar
- Dijon mustard
- Honey, agave or 100% pure maple syrup
Substitutions + Variations
Make it vegan. Eliminate the blue cheese or swap for a plant-based alternative and use agave or 100% pure maple syrup in place of the honey for an easy vegan salad recipe.
Make it dairy-free. Swap the blue cheese crumbles for extra apple slices or pecan.
Make it nut-free. Those with a peanut or tree nut allergy can enjoy this salad with pepita seeds (pumpkin seeds) or sunflower seeds instead of with pecans.
Harvest Apple Salad Serving Suggestions
This crisp salad with spinach, apple and pecan can be served in several ways. Here are a few favorites.
Make it a meal-sized salad.
This recipe will serve four as a side salad and two as a large, meal-sized salad. Bulk it up with plant-based protein sources like beans or lentils. If you eat fish, this autumn salad would pair beautifully with a 3-ounce serving of seared salmon.
Serve as a holiday side salad.
Double or triple the recipe for larger groups and serve as a side salad at a fall gathering, harvest celebration or Thanksgiving. The beautiful presentation and the flavorful cider vinaigrette are sure to impress guests!
Keep it light.
This spinach apple pecan salad is perfect for a light lunch served alongside a cozy cup of soup. Try our nourishing Carrot and Ginger Soup or this vibrant Roasted Garlic and Watercress Soup with Lemon Creme Fraiche.
Serve as an appetizer or first course.
This fall harvest salad recipe is easy to throw into a beautiful bowl for a self-serve setup or individually plated as a first course for your next dinner party or holiday gathering. If you choose to serve this salad in a large bowl, add the cider vinaigrette immediately before serving to prevent the salad from going soggy. Alternatively, place the dressing in a small serving bowl and allow guests to dress their own salads.
Make Ahead + Storage
Harvest Apple Salad is best made on the day you intend to serve it.
To keep your apples from going brown, squeeze a small amount of lemon juice over the sliced apples prior to preparing the salad.
The apple cider vinaigrette can be made a day or two in advance.
Keep in mind that the oil will harden as it cools, so give the dressing time to thaw – about an hour or so – before serving. Leftover vinaigrette can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days.Print
- 5 ounces baby spinach or mixed greens
- 2 medium apples, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles (optional)
- 1/4 cup pecans
- Freshly cracked pepper
CIDER VINAIGRETTE INGREDIENTS
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 garlic clove, finely minced
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon honey or 100% pure maple syrup
- Whisk the Cider Vinaigrette ingredients except the extra-virgin olive oil in a small bowl until well combined. Slowly pour and whisk the oil into the dressing until emulsified. Divide all other ingredients between four bowls and drizzle with the Cider Vinaigrette. Enjoy!
- Bulk up your salad with plant-based protein. Cannellini beans, chickpeas or marinated black lentils would work particularly well.
- If you use maple syrup that is not 100% pure, check to ensure it is gluten-free. Syrups that contain malt are not gluten-free.
- Use unfiltered, no added sugar apple cider for the cider vinaigrette. Most brands of processed apple cider contain added sugar so you’ll want to watch for this if you’re on a low-sugar or refined-sugar-free diet.
- Prep Time: 10 mins.
- Cook Time: 0 mins.
- Category: Salads, Sides
- Method: By Hand
- Cuisine: American
- Diet: Gluten Free
Keywords: harvest apple salad, apple cider vinaigrette, gluten free salad dressing recipe, spinach apple pecan salad, plant based salad
*Article originally published Nov. 10, 2022; Last updated Sept. 5, 2023.