This simple 20-Minute Christmas Salad features classic holiday ingredients, such as pecans, mandarin oranges, pomegranate seeds, and dried cranberries. They are tossed together with baby spinach, goat cheese, and homemade Honey-Mustard Lime Vinaigrette. This festive holiday salad will pair beautifully with your favorite Christmas main course (ham, prime rib, beef tenderloin, turkey, and even seafood!) and is a great addition to your holiday menu.
When I was thinking about making a perfect Christmas salad for the upcoming holidays, I wanted a recipe that used traditional holiday ingredients combined in a really simple yet delicious way. Holidays can be hectic and busy, and there is usually a lot of cooking going on. This festive salad will not take much time in the kitchen (only 20 minutes!) and will add colorfulness and vibrancy to your menu. I also wanted a salad that makes a beautiful presentation with very little effort. This recipe ticks all those boxes! It's super versatile and flexible - can be easily adjusted to what you have available. It's so simple that you can make it not only during the Christmas season but on busy weeknights during the Autumn and Winter seasons for your family and friends! For other festive salad ideas, try these next: Strawberry Spinach Salad with Blueberries, Feta cheese, and Pecans (featuring Christmas colors!) and also super easy Berry Spinach Salad with Blueberries, Raspberries, Pecans, Mandarins, and Balsamic Dressing.
Why make it
- A healthy addition to your holiday menu. Many holiday dishes tend to be rich, creamy, and high in calories. This Christmas salad features healthy and fresh ingredients and will add freshness to your holiday menu. It's meatless, gluten-free, and packed with nutrients and fiber.
- Festive presentation. Not only is this holiday salad healthy, but it is also naturally very colorful and vibrant. You don't need to work hard to make it pretty. The colorful ingredients will do all the work for you!
- Easy and flavorful. This recipe features simple ingredients, such as spinach, pecans, dried cranberries, mandarin oranges, goat cheese, and pomegranate. The simple dressing is made entirely from scratch using only 4 ingredients: mustard, lime juice, honey, and olive oil. Despite the simplicity, this Christmas salad is so delicious and flavorful that you will be making it not only for the holidays but as a sidekick for your favorite weeknight dinners on busy weekdays all Winter!
Traditional holiday ingredients
The ingredients you need for this simple salad are simple, colorful, vibrant, and highly nutritious. They are also the ingredients we often associate with the Fall and Winter holidays, such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve.
- Pecans are packed with fiber and are rich in many nutrients. This includes zinc and Vitamin B1. These delicious nuts add crunch and texture to any Christmas salad. I like to lightly toast them in the preheated oven at 350 F for about 10 minutes.
- Dried cranberries add sweetness. I used Craisins. You can briefly soak dried cranberries in hot water to plump them up. You can also use dried figs, blueberries, or cherries.
- Spinach is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. It’s high in fiber and a good source of many vitamins and minerals. Spinach is a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as folic acid, iron, and calcium.
- Mandarine oranges are a small citrus tree fruit. They are often called mandarins and are part of the same family as oranges, limes, and lemons. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In particular, mandarins are a good source of beta-carotene, an antioxidant. They are also rich in Vitamin C. I used 3 mandarine oranges, peeled and segmented. You can also use canned mandarins (1 can or 15 oz).
- Pomegranate. Sprinkle the salad with the ultimate Autumn and Winter fruit, the pomegranate seeds (or arils). They add tangy and sweet flavor as well as create a beautiful presentation.
- Goat cheese. I used a soft kind that provided creaminess to the salad.
- Salad dressing ingredients include extra virgin olive oil, honey (or maple syrup), freshly squeezed lime juice (or lemon juice), and Dijon mustard.
How to make it ahead
Christmas time can be hectic enough and we tend to spend a lot of time in the kitchen during the holidays. It's always great to have that one recipe that you can make in advance so that you can spend more time with your family and friends. Here are some tips:
- Prep some ingredients. Segment mandarin oranges. Remove pomegranate arils from the shell. Toast the pecans. Keep these ingredients separate (in small sandwich bags).
- Prepare the salad dressing up to 3 days in advance and store it refrigerated in a glass mason jar.
- The assembly should take only 10 minutes right before serving for the best results and freshness.
- Tip: don't add the pecans, goat cheese, and salad dressing until right before serving to keep the salad fresh and to prevent the nuts from getting soggy.
Variations, substitutions, and helpful tips
What I love the best about this Christmas salad is that it's versatile and flexible. You can use a wide range of ingredients and adjust them to what you have available.
- Greens. Use your favorite greens with this salad - spinach, arugula, mixed greens, garden greens, and lettuce.
- Nuts. I recommend using pecans, cashews, walnuts, or pine nuts. Toast the nuts briefly in the oven to make them crunchy. If you don't want to use nuts, you can add toasted sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds.
- Dried fruit. I used dried cranberries, you can also use dried figs, blueberries, or cherries.
- Small oranges. You can use fresh mandarins, tangerines, or clementines. I used 3 mandarine oranges, segmented. You can also use canned mandarins (1 can or 15 oz).
- Buy pomegranate arils in a container at a grocery store. This will save you time and you will not have to remove the seeds from a whole pomegranate.
- Cheese. Goat cheese can be replaced with Feta or Gorgonzola.
- Salad dressing. This recipe uses honey, mustard, olive oil, and lime juice. You can also use maple syrup and lemon juice.
How to serve it
This festive spinach salad with pecans, mandarins, pomegranate, and goat cheese pairs well with any holiday main course for Christmas. It's a great sidekick for the holiday ham, prime rib, beef tenderloin, turkey, and other favorite holiday main dishes. This Christmas salad will also pair well with a meatless holiday main course, such as these 2 recipes:
- Butternut Squash and Spinach Lasagna is stuffed with vegetables and combines Ricotta, Parmesan, and Mozzarella cheeses to create the ultimate Fall and Winter comfort food.
- Black Bean and Butternut Squash Casserole is meatless, gluten-free, and made with lots of vegetables and corn tortillas.
Other Christmas salads you might like
- Butternut Squash Pasta Salad with Brussels Sprouts, Pecans, and Cranberries
- Arugula Salad with Apples, Cranberries, and Pecans
- Christmas Green Beans
- Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Spinach, Apples, Cranberries, Pecans, Pumpkin Seeds, and Feta Cheese
Make salad dressing
- Combine all salad dressing ingredients in a mason jar. Whisk well with a fork, until emulsified. Add more lime juice to taste.
- I prefer to arrange the salad in individual bowls for presentation purposes.
- Add spinach to each individual salad bowl. Top with the remaining salad ingredients.
- Drizzle with the salad dressing.
- Alternatively, you can combine all the salad ingredients (except pecans and pomegranate arils) in a large serving bowl, add the dressing, and toss to combine. Then, top the salad with toasted pecan halves (some of them chopped) and pomegranate arils.
Looking for more THANKSGIVING salads?
- I have created a comprehensive recipe collection of 30 Thanksgiving salads - this collection exclusively features Thanksgiving salads that highlight Autumnal ingredients, such as apples, roasted butternut squash, sweet potatoes, beets, Brussels sprouts, green beans, pecans, cranberries, pears, pomegranates, mandarin oranges, pumpkin seeds, and the list goes on and on! These Fall salads will add freshness, colors, and vibrancy to otherwise heavy and creamy comfort food (stuffing, gravy, mashed potatoes) that we often cook for the holidays. These salads would also be perfect for Christmas and New Year's Eve.
Looking for THANKSGIVING SIDE DISHES?
- I have created a comprehensive recipe collection of 60 Thanksgiving side dishes conveniently categorized by ingredient: Green Beans, Butternut Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, Potatoes, Acorn Squash, Spaghetti Squash, Asparagus, Broccoli, etc. It's a great resource to browse through for a last moment holiday inspiration! This side dishes will also work great for Christmas and New Year's Eve.
Looking for a complete THANKSGIVING MENU?
- Be sure to check out my 50 Best Thanksgiving Recipes (The Complete Holiday Menu) - it includes everything: Fall-inspired holiday appetizers, side dishes, salads, main courses, pasta recipes, desserts, and even breakfast. This holiday menu features proven, tried, and true Thanksgiving dishes that have been reader favorites for years (I've been publishing recipes since 2012).
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed. It should not be used as a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.