7 Elegant Side Salads to Serve at Thanksgiving

An elegant side salad is a stunning way to ensure the season’s very best flavors and foods are gracing your Thanksgiving table. Salads are an unbelievably easy-to-prepare side, and their light flavors will complement your heavier Thanksgiving dishes perfectly. Whether you’re looking for a colorful Harvest Slaw or a vivacious Farro Salad with Roasted Grapes and Baby Kale, we’ve compiled 7 recipes that are bursting with fall produce, warm seasonings, and lively spices. This is Thanksgiving fare at its finest.

1. Harvest Slaw

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Shredded red cabbage, apples, cranberries, and pecans create a sweet slaw that tastes terrific with a tangy honey-garlic dressing. Better Homes and Gardens’ recipe yields 12 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons caraway seeds, lightly crushed
  • ¼ cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 cups finely shredded red cabbage
  • 2 apples, cored and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup pecan halves, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro or parsley leaves

Directions: In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and caraway seeds and cook and stir 1 minute. Whisk in the vinegar and honey and bring to a simmer to combine. Season with salt and pepper. In a large bowl toss together the cabbage, apples, cranberries, and pecans. Add dressing and toss to combine. Top with cilantro.

2. Roquefort Pear Salad

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AllRecipes.com presents a lovely side salad that’s filled with both fruity and caramelized flavors. The best part? This dish can quickly be assembled Thanksgiving day — it yields 6 servings and takes 30 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces
  • 3 pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
  • 5 ounces Roquefort cheese, crumbled
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • ½ cup thinly sliced green onions
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup pecans
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1½ teaspoons white sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons prepared mustard
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Directions: In a skillet over medium heat, stir ¼ cup of sugar together with the pecans. Continue stirring gently until sugar has melted and caramelized the pecans. Carefully transfer nuts onto waxed paper. Allow to cool, and break into pieces. For the dressing, blend oil, vinegar, 1½ teaspoons sugar, mustard, chopped garlic, salt, and pepper. In a large serving bowl, layer lettuce, pears, blue cheese, avocado, and green onions. Pour dressing over salad, sprinkle with pecans, and serve.

3. Roasted Beets with Pistachios, Herbs, and Orange

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Beets’ benefits are endless: they’re delicious, healthy, and a beautiful, bright color. Men’s Health explains that antioxidant-packed beets are also a great source of folate and betaine, which can help lower your risk of heart disease. Food & Wine’s recipe creates a simple — yet tasteful — side salad that’s filled with vibrant flavors thanks to the beet slices, mixed-herb dressing, pistachios, and celery leaves. It yields 8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds medium beets, preferably a mix of colors
  • 1 (3 inch) cinnamon stick, broken into 3 or 4 pieces
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • ¼ cup chopped tarragon
  • ¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped chives
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped unsalted roasted pistachios
  • ¼ cup celery leaves, for garnish

Directions: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Arrange the beets in a roasting pan and add the cinnamon, bay leaves, and water. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 hour, until the beets are tender; transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet and let cool; discard the liquid and spices. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the shallot, vinegar, and a large pinch of salt.

Let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in the orange zest, tarragon, parsley, chives, and oil; season with salt. Peel and trim the beets and slice them ¼ inch thick. Arrange the beet slices in overlapping rows on a platter. Stir the herb dressing and spoon it over the beets. Scatter the pistachios and celery leaves on top and serve.

4. Green Bean and Fennel Salad with Pecans

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Fennel bulbs, green beans, lemon juice, and Dijon mustard work wonderfully together, creating a light-tasting dish your dinner guests will love. If you’d like to prepare parts of this dish prior to Thanksgiving, you can bake your pecans and store them for up to two days in an airtight container. Martha Stewart’s recipe yields 8 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup pecan pieces
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound green beans, trimmed
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 3 medium fennel bulbs (about 2 pounds total), cored and thinly sliced, fronds reserved (optional)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Fill a bowl with ice water; set aside. Spread pecans on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until fragrant and crisp, 8-10 minutes; set aside. Place ½ inch water in a large skillet with a lid. Bring to a boil; salt generously. Add green beans, cover skillet, and cook over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until crisp-tender, 6-8 minutes.

Transfer immediately to ice water. Drain; pat dry with paper towels. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and mustard; season with salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in oil. To serve, combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and toss with dressing; garnish with fennel fronds, if desired.

5. Farro Salad with Roasted Grapes and Baby Kale

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If you’re looking for a unique dish to add to your Thanksgiving table, Nerds with Knives’ recipe, which was adapted from Martha Stewart, is just what you need. Oven roasting your grapes highlights their sweetness, while the onions, thyme, almonds, and farro add crisp flavor and chewy texture that your guests (and tastebuds) will love.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups farro (semi-pearled)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups seedless red grapes (about 1 pound)
  • 2 scallions finely chopped
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large red onions, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
  • 5 thyme sprigs
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, plus more for seasoning
  • 4 cups mixed greens such as baby kale, baby Swiss chard, red mustard, and red mizuna
  • ½ cup almonds, roughly chopped
  • 8 ounces fresh goat or feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

Directions: Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack in the upper and lower thirds. In a medium saucepan, combine farro and 1 teaspoon salt; cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain, and transfer to a bowl. Meanwhile, combine grapes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Place onion slices on a separate baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil.

Flip slices and drizzle with another tablespoon olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Put the onions on the bottom rack of oven and the grapes on the top rack. Roast grapes for about 35-40 minutes, until they burst and release some juice. Shake the tray once or twice during roasting. Roast onions for 30 minutes, then flip and add thyme sprigs. Roast another 20-30 minutes until soft and golden brown. When cool enough to handle, remove thyme sprigs and give the onions a rough chop.

Transfer roasted grapes and onions to bowl with farro. Toss with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and red wine vinegar. Toss well to combine and let cool, about 20 minutes. Immediately before serving, gently toss in greens, almonds and scallions. Season with additional salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar if needed. Transfer to a platter, top with goat or feta cheese, if using.

6. Autumn Arugula Salad with Caramelized Squash and Pomegranate Ginger Vinaigrette

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Pomegranates are the true star of this How Sweet It Is recipe. In addition to tasting terrific, Web MD explains that the fruit is rich with vitamins and may even contain more antioxidants than powerhouse beverages such as cranberry juice and green tea. Everything in this salad — from the pumpkin pie spice to the acorn squash — makes it a Thanksgiving must.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 acorn squash, sliced in ½-inch thick rounds and seeds removed
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepped
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • ½ cup whole pecans, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 6 cups baby arugula
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 pomegranate, arils removed
  • 1 seedless cucumber, sliced

Pomegranate Ginger Vinaigrette:

  • ⅓ cup pomegranate juice
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, freshly grated
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ⅓ cup olive oil

Directions: Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add coconut oil. Cover the squash slices with salt and pepper, then add them to the skillet and cook until golden, about 5 minutes per side. If desired, you can add the brown sugar to help the squash caramelize. Heat a small saucepan over low heat and add the pecans. Toast until they are slightly golden and fragrant, stirring and shaking the pan as they toast, for about 5 minutes. Toss them with the pumpkin pie spice.

Add the arugula to a large bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper. Add in the avocado, pomegranate arils, cucumber, pecans, and squash pieces. Cover in the pomegranate dressing. To make the dressing, combine pomegranate juice, vinegar, ginger, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and whisk together. Stream in the olive oil while constantly whisking until the dressing comes together. Store in the fridge for up to one week.

7. Kale and Gorgonzola Salad

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This salad is filled with invigorating ingredients, creating a decadent side dish that’s worthy of any Thanksgiving table. To toast the almonds for this Food Network recipe, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 6-8 minutes until lightly toasted. It yields 4 servings.

Ingredients:

Dressing:

  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Salad:

  • 8 ounces double-smoked bacon, cut into ⅓-inch pieces
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and finely shredded
  • 1 bunch Tuscan kale, stems removed and discarded, leaves thinly sliced
  • 1 head Belgian endive, shredded
  • ⅓ cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • ⅓ cup crumbled gorgonzola

Directions: To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, Dijon, and olive oil until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. For the salad, in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove the crisped bacon onto a paper-towel-lined plate. Set aside to drain. Place the Brussels sprouts, kale, endive, bacon, and almonds in a salad bowl. Add the dressing and toss together. Sprinkle with the cheese and serve.

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