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Festive Winter Salad Recipe

I love this winter salad recipe. It’s holiday-ish, the flavors are addictive, it’s got lots of texture and a fabulous citrus sweet and tangy dressing.

Ready in 15 minutes or, with shortcuts, 5 minutes! So add this pretty salad to your holiday spread and make it as simple or as complex as you like.

winter salad on plate with wine bottle

The salad can, of course, be served at any time of year, but I love to serve it as a Christmas salad recipe during the holiday season or winter months. You see the red, green and white, right?

The festive salad is light and refreshing – and a great way to brighten up your holiday menu. Build your own beautiful salad in just a few minutes with endless variations.

Here are the key ingredients I use for a holiday meal, focusing on the red, green and white. I also like to add contrasting textures like nuts for example.

  • GREEN: winter greens or any green salad (other green options are snap peas, shaved brussels sprouts and creamy avocado).
  • RED: pomegranate seeds (other red options are beets or red peppers)
  • WHITE: juicy pears and ricotta (other options are creamy goat cheese, feta cheese or water chestnuts)

The vinaigrette dressing is just the right blend of sweet, citrus and tang. More on the sweet side I’d say, so feel free to find the balance you like.

Creative Serving Suggestions

Instead of the usual side salad, try one of these alternatives.

  1. I discovered a cool new way to serve this winter salad recipe while I was making it. Try it as an appetizer with little Gem lettuce leaves as lettuce cups. Fill them with nuts, ricotta, pomegranate seeds and julienned pear, then drizzle on some citrus vinaigrette. Winter salad cups – delish! This takes more prep time. Or ask your guests to make their own.
  2. Design the winter salad in the shape of a wreath on a circular platter. Serve the dressing in a small bowl in the center of the wreath.
lettuce cup with winter salad

Tailor To Your Taste

Here are a few variations and substitutions to experiment with using fresh ingredients.

  • Lettuce: Feel free to mix it up with lots of green contrasts.
    • Crisp greens: ‘little gem lettuce’ (a cross between romaine and butter/Boston), romaine lettuce or iceberg lettuce.
    • Soft lettuce greens: Boston/Bibb lettuce, arugula, frisée or other leafy greens
    • Deep greens: kale salad, baby spinach
    • Other greens: shredded brussels sprouts, cabbage, snap peas or creamy avocado.
  • Pomegranate: If you can’t find one, try slivers of roasted beets, chopped red peppers, red onion or dried cranberries for the lovely red contrasts.
  • Nuts: Any toasted chopped nuts are fine – pecans, macadamia, walnuts, almonds, pistachios. Toasting the nuts adds a wonderful nutty flavor. Or try candied nuts from your local bulk food store.
  • Cheese: I like the mild creamy ricotta as a blank slate for the vinaigrette. Other good choices are feta and goat cheese. Or nothing.
  • Vegetables/Fruits: Add or substitute with mandarin oranges or other citrus fruit, roasted butternut squash cubes, chopped apple, jicama or chopped water chestnuts.
  • Salad Dressing:
    • You can add finely chopped green onion, tarragon, chives, garlic.
    • Feel free to replace the orange zest with lemon zest or lime juice.
    • Other good dressings for this holiday salad are honey-mustard, poppy-seed, pomegranate vinaigrette and champagne vinaigrette.

How to make this festive winter salad recipe

lettuce, nuts, pomegranate seeds, dressing, pear, ricotta cheese
Ingredients: green lettuce, pomegranate seeds, pear, pecans, ricotta cheese, vinaigrette salad dressing.
winter salad on plate
Slice pears, roast nuts and assemble the winter salad and drizzle with vinaigrette salad dressing
winter salad on plate p2

Shortcuts

If you use all the following shortcuts, this winter salad recipe would take about 5 minutes to prepare! I’m always happy to use shortcuts with good quality, simple ingredients.

  • Buy pomegranate seeds.
  • Get pre-washed romaine lettuce or other greens
  • Buy pre-roasted nuts. Crush them with the back of a small pan.
  • Use a good store-bought vinaigrette and add a dash of pure maple syrup or honey and some orange zest if you like.

FAQ about pomegranates

What are pomegranate seeds?

Pomegranates have white seeds covered in a sweet-tart, bright red nectar called arils. They burst with flavor and make a gorgeous garnish for the best winter salad recipes. And they are highly nutritious. The darker and deeper the color, the sweeter the seeds.

What is the best way for seeding a pomegranate?

Extracting the seeds is a bit messy, but it’s fairly simple. There are a couple of ways to do it. Cut pomegranate in half. Taking the first half, hold pomegranate seed side down over a bowl. Smack the outside with a wooden spoon (hard!) to release the seeds. Repeat with the other half. Here’s a Jamie Oliver video for how to extract pomegranate seeds. Alternatively, try this other option from Cooks Illustrated where you release the seeds into cold water. 

How much pomegranate arils do you get from one pomegranate?

You will get about 1 to 1 1/4 cups (175 – 220 grams) or a bit more from one Pomegranate.

Where can I buy pomegranate seeds?

You can skip the process of extracting the pomegranate seeds and buy them in little containers at the grocery store. Many main stream groceries and Costco now carry them. They keep for 3-4 days in the fridge.

Make Ahead

The dressing can be made several days ahead. You can also roast the nuts ahead and store them in an airtight container when cooled to keep fresh. And, extract the pomegranate seeds up to 4 days ahead. Cut the pears and assemble the salad just before serving.

Other winter salad recipes you might like

winter salad on plate with wine bottle
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4.92 from 12 votes

Festive Winter Salad Recipe

I love this winter salad recipe. It's holiday-ish, the flavors are addictive, it's got lots of texture and a fabulous citrus sweet and tangy dressing. Ready in 15 minute start-to-finish. Or, with shortcuts, only 5 minutes!
Total Time15 mins
Course: Salad, Side Dish, starter
Cuisine: American, Vegetarian
Servings: 4
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces romaine lettuce or other greens, Note 1, washed and dried well.
  • 1 cup Pomegranate seeds, Note 2 to extract seeds. Note 3 to store. (1 pomegranate)
  • 1 pear, julienned (cut into thin strips)
  • 1/3 cup roasted nuts Note 4
  • 1/4 cup ricotta cheese, Optional (or use goat cheese or feta instead)

Vinaigrette Dressing ingredients, Note 5

  • 1/2 orange, juice and zest (2 tbsp juice, 1 tsp zest)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoon maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or more to taste)
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions

  • ROAST NUTS. Note 3
  • MAKE VINAIGRETTE DRESSING: Combine all ingredients in a jar or sealed container. Shake well until smooth and emulsified. Alternatively, whisk all ingredients together except oil. Slowly add a stream of oil while whisking until smooth.
  • ASSEMBLE WINTER SALAD: Cut or rip greens into small pieces. Drizzle dressing – you won't need it all. Scatter nuts, pears and pomegranate seeds evenly over lettuce. Add small little clumps of ricotta if desired (e.g. 1 teaspoon in size). Serve immediately. If forming into a wreath on a platter, you can serve the dressing in a small bowl in the center of the wreath.

Notes

  1. Lettuce substitutes: Feel free to mix it up with lots of green contrasts.
    • Crisp greens: ‘little gem lettuce’ (a cross between romaine and butter/Boston), romaine lettuce or iceberg lettuce.
    • Soft lettuce greens: Boston/Bibb lettuce, arugula, frisée or other leafy greens
    • Deep greens: kale salad, baby kale, baby spinach
    • Other greens: shredded brussels sprouts, cabbage, snap peas or creamy avocado.
  2. How to extract pomegranate seeds from pomegranate: Roll pomegranate on counter to loosen seeds. Cut pomegranate in half. Taking the first half, hold pomegranate seed side down over a bowl. Smack the outside with a wooden spoon (hard!) to release the seeds. Repeat with the other half. Here’s a video on extracting seeds. Alternatively, try this other option from Cooks Illustrated. You will get about 1 to 1 1/4 cups or a bit more from 1 Pomegranate. 
  3. To to store or freeze pomegranate seeds: Seeds can be extracted 4-5 days ahead and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container or zippered bag. They can also be frozen by laying them on a parchment lined pan, freezing them for an hour, then transferring them to a sealed container or bag. 
  4. Nut options and how to toast them:  Use pecans, macadamia, walnuts, almonds or pistachios. Heat oven or toaster oven to 375F/190C. Lay nuts on pan in a single layer and roast for about 5-6 minutes until fragrant. Cool. 
  5. Salad dressing variations
    • You can add finely chopped green onion, tarragon, chives, garlic.
    • Feel free to replace the orange zest with lemon zest or lime juice.
    • Other good dressings for this holiday salad are honey-mustard, poppy-seed, pomegranate vinaigrette and champagne vinaigrette.
  6. Shortcuts: To cut the time, try one or more of these shortcuts: buy pomegranate seeds (they sell them at Costco); buy pre-washed greens; buy pre-roasted nuts; use a store-bought vinaigrette and add a dash of pure maple syrup or honey and some orange zest if you like.
  7. Other variations and substitutes:
    • Pomegranate: If you can’t find one, try slivers of roasted beets, chopped red pepper, red onion or dried cranberries for the lovely red contrasts.
    • Cheese: I like the mild creamy ricotta as a blank slate for the vinaigrette. Other good choices are feta and goat cheese. Or nothing.
    • Vegetables/Fruits: Add or substitute with mandarin oranges or other citrus fruit, roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash cubes, chopped apple, jicama or chopped water chestnuts.
  8. Make Ahead: The dressing can be made several days ahead. You can also roast the nuts ahead and store them in a sealed container when cooled to keep fresh. And, extract the pomegranate seeds up to 4 days ahead. Cut the pears and assemble the salad just before serving. 
Nutrition values are estimates and will depend on type and amount of ingredients used. 

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Festive Winter Salad Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 275 Calories from Fat 135
% Daily Value*
Fat 15g23%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Cholesterol 8mg3%
Sodium 180mg8%
Potassium 514mg15%
Carbohydrates 34g11%
Fiber 7g29%
Sugar 23g26%
Protein 6g12%
Vitamin A 4469IU89%
Vitamin C 20mg24%
Calcium 87mg9%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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This recipe has been updated with new information and pictures.

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