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winter salad on plate with wine bottle
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4.95 from 19 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 (change as needed): 4
Author: Cheryl


  • 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


  • 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.


  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. 
Calories: 275kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 180mg | Potassium: 514mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 23g | Vitamin A: 4469IU | Vitamin C: 20mg | Calcium: 87mg | Iron: 1mg