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This Mandarin Orange Salad is bejeweled with the best produce fall and winter have to offer, like fresh citrus, apples, pomegranate, and dried cranberries. Tossed in a crowd-pleasing orange poppyseed vinaigrette, it’s a satisfying main dish or a vibrant holiday side.
When the leaves begin to fall and the cooler weather sets in, that means it’s time to upgrade your seasonal salads. This oh-so-elegant, yet easy Mandarin Orange Salad is the perfect place to start.
This winter salad recipe features a medley of seasonal goodies, like mandarin orange wedges, crunchy apples, pomegranate seeds, and cranberries. All of this fall/winter goodness is dressed in a delectable orange poppyseed vinaigrette, ensuring that every bite explodes with fresh and vibrant seasonal flavors.
There are endless ways to put your own spin on the salad, too. Mix and match the seasonal fruits and veggies, add cheeses or proteins, garnish it with your favorite mix-ins, and more!
- It’s the best winter citrus salad! It’s easy to put together and every bite features refreshing and vibrant seasonal produce.
- Serve it as an impressive, light, and healthy main dish or as an exciting side dish on your holiday menu.
- It’s so versatile and fun to mix and match the add-ins. Scroll down to the Variations section for ideas!
Mandarin oranges - The shining stars in this salad. Each orange wedge adds a burst of juicy sweetness, making for a delightful contrast next to the other tart and tangy flavors. You should be able to find mandarin oranges in well-stocked grocery stores from November to February while they’re in season. If you can’t find them, use drained and rinsed canned mandarin oranges instead.
Dried cranberries and pomegranate seeds - This tart duo adds a festive flare to the salad. Cranberries are pleasantly chewy while pomegranate seeds add juicy bursts of sweet-tartness. You can typically find both of these in grocery stores throughout fall and winter.
Apple - Apples give the salad a crisp, hearty crunch and a subtle sweetness to complement the other fruity flavors. I like to use red apples for a pop of color, like Honeycrisp, Fuji, or Pink Lady apples.
Mixed greens - I used mixed greens as the salad base, but feel free to use your favorite salad greens or a spinach-arugula mix for a similar freshness.
Goat cheese - Finishing the salad with creamy and rich cheese crumbles gives the dish an almost addictive indulgent quality. But if you’re dairy free, you can omit it.
Orange poppyseed vinaigrette - This zippy and citrusy salad dressing is easy to make with white wine vinegar, olive oil, honey, orange juice, dijon mustard, and poppy seeds.
Step 1: Make dressing. Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together in a glass measuring cup or bowl, then set aside.
Step 2: Toss the salad. Add the mixed greens, oranges, cranberries, almonds, pomegranate seeds, apples, and goat cheese to a large mixing bowl and gently toss.
Step 3: Add the dressing. When it’s time to serve, pour the dressing overtop and gently toss to coat. Transfer the salad to a serving platter or serve it from the bowl, and enjoy!
Tips and FAQs
- Want to enjoy it for meal prep? Store the salad ingredients and dressing in separate airtight containers in the fridge. Toss everything together right before serving to keep the fruit and veggies crisp.
- Be gentle when tossing the salad. The ingredients are delicate and can be crushed very easily.
Save time by prepping ahead. You can save a lot of time by peeling and slicing the oranges and apples, seeding the pomegranates, making the dressing, and portioning the mix-ins the night before serving. This way, the only thing that’s left to do is toss everything together before serving!
You can make all kinds of changes to make this recipe your own, but these ideas should help spark some inspiration:
- Winter fruits - Substitute the mandarin oranges and/or apples for clementines, tangerines, navel oranges, blood oranges, pomelos, grapefruit, pears, or persimmons.
- Fresh fruits - This winter fruit salad is also great with fresh raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, red grapes, and nectarines.
- Dried fruits - Instead of dried cranberries, try raisins, sliced dates, or dried apricots.
- Cheese - If you don’t like goat cheese, use feta, blue cheese, or parmesan.
- Fun mix-ins - Add avocado, pickled red onions, candied pecans, crumbled crispy bacon (or tempeh bacon), and freshly chopped mint or parsley.
- Dressing - Try this salad with my balsamic vinaigrette or honey mint vinaigrette instead of the poppyseed vinaigrette.
Can I add protein to this salad?
Absolutely! You can easily make it a filling and satisfying meal by adding diced chicken, salmon, shrimp, or steak bites. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, try crispy tofu cubes, cooked quinoa, chickpeas, or extra nuts, like pistachios, pecans, or walnuts.
What should I serve with a mandarin salad?
This salad pairs well with cozy soups, like pumpkin curry soup, carrot apple ginger soup, and chicken sausage soup. It’s also great on the side of a cottage cheese chicken salad sandwich and avocado grilled cheese.
Refrigerator: Store the leftover salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator and eat it within a day or two for the best texture and flavor.
More seasonal salads
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Mandarin Orange Salad
For the dressing:
- Start by making the dressing: whisk the vinegar, olive oil, orange juice, honey, mustard, poppyseeds, salt, and pepper together in a glass measuring cup or bowl; set aside.
- Add the mixed greens to a large mixing bowl, then add the oranges, cranberries, almonds, pomegranate seeds, apples, and goat cheese and gently toss.
- Wait to add the dressing until you’re ready to serve, but once ready, pour the dressing overtop and toss with kitchen tongs. Serve directly from the bowl, or transfer to a serving platter. Enjoy!