The perfect side dish for your Thanksgiving dinner, this Cranberry Salad recipe is flavorful and delicious! Mandarin oranges, fresh cranberries, goat cheese crumbles and pecans make this Cranberry Salad with pecans incredible.
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This Cranberry Salad recipe is the perfect Thanksgiving Side Dish!
Thanksgiving often means lots of “beige” on your plate – turkey, stuffing & mashed potatoes and gravy to name a few. Adding a side dish with some color and crunch is a must.
This fresh, cranberry citrus salad is the perfect side dish for your Thanksgiving dinner. Loaded with lots of goodies like mandarin oranges, pecans and cranberries, it brings the perfect complimentary flavors to your turkey dinner!
What do I need to make cranberry salad?
Here’s a quick-reference grocery list of the ingredients you’ll need to make this simple, crisp cranberry salad recipe. I’ve linked all of my preferred ingredients to Target, so should you need to do a last-minute Target pick-up they can have your ingredients for you same day!
- Spring Mix, or a mix of your favorite greens – you’ll need about 2 – 5 oz. bags of Spring Mix or other greens. Feel free to do a mix of your preferred greens, like baby spinach, spring mix, romaine, butter lettuce or any other mix.
- Mandarin Oranges – I like to grab a can of mandarin oranges. They are already peeled and packed in water. These are always an economical addition to salads and side dishes and pair wonderfully with cranberries.
- Fresh Cranberries – for this salad, grab a bag of fresh cranberries in your produce section. These are always available during the holidays. If you cannot find fresh, feel free to substitute dried cranberries.
- Green Onions – fresh green onions are a fantastic addition to this salad. They are mild and are complimentary to the cranberries and oranges.
- Celery – fresh celery is a fantastic addition and brings the perfect amount of crunch to every bite of this crispy, fresh salad.
- Toasted Pecans – pecan halves take this salad from good to amazing! Wonderfully nuttiness and crunch and elevates the flavor as well.
- Goat Cheese – creamy goat cheese crumbles are amazing in the salad. Very mild, it adds a nice creamy note that goes perfectly with the pecans and sweetness of the oranges. For a stronger option, you could add blue cheese, feta or even gorgonzola.
For exact ingredient amounts and full recipe instructions, be sure to reference the recipe at the bottom of this page.
What other nuts can I use instead of pecans for this fresh cranberry salad?
You can use a variety of nuts – walnuts, pistachios and almonds are all great options!
For the honey balsamic dressing, you’ll need:
- Olive Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar
- Orange (for juice and zest)
(Please reference the recipe below for exact ingredient amounts and full directions.)
How do I make dressing for fresh cranberry salad recipe?
Simply whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, honey, orange juice & zest and garlic.
The dressing for this salad is delightful! Not overly heavy, the balsamic dressing is great to toss on the salad just before serving or serve on the side and have your guests dress themselves.
This dressing is a wonderful option to most store-bought balsamic dressings. Try this dressing with some of my other salads:
- Blueberry Spring Mix Salad
- Roasted Carrot Salad
- Kale Apple Salad
- Harvest Salad with Pears and Pomegranates
- Butternut Squash Salad at Real Housemoms
How to prepare fresh cranberries for a salad:
Fresh cranberries can be rather tart when consumed raw. To soften and sweeten, you can do something very simple: sweeten and cook in the microwave.
Steps to cooking cranberries:
- Start by adding the fresh cranberries to a microwave-safe bowl. Add the sweetener of your choice along with fresh-squeezed orange juice. I like granular monk fruit sweetener, like Lakanto or Whole Earth.
- Stir together the cranberries, juice and sweetener. Then, microwave on 1 minute increments, stopping to stir. You’ll likely just need 2 minutes total to cook the cranberries.
- Let the cranberries cool to room temperature, or refrigerate before adding them to the salad.
Do you love cooking with fresh cranberries? Check out some of my other recipes using cranberries:
- Healthy Cranberry Orange Muffins
- Cranberry Fluff Salad
- Thanksgiving Turkey Casserole
- Cranberry Moscow Mule
- Saint Nickarita Christmas Margarita
- Cranberry No Bake Energy Bites
- Cranberry Coffee Cake
- Cranberry Chicken Salad
Want to use dried cranberries without all the refined sugar?
Check out my post for How to Make Dried Cranberries recipe! No dehydrator necessary – just 3 ingredients and your oven does the work. This is a great way to add dried cranberries to your salad without all of the refined sugar.
Not only are these dried cranberries great in salads, they are also wonderful in cookies, bars, homemade granola & granola bars, and stirring into yogurt and oatmeal.
Can I prepare a salad the day before Thanksgiving dinner?
Yes. This cranberry salad recipe can be made the day before. Assemble all of the ingredients, and place right in the serving dish. Cover with plastic wrap. Do NOT add the dressing. You can mix the dressing in advance, but keep it separate. Store in an airtight jar at room temperature. Dress the salad before serving, or serve the dressing on the side.
Should I dress the salad before serving for dinner?
Some people like to dress their own salad to control how much dressing they have. I would recommend serving the dressing on the side of the salad for your guests. Serve the dressing on the side, especially if you know there will be leftover salad.
You can also dress the entire salad just before dinner is served.
FAQ’s about making cranberry salad for a holiday dinner:
Cranberries can be ate raw. However, if they are too tart for your liking, you can cook down in the microwave. Use 2 Tbsp. of fresh squeezed orange juice and 2 Tbsp. of granular sweetener. Stir together and microwave on 1 minute increments until the cranberries burst. Two minutes of microwaving should be all that’s needed.
Raw cranberries can be diced and made into a relish, added to salads, dried and added to cookies and bars, roasted with butternut squash, and added to baked oatmeal.
Undressed, cranberry salad will last 2-3 days when refrigerated in an air-tight container.
The less sugar the better! Cranberries are wonderfully healthy, as they contain anti-oxidants and are considered an anti-inflammatory food. Try fresh cranberries in a salad, in baked oatmeal or blended into a smoothie.
What can I serve this cranberry salad with?
This cranberry salad is amazing with roast turkey and chicken. It’s a great side dish to a holiday meal. Check out some of our best holiday main dish recipes:
- Easy Slow Cooker Turkey Breast
- Apple Cider Turkey Brine
- Citrus Turkey Brine
- How to Dry Brine A Turkey
- How to Cook A Moist Turkey
- Oven Baked Snow Crab Legs
- Garlic Herb Roast Beef
Want to enjoy this salad as leftovers the next day? Here are a few tips:
- If you’re expecting leftovers from your Thanksgiving dinner, serve your dressing on the side. This will help keep your leftover salad from becoming soggy. This cranberry salad will keep 2-3 days refrigerated if it is NOT dressed.
- Top the salad with your leftover turkey or rotisserie chicken! Adding protein to your salad makes a fantastic, healthy lunch and will keep you full and satiated for hours.
Here are some other recipes perfect for your Thanksgiving dinner:
Here’s the easy recipe for my Cranberry Salad recipe:
- 2 (5 oz. bags) Spring Mix or your preferred lettuce mix
- 1 (15 oz) can., mandarin oranges, drained
- 1 1/2 c. fresh cranberries
- 2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed orange juice (juice of 1/2 orange)
- 2 Tbsp. granular monk fruit sweetener
- 2 green onions, sliced
- 2 ribs of celery, sliced
- 1/2 c. toasted pecans
- 1/4 c. goat cheese crumbles
Honey Balsamic Dressing:
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 c. fresh squeezed orange juice (juice of 1/2 orange)
- 1 Tbsp. orange zest (zest of 1/2 orange)
- 1 Tbsp. honey
- 1 tsp. minced garlic (about 2 cloves)
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- To a microwave safe bowl, add the fresh cranberries, 2 Tbsp. of orange juice and 2 Tbsp. of granular sweetener. Stir together and microwave on 1 minute increments until the cranberries burst. Stir. 2 minutes will likely be all that is needed to cook the cranberries. Set cranberries aside to cool.
- In a large bowl or platter, add the spring mix/salad greens, oranges, green onions, celery, pecans and cooled cranberries. Top with the goat cheese crumbles. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- For the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, honey, orange juice and zest, salt and pepper. Serve the dressing on the side or dress the salad just before serving.
Want to prepare this salad in advance of Thanksgiving dinner: You can prepare the day before. Add all the ingredients to a serving bowl or platter, EXCEPT the dressing. You can mix the dressing in advance, just keep it in a separate container. Dress the salad just before serving. If you expect leftovers, keep the dressing on the side and have guests dress their own salad.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 1/2 cups
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 152Total Fat: 10 ggCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 2g