15 Healthiest and Best Thanksgiving Salad Recipes

Thanksgiving salads aren’t usually part of a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal, but they can certainly add balance and variety to your holiday plans.

vegetable-salad-on-white-ceramic-plate-beside-grey-stainless-steel-fork
by
Chelsea Rae Bourgeois, MS, RD
— Signos
Health writer
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
May 20, 2024
November 6, 2023
— Updated:
November 7, 2023

Table of Contents

The holiday season is upon us, so it’s time to start planning that Thanksgiving menu. While turkey and mashed potatoes deserve all the hype they get (because yum), we can’t forget about all that salads have to offer. Packed with nutrition and flavor, fall salads can take your Thanksgiving dinner to the next level. Plus, they’re super simple to make!

The options are endless, so we’ve compiled a list of some of the best Thanksgiving salad recipes to add to your holiday plans. From butternut squash to sweet potatoes and kale, we’ve found salad recipes for Thanksgiving that include all kinds of ingredients, offering many nutritional benefits. So, grab your pen and get ready to make your holiday grocery list!

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Salad Ideas and Recipes for Thanksgiving

If you need salad ideas for Thanksgiving, we’ve got your back! Below are 15 healthy Thanksgiving salad options that will take your holiday meal from wow to WOW.

Cranberry Pecan Spinach Salad

This Cranberry Pecan Spinach Salad calls for a base of fresh, torn spinach mixed with the sweetness of dried cranberries, the savoriness of red onion, and the richness of pecans and crumbled blue cheese.1

Mix your spinach, red onions, pecans, and blue cheese in a large bowl. Then, in a separate small bowl, whisk together the ingredients needed for the salad dressing. The recipe calls for red wine vinegar, garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the dressing over top of the salad and mix well.

Pomegranate Pear Salad

This Pomegranate Pear Salad is a simple salad made with feta cheese, pears, almonds, and pomegranate seeds over fresh spinach. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and top with your homemade apple cider vinaigrette dressing made with apple cider vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, and honey. This colorful salad is sure to bring unique variety to your holiday table!2

Quinoa and Roasted Vegetable Salad

The Roasted Veggie Quinoa Salad packs a punch in both flavor and nutrition. With so many vegetable ingredients, this hearty, healthy salad can be a satisfying Thanksgiving recipe. The recipe calls for zucchini, sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes, corn, and red onion. Yum!

Spread your mixture of veggies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and drizzle them with lemon juice and olive oil. Season them with garlic, salt, and pepper to taste, and roast the mixture at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. After pulling them out of the oven, add them to a bowl with cooked quinoa and drizzle with a mixture of olive oil and apple cider vinegar.3

Kale and Apple Salad

If your Thanksgiving table needs a simple salad, this Kale and Apple Salad might be what you’re looking for. It might even be the best Thanksgiving kale salad of them all! Antioxidant-rich kale packs a punch nutritionally, and the blend of apples, dates, almonds, and cheese gives the salad a depth of flavor.

To start, you’ll need to whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Toss in your kale, making sure it’s thoroughly coated, and allow it to sit for approximately 10 minutes. Letting the kale sit in the lemon juice mixture helps to soften the veggie. Next, cut your dates into thin slivers and apples into matchsticks. Add them to the kale, along with almonds and cheese. Season to taste and enjoy!4

Roasted Beet Salad

Roasted beets aren’t your typical Thanksgiving side dish, but don’t count them out just yet. This Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts and Goat Cheese incorporates the root veggie’s earthy taste and the sweetness of Dijon mustard and honey. To start, wrap your beets in aluminum foil and bake them at 400 degrees until tender or for approximately one hour. Let them cool until you can peel and dice them.

Next, mix your vinaigrette ingredients — red onions, Dijon mustard, olive oil, and sherry vinegar. Toss in your roasted beets and baby spinach, and top with goat cheese and walnuts. Short of time on Thanksgiving Day? Roast your beets the day before and whip up the salad dressing when it’s time to serve!5

Butternut Squash Farro Salad

A hearty butternut squash salad makes sense when your menu includes a list of fall flavors. Add some delicious farro to the recipe, and you get a Butternut Squash Farro Salad. You’ll need butternut squash, shallots, peeled farro, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dried cherries, parsley, toasted walnuts, and feta cheese for this recipe.

It should only take about 30 minutes to prep this nutritious salad. Start by cubing your squash and slicing your shallots. Let them roast at 375 degrees until tender. While they cook, bring your farro to a boil and let simmer for about 20-30 minutes until tender. Then mix in the roasted squash, shallots, and other ingredients before allowing the flavors to develop for a few hours — or overnight if you want to make it ahead of time to get a jumpstart on your Thanksgiving Day cooking!6

Crunchy Sweet Brussels Sprout Salad

Instead of serving your Brussels sprouts whole this year, consider shredding them to make a delicious shaved Brussels sprouts salad. You’ll need one pound of Brussels sprouts, 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1/2 cup walnuts, two tablespoons of olive oil, and a pinch of ground nutmeg to make four servings.

Warm the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, and add your shredded Brussels sprouts and nutmeg. Stir as you let them cook for about 2-3 minutes, and then add in the dried cranberries and walnuts, tossing to mix. Serve warm.7

In addition to its delicious flavor, this Crunchy Sweet Brussels Sprout Salad is rich in nutrients. Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of dietary fiber, vitamin K, and vitamin C.

Citrus Fennel Salad

This Citrus Fennel Salad is a delightfully bright, light side dish for your Thanksgiving appetizers. With three varieties of citrus fruit — navel oranges, grapefruit, and blood oranges — this salad provides a burst of vitamin C and a pop of color to your holiday meal. And the prep work is quite simple!

To start, peel your citrus fruits and remove the white pith and skin. Then, cut the fruits into thick rounds and set aside while you work on the salad dressing. Whisk together vinegar, orange juice, grapefruit zest, honey, and olive oil for the dressing until it becomes emulsified. Next, layer the fennel, arugula salad, and onions on a platter. Pour half the dressing atop the base layer and add your citrus rounds in a pinwheel fashion. Pour the rest of your dressing on top and serve.8

Sweet Potato and Kale Salad

This Roasted Sweet Potato Kale Salad perfectly combines fall flavors and hearty nutrition. Add kale, pecans, feta cheese, sweet potatoes, and olive oil to your grocery list to make this salad. Simply dice your sweet potatoes and let them roast in the oven. While they cook, toss the kale in a homemade or balsamic dressing until it softens and wilts. Next, top with the pecans, feta cheese, and roasted sweet potatoes, and serve!9

Each serving of this holiday-friendly salad provides good fiber and essential vitamins. And the orange color against the Thanksgiving green salad adds a touch of elegance to your meal.

Harvest Grain Salad

Harvest Grain Salad recipes might vary between households, but this recipe calls for a mix of quinoa, edamame, veggies, dried fruit, and nuts. It’s pretty easy to make. Start by cooking your quinoa and set it aside to cool. While it cools, chop up your veggies. This recipe suggests bell peppers, red onions, and edamame.

Then combine your quinoa, veggies, and dried apricots and mix up your salad dressing. Mix orange juice, red wine vinegar, cumin, and salt for a refreshing dressing. Stir the liquid into the quinoa and veggie mixture and top with blue cheese.10

Green Bean Salad

Need a light and refreshing take on your typical green bean casserole? Try a delicious Green Bean Salad. Start by cooking your sliced almonds in a large skillet over medium heat. After they turn golden brown around the edges, set them aside to cool and start boiling the green beans.

Meanwhile, whisk together the ingredients needed for the salad dressing — olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and salt. Once the green beans are cooked, pour the olive oil mixture and almonds into the skillet. Add feta cheese and toss to combine. Serve and enjoy a delicious, fiber-rich Thanksgiving day salad.11

Carrot Salad

orange-carrot

Carrot Salad might scream springtime appetizer, but don’t write it off just yet. Carrots can add a beautiful pop of color to your autumn holiday table and a hefty dose of vitamin A. Mix mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, and honey to make the salad dressing. Then, add matchstick carrots, apple slices, pecans, and raisins and toss to coat the solid ingredients evenly. Try to serve the salad cold and fresh.12

Cranberry Quinoa Salad

Cranberries are a traditional holiday delicacy, so including them in your Thanksgiving salad only makes sense! This recipe uses simple ingredients like fresh herbs, quinoa, almonds, and feta cheese. Topped with a refreshing lemon Dijon dressing, it’s the perfect simple salad to add to your lavish Thanksgiving dinner. And it’s SO easy to make.

Chop the fresh herbs, cook the quinoa, and combine everything in a large bowl. For the dressing, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, Dijon mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle over the salad and mix thoroughly. Serve immediately, or let it get cold in the fridge. They say the flavors develop the longer it sits in the fridge!13

Fall Cobb Salad

This Fall Cobb Salad puts an autumn twist on an all-time classic recipe. Mixed greens, butternut squash, apples, hardboiled eggs, bacon, dried cranberries, and pumpkin seeds give this salad a depth of flavor. Plus, in addition to being a beautiful mix of colors, its crunchy, crispy texture adds variety to your meal.14

Thanksgiving Slaw

Most Thanksgiving meals are rich in soft foods like roasted turkey and mashed potatoes, but sometimes you want a little crunch. Enter a crunchy, zesty Thanksgiving Slaw. You’ll need green cabbage, sliced almonds, dried cranberries, and fresh herbs to make this salad. You’ll need vegetable oil, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and finely chopped red onions to make the dressing.15

Should You Serve Salad on Thanksgiving?

Serving a salad with your Thanksgiving dinner is a matter of personal preference, but doing so offers a wide range of benefits. Traditional holiday menus focus on turkey and classic side dishes, but a salad can offer a lighter option for guests with dietary preferences while adding variety and balance to your meal.

The best Thanksgiving salads go beyond your traditional house or Caesar salads. They incorporate seasonal ingredients you may only enjoy during holiday celebrations. Plus, they’re rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and holiday flair. 

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References

  1. Taste of Home. (2022, September 14). Cranberry Pecan Spinach Salad. Taste of Home. https://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/cranberry-pecan-spinach-salad/
  2. Allen, L. (2022, November 11). Pomegranate and Pear Salad. Tastes Better From Scratch. https://tastesbetterfromscratch.com/pear-pomegranate-salad/
  3. Carter, B., & Roberts, A. (2023, August 15). Roasted Veggie Quinoa Salad Recipe by Tasty. tasty.co. https://tasty.co/recipe/roasted-veggie-quinoa-salad
  4. Kitchen, F. N. (2016, January 27). Kale and Apple Salad. https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/kale-and-apple-salad-recipe-2112013
  5. Fuller, N. (2014, May 15). Roasted beet salad with walnuts and goat cheese. Food Network. https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/nancy-fuller/roasted-beet-salad-with-walnuts-and-goat-cheese-2383008
  6. Silver, S. (2022, October 27). Butternut squash farro salad. Sheri Silver. https://sherisilver.com/2022/10/27/butternut-squash-farro-salad/
  7. Anderson, S. (2013, November 23). Crunchy sweet Brussels sprout salad. Food Network. https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sunny-anderson/crunchy-sweet-brussels-sprout-salad-recipe-1949039
  8. Leite, D. (2023, April 26). Citrus fennel salad. Leite’s Culinaria. https://leitesculinaria.com/397708/recipes-citrus-fennel-salad.html
  9. Roasted sweet potato kale salad. Primavera Kitchen. (2022, April 19). https://www.primaverakitchen.com/roasted-sweet-potato-kale-salad/
  10. The Healthy Maven. (2020, November 4). Harvest Grain Salad. The Healthy Maven. https://www.thehealthymaven.com/harvest-grain-salad/
  11. Cookie and Kate. (2022, July 29). Green Bean salad with Toasted Almonds & Feta. Cookie and Kate. https://cookieandkate.com/green-bean-salad-recipe/
  12. Goode, G., & Miller, J. (2023, March 29). Carrot Salad. The Pioneer Woman. https://www.thepioneerwoman.com/food-cooking/recipes/a39133008/carrot-salad-recipe/
  13. Erin. (2023, February 22). Cranberry Quinoa Salad. Erin Lives Whole. https://www.erinliveswhole.com/cranberry-quinoa-salad/
  14. Danae. (2020, September 21). Fall Cobb Salad. Recipe Runner. https://reciperunner.com/fall-cobb-salad/
  15. Gallary, C. (2022, October 30). Your Thanksgiving table doesn’t need salad, it needs this slaw. Kitchn. https://www.thekitchn.com/recipe-thanksgiving-slaw-237475

About the author

Chelsea Rae Bourgeois is a registered dietitian nutritionist with several years of experience working in the clinical setting. Once a track and field athlete on a competitive stage, she now finds joy in combining her passions as a health writer to help people embrace their wellness through nutrition and fitness.

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