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Waldorf Salad — Classic and timeless, apple Waldorf salad is always a crowd favorite especially when apples are in season! It makes a great holiday side dish that your guests will devour thanks to a sweet and creamy dressing that coats a mixture of apples, grapes, celery, walnuts, and more! A highly flexible recipe so feel free to substitute, get creative, and make it your own.
What Is Waldorf Salad?
It’s reported that the first Waldorf Salad was made in the 1890s in the famous New York City hotel, the Waldorf Astoria. You know a recipe is timeless and a forever classic when it is still popular 125 years later!
Waldorf salad is a yearlong popular salad from picnics in the summer to being served at holiday meals like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve.
The base of the salad always has apples, grapes, celery, and walnuts coated in a creamy sweet dressing.
From there, you’ll find an epic degree of variations in apple Waldorf salads, which I have elaborated on below.
What’s great about classic Waldorf Salad is that it’s a no-cook salad — no eggs to boil, no chicken to cook. It only involves a bit of chopping making it a very fast and easy salad recipe to make.
Ironically, if you don’t serve Waldorf salad over a bed of Bibb lettuce or similar, most recipes don’t call for actually putting any lettuce in with the other ingredients.
So you’ve got yourself a lettuce-less salad that’s also fruit-dominated, making it great for picky eaters and kids!
Waldorf Salad Ingredients
As I mentioned above, there are many Waldorf salad variations online. Here is what’s in this Waldorf salad:
- Plain Greek yogurt (or plain regular yogurt or sour cream)
- Granulated sugar (or honey)
- Lemon zest, optional
- Lemon juice
- Poppy seeds, optional
- Seedless grapes
- Pineapple, optional
- Kosher salt, optional
- Parsley, optional
- Bibb lettuce, optional
What Are the Best Apples for Waldorf Salad?
Red apples, like Honeycrisp, make for a crisp and sweeter version along with Gala and Fuji, whereas Granny Smith makes it more tart. Use one or the other, or both. I like to use both red and green apples.
How to Make Waldorf Salad Dressing
To make this creamy and sweet dressing that’s a hallmark in Waldorf salad, simply whisk together the mayo, Greek yogurt, lemon juice, sugar, and optional poppy seeds.
Also, if you plan to garnish your finished salad with lemon zest, be sure to zest it before you juice it for the dressing.
Can I Make Waldorf Salad Without Mayo?
I know there are some mayo haters out there! If you’re one of those people who are absolutely averse to it, even when it’s mixed with or in other things, then go ahead and eliminate it.
In place of the mayo, you could use sour cream or Greek yogurt. I wouldn’t go with regular yogurt though because it’s too runny.
If you plan to use all Greek yogurt in lieu of any mayo, you may want to consider omitting or halving the amount of lemon juice so that the dressing isn’t overly tart.
How to Make a Waldorf Salad
Step 1: After you’ve mixed together the salad dressing ingredients, to a large bowl add the apples, grapes, optional pineapple, celery, half the nuts, and stir to combine.
Step 2: Evenly drizzle the dressing over the salad and stir to combine.
Step 3: Give it a taste and decide if you’d like to add a bit of salt, parsley, or lemon zest.
You can serve it family style out of the mixing bowl. For a more formal feel, you can plate the salad in individual portions.
Especially nice is plating it over Bibb lettuce or butter lettuce in a smallish bowl so it will appear like it’s being served from a lettuce bowl.
However, this is optional and you can plate it however you like.
Substitutions and Variations for Waldorf Salad
As I have already alluded to, there are so many variations and ways to make Waldorf salad. It’s the quintessential flexible recipe!
Some substitutions and variations to try include:
- Red seedless grapes are more traditional but green seedless grapes, or use both.
- Walnuts are a given, but you can use candied walnuts, pecans, or candied pecans too.
- Serve Waldorf salad in a bed of Bibb or butter lettuce, or you can plate the salad without lettuce.
- Add cooked shredded or cubed chicken for extra protein.
- Diced cooked ham is another option to add some protein. It’s a perfect pairing with the pineapple.
- Add in whatever type of greens or lettuces into the fruit, celery, and nut mix such as Iceberg, kale, a spring mix, spinach, or Romaine.
- Raisins or craisins are a nice addition for some chewiness.
- Mini marshmallows take the salad in a sweeter direction.
Make Ahead and Storage Options
If you’re making this for an event and know you’re going to be pressed for time, you can make the dressing ahead of time and store it separately from the fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
Store the fruit mixture in an airtight container and give it a spritz of lemon juice before you seal the container because you don’t want the apples to oxidize.
If you know you’re going to do this, you may want to only use a half tablespoon of lemon juice in the dressing recipe rather so it’s not too tart.
I know the pineapple is listed as optional in the recipe, but by using it, it’ll not only help keep the apples from oxidizing as quickly, it also adds another great layer of flavor resulting in the absolute best Waldorf salad!
What Dishes Go Well with Waldorf Salad?
Not sure what to serve with a Waldorf salad? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise* (See Notes)
- 2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt (or plain regular yogurt or sour cream)
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar (or honey)
- Lemon zest, optional
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds, optional
- 1 1/2 cups apples, cored and diced (don't peel)** (See Notes)
- 1 1/2 cup seedless grapes, halved*** (See Notes)
- 1 cup diced pineapple, optional (canned or fresh; drain juice well if using canned)
- 1 cup celery ribs, diced in thin 1/4-inch segments
- 1 cup walnuts, divided**** (See Notes)
- Kosher salt, optional and to taste
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely minced; optional
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest, optional and to taste for garnishing
- Bibb lettuce (or butter lettuce), optional for serving
- To a medium bowl, add the mayo, Greek yogurt, sugar, lemon juice (make sure to zest the lemon before juicing it and reserve the zest if you're going to garnish your salad with the zest later), optional poppy seeds, and whisk to combine until smooth; set aside.
- To a separate large bowl, add the apples, grapes, optional pineapple, celery, half the nuts, evenly drizzle the dressing over the top, and stir and toss to combine and coat evenly.
- Taste and if desired, add salt, to taste. I recommend adding some to balance the sweetness in this salad.
- Evenly sprinkle the remaining half of the nuts over the top.
- Optionally and evenly sprinkle the parsley and optional lemon zest to garnish.
- Optionally plate the salad in large leaves of Bibb lettuce (or butter lettuce will work) or simply serve family-style out of the mixing bowl, or plate on individual salad plates, minus the bed of lettuce underneath.
- Salad is best fresh but can be made up to 4 hours ahead of time.***** (See Notes)
*If you’re one of those people that's absolutely averse to mayo, even when it’s mixed with or in other things, then go ahead and eliminate it. In place of the mayo, you can use sour cream or Greek yogurt. I wouldn’t go with regular yogurt though because it’s too runny. If you plan to use all Greek yogurt in lieu of any mayo, you may want to consider omitting or halving the amount of lemon juice so that the dressing isn’t overly tart.
**Red apples like Honeycrisp make for a crisp and sweeter version along with Gala and Fuji whereas Granny Smith makes it more tart. Use one or the other, or both. I like to use both red and green apples.
***Red grapes are more traditional and I used them but you can also use green or mix-and-match red and green.
****Walnuts are the classic, but you can use candied walnuts, pecans, or candied pecans too. Feel free to toast the nuts before adding them, too.
*****If you’re making this for an event and know you’re going to be pressed for time, you can make the dressing ahead of time and store it separately from the fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Store the fruit mixture in an airtight container and give it a spritz of lemon juice before you seal the container because you don’t want the apples to oxidize. If you know you’re going to do this, you may want to only use a half tablespoon of lemon juice in the dressing recipe rather so it’s not too tart.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 235Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 14gCholesterol: 3mgSodium: 126mgCarbohydrates: 21gFiber: 4gSugar: 15gProtein: 4g
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