Fall Salad Recipe
Fall salad recipe: with all the best autumn flavors! Apples, roasted squash, cheese, nuts, bacon, maple apple cider vinaigrette & more!
Every year at this time I crave a big fall salad!
The evenings are cool and crisp but the afternoons are still warm. I want all those flavors that I associate with the cool weather, but in refreshing salad form.
So today I thought I’d share the fall salad recipe that I typically end up making.
Drizzled with a mouthwatering maple apple cider vinaigrette, this autumn salad is sure to satisfy your cravings too!
Table of Contents
- What is a fall salad?
- What’s great about this recipe
- What does it taste like?
- Special equipment
- How to make this fall salad recipe
- How to serve it
- Frequently asked questions
- Serving size
- A few more of my favorite fall recipes
What is a fall salad?
This is just a cold salad made with greens and seasonal flavors like crisp apple, smoky bacon, cheese, nuts, roasted squash, and dried cranberries.
There’s also cooked chicken for protein, and everything is brought together with the most delicious vinaigrette.
Every bite brings a different taste experience, but it’s all unified with that overarching theme of fall.
What’s great about this recipe
- Tastes amazing: This salad has all the best flavors fall has to offer!
- Balanced meal: It’s got so much variety you really get a full spectrum of color, flavors, and nutrition here.
- Easy to make: Once the squash and chicken are cooked and the vinaigrette is made, it’s just a matter of piling everything into a bowl and diving in!
- Versatile: You can switch up the ingredients in all sorts of ways, to suit your personal tastes or dietary restrictions.
What does it taste like?
What I love most about this autumn salad recipe is the balance of flavors.
You get that incredible contrast of sweet and savory. And every bite is a little bit different!
On one forkful you may get apple and bacon, while the next might have cheese and cranberry. It’s a never ending surprise!
And the vinaigrette ties everything together in a beautiful way. Tangy apple cider vinegar, sweet, earthy maple, and sharp Dijon mustard compliment all the fall flavors in a truly spectacular way.
Here are the ingredients I typically include in my fall salad.
Chicken tenderloins are a great time-saver because they’re already mostly broken down for you. In other words, you’ll spend a bit less time chopping them up into bite-sized pieces.
If you want a vegetarian or vegan fall salad recipe, sub in your favorite plant-based chicken product.
I used acorn squash here, but butternut squash or pumpkin would work equally well!
Roasting it in the oven brings out the natural sweetness, and the soft texture contrasts nicely with all the crunch from the other ingredients.
I also love the way it soaks up that scrumptious vinaigrette!
Apple cider vinaigrette
The homemade salad dressing is easy to make with pantry staples such as maple syrup, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, salt & pepper, and extra-virgin olive oil to make it really thick and rich-tasting.
I used a butter lettuce blend for what you see here, but you could use any kind of greens you have on hand.
Some other nice options might be:
- Romaine hearts
- Spring mix
- Baby kale
Smoky bacon adds so much here!
I like to cook up a big batch as soon as I bring it home from the store, let it cool, then slip it into zip-top bags and stash it in the fridge.
That way, I can quickly grab a few slices at a time to crumble into salads like this, layer on sandwiches or burgers, or sprinkle over soups like this loaded baked potato soup or this clam chowder recipe.
If you don’t want to use bacon, I’d recommend sprinkling your chicken or plant-based chicken with about 1/2 a teaspoon of smoked paprika as it cooks.
I happened to have blue cheese crumbles on hand so that’s what I’ve used here, but I also love goat cheese or sharp cheddar in this!
If you can’t have nuts, pepitas would be great. Or you could roast up the seeds from your acorn squash.
Honeycrisp apples are great for this salad because they are sweet, a little tart, and super crisp.
But you can use any variety you like!
Dried cranberries add the loveliest sweet and chewy element to this dish!
Here are the kitchen tools you’ll use to make this recipe.
How to make this fall salad recipe
This dish comes together in 4 simple steps. Let’s walk through them together!
Step 1: Roast the squash
The squash takes the longest to cook so let’s start with that.
Slice it in half and scoop out the seeds and membrane with a metal spoon.
Then break it down further into 1-inch slices, and halve these slices.
Toss them in olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Arrange the slices in a single layer on a lightly greased baking sheet, and roast in the oven until soft and caramelized.
Step 2: Cook the chicken
Oil your skillet and place it over medium heat.
When the oil starts shimmering, add in the chicken pieces, along with some salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Sear the chicken, allowing it to become golden brown on the outside and cooked through but still moist towards the center.
You’re aiming for an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
Step 3: Make the dressing
Start by whisking the maple syrup together with the Dijon, salt, and pepper.
Stir in the apple cider vinegar.
And finally, in a very slow, steady stream, drizzle in the olive oil while whisking vigorously. This will emulsify your vinaigrette, so it becomes thick and almost creamy, and it will not separate.
If you have trouble getting it to emulsify, try using a hand blender for this step. It works like a dream!
Step 4: Assemble the salad
Now all you have to do is put everything together!
You can be fussy like me and compose the salad, or you can just throw everything in a bowl and toss it together with the apple cider salad dressing.
How to serve it
I’ve layered my fall salad over a bed of greens, then placed a handful of each ingredient on top and nestled in a ramekin of dressing.
This dish can stand alone as a full meal, or you can pair it with one of my many soup recipes.
It’s also really good with a nice piece of homemade bread.
Check out my easy ciabatta bread, focaccia bread, or easy French baguettes if you like something really chewy or crusty, or my brioche bread, soft homemade dinner rolls, or homemade crescent rolls for a softer, more pillow-y option.
Frequently asked questions
Can this be made ahead?
All the components of this dish can be made ahead and the salads can be composed, but I’d hold off on adding the dressing until just before you’re ready to serve.
Keep it all in the fridge, covered.
Why is my vinaigrette separating?
The Dijon mustard should help to keep this dressing from splitting, but if it’s not quite enough, give it a really good hard whisk or hit it with the hand blender.
When you’re incorporating the oil, go really s-l-o-w-l-y and whisk it really well to emulsify it.
Why did my dressing harden?
If you keep this vinaigrette in the fridge, it could cause the olive oil to solidify.
This usually works itself out after a minute or two at room temperature, or you could zap it in the microwave for 5 to 10 seconds.
This recipe makes enough to serve 4 people.
The nutritional info in the recipe card below is for 1/4 of the whole recipe.
A few more of my favorite fall recipes
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- 1 (431 g) acorn squash, sliced (butternut or pumpkin can be substituted)
- 1/2 cup (108 g) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons (9 g) kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon (1 g) ground black pepper, divided
- 1 pound (453.59 g) chicken tenderloins, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon (1.5 g) garlic powder
- 3 tablespoons (59.75 g) apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons (30 g) maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons (10 g) Dijon mustard
- 7 ounces (198.45 g) fresh greens, I used a butter lettuce blend
- 8 sliced (176 g) bacon, cooked and crumbled
- 1/2 cup (60.61 g) dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup (56.5 g) crumbled cheese, such as goat cheese, blue cheese, or cheddar
- 1/2 cup (72 g) nuts, such as pecans, walnuts, or hazelnuts
- 1 (182 g) apple, I used honeycrisp, diced
Roast the squash
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and mist a baking sheet with non-stick spray.
- Toss the sliced squash in about 1 tablespoon of the oil and season with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper.
- Arrange the squash in a single layer and roast (flipping) until golden brown on both sides (approx. 30 to 35 minutes on one side and an additional 20 to 25 minutes on the other side).
Cook the chicken
- Place a large skillet over medium heat, add about 2 tablespoons of the oil, and when it starts to shimmer, add the chicken, about 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, the garlic powder, and a pinch of pepper.
- Saute the chicken until golden brown on the outside and cooked through to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F.
Make the apple cider vinaigrette
- Place the apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon, remaining salt, and pepper in a bowl or cup and whisk to combine.
- In a very slow, steady stream, whisk in the oil (or blend it in with a hand blender for a smooth emulsion).
Assemble the salad
- Layer the greens in the bottom of the bowl.
- Top with roasted squash, cooked chicken, bacon, cranberries, cheese, nuts, and apple.
- Toss together with the apple cider vinaigrette.