Our Favorite Christmas Salads Will Bring Color and Crunch to Your Holiday Meal
With so many Christmas dishes starring as hearty, saucy, or braised affairs, it's easy to feel weighed down by the end of the evening. Candied yams, confit de canard, green bean casserole, and super buttery baby potatoes are just a few of the things we can't do without when it comes to our Christmas cornucopia. But the end result? It can be one giant familial food coma.
That's why we've taken to balancing those buttery bruisers with something lighter and tangier, which is where Christmas salads come in. But these aren't just your average bowl of greens. We're here to talk about salad as a key supporting player—the dish can and should stand shoulder-to-shoulder with that umami-bursting roasted Brussels sprouts dish your cousin always makes.
These bright holiday salads enliven your guests' palates between mouthfuls of roast ham and mashed potatoes—plus, they're a useful way to employ a pantry full of late fall produce. That's why we recommend making two, three, or even four of them for the table. You'll be surprised at how popular these Christmas salads are, and how fast they go. Plus, you can use some of the same fruit, nuts, and produce you use as salad toppings for the best and last course: dessert.
Citrus Salad with Pomegranate Seeds
A salad does not by any means need greens, especially when it's this Martha-level beauty bursting with 10 pounds of citrus. Choose the citrus your heart desires, from golden grapefruit and Cara Cara to blood oranges and satsumas, but make sure you crown it all with tart, tannic pomegranate seeds. On a crowded holiday plate, this salad goes perfectly with meaty dishes and collard greens.
Chili-Lime Roasted Butternut Salad
Lemons are one way to get that top note of brightness, but lime is a more exciting and an unexpected accompaniment to a Christmas dish. Summon piquant flavors with lime, chili, and cilantro, all anchored by a traditionally fall veggie. Butternut squash makes this side dish feel like a harvest treat, while a sprinkling of crumbled Cotija cheese and pepitas seasons it with just enough fat and richness.
Bitter Greens, Grapefruit, and Avocado Salad
A holiday spread never looked lighter and more fun than one punctuated by this pink grapefruit salad. Summon your spritzy side for this champagne vinegar, yogurt and grapefruit dressing, pick your prettiest, freshest avocado to slice, and peel whole segments of grapefruit. We recommend endive, escarole, and frisee, but you can use whatever firm, hardy greens you have; both basil and mint make the grade. The poppy seed garnish is the perfect finish.
Raw Swiss Chard, Cabbage, and Brussels Sprout Salad
We like to use Pecorino Romano for our salad, because it brings a grassy, earthy and strong accent to salads that parmesan just can't compare with. That's just one of the unusual and fun things about this salad, which lets you use raw—yes, raw—Swiss chard, Savoy cabbage and Brussels sprouts. If you've never had Savoy, it's nothing like that grocery store cabbage, but instead more like a leafy green. Marinate with a little sugar in the fridge and these greens turn magic.
Wild-Rice and Lima-Bean Salad with Cranberry Relish
You've got an extra bag of fresh or frozen cranberries, with no immediate plans for it after you've finished making your cranberry sauce. This is what we advise: a tart, healthy, and delicious salad featuring the cranberries in a delightful and versatile relish, tossed with wild rice and lima beans. Flat-leaf fresh parsley adds an herby note to this rice-and-bean salad that's healthy, but far from boring.
Shredded Brussels-Sprout Salad with Hazelnut Crunch
If you're feeling stressed about oven space and didn't quite get the Brussels sprouts in the oven to roast, we've got a simple, crowd-pleasing alternative for you. There's nothing like a lemony, crunchy Brussels sprout salad at your Christmas table, especially when it's tossed with toasty, sweet hazelnuts. With so many soft, braised items on the table, the double crunch in this dish is just the textural variety you need.
Mixed Chicories with Persimmons
We're a fan of bitter greens at the table, and we'll tell you why: Chicories are secret arsenals of rich vitamins and excellent for gut digestion, but they also last much longer in your winter garden and stand up against the elements. You can roast, braise, or sauté them, but we like to feast on them raw, complementing them with firm slices of Fuyu persimmons, walnuts, pomegranate seeds, a proper red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing, and a dash of salt and pepper.
Fennel-and-Endive Salad with Pomegranate Seeds and Walnuts
Two underused vegetables meet in this elegant Christmas salad. With so many brown and beige dishes on the table, this one might be the one you really want to photograph and remember. Your guests with sharper tastes will enjoy the fragrant aroma of anisey fennel and the mildly bitter taste of endive, along with warm, toasty walnuts and puckery, fruity pomegranate jewels.
Cara Cara and Blood-Orange Salad with Ricotta Salata
Transformative ricotta salata can dominate a dish, which is why this recipe uses Cara Cara and blood oranges to balance out the richness. Crumble the cheese conservatively amongst your arugula or mizuna, and top with a gorgeous blood orange dressing. This simple recipe can take the cake at any meal, even at Christmas.
Farro Salad with Oven-Roasted Grapes and Autumn Greens
Here's a cool winter salad trick: just add any grain to any fruit and green, add dressing and toss. But you can level up from a pretty basic grain-and-green salad with the usage of farro, a nutty, addictive grain you might find yourself reaching for again and again after this. Roasted grapes make this salad even more exciting, and go nicely with your mixed small greens—try baby kale, baby Swiss chard, red mustard, or red mizuna.
Roasted Kabocha Squash with Tahini and Herb Salad
We're not in the business of being afraid of a cup of herbs (or three)—and neither should you. Take a page from Middle Eastern dishes and pile on the herbs, along with the richness of tahini. This salad mixes yogurt with tahini to form the base; on top, kabocha squash is drizzled with lime dressing.
Escarole Salad with Lemon-and-Anchovy Dressing
Don't ever say salad can't bring the umami. Devourable Castelvetranos are the most memorable olives you'll ever have, but they're not just for party platters. A dressing with anchovies, garlic, lemon, and Dijon mustard goes perfectly with escarole, a broad-leaved hearty green. Julienned lemon zest is thrown directly into the mix, meaning nothing about this salad is subtle—but everything is flavor-packed.