This crispy apple cranberry salad with creamy, oil-free fruity balsamic vinaigrette and crunchy nuts is a quick and delicious healthy vegan side salad.
This is one of our favorite easy vegan side salad recipes because you only need a few ingredients that are usually readily available. Add grains, quinoa, or beans for a healthy lunch or light dinner in minutes.
Why you'll love this recipe
- Nutritious, crunchy apples are readily available any time of year and easily dress up this simple salad with a few additional ingredients.
- The thick creamy salad dressing is oil-free with the perfect mix of sweet, fruity flavor and balsamic vinegar.
- You can use any combination of spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, or other salad greens.
Ingredients, Notes, and Substitutions
Below are a few of the basic ingredients you'll need along with tips for substitutions if you need them.
Apples. Use any combination of red apples, granny Smith apples, or other yellow or green apples. Choose your favorite sweet apples or tart flavors.
Dried cranberries. Choose cranberries with no added sugar if possible.
Nuts. Chopped nuts like almonds or walnuts complement the flavor and are your only source of healthy fat. If you want to turn this into the more traditional apple cranberry walnut salad, then use toasted, unsalted walnuts, so they stay crunchy. Pistachios or pepitas can also be used.
Orange. When you're choosing your apples, grab a fresh orange. Zest and juice are used in the dressing.
Sweetener. A liquid sweetener such as date paste or maple syrup balances the flavor of the dressing. Here are the instructions if you want to make your own date paste.
Please see the recipe card at the bottom of this post for the complete list of ingredients with measurements plus recipe instructions.
The best thing about this delicious salad recipe is that you can quickly obtain the ingredients in the grocery store in any season. No searching or planning for special ingredients.
If you want to make a few variations, add chopped or thinly sliced red onions. I've added leftover vegan crispy bacon bits to contrast the cranberries' sweetness.
Make an apple cranberry fruit salad by skipping the greens and adding red grapes and chunks of fresh oranges. Anything goes!
Instructions and Pro Tips
Step 1: Make the dressing
The creamy cranberry-balsamic dressing is a star of this salad. It starts with soaking half the cranberries (⅓ of a cup) in ⅓ of a cup of boiling water. Measure the water out because you'll use this in the dressing.
Use a high-speed blender or food processor to blend all the dressing ingredients. You can make the dressing ahead of time.
Step 2: Dice the apples
To keep the apples from oxidizing (turning brown), toss them in lemon juice. Don’t bother to peel the apples – keep the crispy fiber. Cut the apple slices in half or smaller so they are bite-sized but chunky. For best results, toss the apples after making the dressing, so they stay fresh.
Step 3: Gather the remaining ingredients
Add the spinach or other greens, chopped nuts, diced apples, and remaining cranberries in a large bowl and toss the ingredients.
Step 4: Dress the salad
Right before serving, add the dressing. You can also serve the salad dressing on the side. This is helpful if you use leafy greens that tend to wilt more quickly.
Cranberry apple salad highlights fall flavors and it’s a delicious side salad for family dinners or to brighten heavy meals. The bright colors make it a festive salad dish for your next vegan Thanksgiving dinner, special occasions, or holiday potluck.
Frequently asked questions
If you've tossed the apples in lemon juice, they will last a few days before they get too brown and soft. For best results, wait to dress the salad until you are ready to eat it. Store the leftover salad in an airtight container for 1-2 days.
Canned chickpeas or beans are excellent choices for quickly adding vegan protein; quinoa only takes about 15 minutes, so it's also a good option. You can make this delicious salad recipe even yummier with tofu bacon, crispy air fryer tofu, or vegan feta cheese.
If you make this recipe as a kale salad, there's no need to steam or cook the kale first. Naturally, crispy kale can easily be softened by massaging it with half the dressing before assembling the rest of the salad.
The best substitute for red balsamic is white balsamic or red wine or merlot vinegar. Red wine vinegar will be sharper, and white balsamic will be slightly sweeter than red. Taste and adjust the added sweetener. You can also use pomegranate molasses.
More Vegan Side Salad Recipes
Do you have a question or recipe request or need a cooking tip? Leave a comment below or contact Denise. I’m here to help! If you want more healthy vegan recipes, please subscribe to my newsletter or follow me on Facebook or Pinterest for the latest updates.
If you make this recipe, please leave a ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ rating. It’s much appreciated!
Apple Cranberry Salad
Rate this Recipe:
- ⅔ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ cup date paste or maple syrup
- 1 medium orange - zest and juice
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 6 cups fresh spinach
- ½ cup almonds - chopped
- 2 medium apples - cored and cut into ½ cubes
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Salt or black pepper to taste
- Add ⅓ a cup of dried cranberries and ⅓ a cup of boiling water in a small bowl. Soak for 10 minutes.
- While the cranberries soak, add ¼ cup of date paste or maple syrup, orange zest and juice, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, and cayenne pepper in a blender or food processor. Then dump in the cranberries and soaking water. Blend until smooth.
- Wash and core the apples and slice them into cubes. Toss them with lemon juice in a small bowl.
- To make the salad, add the spinach, almonds, remaining cranberries, and apples to a medium salad bowl. Toss with the dressing.
- You can use any combination of spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, or other salad greens. Gently massage the kale with half of the dressing to soften it before assembling the salad.
- Apples oxidize quickly, so it’s recommended that you serve and eat this salad fresh or store it in an airtight container for no more than 1-2 days.
Nutritional information is an estimation only.