How to Make a Winter Salad with Seasonal Ingredients

Here’s what I love about winter salad ingredients: they last a very long time in your fridge, ready and waiting for that moment when you overdid it on holiday cookies and are craving a huge salad.

My fridge usually has an assortment of crisp apples and pears, carrots and winter squash, curly frisée and staunch cabbages that I can use to throw together a winter salad. I also use red onions, pomegranate and watermelon radishes to keep things colourful and interesting.

Compared to the more delicate summer vegetables, like cucumber and tomatoes which soften and spoil after a few days, hearty winter produce stays vibrant and flavourful if stored correctly.

So today we’re going to learn how to make a winter salad with seasonal ingredients.

A Simple Winter Salad Formula

Here’s a winter salad formula that can be as simple or complex as you like. Keeping zero waste in mind, it’s designed to help you clean out the fridge and use what you have.

It would also be fantastic for using up leftovers from a holiday meal, be they cold turkey, baked squash, roasted vegetables or the remains of a cheese plate.

Ingredient amounts are all by personal preference and dietary choice. Nut-free? Use toasted seeds instead. Vegetarian? Leave out the turkey.

Build your ideal go-to winter salad – and then stock those ingredients in the fridge and pantry for the cold months ahead.

Vinaigrette

The salad essentials begin with a bracingly bold homemade apple cider vinaigrette, which must contain raw garlic, and in itself is practically a tonic for fighting flu and cold season. Of course you can use your favourite salad dressing here too (balsamic would be delicious) but I shake up this Garlic-Herb Vinaigrette and find it stands up very well to our hearty ingredients.

Winter Greens

Next up are winter greens. Use whatever you’ve got, although I strongly suggest you branch out from kale and iceberg. Some of my favourite winter greens are radicchio, endive, curly napa cabbage and frisée. Not all of them are green in colour, but they all serve as a base for our hearty salad.

When building a salad, try using a mix or two or three salad greens. Around the holidays I naturally love a mix of red and green. If radicchio is too bitter for you, use thinly sliced red cabbage for a pop of colour.

Winter Vegetables

Picking winter salad vegetables requires some creativity as they aren’t typically marketed as “salad” ingredients as much as their summer counterparts, but once you lock down a few favourites, it’s hard to imagine any salad without the crunch of shredded Brussels sprouts or the tang of pickled shallots.

Roasted winter squash is a great place to start, along with roasted, cubed sweet potato. I use Delicata in this kale salad, but acorn and carnival can also be prepared with their skin on and served up atop a winter green salad.

Shredded brussels sprouts add both colour and crunch to our salad bowl. Other options include winter radishes, beets – roasted or raw – kohlrabi, or shredded carrots, always a family favourite.

Don’t leave out the alliums. While thinly sliced raw red onion or shallot brings a nice bit of heat to a salad, try making them into a quick pickle that adds a both tang and crunch.

Winter Fruits

This is the fun part. Slivers of apple, sliced of pear and pomegranate seeds all add a sweetness and a crunch to our big salad bowls. Also delicious, but not as crunchy, are slices of persimmon, citrus segments and wedges of fresh fig.

Dried fruit can hold much longer in the pantry and pairs very well with winter greens. Try dried cranberries, chopped apricots and plump golden raisins for a start.

Nuts, Seeds, Cheese & other Proteins

Here are the bits I usually add last of all. There’s nothing particularly seasonal about them, but they do bring the all-important protein to our salad.

Personally, I love a few slices of cold roast chicken, turkey, pork or salmon on a winter salad. I’ll go as far as ham, too, but tend to use up leftover red meats in sandwiches.

A few slivers of Parmesan cheese or crumbled feta add an umami flavour; a round of goat cheese or a slab of blue, for an extra special salad.

Last of all, toss on heaps of toasted nuts or seeds – anything from slivered almonds to pepitas, including roasted chickpeas or crispy lentils. Adding these last will ensure they don’t lose any of their crunch.

Of course, your hearty big winter salad doesn’t have to be as full as mine in the photo above – that was a particularly thorough fridge clean out!

To return to the simple formula, aim for this combination: Vinaigrette + Winter Greens + Seasonal Vegetable + Winter Fruit + 2 Proteins (Nuts & cheese).

More winter salad ideas:

Do you have a solid winter salad recipe that is your go-to?

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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Comments

  1. Excellent! Pinning this for later. I often make what I call ‘garbage salads’ (not very appealing in name…LOL…but appealing in the fact that it’s a fridge clean out!) and put in just about everything, but I’ve never put squash in one or pickled a shallot, so…will be trying that!

  2. I prefer a lot of ingredients in my salad anyway, and great excuse here to even add a few that I don’t already have on hand! thank you

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