When I saw apple cider at the farmer’s market this week, I had to grab a carton. It’s one of those beverages that tastes so good in the fall, probably because we’ve waited all year for its return! In addition to the cider, I also grabbed some apples and green leaf lettuce to create this Apple Pecan Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette. I grabbed some pears and squash, too, because I am all about fall fruits and veggies!
There are tons of recipes for apple cider vinaigrette, but most just use apple cider vinegar for the apple taste. Spoiler alert: apple cider vinegar doesn’t taste much like apples. I wanted some serious apple flavor for this vinaigrette. So I took ½ of a cup of apple cider and reduced it down to two tablespoons. The whole process takes about 10 minutes, and you’re left with a syrup-like reduction that’s packed with apple flavor. It doesn’t even require any stirring!
Have you ever noticed that nutmeg tastes like sipping on a cup of eggnog? Or how about that a pumpkin spice latte tastes like pumpkin, despite not actually containing any pumpkin? We strongly associate certain flavors with taste memories. It’s why the smell of cinnamon wafting through the air can remind you of apple pie. For this vinaigrette, I wanted even more apple flavor, and I made it happen by adding…cinnamon. Just a pinch tricks our taste buds into thinking this vinaigrette tastes even more like apples!
I combined the reduced apple cider and cinnamon with apple cider vinegar, olive oil, maple syrup, dijon mustard, and a chopped shallot to create this vinaigrette. The shallot adds a nice savory note, and the maple syrup adds additional sweetness to balance the vinegar.
To top the salad, I used a big Gala apple. You could use Honeycrisp, Pink Lady—whatever apple you like. I’d avoid Granny Smith as it could make the salad a little too tart.
I used green leaf lettuce, but you could also use butter lettuce, red leaf lettuce, or even kale for this salad. I’d probably avoid arugula, romaine, or any somewhat bitter lettuce. I also topped it with some pecans. I buy the toasted, chopped version from Trader Joe’s so I don’t have to toast them myself.
It all comes together to create this beautiful fall salad with tons of apple flavor. It was the perfect change of pace from our usual greens with balsamic vinaigrette. I served it with this Grilled Artichoke and Pancetta Pizza and a glass of red wine.
Apple Pecan Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Yield 6–8 servings
Not apple cider season? Substitute apple juice instead!
For the vinaigrette:
- ½ cup apple cider or apple juice
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch of cinnamon
- 1 small shallot, minced
For the salad:
- 1 head of green leaf lettuce
- 1 large Gala apple (or your favorite apple)
- Juice of ½ lemon
- ⅓ cup chopped toasted pecans
- Place the apple cider in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and allow to cook for 10–12 minutes, or until the cider has reduced to approximately 2 tablespoons. The mixture will look quite runny while hot but will turn into a glaze consistency when it cools.
- Place the reduced apple cider, vinegar, olive oil, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, kosher salt, cinnamon, and shallot in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake to combine.
- Chop the apple and toss with the juice of ½ of a lemon to prevent browning.
- Rinse the lettuce and spin dry in a salad spinner. Alternatively, use a clean kitchen towel to dry the leaves after rinsing. Tear the lettuce into bite size pieces. Place in a large bowl and top with desired amount of dressing. Toss to combine. Top with the chopped apple and pecans. Toss again to combine and serve immediately.