Once upon a time, leafy greens weren’t invited to the Thanksgiving table. Instead, the big beautiful bird, loads of sweet potatoes, stuffing and traditional pie were the stars of this holiday spread. But times change, and a growing emphasis on plant-based diets plus a concerted effort to eat more healthfully are giving Thanksgiving salads their turn in the spotlight.
With these creative Thanksgiving salad ideas, you’ll please vegetarian guests while adding texture and color to the plate. These original salads take advantage of the season’s best produce. For each one, use a base of three to four cups of leafy greens and three to four tablespoons of dressing to feed 8-10 people.
Spinach, Squash and Pomegranate Seed Salad
Spinach is grown twice a year in many areas, which is why you’ll often see a fall crop at the farmer’s market. Wash and dry this vitamin-rich green in a non-slip spinner, then pair it with two cups of cubed roasted butternut or acorn squash and balsamic vinaigrette. Pro tip: Roast the squash earlier in the day so it has time to cool. Top this Thanksgiving salad idea with toasted pine nuts and pomegranate seeds for added crunch.
Kale, Goat Cheese and Cranberries Salad
Kale gets an upgrade with chunks of tangy goat cheese and ruby-red cranberries. Plump 1/2 cup of the dried fruit in hot water (just enough to cover the berries) for 10 to 15 minutes and then combine it with sliced Tuscan or lacinato kale. To this blend, add 1/2 cup each of goat cheese, shredded carrots and minced red onion. To save on prep time, try a stripping comb, which makes quick work of removing kale stems. A sherry vinaigrette is a lovely complement as are spiced pumpkin seeds to sprinkle on top.
Brussels Sprouts, Apple and Chickpea Salad
Rather than oven-roast your Brussels sprouts, shred them raw and then coat these cabbage cousins in Caesar dressing. The result: A crunchy, creamy party in your mouth. Toss the prepared sprouts with one or two Honeycrisp or Gala apples, diced, and a couple of chopped scallions. Add in a cup of roasted chickpeas (use a nonstick baking sheet for easier clean up) seasoned with a half teaspoon each of smoked paprika and kosher salt. These savory legumes are also an excellent pre-dinner nibble with a cocktail, so make a double batch.
Broccoli, Fennel and Almond Salad
Blanching broccoli for three or four minutes and then shocking it in ice water earns you crisp-tender florets with a pretty green hue. Mix broccoli with a thinly sliced fennel bulb, a handful each of toasted slivered almonds and crumbled feta and then toss it all with a zingy, garlicky tahini dressing. This yummy dressing (and the others suggested here) are easily made and poured from a salad dressing shaker.
Radicchio, Arugula and Delicata Squash
Bitter greens like arugula and radicchio are a welcome counterpoint to a sometimes bland theme on Thanksgiving tables. Enhance these lettuces with a halved and seeded delicata squash that’s been sliced into half moons. Toss each slice with olive oil, 1 tablespoon of honey and 1/2 teaspoon each of paprika, salt and pepper. Roast until golden brown. Delicata is a wonder veg as there’s no need to peel it—the skin is edible. A shower of chopped parsley and mint, along with a simple lemon vinaigrette, pulls this Thanksgiving salad idea together.
Are you having a scaled-down holiday meal this year? We have small Thanksgiving ideas for a feast that’s both intimate and delicious.