Salad with Goat Cheese, Pears, Candied Pecans and Maple-Balsamic Dressing

Thanksgiving Salad (Perfect for Holidays … or Any Day!)

~ An incredibly delicious, yet really easy salad recipe! Absolutely perfect for Thanksgiving and the holidays … but quick enough for busy-night family dinners, too! ~

This Recipe Is:     Ready in 30 Minutes or Less    Includes Make-Ahead Steps    Vegetarian  

Salad with Goat Cheese, Pears, Candied Pecans and Maple-Balsamic Dressing Recipe {}

In all this big, wide world, I have two absolute-favorite leafy green salads. (You’ll notice I diplomatically left the door WIDE open for favorite quinoa salads, pasta salads, fruit salads, dinner salads …)

Yeah – when it comes to salads, I have a lot of love to give!

But now you’re dying to know …

What’s green salad heartthrob #1?

Salad with Goat Cheese, Pears, Candied Pecans and Maple-Balsamic Dressing Recipe {}

Well, if you’re a long-time THKer, you might remember our Salad with Nuts, Feta and Cranberries. Gretchen and I have both been making it for years … long before we’d even met … long, long before THK!

It’s insanely good, and insanely fast! Might take you maybe three minutes to pull together, and that’s only if you take a call from your gabbiest friend part way through making it. Seriously – check it out! It’s a lifesaver everyone should keep close at hand … especially when you’re busy (but wait … aren’t you always!?!?!)! And it’s so good, no one will ever guess you threw it together just as you headed to the dinner party – while you buckled your toddler in the car, put the dog in his crate, and swiped on your lipstick.

But here’s where favorite salad #2 came in …

Salad with Goat Cheese, Pears, Candied Pecans and Maple-Balsamic Dressing Recipe {}

I’d been making fave salad #1 for so long, and every member of my extended family had (happily!) eaten it at multiple family gatherings. So, last Thanksgiving, I got inspired to concoct something new. I played around in the kitchen a little, and fell in love with salad all over again! Specifically, with this gorgeous salad!

Mmmmhmmm … you can see why! It’s absolutely loaded with goodies! Crunchy candied pecans, sweet and juicy fall pears, wonderfully tart dried cherries, and creamy goat cheese … all drizzled with a luscious maple-balsamic dressing.

Geez oh man – this salad is so good!

Salad with Goat Cheese, Pears, Candied Pecans and Maple-Balsamic Dressing Recipe {}

… So good that even my daughter, who generally eats salad only because she knows she really ought to, and who doesn’t like salad dressings … even she happily eats this salad (WITH DRESSING!!!! 😀 )! Night after night! We’re talking break-through, folks. Salad break-through.

It’s that good …

… So good that my son gleefully exclaimed, “This is awesome!” as he shoveled in another forkful. (I truly don’t make this stuff up!)

Salad with Goat Cheese, Pears, Candied Pecans and Maple-Balsamic Dressing Recipe {}

With the pears and dried cherries, it’s a perfect holiday salad for Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations, but it’s also waaaaaay too delicious to save for only special occasions! I’ve honestly already made it numerous times this fall, just for regular family dinners. It seems fancy-schmancy enough to elevate any ‘ole family meal, and it’s easy enough that I can quickly throw it together on a busy weeknight!

And there’s no shame in shortcuts and make-ahead steps (you know we love those here at THK!).

Salad with Goat Cheese, Pears, Candied Pecans and Maple-Balsamic Dressing Recipe {}

Yup … to make this ridiculously easy salad even more ridiculously easy … you can buy pre-crumbled goat cheese in a little tub, to save the couple minutes of crumbling it yourself. And you can make the dressing a day or two in advance and store it in the fridge. Oh – and those awesome candied pecans? They take about 5 minutes total, and can be made ahead, too!

Seriously so simple!

At “go time” – you just toss it all together! (And use all the time you saved to sign yourself up for Mom of the Year and Hostess with the Mostess!)

Salad with Goat Cheese, Pears, Candied Pecans and Maple-Balsamic Dressing Recipe {}

Lucky you … you’ll probably even have time to sign up for my “We Love Salad Fan Club”! After one taste of this one, you’ll want to be a lifetime member!

Salad with Goat Cheese, Pears, Candied Pecans and Maple-Balsamic Dressing Recipe {}

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Salad with Goat Cheese, Pears, Candied Pecans and Maple-Balsamic Dressing

Preparation 10 min. 2017-06-29T00:10:00+00:00 Cook Time 0 min. 2017-06-29T00:00:00+00:00
Serves About 11 cups     adjust servings



  • 5 ounces of mixed gourmet/spring greens
  • 1 pear (such as d'Anjou), cored and chopped (to equal about 1 1/4 cups) (see note)
  • 1 cup glazed, candied pecans (see note)
  • 2/3 cup dried cherries (or cherry-flavored Craisins)
  • 4 ounces crumbled goat cheese


  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon smooth dijon mustard
  • a pinch (about 1/16 teaspoon) kosher salt


  1. Place greens in a large serving bowl (or divide it among individual salad plates).
  2. Sprinkle pears, pecans, cherries, and goat cheese over top of greens.
  3. For dressing, whisk together balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, olive oil, mustard, and salt until emulsified.
  4. Dress salad just before serving, or pass the dressing at the table.


Recipe Notes

Pears: Firmer pears work best for this recipe. D'Anjou is our top choice, but feel free to sub in your favorite variety, or whatever looks most wonderfully flavorful and juicy at your market.

Candied pecans: We definitely recommend using our super-easy recipe for 5-Minute, 4-Ingredient Candied Pecans. They add just the right amount of sweetness without going overboard on the sugar or adding corn syrup, butter, or other less-healthy ingredients. Alternately, if you use purchased candied pecans, be sure to read the ingredient lists and nutrition labels to find the best possible option.

Make-ahead tips: The dressing can be made a day or two in advance and kept, covered, in the refrigerator. If you're planning on making your own candied pecans (using our recipe), those can also be made in advance. For a little extra time-savings, look for already-crumbled goat cheese (which is also a bit less messy), rather than the little 4-ounce logs that you'll need to crumble yourself.

Serving tips: This salad is literally loaded with toppings, which is exactly how my family likes it best. Feel free to tweak the exact proportions to suit your family's tastes. Also, if you're going to serve the salad buffet-style and want to pre-dress it, it's important to add the dressing just prior to serving, so the greens don't wilt upon standing too long. Also, when pre-dressing the salad, you may want to reserve some of the dressing and offer it at the side, as some people prefer their salads more lightly dressed than others.

We'd love to see your photos of this recipe! Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter and tag @TwoHealthyKitchens!


Salad with Goat Cheese, Pears, Candied Pecans and Maple-Balsamic Dressing Recipe {}
Salad with Goat Cheese, Pears, Candied Pecans and Maple-Balsamic Dressing Recipe {} THK Pear Salad Square


Salad with Goat Cheese, Pears, Candied Pecans and Maple-Balsamic Dressing — 42 Comments

  1. This was an absolutely amazing salad. I was literally sighing with delight at every bite. Your directions for the candied pecans were spot on and the dressing is now the only dressing I am ever going to eat. Thank you!

    • Hi Niki! Thank you so much for the wonderful feedback – I genuinely appreciate that you took the time to let me know how much you loved this recipe! 🙂 I’m so pleased that the directions were clear and that you enjoyed it all so much! We truly adore this salad, too, and it makes me happy to know that it was such a success for you! Thanks again – and have a fantastic week! ~Shelley

    • Hi Jan! Just like apples, pears do discolor. But (as with apples), we feel some hold up better and longer than others. We think the d’Anjou variety we recommend holds up pretty well, but I wouldn’t recommend cutting the pear really far in advance – I’d leave that portion of the prep until you’re putting the salad together before serving. To save time with make-ahead steps, I’d stick with making the dressing and candied nuts ahead. If you do need to cut the pears far in advance for some reason, there are lots of great resources online for different strategies to prevent browning. Here are a couple: and Most of those strategies usually seem like more time and effort than I want to spend, though, so I just cut the pear close to serving time. I hope this helps … and that you adore this salad as much as we do! 😀 ~Shelley

    • Hi Phyllis! I’m so excited for you to make this salad recipe! We just served it again last week at our Thanksgiving, and I absolutely adore it! To answer your question – since this recipe makes about 11 cups of salad, I would probably double this recipe if you are serving 14 people. Of course, it all depends on exactly how much you will serve to each person, but when I entertain, I always like to err on the side of having too much rather than too little. Also, this salad is usually such a hit that people may wish for seconds, so as a hostess, I like to be prepared for that. If you serve the dressing on the side, rather than dressing the whole salad, you an also enjoy it the next day if you have some left over. I’ve done that often – it’s not quite as lovely the second day, of course, but as long as you don’t dress it, it’s still scrumptious for you as a little left-over treat later. In fact, Liz (who commented just a couple of days ago – see below) mentions that she happily did just that. I hope all this helps you! Let me know how it goes – and happy, happy holidays! 😀 ~Shelley

  2. Just made this for Thanksgiving and I’m still eating it days later and LOVING it. Great combination of flavors and textures, and the dressing is amazing. So glad I found this recipe!

    • Oh, Liz – thank you so much for your sweet comment! I really appreciate that you took the time to let me know how much you enjoyed this salad – it makes me really happy to know that it was a part of your Thanksgiving feast! We actually made this “Thanksgiving Salad” for Thanksgiving at our house again this year, too (and I remembered all over again how very much I love it 😀 )! Thanks again – have a fantastic week! ~Shelley

  3. Love this salad! Do you have any suggestions on how to keep pears from turning brown? Would you make it the day of or ok to make night before?

    • Thank you so much, Ali! We adore it, too – just made it to serve last week at our big Thanksgiving feast, actually! 😀

      Anyway, while several components of this Thanksgiving Salad can be made ahead (like the dressing and the pecans), I think the pears are really best chopped closer to serving. But yes – there are a number of strategies you can try to keep them from turning brown if you are chopping them a little ahead. On idea you’ll often hear is to squeeze an acid such as lemon juice over apple or pear slices to prevent browning. I always feel like you have a residual tart taste from this method, which I don’t think works well in this recipe. Other ideas generally have to do with soaking the slices in a solution of water + something (such as lemon juice) – and these tend to dilute the acidic flavor, but they also add a step or two of creating the soaking solution and then later draining the pears and blotting them dry so they don’t water down the salad. I’m not in love with the extra steps this creates, so I still prefer to just chop the pears closer to time. But, if you’d like to read more about other make-ahead ideas to keep those pears from browning, I just love this really detailed post from Monica at The Yummy Life, which I think you’ll find super-helpful:

      I hope this was useful for you! Thank you so much for the excellent question – it’s always so great to hear from readers, and not only have a chance to help YOU out personally, but also possibly to help others who might have the same question! Thanks bunches! And have a fantastic week! ~Shelley

  4. I made this salad for our Relief Society meeting, there were no leftovers! It was a super big hit and I had many recipe requests! I absolutely loved it! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Hi Dena! I’m just thrilled to hear that this salad recipe was such a hit! Totally makes my day! Thanks so much for taking the time to stop back and let me know – I truly appreciate it! Have a fabulous weekend! 😀 ~Shelley

  5. Hello, have you ever done this with blue cheese and some citrus, no cherries, along with the nuts? I had something similar in California, and it was so addictive, esp the dressing. Never knew what was in the dressing though. I will try this and let you know!

  6. This recipe looks great, and I’m going to make it for some friends this weekend. Do you think the 11 cup serving is enough to feed 7 people for a first course?

    Thank you!!

    • Hi, Emily! I’m so excited for you to make this salad – we absolutely adore it, and I hope you’ll love it just as much! I do think that you’ll be ok with this for 7 people, as each person would get about 1 1/2 cups of salad, but then that also depends entirely on how hearty of a first course you’re intending and if you’re using it as a plated first course or as part of a buffet where some people might come back for seconds (it’s so good … they really might do just that! 🙂 ). Good luck – and have lots of fun this weekend! ~Shelley

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      • Michelle, thanks so much for verifying! We don’t have a Trader Joe’s that’s very local (which makes me so sad!), and although I think I’ve seen them there before, and my Google searches seemed to indicate that Trader Joe’s carries them, I really appreciate you taking a moment to let us know for sure! Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Holidays! 😀 ~Shelley

    • Hi Tina! I’m so sorry I missed your question until now. Unfortunately, we don’t have a Trader Joe’s very nearby, so I get there only rarely 🙁 but I do believe I’ve purchased dried cherries there before. We’re actually able to find dried cherries in most all of our local grocery stores. You may be able to find them in the bulk section, but we typically find them right along with all of the other packaged, dried fruits. In a pinch, if you just can’t find them, though, you can try substituting dried cranberries, particularly the dried cranberries that are cherry flavored (infused with cherry juice). They’re not exactly the same in flavor as real dried cherries, but they’re a decent substitute in this recipe. I hope that helps! Thanks so much for stopping by and for the good question! 😀 ~S

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    • Hey, Cindy! You know I’m sooooo with you on the loving-easy-recipes thing! Especially around the holidays – it’s gotta be BOTH easy, and delicious – who has extra time to waste?!?! And really – if you think this salad looks that mouthwatering, you’ve just gotta try it! I wasn’t kidding when I said that my family (even my daughter!) happily eats this again and again, night after night! It’s a home run! Thanks for popping by, my friend! Happy holidays to you and your family! 😀 ~Shelley

  14. Woah, it’s like you read my mind. I’ve already got at least 5 different goats cheese salads on a list (for Christmas, but also because I just love them) and this is one going to join. With pears and balsamic dressing this could seriously be a winner. Honestly, I love you. And this salad.

    • Awwwww, Siv! You sure know how to make my day! You’re hilarious and so sweet, all at the same time! I’m honored that my salad is joining your esteemed list of goat cheese salads (which is hilarious in itself – that you have a list of goat cheese salads! 😀 ). My family and I honestly adore this just so much – I can’t wait for you to try it! Happy holidays! 😀 ~Shelley

  15. Are you sure we aren’t related? This is one of my favorite salads, too! Only difference is that I buy this awesome balsamic vinegar that is infused with maple. They do this with a ton of different varieties also! Best part is that it tastes so good that I don’t have to use oil!

    • Oh my gosh, Abbe!?!?! Ok … so wouldn’t it be the coolest if we figured out that we WERE related!?!?! Can you just imagine the fun we’d have at our mega-extended-family-eating-fest-reunions!?!? Mmmmmm … maybe I should take a really, really serious-hard look at my family tree and see if I can make this happen! Oh – and when I do discover that you’re my long-lost cousin (17 times removed) … I want you to share some of that amazing maple-infused balsamic, m’kay??? Happy holidays, my dear! Hugs from your long-lost 17th cousin! 😀 ~Shelley

    • Thank you so much Deborah! I really hope you gave it a try! I made a giant triple batch of this salad for Thanksgiving dinner at my mother-in-law’s, and my mom has requested that I bring it for Christmas dinner at her house, too! We jut love it! Happy holidays to you and yours! 😀 ~Shelley

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