~ Grape Salad with Cream Cheese Dressing is a must-have classic at summer picnics, and at many families’ holiday buffets, too. Our updated version features a lighter, healthier vanilla-cream cheese dressing (yay – no guilt here)! But it’s still every bit as refreshingly sweet and delicious! ~
This Recipe Is: • Ready in 30 Minutes or Less • Make Ahead • Vegetarian • Gluten Free •
You know how, every time you go to a potluck or family reunion, there’s always that one dish that’s the absolute best thing there? You kind of wish you hadn’t taken so much of everything else (curse you, baked beans!) … because all you really want to do is eat more of THE.ONE?
And, oh no! What if it’s gone before you make it back through the line for
seconds thirds?!? *EGADS*
You wonder if anyone will notice if you pull a chair right up to the buffet table and scoop straight from the bowl. (Errrrr … wait … maybe that’s just me?)
Well, anyway, that’s how my Grape Salad recipe was born.
At a huge potluck party a couple summers ago, the buffet tables were practically groaning with piles of lovingly prepared food. But hands-down, the Grape Salad was THE.ONE. I knew I needed to find a way to have it in my life. Like all the time, happily ever after.
I have no idea who brought it to the party that day, but whoever you are, somewhere out there – thank you for inspiring me to create my own version of that amazing salad!
- It’s so completely refreshing, with perfectly juicy, sweet grapes.
- The luxurious vanilla-cream cheese dressing is just rich enough to make it decadent, without bogging it down. So irresistible, especially with the caramel-y background notes from a little brown sugar.
- And the pecans are a perfect bit of crunch.
It’s quick and simple but so, so good.
And honestly, I think my version is even better than most of the ones you might’ve come across through the years!
How This Grape Salad with Cream Cheese Dressing is Even Better Than the “Classics”
Grape Salad recipes are old-fashioned classics. Lots of families consider them to be absolutely essential must-haves at every summer party, and even at Thanksgiving dinner.
But, even a classic can sometimes use a little updating. After I fell in love with THE.ONE, I knew I’d have to do some tweaking if I wanted to concoct a version I could actually feel good about eating all the time.
Why? Well, sadly …
• Lots of “classic” Grape Salad recipes use full-fat cream cheese and full-fat sour cream to get that perfect balance of sweet and tangy flavors in the cream cheese dressing. Full-fat dairy products aren’t considered quite the nutritional evils they used to be a few years ago, but they definitely do carry a lot of additional calories along with the extra fat.
• And, many typical recipes rely on ingredients like Cool Whip, marshmallow creme, and dry pudding mixes. One look at the ingredient list on a Cool Whip container, and it’s pretty hard to want to feed that stuff to your kids. Or yourself. Or anyone you like even a tiny bit, actually.
• Some traditional Grape Salad recipes also add loads of sugar. One recipe I googled used an entire cup of sugar, and another called for 1 1/2 cups! Plus, I’ve seen some that add sweetness and crunch with things like toffee bits or Heath bars. At that point, we’re heading out of salad territory, and into dessert land!
I knew I could do better! (And, spoiler alert … I did!!! 😉 )
A couple of little tricks I used:
Trick #1 – Greek Yogurt
When I started testing out my new Grape Salad recipe ideas, I knew I could probably use our popular Sugared-Vanilla Yogurt Fruit Dip as a starting point (like I did with our autumn-y Hearty Fruit and Nut Salad).
That simple dip is super-easy to make and always really popular! And, I’ve used the dip, absolutely straight-up, as a dressing for other fruit salads in the past, too. Works like a charm.
But what’s extra-awesome about that dip is that it features Greek yogurt, instead of things like Cool Whip and pudding.
Nonfat Greek yogurt is actually a healthier swap in many of our recipes because it slashes fat and calories while pumping up the protein. Still, it’s sweet and creamy enough to easily replace a lot of things with “questionable” ingredient lists (yes … I’m looking at you again, Cool Whip).
But for my Grape Salad recipe, the dressing needed a little something more. Cream cheese was the answer!
Trick #2 – Neufchâtel Cream Cheese (aka Reduced-Fat Cream Cheese)
Lower-fat Neufchâtel cheese (marketed in America as reduced-fat cream cheese) tastes so much like full-fat cream cheese that nobody will ever, ever notice the difference. I totally pink swear.
My version of Grape Salad Cream Cheese Dressing has got just enough cream cheese to make you wonder “mmmmmm … what is that special something goin’ on here?” but not so much that you feel like you’re eating a mile-high slice of New York Cheesecake (not that a mile-high slice of cheesecake wouldn’t be great, but, you know, we’re trying to make a Grape Salad here).
Through all of my different test batches and side-by-side taste tests, my family tried various amounts of cream cheese in the dressing, and this formulation was a clear favorite!
With this lighter, healthier Grape Salad dressing, I don’t feel like I’m skimping one bit, though.
Trust me – you won’t eat this and think “oh, how healthy.” Nope!
You’ll just think, “OMG, get in my belly!” (But yay, you … you also won’t feel guilty snagging
I’ve got a few tips for you that I’ve learned through all the times I’ve made this … and then you’ll be on your way …
Ingredient and Prep Tips
√ Whole Grapes … or Halved?
Many other grape salad recipes I’ve seen leave the grapes whole.
That’s definitely an option, but I like the way that cutting them in half allows the juice from the grapes to mix and mingle a little with the dressing. Yum!
Plus, I just think it’s a lot easier to eat, especially for kiddos, or if the grapes are large.
√ But, Halved How Exactly??
Ok, I know this is getting pretty nit-picky on ya, but I really prefer cutting the grapes in half horizontally, instead of longways (vertically).
You do you here – whatever you prefer. But, to me, cutting them horizontally is somehow much more pleasing.
√ Use the Very Best Grapes You Can Find
Grapes are (obviously) a really important component in this recipe. So, terrific grapes will (again … obviously) give you a better final dish. This is the exact same advice I gave you for choosing grapes for my ultra-refreshing Grape Popsicles. In such simple recipes, good grapes make a difference.
Mushy, sour grapes that have passed their prime will only lead to disappointment. Even the amazing dressing can’t salvage a terrible batch of grapes!
√ Red or Green or Both?
I definitely prefer to use both red and green grapes, because the combination is much more flavorful than using only one type. But you can use more or less of either, depending on your preference, and on which grapes look best at the grocery store.
√ Including the Pecans
If nut allergies are a concern, you can certainly leave the pecans out. But, in that case, I’d still recommend setting a bowl of the pecans to the side, so people who don’t have allergies can add them.
That crunch and little hint of nutty flavor makes a great salad even better!
√ Adjusting the Yield
The recipe, as written, makes a medium-sized batch that’s nice for my family of four, with leftovers to last a couple days.
If you’re making this for a crowd, or taking it to a really large potluck, it’s easy to double the recipe (or triple it … or whatever …). Handy tip for those epic, multi-generational family reunions, or if you love making Grape Salad for Thanksgiving.
Can You Make This Grape Salad Ahead?
You sure can!
For one thing, you can make the dressing a day or two before assembling the salad.
And, once the salad is finished, it refrigerates well for 3-5 days.
A note about the pecans, though: The pecans do change the flavor of the salad a little as it sits. It’s not bad at all – it’s just different. The flavor gets more … ummmm … pecan-y.
Surprisingly, the nuts still stay relatively crunchy, though, even added a couple days ahead.
Totally up to you, but you can add the pecans to the grape mixture just before serving, if you’d rather.
THE.ONE. (My Favorite … and Now Yours, Too!)
Even if you think you know Grape Salads … definitely give this refreshingly lighter version a try!
I bet you’ll enjoy it just as much as other versions you’ve had, and you’ll feel a whole heck of a lot less guilty sharing it with loved ones at the next potluck (and elbowing your way to
But be ready. (Maybe plan to skip the baked beans right from the start, before you even hit the buffet table.) Because, you know … you’ve gotta leave plenty of room for THE.ONE. 🙂
- 2 1/2 cups green seedless grapes (about 1 pound) that have been sliced in half horizontally
- 2 1/2 cups red seedless grapes (about 1 pound) that have been sliced in half horizontally
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans (plus a few extra to sprinkle on top, if desired)
- 3/4 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
- 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons reduced-fat cream cheese (Neufchâtel cheese), softened
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/16 teaspoon kosher salt
- Place grapes and pecan pieces in a large bowl.
- In a medium bowl, whisk yogurt, sugar, cream cheese, vanilla, and salt until smooth.
- Pour dressing over grapes and nuts and stir until the dressing is evenly distributed.
- Top with a few extra nuts for garnish, if desired. Serve immediately (or refrigerate up to 3-5 days – see note about making ahead).
Make-ahead tips: This salad refrigerates well for 3-5 days. Stir before serving to redistribute the dressing evenly (it may thin slightly during refrigeration). Also, note that, although the pecans stay relatively crunchy during refrigeration, the salad does take on a more notable pecan flavor after sitting for a day or two. So, you can choose to stir the pecans in (and optionally sprinkle some on top) just prior to serving, if you prefer.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 12 servings Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 127Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 2mgSodium: 26mgCarbohydrates: 19gFiber: 1gSugar: 16gProtein: 3g
Nutrition information should be considered an estimate only, and may vary depending on your choice of ingredients or preparation. No guarantees are made regarding allergies or dietary needs. Always consult a physician or dietician for specific advice and questions.