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

by Shelley · May contain affiliate links

Published Updated December 22, 2021

~ An incredibly delicious, yet really easy salad recipe! We call it “Thanksgiving Salad,” since it’s absolutely perfect for Thanksgiving and the holidays … but it’s truly quick enough for busy-night family dinners, any day! ~

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 {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

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!

Now, before I go any further getting all lovey-dovey about salads, you’re welcome to just stop right here and take a peek at our little video tutorial, to see how easy this recipe is to make. (It’s ok … I promise I’ll wait while you watch … take your time … 😉 )

Video Tutorial

 

See … so easy, right!?! And seriously – it’s fantastic! There’s definitely a reason it’s such a family-favorite recipe, and always has people ooohing and aaahing happily, every single time I make it!

But, since I mentioned that I have two favorite leafy green salads, now you’re dying to know …

What’s green salad heartthrob #1?

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

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 today’s salad recipe (aka favorite salad #2) came in …

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

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! We’re talkin’:

  • crunchy candied pecans
  • sweet and juicy fall pears
  • wonderfully tart dried cherries
  • 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 {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

… 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 {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

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!

Easy Shortcuts

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 {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

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. (Hint: it’s so delicious, you might even want to make a double-batch while you’re at it, to use on other salads throughout the week. It’s also especially delicious on our Superfoods Shredded Brussels Sprout Salad.)

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 {www.TwoHealthyKitchens.com}

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

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

Yield: About 11 cups
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes

An incredibly delicious, yet really easy salad recipe! An absolutely perfect Thanksgiving salad, or holiday salad for dinner parties ... but quick enough for family dinners, too!

  Ready in 30 Minutes or Less    Includes Make-Ahead Steps    Vegetarian  

Ingredients

Salad:

  • 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

Dressing:

  • 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

Instructions

  1. Place greens in a large serving bowl (or divide 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.

Notes

Pears: Firmer pears work best for this recipe. D'Anjou is our top choice, but you can 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. 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.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 11 servings Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 158Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 5mgSodium: 73mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 2gSugar: 12gProtein: 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.

Did You Make This Recipe?

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

98 thoughts on “Salad with Goat Cheese, Pears, Candied Pecans and Maple-Balsamic Dressing”

  1. WOW – This salad was wonderful!
    I was visiting my Sister-in-law and she had your Two Healthy Kitchens cookbook. I was searching through it for new recipes, and I came across this one. I was about to host a Bible study group at our home and this sounded like a great fall salad. I made it yesterday and oh man was it tasty. Everyone loved it and wanted a copy of it, so I had to share.
    I’m not a fan of Goat cheese, so I put out Blue Cheese and Feta Cheese crumbles. I let everyone put whatever cheese they wanted and let them also dress it by themselves. Loved the easy recipe for the “awesome candied pecans”. AND the salad dressing, again so easy to make, made a double batch of it. Going to try it on my Brussel sprouts tonight. You can’t go wrong with this recipe. Thank you for this wonderful salad recipe.

    Reply
    • Oh, Sharon – what a truly lovely message! Thank you so much for taking the time to pop back with such kind feedback! That’s a great solution to offer cheese choices on the side (and I agree that feta and blue are nice options). And YES I totally agree about that dressing and the candied pecans. Both are so terrific in other applications, too … and both are completely addictive! Mmmmmmmmm … love the idea of drizzling the vinaigrette over Brussels sprouts – I LIKE how you think lol!!! 😀 ~Shelley

      Reply
  2. Loved the salad. I alway purchase a Bulgarian feta cheese from a local store. I looked up recipes that use feta cheese. Omg the cheese is amazing an the salad was the best. I made this salad for a bbq party I was invited to an it was a big hit. I used spring mix an iceberg because I like the crunch of iceberg. . I used green onions because the purple onions are a hit an miss here in California sometimes they are so bitter and green onions always seem reliable. I only had raisins. I have made many similar dressings. this one has the secret of dijon. Wow it really is good.

    Reply
    • I’m so happy to hear how much you enjoyed this salad, Valerie! I make it all the time, all year long! Even though it was originally more of a Thanksgiving or holiday salad for my family, we like it so much that it’s on regular repeat, no matter the time of year. Thanks for sharing all your little swaps, too – that’s always so helpful to inspire other readers, based on what they find in the store or happen to have on hand! 😀 ~Shelley

      Reply

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