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

by Shelley · May contain affiliate links

~ 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 {}

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 {}

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 {}

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 {}

… 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!

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 {}

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 {}

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  



  • 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 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.


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

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

  1. Want to make ahead for Christmas. How do you keep the pear from turning brown, if making the day before?
    Salad looks wonderful. Family does not like goat cheese, so will substitute with feta. Hope this works!
    Any help appreciated.

    • Hi there! We have lots of make-ahead tips in the post and at the bottom of the recipe card, since almost everything for this salad can be prepped ahead. BUT … I don’t recommend cutting the pears until closer to serving. I personally don’t like tossing fruit (like apples or pears) with things such as lemon juice to prevent browning, because I feel like you can definitely taste it. I hope that helps, and that your family loves this salad as much as my family does! It’s a reader-favorite recipe (one of our most popular ever!), and my own family likes it so much that I serve all year ’round! Enjoy – and Merry Christmas! 😀 ~Shelley

  2. I substituted regular craisins for cherry and cinnamon praline almonds for the candied pecans due to convenience/what my store had in stock. So delicious. I’m trying to eat more fruits and vegetables as a busy (and picky) college student and this will definitely become a go-to. Thank you!

    • AJ, I have to tell you, your message made my heart so, so happy! I have two college kids myself, and I’m absolutely thrilled that my salad recipe helped out a college student who’s trying to fit healthy eating into their busy collegiate schedule. That’s SO awesome! Thank you for taking the time to leave such a wonderful comment – it truly made my day! And I hope you’ll find other recipes here on my site that you’ll love just as much – we have loads of other easy fruit recipes and veggie recipes, and lots of quick meals and snacks, including things you can make ahead of time for when your days are extra-hectic (I gave you some links there to help you find things quickly – hope that helps). We’ve even got some recipes on here that my kids developed themselves, like the 10-Minute BBQ Chicken Wraps and the Chia Pudding with Berries. 😀 Very best of luck with your studies! ~Shelley

    • I make this goat cheese salad for my family all year long – it’s a particular favorite of my daughter, who generally doesn’t even like salad all that much … it’s THAT good! If any salad can rise to obsession-level, it’s definitely this one! Enjoy!! ~Shelley

  3. Made this salad for Christmas dinner, no cherries so we subbed pomegranate seeds. Delicious. Had it every night since. Scored dried cranberries, altered the dressing with more olive oil, Dijon to taste and simply roasted the pecans. Maybe we’ll make it 5 nights in a row! Everyone loved it even my picky 17-year-old daughter! Delicious.

    • Thank you for your lovely message, Julia! I’m so happy you enjoyed this salad, and I totally understand about eating it several days in a row! I like to make extra, just so I have a little bonus waiting for me in the fridge. We couldn’t definitely eat it 5 days in a row! 😉 Glad it was such a hit – and Happy New Year to you and your family! ~Shelley


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Published on
Updated on December 22, 2021
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