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

by Shelley Β· 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 … πŸ˜‰ )

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!!!! πŸ˜€ )! 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. I LOVE a good salad and this one is oh so good! I served this as part of our Thanksgiving meal and my eight year old said “it’s delectable!” Thanks for sharing such a yummy recipe! πŸ™‚

    • You’ve absolutely made my day, Lacey! I’ve gotten so many compliments on this Thanksgiving Salad through the years, but knowing that an eight-year-old dubbed it “delectable” is pretty much the highest praise ever! Thank you so much for taking a moment to send such a lovely comment! πŸ˜€ ~Shelley

  2. I made this salad for Thanksgiving dinner tonight, and everyone (all 3 f them!) raved about it! Will definitely be doing this again.

    • I’m so thrilled to hear it was a hit, Candy! This has been my go-to Thanksgiving Salad for years, and I honestly make it all year ’round, too, because everybody just loves it so much. It always, always wins me raves – and it’s become one of the most popular recipes with my readers, too. So happy to hear it’s now made its way into your regular rotation, as well – I truly appreciate the wonderful feedback! πŸ˜€ ~Shelley

  3. I can’t wait to make this for our Thanksgiving get together! I was wondering if there’s another option to using a different type of cheese, maybe feta? Half of the family are mot goat cheese fans,

    • Honestly, feta won’t have quite the same creamy taste and texture. Will it be ok? Yeah, I think it’ll still be good, but not really the same. Feta is usually firmer in texture and a bit more salty/savory in flavor. What I’d actually recommend is that you serve both goat cheese and feta on the side, and let everyone choose their own. That way people who like goat cheese will get to enjoy the salad with the “real deal” – and those who don’t like it can opt for the feta. But whatever you decide, I think this will be a hit – it’s one of our most popular recipes here on our site and always, always a favorite at my own holiday meals. Enjoy – and Happy Thanksgiving, Mary Ann! ~Shelley

  4. Excellent, candied pecans were especially good, not too sweet. Next time I will add the goat cheese last AFTER the dressing. This will help avoid a white mush. It still tasted good but will be more appealing if the goat cheese crumbles hold their shape.

    • Hi, Candy! I’m so glad you enjoyed this recipe! And thanks so much for the advice about the goat cheese. πŸ˜€ We often make the salad separately, and then allow guests to add dressing from another container, so everyone gets as much or as little as they want — that way, the dressing isn’t on top of the goat cheese for too long, either. πŸ™‚ But, for everyone who wants to pre-dress their salads (as we sometimes do, too!) this is a super helpful tip! Let us know how it works out for you! πŸ™‚

  5. Why can’t I view the previous comments? They would be very helpful in deciding if I like your recipes and whether to come back or not.

    • Hmmmmm … you should be able to see all previous comments listed at the bottom of the post. I’m not sure why they wouldn’t have been showing up for you – that’s really odd, and I certainly apologize! I just checked on this specific post, and I’m able to view them – they’re right under the “Comment Box” where people can type in new comments. They are paginated, though (to control page length on my super-popular posts that have loads of comments), so you may need to click the pagination buttons to continue scrolling through if you want to read ALLLLL the comments. I hope this helps! ~Shelley


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Published on
Updated on December 22, 2021
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